by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
This past Saturday, the Little Sisters and Little Brothers of the Lamb celebrated three significant anniversaries.
Fifteen years ago in May of 2008, the Little Sisters of the Lamb arrived in Kansas City, Kansas, to establish the Community of the Lamb’s first and thus far only foundation in the United States.
On Sept. 14, the Little Sisters observed the 10th anniversary of the dedication of their Lumen Christi Monastery. Later this year, we will observe the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the Little Brothers’ Mary Mother of God Monastery.
The plan for Saturday was to celebrate an 11 a.m. outdoor Mass at the grotto on the campus of the Little Brothers monastery. More than 300 friends of the Community of the Lamb planned to participate in the anniversary Mass and other festivities. Anticipating the possibility of inclement weather, the Sisters and Brothers had checked with All Saints Parish as well as nearby parishes about the possibility of using a large church in case of rain. Unfortunately, all of the parishes had weddings or other liturgical celebrations at that time.
With everything, the Little Sisters and Brothers depend on divine providence. Plan B was appointing me the chairman of the weather committee. By 11 a.m. on Saturday in Kansas City, a heavy rain had been falling for almost an hour with no end in sight. The chair of the weather committee had failed miserably.
The Little Sisters and Brothers are very creative and are used to adapting their plans to God’s will. With the help of their many dedicated volunteers, they set up enough chairs in the Lumen Christi Chapel, as well as in the social hall underneath the chapel, to accommodate the large crowd that was undeterred by the weather committee’s failure.
Through a good use of modern technology, the Sisters and Brothers were able to livestream the Mass from the chapel to the underground church.
Mass began a few minutes later than planned. The attendees were a little bit wet, but their spirits were not dampened. The Little Sisters and Brothers always celebrate the liturgy with great reverence and beauty. Saturday was no exception.
By the time Mass had concluded, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining. We had a delicious meal donated by a generous caterer. The social program included beautiful music and singing by the Little Sisters and Brothers. It concluded with an original drama written and performed by the Little Sisters and Brothers, as well as a few of the young adult lay members of the Community of the Lamb. Saturday’s play was a parable, laced with characteristic Lamb humor, and depicted God’s providence in the construction of the twin monasteries. It also visualized the amazing spiritual fruit that has resulted from what I refer to as the Village of the Lamb.
From my first encounter with the Little Sisters many years ago in Rome, I was drawn to their charism of being mendicants (beggars), depending on God’s providence for everything. Whenever I visit the Little Monastery, I always ask the Little Brothers and Sisters about their most recent missions.
For the Community of the Lamb, mission begins with praying for the Lord to lead them where their presence is most needed. Guided not by GPS, they set off for the neighborhood where the Holy Spirit leads them. They embark on their mission with nothing ostensibly to share with those they will encounter. They do not bring food or money or medicine. Instead, they bring to those who welcome them the opportunity to give them food for physical nourishment. They offer to those whom God inspires them to visit, the dignity and joy of giving.
They thank those who have welcomed them for their kindness and ask their hosts if there is something for which they can pray for them and their family. They actually bring to those they visit the most precious gift of all — Jesus. They allow the Lord to use them to be a sign of his love and presence to those to whom God has led them. During their missions, they encounter many who are looking for a sign that God is with them: a young woman who has been sober for many years but is being tempted to drink again that day; parents who have recently experienced the death of a child; an elderly person who is lonely and feels forgotten. They always invite those who have welcomed them to come, visit and pray at the monasteries. They conclude with singing a blessing for those who have opened their homes and hearts to them.
The Little Sisters and Brothers of the Lamb were founded in France. They have monasteries in Austria, Poland, Italy, Spain, Chile and Argentina. Through the Little Sisters’ monastery in Rome, they met many American seminarians and other young adults studying for a semester in Rome. Father Anthony Ouellette, while studying at the Pontifical North American College, became friends with the Little Sisters. Father Anthony introduced them to me.
When the Little Sisters accepted my invitation to come to the Archdiocese of Kansas City, they shared with their many American friends that they were coming to the United States. When they told them their destination, the response of many was: Why Kansas?
The real reason the Community of the Lamb came to Kansas is because they prayed for the Lord to send them where they were most needed. The Holy Spirit did not guide them to Washington, D.C. — our nation’s capital — nor to New York City — our country’s economic center — nor to Los Angeles — a cultural hub — but rather to the heart of our nation. The Holy Spirit led them to a place as humble as Bethlehem and as obscure as Nazareth with the poorest bishop to be a sign in our midst of God’s love, kindness and mercy.
If you have never been to the Little Monasteries, I encourage you to visit. On Monday night, they celebrate Mass with young adults followed by a meal and a spiritual sharing of how God is working in their lives. On most Saturdays, the Little Brothers host an open table — a lunch — for friends from both the neighborhood and other parts of the archdiocese. Check their website for their Mass times. The liturgy is always celebrated with great beauty, care and devotion.
The Little Monasteries are special oases of grace. The Little Sisters and Brothers are spiritually renewing their neighborhood from the inside out! The monasteries are among some of the great jewels of the archdiocese, places of miracles of God’s mercy. I give thanks that God chose to bring the Community of the Lamb to Kansas, the heart of America. What a blessing and treasure!