Falling In Love

by Luciano Garofalo, Jesuit Novice and former assistant

Last December, my mom died unexpectedly. She was hospitalized with an acute colon infection that took her after a mere few days. I was twenty-one years old and had just begun finals week of my last semester at Rockhurst University. I had also just accepted a position as a live-in assistant at L’Arche in Beloeil, Quebec. Since I was planning on entering the Society of Jesus as a novice in August, I was granted the exception of staying only six months. But a few weeks after my mom’s death, my Canadian visa application became hung up on so many ridiculous complications that I was forced to look elsewhere.

photo of Looch and NathaIn all my L’Arche-y brokenness, I reached out for help to Tahoma Hope, and they took my hand. It couldn’t have been more than two weeks after my first phone conversation with Diana Busch that I was boarding a plane to Seattle. I was greeted at the airport by Ricky Durham on February 1st and had fallen in love by that night. For the next six months, I lived at Anawim with Ricky, Leana, Mark, Carie, and Nathan, and I grew in love. I was so head-over-heels in love that it almost outshined my Jesuit vocation. I wrestled often during my time in Tacoma with the idea of putting off the Jesuit novitiate until I could live L’Arche more deeply.

According to my novice master, I “drank the Kool-Aid.” Minus the brainwashing, it’s actually not an inappropriate analogy. I came into the community as an orphan child, knowing very little, without a mother, thirsty for nourishment and compassion. Yet that was the role I had been chosen to fill for others. I lived the kind of mutual relationship upon which L’Arche is founded to its utmost, and within this relationship I found new life. It was fitting that my time in L’Arche began during the Christmas season, when Christians are called to reflect on the mystery of God’s presence amongst us with child-like innocence and wonderment. During my six months in L’Arche, I lived in direct communion with God’s children, and they made me whole.

To employ some Ignatian terminology, I experienced deep consolation during my time at L’Arche—in work, in relationships, in conversation, and in prayer. The reason for these consolations was predominately the core members, God’s beloved, whom Jean Vanier often refers to as prophets. They showed me God’s promise of peace, and for this I am grateful.