October 4, 2012
This year’s Transitus was presented in the Church of Saint Adalbert in the South Bronx. Like last year, the church was packed with friends and neighbors to witness “an extravaganza on a shoe string”—although each year the shoestring gets a bit bigger!
It is the custom of Franciscans throughout the world to gather together on the eve of the feast of Saint Francis to commemorate the “Transitus,” that is “the passing” or the death of their spiritual father. There is no official format to the Transitus, so, much like the Franciscans themselves, the ceremony varies from place to place. The Transitus commemoration is ordinarily held in churches or chapels and composed mostly of prayers, hymns, and readings from the life of Saint Francis and the Scriptures.
For a number of years, the friars and sisters celebrated the Transitus with a candlelight procession beginning in the basement of the church—that is, until Brother Agustino Torres came on the scene! Like other friars who bring their particular expertise to the community, Brother Agustino threw in his contribution to the pot. Since then, the Transitus has never been the same!
It now appears to be the short-standing tradition to enlist both friar and sister novices and postulants into the production. Thankfully, the classes have been quite creative, which means all the characters that make up the story of Saint Francis are there: the saint and his ever-growing band of brothers, an always-angry father, the bishop, knights, sultan, and lepers. Br. Peter was the well chosen narrator who led us through the drama with his fine homegrown British accent.
Art, music, and drama have been used in the Church through the centuries as an expression of her obedience to Christ’s command to go out and preach the gospel to every nation. For this reason, plays, processions, and public pilgrimages were used not only for private devotion, but also for evangelization. Preaching the gospel should not be bound only to the pulpit, but, as Pope John Paul II used to say, “be taken to the streets and to public places.” Like the biblical scenes in stained glass, dramas were a way to reach and teach those who could not—or today, will not—read. A song and a skit can “bring home” the gospel message and not only stir the emotions, but get a person to think and then act according to the will of God.
As long as the Lord sends us the vocations, we will be there—in the open, front and center. Indeed, the two are related, that is, vocations and public witness. When religious hide their identity and their religious duty under a bushel basket woven of secular straw, no one notices them, and no one comes. Like a boat with unfurled sails, we will go nowhere if we are afraid of appearing proud. If we are afraid of standing up and being counted, the count will be small indeed. This is one reason the garb of the religious is important. While it is true “the habit doesn’t make the monk,” who would want to be a monk without one?
How grateful we are to God for sending us young men and women who are excited to stand up and be counted for Christ. These are ordinary young people, yet they feel called to embrace an extraordinary life—and are not afraid to let the world know. As you view these photos, pray for them—that their enthusiasm and dedication may only increase and mature. Pray that they receive the grace to burn brightly in a very dark world and set the world aflame with faith, charity, and new life. It happened many years ago. May it happen once again, in our day!
Fr. Glenn Sudano, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
(reprinted from archives)