The truth is, I decided to go to this year’s Holy Week Encounter of the Home of the Mother hoping that my daughter, Sr. Maria, a novice of the Servant Sisters, would be there as well. I went without hope and with a lot of uncertainty, but I had a little bit of optimism.
By Wednesday evening, the start of the Encounter, I already knew that my daughter would not be there, but by that evening I had already experienced the joy of the people walking through the hallways of the convent, the children and young people running around everywhere, seeing the Sisters and Brothers, finding old friends and acquaintances. Little by little all of my doubts began to disappear and I began to have one certainty: I am exactly where I need to be.
And that’s not all. Holy Week in and of itself is a wonderful time to recollect and allow ourselves to be nourished by the beautiful liturgy: the Celebration of the Holy Mass, the songs of the choir which sounded more like angels than sisters, time for prayer as a community, and a good confession. All of these elements made me feel even more at home. I have to say that nobody can outdo our Lord in generosity or in mercy.
The Encounter had its own rhythm, we had talks, we ate meals together, we had meetings and of course, there were always a few announcements. But above all, there was a great joy, not a simple laughing joy or the joy one experiences when you see a friend again after a long time. No, the joy that we experienced was the joy of the Lord, the joy of the Holy Spirit who was with us all throughout the encounter. Our Blessed Mother took care of the smallest details as a good mother always does with her children and Her presence among us was the “heart of our encounter”. I can say this because I was there and I experienced it firsthand.
In my heart and in my own personal experience, there were three things that I am still thinking about and reflecting upon that Fr. Rafael mentioned during the encounter:
1. We must be sure not to confuse hope with optimism. Hope is a virtue and a gift from God, while optimism is the fruit of a circumstance or a certain mood, it is something that changes. Hope, a gift, and task come to us from God and it is the area which we create as a horizon, our way of living: we live in the Hope of Eternal Life with the Risen Christ.
2. Jesus washing his Apostles’ feet, an image that prepares us for the Eucharist, the priesthood. We must not allow the Truth to be stolen from us, any other image of washing disgusts us. Any rite, any form of communication has to be understood by both ends. If not, we will get lost in the emptiness of the images, words, and gestures that we don’t understand and we will end up never going back. That is why we can’t let them rob us of the truth that is in Christ and His Church.
3. The Festival after the Easter Vigil reminded me of the Christmas festivals in the school and parish from when I was young. They were always a little chaotic, but there was a joy that was overflowing just like the chocolate and sweets that appeared out of nowhere. Fr. Rafael said “This joy, this craziness (because people will call us crazy) is not a human joy. This joy comes from God and from our Blessed Mother.”
And this is how I passed the Holy Week encounter, in the midst of a beautiful liturgy, the cold of the monastery, and the heat from the fire of the Paschal Dinner on Holy Thursday. Even the local authorities came by to see what was happening after they had seen the smoke come out of the monastery walls! They would have loved to stay but they had to go because they were on duty. One of them said to me, “And people say that there are no Catholics left, that there are no children…” There was so much joy in that convent of Dominicans which has so much of our Spanish history between its stone walls. Now that the Home of the Mother is using this convent a new story is being written, a story with people from many different cultures who want to live for Christ and our Blessed Mother and who say along with Sr. Clare, “All or Nothing!”
-By Emilio Fra, Alcalá de Henares