The ornate ironwork and richly carved hardwood panels left no doubt: This mansion had long been home to the very best that life has to offer—abundance and riches well beyond what my middle-class circumstances could ever envision.
And so I found it ironic, to say the least, that our tour guide was a Franciscan nun—a woman joyfully living out her vow of poverty at her community’s Motherhouse in Mishawaka, Indiana.
The mansion—once home to an industrial magnate—now provides office and meeting space for the Sisters. (And a sort of training ground, from what I understand: Novices are asked to keep the mansion’s interior spotless, even to the point of cleaning the intricate ironwork on the grand staircase with toothbrushes each Advent!)
We were visiting the Motherhouse over the weekend—about two dozen cousins and I—to pass along a gift made by our dear aunt, who was once a member of the community.
To a person, we fell in love with the place. But our sentiment had little to do with the attractive buildings or grounds we toured. Rather, we were drawn to the sense of community that the Sisters so eagerly and generously shared with us—how richly they blessed us with their joyful, prayerful and gracious hospitality.
It felt a little like the experience we heard about in the first reading today, from the prophet Ezekiel:
The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple,
and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold…
[and] wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
I have to admit, it tends to strike me as odd when today’s feast—marking the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome—comes ‘round each year. ‘What makes a building so worthy of celebration,’ I’m inclined to wonder.
Of course, the Franciscan Sisters answered that question definitively during our close encounter at their Motherhouse. It’s not the bricks and mortar that make a place special. Rather, it’s the water…and life…and healing…and joy that flow forth from it.
Live as if the Spirit of God dwells in you, St. Paul says in today’s second reading, and you will yourself become a temple, a holy place.
We Schroeders saw just such a thing happen, in real-time, last weekend – so many thanks to the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration for welcoming us into your place of grace!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.