by Jill Ragar Esfeld
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When you walk into the chapel of Lumen Christi, the monastery of the Little Sisters of the Lamb here, you encounter an oasis of peace and beauty.
Located in the heart of the inner city, Lumen Christi is a little piece of heaven spilling over into the poverty surrounding it.
The Little Sisters and Brothers of the Lamb sing the liturgy in perfect harmony, and it is as close to celestial choirs as you will experience on earth.
The public is welcome to attend the liturgies, and many who do so are transformed by the experience.
“When you enter in this place,” explained Little Brother Christophe, a member of the male branch of the Community of the Lamb, “you know that God is here.
“The walls are crying the Gospel.”
An abandoned field
with a future
Just down the hill from the Little Sisters’ monastery is an abandoned baseball field owned by the archdiocese.
Half the field has been donated to the Little Brothers so they can build their own monastery — another place of holiness and joy for this neighborhood.
A few Little Brothers came here initially to help the Little Sisters get settled in 2008. They stayed to help with the construction of Lumen Christi.
In 2013, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann invited the Little Brothers to establish their first house in the archdiocese.
Three Little Brothers currently share the responsibility of building a foundation for their community here — Little Brothers Christophe, Mariano and Joachim. More will follow.
“Normally, where we have a foundation of the Sisters, we try to put a foundation of the Brothers,” explained Little Brother Christophe.
Though the domestic lives of the Brothers and Sisters — as well as their daily mission of begging for bread and sharing the Gospel — are kept separate, they complement each other in many ways.
For one, the Little Brothers provide priests to celebrate Mass for the community.
And they provide harmony in singing.
“The necessity is very clear,” said Little Brother Christophe. “Our liturgy is a four-voice liturgy and very beautiful when there are Brothers and Sisters together.”
The community also believes they can better serve the poor when both Brothers and Sisters reside in the same neighborhood.
“There is a motto on which the community is founded,” said Little Brother Joachim. “The motto is: ‘Wounded, I will never cease to love.’
“This message of charity, of Jesus being on the cross, is the center of what we would like to live.
“It is a light for everybody — for the rich, the poor; every human being. “
A place of charity
The three Brothers currently share the former St. Joseph Church rectory in All Saints Parish, but long for a monastery that reflects the charism of their community.
“We think the monastery will express something of our life,” explained Little Brother Christophe, “that this is a place where monks are living together, having a life of charity together; a place of welcome.
Little Brother Christophe, who helped with the design of Lumen Christi, has already drawn up plans for this project.
“It is the same look, simple and like the neighborhood around it,” he said. “But it will be less than half the size of the Sisters’ monastery.”
That’s because Lumen Christi will remain the common chapel where they will celebrate Mass.
The Little Brothers’ planned home will feature cells for the monks and men wishing to experience their life, a small chapel for daily prayer, and a refectory, which will serve as a welcoming space.
“We want to open our table to others,” explained Little Brother Christophe. “We want to offer an opportunity to poor people, friends and everybody to share this experience with us.”
“The monastery is not just for the Brothers, for our comfort,” added Little Brother Mariano. “We can see the example of the Sisters. It is a welcoming place for friends, for all people.
“For this is our mission, to give the Lord to the people.”
The Brothers and Sisters hope the monasteries will help to spread their community and its charism throughout the United States, just as their community spread through Europe from its beginnings in France.
“Because we are the first houses in the United States,” said Little Brother Christophe, “the little monasteries in Kansas City will serve as a base.”
A different kind
The Community of the Lamb is a mendicant order. Its members rely solely on divine providence and charity for their living and go out begging for their daily bread.
In the process, they share the Gospel with those they meet.
Begging for food comes naturally to these monks as they have done it for many years and in many countries.
But begging for money is a different matter.
“But it is time to do this difficult thing,” said Little Brother Joachim.
And so the Little Brothers began the challenge by requesting prayers from a powerful source.
“We had the wish and the intuition to go to the schools, to beg for prayers,” said Little Brother Joachim. “We know the prayer of little children opens the heart of the Father.”
The Little Brothers passed out prayer cards to students entrusting the project to St. Joseph.
“Because he is the patron saint who took care of Mary and Jesus so they always had what they needed,” explained Little Brother Joachim.
Now the Little Brothers are appealing to the wider community and are more than happy to accept personal delivery of donations and prayers.
“We need money,” said Little Brother Mariano. “But at the same time, we would like to know the people who help us, not just receive their money.”
He encouraged those interested in the community to come to Mass at Lumen Christi.
“We invite people to come participate in the liturgy,” he said. “It is the best way to know the community.”