5 Things I (re)Learned From Our Open House

By: Tiffany Lambert, House Director

This past Saturday we had over 50 people stop by the community house for an Open House & Cookout. It was great to catch up with friends and get to know some new faces. Now that a couple days have passed, we’ve managed to get all of our chairs back inside, lawn games in the garage, and borrowed tables back to their original homes. During that time I’ve also had the chance to look back on the evening and here are five things I learned (or relearned) from our Open House.

Community members and friends gathered in the back yard.

5. I am my mother’s daughter. This might be the first time I’ve ever admitted this but it is truer than I’ve ever knew. Recently my sister got married, and with an outdoor reception planned my mom was worrying about the weather nonstop. After the wedding she even admitted that about a month prior to the wedding she started waking up in the middle of the night every night to check the forecast! Prior to the Open House, I too found myself repeatedly looking at the forecast. I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night, but it was a stressor.

Well much like the night of my sister’s wedding, the weather last Saturday was beautiful. There were some glitches with both events – we had to postpone the Open House a week because of rain and my sister’s wedding was the night of the supermoon which caused the tide to come up so high it flooded part of the dance floor. The trolley my parents hired to shuttle guests from the reception site to the parking lot even got stuck!

My parents with the trolley the morning after my sister’s wedding reception.

But the evening of the wedding was still a beautiful, fun celebration for my sister and her husband, everyone enjoyed being outside for much of the Open House, and all the worrying leading up to either of these events didn’t change a thing.

In Matthew 6:27 Jesus asks “Can any of you by worrying…?” – I cut the question off there because insert whatever you like, it’s just an illusion of control. And the answer is “Nope, by worrying I can’t actually do anything.

With that said, although both of us could learn to not worry, planning a wedding and reception is a much bigger deal than an open house, so Mom in the future I’ll try to cut you a little more slack.

4. God is faithful, even in the little things. As all the plans were coming together for food, it seemed like we were going to be short on desserts. This isn’t the end of the world. And if we really needed to, we were going to run to the store during the event. But when planning to welcome people over it’s nice to know there’s plenty of everything.

The morning of the Open House, neighbors from across the street came over to introduce themselves, thank us for the invitation, and bring us a beautiful chocolate pie even though they couldn’t join us later. As they were leaving I remember thinking “Lord, thank you for this small reminder that You are looking out for us, even in the littlest of things.” In the end, between the freshly baked cookies, pumpkin cheesecake, brownies, chocolate pie, and two small cakes another friend brought from a local bakery, there was plenty of dessert to go around. And I have to think the Lord delights in showing us His loving care, even in the littlest of ways.

The unexpected chocolate pie from our neighbor’s across the street and two cakes from a friend.

3. Kids are the life of the party. Sure, we’re a community dedicated to youth ministry, so we enjoy having young people around. But I think many of us enjoy youth ministry precisely because young people know how to laugh and have fun. I’m not sure exactly what the neighbors thought as they watched Fr. Jack do laps in the backyard because some of the kids wanted to play tag, but something must have communicated a sense of joy because they also asked to join us next time we have Mass at the house.

One of the biggest blessings of a community with a plurality of states in life (married, single, and consecrated) is spending time with brothers and sisters in community and their families. Just look at Paulie (on the right) breakdancing and try not to smile:

We had coloring books and crayons in the solarium for the kids. There was also sidewalk chalk which you can see on the Facebook album.

2. We have some great neighbors. When planning the Open House, we decided to invite our neighbors as well. Going door to door to introduce yourself to everyone on the street can be nerve-wracking, even for someone as extroverted as me. But I’m glad that we did, not just because of the chocolate pie or because our next door neighbor offered to watch the grill letting me talk to people for a bit or because they also let us borrow their corn hole set, but because it was a moment to build bridges in the local community, get to know new people, and to be open to how God may work through these new relationships.

Two friends enjoying the cornhole set that our next door neighbors let us borrow (they really are the best).

1. We are grateful for our sisters and brothers in community, friends and family! To everyone who made it to the Open House & Cookout – thank you for spending part of your weekend with us! We loved having you over and look forward to many more visits in the future. And for everyone who couldn’t make it because of schedules or distance – you were missed but we hope to see you soon!

Clarissa Maciel (housemate) and three of our brothers in Youth Apostles (Ben Jacobeen, Peter Clem, and Jim Harbour).

More photos of the Open House & Cookout are in this album on our Facebook page.

The Day Kolbe Francis Met Pope Francis

This is a reflection by Kelly on a special encounter her youngest child had with Pope Francis during his recent visit to the United States. It was originally posted on Encourage & Teach, the blog of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

By: Kelly Power, Directress

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Kolbe is taken up to the Holy Father by Vatican security during the Papal parade.

On September 23, 2015, I experienced one of the most incredible days of my life as a mother and was reminded in a profound way that my child belongs to Our Lord. Witnessing my son’s encounter with the Holy Father left me speechless. But as I have had time to process and pray through this holy and beautiful moment, I have been able to find some words to describe the feelings, thoughts, and reflections that I experienced.

Funny enough, we made the decision to attend the Papal parade less than 24 hours before the event. Wow, am I glad we did. I eventually decided to go, not so much to see him, but mostly to show my love and support of him and quite simply to make sure he felt loved by us, his flock and Church.

Navigating the large crowds with a little one isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but with the help of my wonderful best friend, the day began quite smoothly. We drove in, parked and walked for a short time to our spot at the gate. That morning, two of my sisters in the Women Youth Apostles community also made a last minute decision to attend and were able to find us on the Ellipse.

