Here at San Damiano Friary, the brothers continue to ride out the COVID storm as best as we are able. We have to pay particularly close attention to those with whom we come in contact as we have two elderly brothers and one resident who are particularly at risk.
For the most part, the brothers that are able to leave the friary rarely do. Unless we have medical appointments or have to go to the grocery store, post office, or take the dog for a walk, we rarely leave the friary. The lack of outside ministries has been the biggest change in our lives here. As Franciscans, we are called to be out and about. Since this whole virus started spreading, we have become almost like enclosed monks. This has taken a lot of time to adequately adjust.
Pictured above: Lawerence patiently waits for the day when visitors and guests again pass through the gates of San Damiano Friary.
Meanwhile, our spiritual life continues on very much as it did before COVID. While we moved Morning Prayer back an hour (from 7 AM to 8 AM), we still continue to say our four Daily Offices as best as we can. To the disappointment of our neighbors, we have stopped singing Office Hymns. The reason being, our voices are not very strong and some of us have difficulty singing. However, once we have new brothers with stronger voices, we shall resume our singing. Maintaining the daily rhythm of our Offices has helped provide a sense of stability for me during this chaotic time.
Pictured above: Brother Leo at prayer.
After breakfast, Brother Jude and I continue to see our spiritual directees or therapy clients via Skype, Zoom, or Facetime. In addition, many of the daily house and friary life activities (like cooking and cleaning as well as caring for our 2 elderly brothers) falls on our shoulders. Despite these responsibilities, there seems to always be some time for prayer, study, reading, and relaxation.
Pictured above: Brother Jude and Lawerence at breakfast. Lawerence is patiently watching and ensuring Brother Jude eats all his food and that nothing goes to waste.
As expected, the flow of visitors and guests here at San Damiano has stopped. Virtually no one is allowed inside the house. That being said, some unsheltered or hungry folks will still ring the doorbell and request a lite lunch, a cup of coffee, or a warm blanket. COVID has not stopped us from providing what little we can to those who are in need of something. We are always careful when coming in contact with someone from the outside and take the necessary precautions. We are thankful we are still able to continue this important ministry.
With no visitors at the moment, we have been able to repaint and reorganize a few rooms of the friary. The library has recently been reorganized, its fireplace repainted, and new furniture and lights added. Two guest rooms have been reorganized and one of them received a fresh coat of paint.
Like Thanksgiving this year, it appears as if this Christmas we will be closed to the public. Like many Americans, we do not know when all of this will end. Every day the brothers remember all those who have died due to COVID and all those who are working to help stop the virus. Perhaps the season of Advent best symbolizes the waiting and expectation that fills all of our hearts here at San Damiano Friary. We are yearning for the day when we can receive visitors and celebrate with our community and friends once again.
Pictured above: Brother James Nathaniel and Lawerence. Pictured below: Brother James, Lawerence, and Brother Leo.
A few other developments are taking place that we hope will provide spiritual nourishment to folks who cannot be physically present with us. I will post a few of these developments in the very near future.
Brother James Nathaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org