"Look at that beautiful house! Those flowers!"
"Oh wow! I can't see the house, but I do see flowers. They're bougainvillea."
"That's what I was talking about."
We were on a pilgrimage, and I had unknowingly sighted our destination from the road. We were winding our way up into the foothills outside of Mission Viejo, in search of St. Michael's Abbey and the Norbertine Fathers. We had heard that it was beautiful there, and we hoped to be able to join the community in their prayer. We were not disappointed!
Right as we arrived, the Norbertines in their white habits were filing into the chapel for midday prayer. After some trouble finding a place to park, we discovered that the giant 20ft bougainvillea bushes we had seen from the road belonged to the abbey. There were swallows busy about the eaves of all the buildings. As we approached the chapel through the garden, we could hear the beautiful chant coming through the open doors. We managed to slip in and sit in the back for the last half of prayer, though some of the squirmier children staying just outside in the garden with Logan. After prayer we did some more looking around. Most pathways were part of the cloister and closed to us, but we did find a path with the stations of the cross leading up a small hill with a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. There at the foot of the cross of the last station, we prayed as a family.
First, we drew a rough outline of Africa in the dirt, and marked the approximate location of Kumbo, Cameroon. Then, we prayed repeat-after-me style with the children, asking God to bless our family, bless our mission, and help us to do God's will and love everyone, especially each other. It was a very touching moment, the highlight of our little visit to the Abbey. The rest of the visit was beautiful and fun, but that moment together as a family offering our mission to God at the foot of the cross held the most meaning.
I love and cherish moments like that, moments that lift up the low parts of life: the dreary and monotonous chores, the grief and the anger and confusion. Right now we are entering into a new time of transition, we will be moving to a new place and taking on new jobs and figuring out how to communicate in a new language and live in a new culture, but it is moments like these which will support us and propel us forward.