Photo by Jaime Casap // Unsplash

“This” I Cannot Keep For Myself

Opening the windows as well as the door to share the place where they have discovered companionship with Christ, the Pittsburgh community begins inviting people to their small School of Community.

It’s been an interesting year in Pittsburgh, PA.

Our school of community started meeting again in person thanks to the multiple generous entities at a parish who were willing to host our meeting. These include a capuchin friary attached to the parish. Earlier this year, when talking with one of the brothers, he asked me, “How does anyone find out about CL?” I thought about it and said, “I guess they would have to meet one of us”, which felt somewhat inadequate. In the whole city of Pittsburgh, someone has to randomly meet one of the 9 of us to find out about CL?

Inspired by the info cards at the NY Encounter info table, I thought maybe a little card with our school of community info to leave in the churches would be a way to at least share that we exist. Over the spring, as our school of community location became more steady, I developed the card with some friends.

After going to the DC family vacation in July, I was struck by the treasure that is housed in our charism. Do we understand what a treasure we have to offer our Church from this charism entrusted to us? I don’t think I fully understand yet. But I also realized at this point, whatever this is, I can’t hoard it for myself.

But what is “this”? “This” that I want to share so badly with the whole city? With all of Appalachia? With the whole country? The whole world? Is it a nice organization? Nice people? To be honest, I’ve already encountered enough dysfunction among us to know I would have been long gone if it was only a nice organization with nice people that I wanted to share.

So what is “This” that I cannot keep to myself?

It’s the same “This” that kept me attentive to a three person School of Community meeting for over a year on zoom in Tucson, AZ during the pandemic. That had me itching to leave work early to sing Christmas carols at the hospice run by the Missionaries of Charity in Pacifica when I lived in California last year. “This” which has me wanting to drive an hour away from Pittsburgh on occasion to help a woman set up an arts center in a lonely Ohio strip mall. “This” has the same quality across the three states I’ve lived in over the past three years. Really now…who else could be behind this but Christ? He has won me over and I can’t keep the experience to myself.

And yet… I could feel the ash piling upon the burning embers once again... I was completely restless after the vacation. I didn’t want another movement gathering to be this “nice” thing where I get my fix and await the next one. I want ALL my days to be lived like we lived them at that vacation.

With this desire for this awareness again in mind, I decided to feel my discomfort and desperation instead of run away from it as I usually do. With SoC on a summer break, my need for accompaniment was really bursting. So, I reached out and told a friend about this need, having no idea what she could offer me. She invited me to join her fraternity group, which involves a rule of (night) prayer and weekly zoom SoC. For me,
this was an incredibly specific answer to my need for accompaniment. A previously unimaginable thing to appear on the horizon.

Through this accompaniment, I could feel the ash starting to lift, so to speak, to the point where the brother’s question, “How does anyone find out about this?” broke through again with an intensity. I wanted to take a step in sharing “This” with Pittsburgh. I finalized the text for the cards with a Catholic audience in mind. When I saw a painting titled “Pennsylvania Coal Town” in the Edward Hopper exhibit Suzanne Lewis shared at the DC vacation, I knew that was our image. In the painting, a man, who can easily be in Pittsburgh (the Pennsylvania coal town), rakes leaves stopping for a moment to look at something (Something?). The mundanity of the painting was the definition of “the capillary details of life”, as Lepori puts it.

Afew weeks ago I printed them and got the ok to put them in a few locations.

My intention is not to “get the numbers up”. I’ll be happy if only one person meets us from this effort. In fact, one already has! She mentioned that the picture on the card intrigued her. My intention is to instead heed the words from our exercises this year to “begin again every day to revive [the flame] first of all in me”, making myself available again to the ways in which the Presence enters my life.

It’s not so much that I believe it is through my effort (“my project”) in Pittsburgh that I will “get” the Spirit to enter. Rather, it’s more akin to opening the windows in addition to the door just in case He wants to come through the window (a window would be a little unconventional, but who am I to try to contain Him? To say how He enters?). My intention is to say ‘yes’ to the movement of my heart because I think that’s how I say ‘yes’ to Christ, which is to say that this is how I become more myself. I was moved to make the cards. And I think it is through the accompaniment I begged for and gratuitously received this summer that I was able to discern the movement of my heart enough to act on it. And when it comes from the heart, it’s not an effort. It’s a light lift.

Caroline, Pittsburgh, PA