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Three members of our community waiting just outside the White House for Pope Francis to arrive.

On the way down and while waiting for the parade to begin, we joked about Kolbe being taken to the Pope, but I do not believe any of us really believed that it would happen. That was how we came to our spot; a lovely couple motioned us over to sit next to them because we had a baby and they thought there might be a chance that the Pope would stop.

After parking our car and walking to the Ellipse, we encountered protesters who warned us of worshipping a false God, but what they do not realize is that is not the case. As a Catholic, my love and incredible respect for our Holy Father is not because I believe that he himself is a God. Rather, the way he lives points so much to Christ Himself. When the Holy Father is near, in his gentleness, his joy, his love of all people no matter their faith, age, or condition, it is the love of Christ that I am feeling.

As we stood and waited for the Holy Father to drive by there was so much joy and excitement, which continued to grow as the time went by. As the motorcycles and cars came, both my friend and I began to feel butterflies in our hearts from the excitement of simply getting a glimpse of the Holy Father. Luckily, Kolbe had time to play, eat, and nap right up until the parade began. As Pope Francis approached us you could almost tangibly touch the holiness and caring that his presence he brings. We all could not help but smile and cheer, hoping we could express to our “Papa” the love we have for him.

As he got nearer to us, a security guard (I later found out Pier is the head of the Vatican security) scooped Kolbe Francis out of my arms and brought him to Pope Francis. In that moment, watching my son be carried to the Holy Father and then seeing him smile at Kolbe, it felt almost quiet, even amist the cheering crowd. Then as he kissed and blessed him, making a small cross on his forehead it almost seemed like slow motion.

After he was back in my arms, all I could do was smile, laugh, and kiss my sweet boy who had no idea was had just happened. I thought to myself, “One day we may be telling Kolbe he was kissed by a saint.”

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Members of the crowd quickly gather around for pictures and to offer congratulations once Kolbe is back in Kelly’s arms.

In the moments to follow, I was shocked at the response of the crowd around us asking to touch Kolbe. A security guard even kissed him on the head. People asked to take pictures with him and of him. As a mom, I felt slightly protective, but also wanted to share the joy and the moment with everyone I could. I had no idea just how wide spread this photo and moment would be. As we walked home we overheard someone say, “Isn’t that the baby we just saw on CNN?” And, Facebook exploded with photos and videos of the moment, some reaching over 1 million views. I received calls about Kolbe’s moment with Pope Francis from many news stations. That day was so much to take in and manage that I barely had time to process what happened.

It was not until Mass the following morning that I begin to think of this verse:

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).

Why did this moment bring such emotion and joy to me? It is not that something has changed Kolbe or that he will all the sudden be a different baby or lead a different life – he still whines and fusses and did not sit still for Mass this morning. I think this verse, however, is exactly the answer.

The moment that Kolbe had with our Holy Father is what Jesus Christ wants for each one of us as HIS people. He wants to take hold of us, love us, and bless us with the Father’s incredible and overflowing love. This picture and moment capture Christ’s desire for each one of us as children of God. This is what brings tears to people eyes. Pope Francis is one of the greatest examples of Christ’s love I have ever witnessed, as so many of our popes are. Whenever he encounters one of us, God’s presence and tender love is felt and seen by all. That is why you cannot help but respond with gratefulness and joy to have witnessed such a powerful presence of Our Lord.

This holy moment is even more special because Kolbe Francis is actually named after Saint Maximillian Kolbe and Pope Francis. As an infant, he got off to a rough start in large part to his small size of 4 pounds, 8 ounces. So out of all my children, this affirmation of God’s care for my sweet boy was an amazing gift.

My uncle put it well when he said:

“Maybe the Pope is blessing our whole family through Kolbe Francis.”

I believe he has blessed us indeed…our family, our friends, our community, and all who are able to share this joyous moment with us. We all are humbled and grateful for the gift God has given to us through our Holy Father Pope Francis.

Kelly is the Directress of Women Youth Apostles and a mother of three children.

Kolbe was one of two babies from the Diocese of Arlington that were kissed and blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to Washington, D.C. Click here to read about the other family.

BLOG: Sacramental and Community Life

In 1997, I was privileged to make a pilgrimage to Paris for World Youth Day, my first time The group that I accompanied was the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Youth 2000, two communities that were joined only because of the Eucharist and leading youth to Christ. What an awesome experience to be with them and celebrate with the Holy Father in France. After World Youth Day was over we had the opportunity to travel to Lisieux and to the site of St. Theresa’s birth, death and communal life in the Carmelites. What a joy to spend time in prayer where she prayed and lived. Her life was so short but so eventful and prayerful. She literally craved community! She begged the Pope to let her enter community life because she was able to listen to what God had in store for her. Even though she only lived a short 23 years, her love of community and the sacraments were such that it led her to be the great Saint and Doctor she is now.

I read “The Story of a Soul” many years ago and was touched by her discussion of community life and what it was like to be with those she loved and struggled to love. We all know that there are people in our lives that we love more than others and there are those that we struggle to love. After all, God said we had to “love one another” not “like one another” right? She struggled to be in community it appeared every second of every day, yet she stayed there because she knew it was what God wanted for her. Her struggles and joys were such that it led others in her community to be closer to God and even Saints! Isn’t that what we are called to do? Shouldn’t we be doing that in Community as well?

Community life is difficult but the Sacraments can overcome any difficulty. The more we celebrate our community life with one another and join together in the sacraments, the closer we grow to God and what He wants for our Community. It brigs us closer to each other and helps us to love one another even more. As it is said in “Les Miserables”, “to love another person is to see the face of God”.