I was a loud kid. I heard someone say once at a family gathering, “You always know where Carmen is cuz you can hear her!” My parents would tell me to hush up when I got too loud. One time when I came out of the confessional at church and kneeled in the pew next to my mom, she leaned over and said to me, “You should whisper. Everyone can hear you.” I was probably about 8 or 9 years old.
20 years or so ago my friend and Franciscan Sister, Joanne Klinnert, sent me a postcard for my birthday with the saying by Emile Zola: “If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you, I came to live out loud.” When I read the words printed in bold and bright colored letters, they seemed to touch an inner long. I was moved to receive what felt like affirming words from Joanne, while at the same time I knew I had a longing to be more bold in my words and actions... I taped the card on the kitchen cabinet at the Fools Court. They were there for me to read as I washed dishes or would open the cupboard door. As I would periodically read them, they began to emerge more as a statement of accountability. I would ask myself, “Am I...?! Do I live out loud?! Are we Fools living out loud?!”
There is a difference between having a loud voice in celebration or conversation, or in the recitation of my failings in the confessional, and it is another to live aloud one’s values or speak aloud what one witnesses and knows is not right.
40 years ago this Spring I left college at the end of my 3rd year and travelled to Maracay, Venezuela to serve as a Lay Volunteer with the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN. There, far from Minnesota, was the first time I saw the harsh reality of poverty, the dehumanizing conditions in which people lived. It wasn’t just a few people who didn’t have what they needed, like adequate food or fresh water, it was whole communities and villages. I was not just looking at pictures of people and houses in a magazine or seeing news story on television. Poverty and injustice were real, and these were real people I was coming to know and care about.
Fast forward 40 years and here I am writing about Faithful Fools Livin’ Out Loud in San Francisco, in Nicaragua, and in many corners of the earth. Thousands have come through this little purple building on Hyde Street, bearing witness to the reality of poverty and injustice and all the myriad of complexities that keep it in place, and are actually causing it to increase in our world. Students, neighbors, teachers, ministers and clowns have recognized that we must somehow, wherever we are, “bear” what we have witnessed in the last 25 years and commit our way forward into the next decades. What we do know is that well intentioned, charitable acts are not enough to change decades of systemic injustice.
And so, on this 25th anniversary as a Faithful Fool, I pause to remember and joyfully celebrate the very many moments that have brought me and us to this day. May our remembering give us all the courage to live our commitment of deep personal and social change out loud as we step into the next decades. Happy Anniversary Faithful Fools wherever you are on earth or in heavenly realms.
Join us for our 25th anniversary event #FoolsFest: Livin’ Out Loud on April 1st to celebrate in community and enjoy performances by local artists and special guests. Details and tickets at: https://www.faithfulfools.org/livin-out-loud