Monday, May 19, 2008

Warming Up at the Coldest Day in May

For more than twenty years now, the annual Coldest Day in May party — held on the second Saturday of the month— has been a cherished tradition for friars in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Brother Giles community in the Berkeley flatlands is the permanent host for this very special fraternal gathering. And,true to form, the day has almost always managed to live up (or down?) to its reputation. This year the thermometer soared to a high of 64 F, with an average temperature of 56 throughout the day. Add to that, the reliably unpleasant wind gusts from off the Bay, just a couple of miles west of the house, and voila—The Coldest Day in May.

Friars fit and fat alike flocked to this annual feed, lovingly prepared by the likes of Friars David Cobian, Adrian Peelo, and Luis Alberto Guzman. But the friars didn’t come in droves; it’s more like they arrived in overlapping shifts as one session of grazers yielded gradually and gently to the next. There was always plenty—even too much!—to eat, though. For sure, no one left hungry.

The friars at Brother Giles have never been outdone in their hospitality. In addition to the above-mentioned brothers, John Gutierrez (“Gootz”)—the guardian, Tito Garcia, and Dennis Duffy were also on hand to offer welcome. A welcome that we visitors, in turn, were more than happy accept by scarfing up humongous portions of: hot dogs, burgers, veggie burgers, German sausages; homemade potato salad, fruit salad, cole slaw… and the best desserts ever—especially Brother David’s famous Earthquake Cake (chocolate cake topped with flan and drenched in caramel sauce) Ay caramba!

So. The friars came. They ate. They relaxed. They raced for whatever patch of sun they could find. And, they stayed. It was all very simple and uncomplicated. We just had fun by just hanging out. Just being around each other. Just celebrating the rites of spring together. Just being brothers.

This is part of what “fraternity in mission” is about for us. Yes, we take our ministries very seriously, and friars do work hard. Sometimes, too hard. But we also like to play. And it’s just great to get together with the brothers and do just that.The twenty-some friars who attended this year’s event represent a fair cross-section of our men in the San Francisco Bay Area: Fr. Floyd Lotito from St. Boniface in San Francisco’s Tenderloin; Father Finian McGinn, recuperating from surgery and looking better each day; Richard Purcell cracking jokes and navigating with his walker; student friars like Chris Best, Louis Khoury, and Nghia Pham taking a break from their final exams and papers. And, their teachers were there, as well—also taking respite from end of the term stresses: Friar Joe Chinnici and others from the nearby Franciscan School of Theology were on hand.

Oh, and our “boss”, Fr. Mel (the Provincial) was there, too— just back from a meeting in Denver. So was Tom West, our vicar provincial. Ponchie Vasquez brought his mom and her friend, both visiting from Texas. And our new postulant applicants were there, too—Ryan, Mike, Jose, and Phillip—looking none the worse for wear after their admissions interviews (but still in the dark as to whether they’d been accepted or not). Oh, I showed up for a while, as well. I took my bicyle on the train from Sacramento and rode into Dodge before 2.

Brothers together. That’s the way we are and were: old and young and in between. The well and the convalescing. The hungry and the “no thanks, I had a big lunch’. All of us mixing it up and just enjoying being with each other for a few hours in the chilly spring. And in the warmth of the Lord’s love.

So. Maybe we’ll see you there next year! Put it on your calendars. And if you’re in the area, let me know. We’ll have you over for burgers and Earthquake Cake, too. But dress warm. They don’t call it the Coldest Day in May for nothin’.