The green Carolla rolled down the alley followed closely by the final cheers and well wishes of our community, those of us who are left to experience the house in an entirely new way. There were a few tears but mostly laughter as Brother Louis shared his last chuckles with each of us.
It was less of an ending and more of a beginning. We all know and love what Holy Family is with Louis around; we all know and love Louis as he is here at Holy Family. These things will be in our memories forever. What we cannot conceive is what the two will be like apart.
Brother Louis has been gone for approximately 72 hours. The house hasn’t spontaneously combusted, although I have been jerking awake at night with some disaster or another on my mind. Last night I dreamed that we had not gotten rid of the donuts that sit in the corner by the back door in their big Rubbermaid containers and a million ants were devouring them. When I awoke I made my way to their spot, and there the containers were, empty, neatly washed and stacked. (I believe Kaitlin took care of that). A little voice caught up with me, “Silly Gina! Everything will be OK!”
We have spent the last two days breathing, cleaning up after ourselves and doing our best to adjust to the reality of Louis’ departure. I have been practicing driving the big van a lot, redistributing items we will not need while we are closed. Rachael has been adjusting to her new job at the thrift store. Kaitlin and Josh are working on packing. And Glenna has been cooling off from a year of hard work.
We must all remember that Brother Louis and the house are separate entities. That both can live and thrive without the other. There have been rumblings that Holy Family is what some people might call a “storefront church”; a religious organization with a charismatic leader who gathers the flock. When the charismatic leader leaves, the organization cannot stay afloat. Its inspiration is gone. Is Holy Family a storefront church? In as much as the Catholic Worker movement is one. November 2010 will mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day. Yet today some claim that our movement is 185 houses strong. Dorothy, our charismatic leader, continues to inspire us from legend and the written world. Will Holy Family cease to exist? Yes, just as someday all things will cease to exist. But until that day and as long as these houses stand as Catholic Workers there will be a spirit here that cannot be compromised.
Perhaps you can place your faith in the documents that bind Holy Family into a land trust. As long as the government recognizes them, Holy Family, the houses and land, belong to the community. They belong to the community for the purpose of service to the community. Maybe someday a beautiful urban forest will grow on these two lots, and what a divine service that would be!
We must think of things beyond ourselves in these difficult times. We must remember the Osage who were here long before us and their trade route which ran where Troost is today. Or the slave plantation which flourished on this land. We must remember that the span of time is so much bigger than a loaf of bread or a slice of Louis’ famous quiche. Yet we here at the house know that when these things are given away to those who hunger, the world and the span of the universe is returned to us. The smile on his or her face is God’s smile, thanking us for the gift of the world on a plate.