Second article in a series on the charism and spirituality of the Movement
A few years ago, on a visit to Fatima, I went to the Carmelite convent to pray Vespers with the Sisters, according to the explicit permissionn set out in their schedule. I knelt in the welcoming church as a Sister emerged from the inner convent to prepare the altar and expose the Lord. She did everything with respectful, eloquent gestures, and then returned inside out of sight. A few minutes later, the shuffle of footsteps announced the arrival of the entire community to the church choir just behind the lattice. The organ began to play and melodious voices began to raise a sung praise to God. It seemed I was in Heaven.
An hour and a half later I arrived home at my own house in Mogofores. The family was just beginning the Family Prayer. I had to knock on the door a few times before anyone heard me, and no, it was not because of angelic voices in prayer: it was more like an organized shouting session, with tambourines, dancing, and even barking dogs. As I went in, a hoard of children hugged me with shouts of joy: “Mum, come in, it’s time to pray!” We praised, we sang, we gave thanks, we read and commented on the readings of the daily Mass and we prayed the Rosary. In the middle of all this, Antonio made a tantrum when Lucia cut him off during his turn to say his thanks out loud. And Sara was sulking because nobody remembered to ask her to lead a mystery of the Rosary. Niall had to give a few shouts to impose a little order and concentration.
I laughed inwardly, thinking of the Carmelite sisters in Fatima … Then, with my heart full, I thanked God for my little family monastery. And I was absolutely sure that the out-of-tune sounds rising up from my house pleased the Lord just as much as the harmonious sounds of the convent.
Contemplative religious orders are made up of convents, each independent from the others. When a young man or woman chooses the monastic life, he or she also chooses a house where, in principle, he/she will live to the end of his/her days, because unlike the active life orders, there is very little movement between convents and monestaries in the contemplative life. The unity between the various communities is born only from the unity of the charism.
The Families of Cana inherited this and other values from this great fortification which is the monastic life. In our Movement, each family is an independent house, a true domestic Church. The Movement is constituted by many of these little houses, as the Carmelite order is constituted by many independent convents.
I have been asked the question various times: Can a Family of Cana live in community with others, as in the so-called “new communities” (Canção Nova, Shalom, Emanuel), sharing not only the same street, but also a life and prayer? The answer is, as it was explicitly stated, “no.” Each Family of Cana is a small monastery, independent of all the others, although sharing with all the others the same charisma.
It also makes no sense to compare the Families of Cana and conjugal movements like the Teams of Our Lady. In these, belonging to the “team” defines belonging to the movement, as you can read on their official website: “Couples (…) decide to form a team and establish a community of faith to walk together on a path of conversion (…) the teams consist of an indicative number of 5 to 7 couples and a priest, designated Spiritual Counselor.”
But then, don’t the Families of Cana ever get together? Of course we do! We meet up many, many times, especially here, in the Cana Prayer Corner, for retreats, meetings, camps and, evermore frequently, instruction and learning together. At the beginning of the next pastoral year, we plan on publishing a calendar of teaching and instruction meetings that will be available more or less on a monthly basis.
We also meet up in the Villages of Cana. We call them “villages” precisely because of their simplicity, their lack of structure, the friendship that underlies the relationships between “neighbors”, who help each other when necessary, who respect privacy when necessary as well, who meet when appropriate and possible, without too many fixed rules.
Nevertheless, neither the Villages nor the meetings at the Cana Prayer Corner can replace the two most important meetings of the Families of Cana, which are the daily gathering of each individual family, in the privacy of their own home, gathered round their family pryer corner at prime time. The other is the weekly encounter at Sunday Eucharist, in the local parish church. It is these meetings that form the true community of Cana: the family community of each of us. Like the community of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
In this way, each Family of Cana is like a small monastery, where the Lord is cherished, praised, served, loved. “We, Us Jesus!” We pray every day. And He stays with us and, almost without realizing it, leads us safely to the our final home in Heaven …