You should have seen the look in her eyes. It was adorable, really, seeing if I wanted to see the rest of Universal Studios, Orlando. She looked at me with huge brown eyes, a gram of guilt in her voice. Her hands clasped against her chest, she dressed in her Gryffindor robes. She already knew the answer.
This happened on the first of two days of our trip to Studios. We stood between Gringotts and Florean’s Ice Cream and the rest of our vacation crew were looking around with glassy eyes.
“Um,” I said, feeling a smile glow from my chest, “I think I’m gonna stay home for a while. Between here and Hogsmeade. I’ll keep my phone on and everything.”
I have traveled alone, before. London and Oxford, then Guatamala before that. I was even in the middle of Philippines for about 2 days all by myself, once.
But I understood my friend’s worry. She and the others were ditching me for a few hours. I had no one to talk to. I was alone. Traipsing around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade without anyone to take my picture. It’s weird. I know it.
So they left me on my own, my friend occasionally looking back, her doey eyes brimmed with concern. I, in turn, got myself a butterbeer.
All alone, I felt the silence dwelling within me, looking left and right into the details of the park. The clothing. The swag. The cast members. Occassionally smiling, hearing the conversations about and around me. Honestly, I was fine.
However…the one annoying thing about the trip was the weather. Beautiful mornings, deluge in the afternoon, humid in the evening. Repeat for seven long days. In the afternoon, after I had my share of Carkitt Market and buying pins and pining over Ravenclaw swag, the skies opened. Oh, the rain. We need this kind of rain in California. If it rained like it did in Orlando for five days, we would be hold swim meets in Market Street.
While in the rain, I found myself outside, between shops. There is an overpass where many guests stood around with their umbrellas. I received a few snickers when I put up my Hogwarts Robes hood over my head. Sigh.
Within a matter of minutes, though a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor walked alongside me and said hello. Their first question to me is if I knew the school song. I mean, do any of us know the school song? Really?
Within minutes, we were talking about how many people recognized the school houses, how far along in Pottermore we got (JK Rowling’s gift to the Harry Potter fandom in which you can reread the books online, receiving extracanonical information from Rowling herself), and, naturally, wandlore.
These two “classmates” of mine were holding a competition of how many nonHarry-fans (their term, not mine) would recognize who they were. Students at Hogwarts. Because Harry was a Gryffindor, many recognized one over the other by a score of 15-1.
We three had time to nerd out. Which movie? Which character? Which Patronus? Which pin? What is your Harry Potter story?
Time and rain passed, and after a while, I saw my friends wander into the Alley. I smiled and waved goodbye to my “classmates” and meet up with my buddies.
One of them goes, “Oh good, we were wondering about that.”
Another mentioned, “Yeah—when we left you behind, we were like, ‘Dude—he’s going to be, like, alone for hours.”
“We weren’t sure what you were going to do without us, man,” another said.
When in Hogwarts, you really aren’t without friends.
I know that this sounds cheesey, but this is something that we ought to be like. At St. Dominic’s, we need to be hospitable, welcoming, warm and loving. Unapologetically Catholic, and charitable to a bloody fault. San Francisco is a big city, filled with people who have left everything for a new job, a new life and a new everything. They come to our doors seeking friendship, a place of belonging, and a place to be loved.
Many of us have forgotten what it was like when we came to St. Dominic’s for the first time. Most of us have forgotten what it was like to struggle to find a Church, or God. Hard times are forgotten when we have found our flourishing.
Hogwarts ain’t everybody’s home. But St. Dominic’s can be. What are we doing to make St. Dominic’s home to every person that crosses our doors? Are we so happy to find our friends and loved ones that we have forgotten to invite others into that same love? Or…are we the true, welcoming, loving, heart-filled community that Jesus calls us to be? When was the last time when we invited another to call St. Dominic’s home?
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!