Walking hand in hand is a sign of love and intimacy. The simplicity of this touch connects directly to the heart, mind, and soul. I recall my grandmother taking me by the hand as we walked together in downtown El Paso, Texas. I remember holding my children’s hands and now my grandchildren’s hands as we walk to school. In our vocation as a married couple, our relationship began with holding each other’s hand, and after 37 years, this simple gesture keeps us connected. This vivid and joyful memory sometimes included an understood silence and other times a conversation. It involves listening, speaking, and learning from one another.
As members of the Catholic Church, our parish community has been blessed by having the Conventual Franciscan Friars as our spiritual leaders. In their vocation of living the Gospel, by following Jesus’ words and deeds, I observe that they too, hold firmly to God’s hand as they engage in their communal prayer life and ministerial efforts. This relationship resonates in the life of our community. For more than 30 years the Franciscans have served our community. We have been accompanied by many friars, young and old, and each with their uniqueness have taken our hands and guided us as we make our journey of faith.
Friars have baptized our children and grandchildren. Friars have prepared many of us for our first communions, reconciliations, and have been with us in the anointing of our loved ones, those who have been ill and those who have been dying. Friars have been with us in our loved one’s funerals, and we have been with the friars at their loved one’s funerals. Each sharing and growing from their grief. Friars have also prepared us for our commitments and have celebrated and witnessed the sacrament of marriage— all the while, listening and getting to know our family.
Daily we continue journeying together as the People of God. We find strength and we grow in our faith as they provide guidance and encouragement. As a community we walk alongside as brothers and sisters. Through this learning process, we are now able to conduct ACTS retreats for men, women, and teens. We are accompanying university students as they make a connection between their academic life and spiritual life. The friars continue to lay the foundation for us as a faith community on a journey. Their desire to live the Gospel Life fortifies our own family life. They are an integral part of our extended family. We have seen them as young men inquiring about religious life, as postulants, as friars in temporary vows, friars taking their solemn vows, as transitional deacons, and even as bishops. We grow to love them whether they are near or far. Our love for them extends and goes beyond to their next mission, even if the next mission is to our eternal home.
We have learned the importance that being present for one another is a sign of love. It is being present and listening to one another, remaining connected, walking together hand in hand, feeling, and experiencing the intimate presence of the Holy Spirit working in us, and working among the community of believers. The experience it creates is everlasting because it is God’s love.