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04 August 2009

A Chance Encounter

There are sixteen novices here, fourteen of which proudly claim membership in our community choir. Perhaps you might guess that I am not one of the sixteen. You would be correct in this supposition. Last night, while most everyone else was singing his heart away in cherubic three-part harmony, I sat outside reading A Gathering Storm in the fading day light. Soon I noticed four individuals walking up St. Conrad’s driveway. I need to be honest, it took the appearance of another classmate of mine to pry me from my comfortable chair and be hospitable.

Our impromptu visitors were from China; college students here in Pittsburgh from the Confucius Institute to teach Chinese to American middle school students. We had a very nice conversation and attempted to explain to them what a Capuchin is. Funny, it is, I should note to what lengths in normal conversations Capuchins will go to make clear that we are not monks. Funnier still is the reality that as soon as there is difficulty in explaining the Capuchin reality to those not acquainted with St. Francis or Catholicism, we concede immediately. At that point: we’re monks.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I went to dinner one night with Joe Meno and Tim Aller in Boston during one of my many, many, many, many, many visits to San Lorenzo in JP. We decided to stop for Mass at Arch Street, the colloquial name for the OFM Saint Anthony Shrine on Arch Street in Boston (a few blocks from Downtown Crossing) and so both Joe and Tim wore their habits. Afterwards we went to dinner in Chinatown at a place we call "Good Food, Bad Service" (can you guess why we call it that?) on the edge of Chinatown. Obviously, Joe and Tim stand out in a small Chinese restaurant, being the only two men wearing habits and of course Joe draws attention to himself anyway and I believe Tim still had his "Solanus beard."

Afterwards, we bumped into our waitress who must have been leaving for the night. She stopped and asked, in broken English:

"Why for you wear dress?"

Tim and Joe both tried to explain, "Oh we're Capuchins. You know, Franciscans? We're friars. You know?"

She stared back blankly until they finally said, "We're like monks."

The woman then responded, thinking they meant Buddhist monks, "Oh, I no know they have temple around here."

"No, no, we're Catholic. Do you know Catholics?"

She responded, perhaps finally sort of understanding, "Oh yes, yes, I know the Catholic."

We then proceeded to walk through the Theater District on a Saturday night, which is kind of a bad idea if you're in a habit, only because all you can hear - and usually not too muffled - is "What the fu...?" Tim then decided it would be funny (and it actually was) to pretend we were escaping from the monastery and so we started running down the street towards the subway, looking frantically over our shoulders yelling "The abbot is coming! Quick!"

I got even stranger looks being the then-19 year old kid not in a habit walking/running with these two "monks" through Boston's Chinatown and Theater District on a busy Saturday night for the "normies" (as I called them).