A wise man told me that when something is of God it takes a long time for it to come to fruition.
--Fr. Lawrence Carney, Walking The Road To God
Something has changed in the apostolate. Something has changed in me, and there is movement in Chris, too. We have entered a more fruitful time after years of sowing. The hand of God has seemed more present, and even urgent at times. Now when we go out, I feel like I could walk forever. Fatigue and stress have faded away, except when the street tops 95 degrees (after all, we are wearing wool!). We've been staying out on the streets about an hour longer than before because we talk to so many people and have formed so many relationships. I was once glad to be "done" with the ministry for the day, but now I only turn back in sadness. I once dreamed of doing the ministry all day, but I wasn't sure what that would look like or even if I could bear with it. I no longer have such questions, and neither does Chris or Meagan. We would simply cover a greater portion of the city, and would be glad to do it.
I always thought that the path to union with God was a long, slow, arduous ascent. That's fundamentally true, but sometimes God just picks you up and tosses you higher up the mountain. I was thrown up the mountain of God a couple months ago, and it was disorienting.
It was blissful to practice deep mental prayer throughout the day, often holding up those we've met on the streets to God's merciful gaze, but I didn't want to continue in such divine intimacy. God was too close, and was giving me gifts that I felt unworthy of. So I finally sabotaged them! We poor sinners would rather have our comfort zone, our autonomy, than enjoy greater gifts from God. Thankfully God is patient, and thankfully God put the gifts to some use in our apostolate. So on one occasion I warned Chris that God would be giving him similar gifts, and he shouldn't resist them as I had eventually done. About two weeks later Chris was at work and the Holy Spirit came into his heart, filling it with consolations. His person was rapt with the following words:
Share the good news! People need to know how much I love them. Announce to them the immensity of the Lord's love, and let them work out how they respond. There are hearts that are so broken, so discouraged that the idea of a merciful God is unfathomable!
Chris said he was "pretty much worthless" after that at his desk. He ignored his stack of work and turned the thoughts over and over in his mind, peeking at his co-workers whom Jesus redeemed on the Cross. Perhaps he was now seeing them with fresh eyes.
I think the faithful--those "deep in Christ"--will see many wonders over the coming decades provided they go forward in apostolic fervor. These won't be great public wonders, but little miracles in the fabric of life that will convert weary sinners, strengthen the weak and cause the faithful to rejoice. Fr. Carney makes a similar prediction on the Camino to a devout Spanish woman who glumly declares, "The Catholic faith in Spain is dead." Fr. Carney counters,
God does not abandon His Church. He is raising up holy men and women who will receive graces the world has not seen for centuries. You can become a part of it if you become a woman of deep prayer.
Amen. May we all answer the call.
Waiting on the Harvest
There was a phrase that struck me from Chris's experience of the Holy Spirit: "let them work out how they respond." God does not impose himself, but works through attraction, luring those who would be lured. All we can do is offer an alternative way of seeing and living, one in tune with everything that lasts and has value. Some of the wounded souls we have met have been deep in scripture at one time or another in their lives. For example, Tim or "Tobit", who we met a month ago outside a McDonalds, can quote chapter and verse of St. Paul. Perhaps he studied the Bible while in prison (like Jeff and Toby--two other ex-cons we've met). Even though Tim has heard the Gospel, he's going south right now. A month ago he was hale and hearty with a thumping barrel chest even though he was crashing hard from meth with his friend Janelle. The other day I barely recognized him, as he looked 20 years older and was barely coherent. We gave him a bottle of Gatorade, and he revived after some hydration, but he seems determined to "keep the party going". What a miserable party.
Others have never heard the Gospel. Julian flagged us down yesterday for a free, cold drink. Though he was tall and muscular, Julian was weak and weary, muttering that he hoped he'd be re-incarnated to a better life. I told him that God knew him before the world was ever made, that he loved him and sent an angel to guide him who is with us even now. Julian was listening, and with some emotion behind his sunglasses. Then a tramp stole his bag of cans for recycling that he had put some distance away while he chased us down. Julian ran to retrieve his cans, and the encounter was over. We had similarly "lost" a prostitute, Becky, whom we had given a rosary to, when one of her regular customers pulled up in his car. Satan was sweating to ruin our labors in the 105 degree heat.
Some of our friends on the street are emphatically weary of the hobo life or the life of an addict. Some have homes and work and families, but the yearning for heroin rarely leaves them. Yesterday we met Shane, who is a "functioning" addict who works as an arborist. He's only been clean eleven days, and he's desperate for spiritual support and friendship. His addict friends keep coming by the house looking to get "rigged up" because they can't do it themselves. Shane pleaded with us to stand by him and be available to him. We plan on seeing him today. It would be easier if we had a Jesus Caritas House where people like Shane, Jeff, Patrick (a former altar boy at St. Stephen's), Tiki and many others could drop by for friendship and support. I believe we will have such a house one day, though it may be far off. Our friends face a rough road to true freedom in Christ, but they have the sincere desire. The other day Tiki had shot-up in the port-o-potty with Sed and wouldn't come out because she was too embarrassed to see us. We love her and will stand by her, but shame is healthy sign of a person of good will. Sed was a little sheepish, though not so penitent. Nevertheless, he looked like a "soldier for Christ" as he was geared up wearing a rosary, a Miraculous Medal and a Sacred Heart badge. A veritable St. Ignatius of Loyola! His addiction is no joke, nor are the demons that prey on him, but he once came running after us after hearing that we give out free rosaries. Our Lady is drawing his heart back to her son, Jesus, the wellspring of life. Please remember all of our friends in your prayers, and especially during the elevation at Holy Mass.