The Road Outside

As I share my experience of settling into our new Studium priory in St. Louis, I could wax eloquent about the positive impact of our new space on conventual life.  I could rightly say that our chapel, still under construction, already promises to be a charming, elegant location for communal and personal prayer; or that its nineteenth-century architecture, like that of the main house, strikingly contrasts with the contemporary style of our new annex.  I might mention our bright and airy recreation room and dining area with working fireplaces, whose high glass walls provide abundant natural light and a view of the Victorian house next door and the highway outside. 

 

I could also describe my room: mostly cream with a warm ochre accent wall behind my desk; a cozy "L" shape that cradles my desk, bed, and drawing table.  I could express my optimism at having a space properly suited to private prayer and study; a place of rest and refreshment where I can lay down after a long day of school and ministry, seeking intimacy with the God who drew me here.  I would, however, prefer to draw attention to my immediate surroundings as I write: the blue late afternoon light that passes through the window to my left; the cool winter draft that seeps through the glass and keeps me focused.  Beyond the window I hear the calm and wave-like whoosh of highway traffic.  Its continual ebb and flow reminds me why we have moved here, and why anyone moves anywhere.

 

The highway is a river of motion, countless travelers in vehicles moving endlessly toward destinations we never see.  Our house, located immediately off one of its exits, is one of many such potential destinations; it is, in point of fact, but one of many stops in our lives as Dominicans.  As itinerant mendicants, we will continue to move from community to community and ministry to ministry, even as the people to whom we minister move through stages of life, leaving homes, jobs, and relationships; ever in motion but never knowing where providence will lead them.  This coming and going is part of the poverty we are called to embrace, and we embrace it more intensely every time we let go.  Like Jesus who moved from Galilee to Jerusalem, from Calvary to the empty tomb and beyond; so too we move. 

 

Our itinerancy, like that of Jesus, is a call to consciously embrace a fundamental aspect of the human condition: Our movement through life is itself itinerancy; it is a series of interwoven mournings and rejoicings in which we are continually called to let go of one love to embrace another.  Itinerants are called to mourn with reverence and gratitude those blessings we freely relinquish out of openness to grace.  We are challenged to mourn in such a way that we become more vibrantly joyful.  We imitate Jesus in his own mourning and rejoicing to witness that letting go is not defeat and  impermanence is not futility.  Like the Lord, we are called to seek authentic joy and fullness of life by encountering God on the road outside.