by Jill Ragar Esfeld
“Wounded I will never cease to love.”
This motto of the Community of the Lamb will always make me think of July 4, 2006.
I was home celebrating with my family that day when the phone rang.
It was The Leaven asking if I could do a story on a group of Brothers and Sisters visiting the archdiocese from Europe.
It would be an interesting story, the editor told me. They were a mendicant order living in complete poverty and known for their beautiful singing.
I was intrigued.
Because the group hailed from France, our Independence Day was not significant to them. They could meet with me at that moment, but would be leaving town the next day.
This was my only chance to interview them. I took the job and traded fireworks for illumination.
The Community of the Lamb had made this first trip to the United States at the invitation of Archbishop Joseph Naumann on the occasion Father Anthony Oullette’s ordination.
Father Anthony had met the community when he was in Rome and had introduced the archbishop to them there.
He hosted my interview with three Brothers and three Sisters, who spoke mostly French, but managed to get their message across.
“We live only from donations,” Little Sister Lucie told me that day.
“Everything comes from providence.
“Our only work is to live the Gospel, to pray and celebrate the liturgy and to go into mission in poverty.”
By “mission” she meant literally walking the streets, knocking at stranger’s doors and begging for food.
“In imitation of Christ, the beggar of our love,” explained Father Anthony. “They become beggars as well.
“They enter in to this life to be in communion with the poor, the simple, the outcasts, and to be the presence of Jesus begging their love.”
I was overwhelmed by the humility, simplicity and joy I encountered in my meeting that day.
The community is known for its singing of the liturgy. The Brothers and Sisters always sing a capella and in perfect harmony.
When they sang a simple French hymn for me, I felt as if a choir of angels had dropped down from heaven.
“The singing is not the means for the mission,” Little Brother Isaac said. “But it belongs to our being.”
As is their tradition, the community had taken the first bread they received from their begging and made it a gift to the archbishop.
“We received the first bread from a very generous poor woman,” explained Little Brother Benoit. “And we brought it to the archbishop’s door.
“We knocked and praise God he was home, and he opened the door with a big smile and said ‘Hello, welcome!’”
On that day, the archbishop invited the community to make our archdiocese their home, becoming the first of their order in the United States.
After spending the afternoon with them, I prayed they would accept this invitation.
And so it happened. Two years later I was called to report on the community again when the little sisters moved into an old, dilapidated rectory in Kansas City, Kansas.
I have told their story ever since. And each time I report on them, I am overwhelmed by the joy and spirit of love they have brought to one of the most underprivileged areas of our archdiocese.
Joining in the poverty of their neighbors, living the Gospel, they are transforming lives every day.
If you want to know how prayer works, look to the Community of the Lamb.
In 2013, through the generosity of more than 4,000 donors, the Little Sisters built a simple monastery named Lumen Christi (Light of Christ).
It was consecrated by Archbishop Joseph Naumann on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and since then has welcomed many people to its chapel for prayer, eucharistic adoration and daily Mass.
Less than a year later, Archbishop Joseph Naumann celebrated the Mass of investiture of 3 postulants at Lumen Christi.
The Little Brothers of the Lamb soon came to our archdiocese also, and are in the process of building their own little monastery.
Named “Light of Mary,” it will be dedicated and blessed on Saturday, Nov. 3, of this year.
On Pentecost Sunday, I was privileged to attend a Mass celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Community of the Lamb here.
“The church has a great need for their charism,” said Archbishop Naumann on that occasion. “By their prayer, by their simplicity of life and love of poverty, by their absolute dependence on God, they radiate joy in their lives.
“They brought the light of the Gospel in a new and fresh way to all of us.”
He invited all present at the celebration to imitate the example of the community, being what Pope Francis has called “missionary disciples.”
“When they knock on doors,” he said, “they have nothing to bring but the most important thing — Jesus.”
The archbishop’s words reminded me of that Independence Day 12 years ago when I first met the Community of the Lamb.
Little Sister Lucie said to me then, that “Very often, we knock at people’s door, but they open their hearts.”