Any building of a certain age eventually fosters stories of the spirits who inhabit the building. At nearly 103 years of age, St. Anthony’s is well past that certain age so we have our share of stories, too. Joanie, who worked here for more than 40 years, and Lori, who lived here for a year in the late 90’s and then two additional years more recently, told stories of hearing Fr. Peter dragging his ladder through the halls upstairs or seeing another friar hanging out in the basement near the woodworking shop.
Sometimes guests have asked questions about spirits after hearing or seeing things they could not explain. I recently had such a conversation with a guest. I said what I always say in response to those questions: I have not personally experienced any supernatural sights or sounds here, but others have told me they did and I have no reason to doubt them. I also believe that if I ever did see or hear spirits, I was certain they would be only good spirits.
Then a few days later, a friend and her six year-old son visited for a couple of nights. This was not their first visit here, but this time we noticed that the boy had no hesitation walking in the halls alone during the day but was significantly more reluctant to do so in the evenings, even though there were lights on. Did he sense something late in the day that he could not explain, something that caused him to be afraid? Later, when I discussed his reluctance with his mom, she even admitted to sensing something she could not explain but dismissed it as a figment of a vivid imagination.
Fr. Dan often referred to St. Anthony’s as a “thin place”, a place where the veil between this world and the next is so thin it is porous, and I tend to agree. Even if I cannot see or hear them, I have no doubt that spirits are still with us here in some way. So many have passed through these halls, stayed in these rooms, studied here, prayed here, worked here, some have even died here, and twelve Capuchins are buried here. The worn surfaces in the hallways and the worn wooden steps are visible reminders of their presence in the past. I have no doubt that the spirits of those who have since died, a number that grows with each passing year, still visit a place that so many loved.
Whether or not you believe there are spirits of the no-longer-living here, I know there are good spirits here: spirits of generosity, of teamwork, of faith, of love. These good spirits keep us alive, keep us going through the tough times. These spirits are alive and well in staff and volunteers who serve here, guests who visit here, and in donors and pray-ers who send their love to us from a distance. Over and above all these good spirits is the best Spirit of all, the Giver of all these good spirits and the One who guides and directs all we do here.
For the presence and blessing of the One Spirit and ALL the good spirits that abide here, we say Deo Gratias!