Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Makings of a Saint?

I took up this apostolate three years ago, on All Saints Day of 2013, though it feels more like seven years ago than three. There have been so many struggles, so much adventure and unexpected encounters that it's hard to fathom that so little time has passed.  In the beginning I grudgingly endured the ministry (why couldn't God have called me to a quiet life of study and writing!?!), but now it's a joy in my life.  By contrast, Chris dove in from the beginning, but he likes to jump into the fire with both feet forward.

In nearly three years of walking, the most intriguing person I've encountered is a fiercly intelligent agnostic with the Space Age name of 'Eon'.  While Eon's parents were back-to-the-earth hippies (hence the unusual name), Eon was like a character out of a science fiction novel.  He's a Man in Black, or maybe a Blade Runner.  In fact, he's a Behavioral Threat Assessment Specialist at the Department of Homeland Security (you can't make this stuff up).  The first thing Eon did upon greeting Chris and I along NE 82nd was to tell us all about our own apostolate, based on his observations (e.g., "So you guys are walking a beat.  This street is your spiritual beat?").  I stood there dumbfounded, pointing a finger as at a spectacle, and said to Chris, "Can you believe this guy?  He's amazing!"  Eon was like a cosmic gumshoe, Dick Tracy but sucking on a vape instead of a cigarette.  He could accurately read people and situations like some of the wise convicts I'd known, and like them, he was a natural psychologist.

Eon also knew more about the Middle Ages than 99% of Catholics.  We talked of traditional Church customs and especially of the mendicant orders and the mysterious figure of St. Francis.  Eon was intrigued by St. Francis because he detested tame religion, a faith that has been seduced by comfort and self-satisfaction.  I remembered Georges Bernanos's denunciations of "bourgeois catholicism" and voiced my support.  He complimented us on our apostolate, saying that he had driven past us on a few occasions before he decided we must be worth talking to.  We hadn't lost our zeal anyway.  For Eon, life was nothing if not a radical commitment.  He talked about his commitment to an austere simplicity, and why he gives his lunch to homeless people or takes them out to eat.  He spoke with the rare combination of radicalism and personal warmth.  I listened with fascination and finally said, "Why you're more Catholic than me!  You'd make a great Christian!"

He was puzzled and so I explained.  I had been reading a book, Pillar of Fire by Karl Stern, the conversion story of a well-known Jewish psychologist.  The book includes a long letter to his brother, an atheist Jew living on a kibbutz in Israel. The brother lives an austere life, communally farming the arid soil of Israel. The brother burns with justice, discipline and a pure life of the mind.  At one point he even pens a later to his psychologist brother while perched on the summit of Mt. Carmel.  Karl replies to his unbelieving brother. "You live, apparently on the basis of an a-religious philosophy, a life which corresponds to what my religion teaches me.  I, on the other hand, live in a [bourgeois] setting" with "a car and life insurance", a professor at Columbia University, no less.  Karl Stern marvels at the paradox, which is now present before us in the person of Eon.  Eon was probably more ascetic than us even though he lacked the religious reasons to be!

After we charitably parted ways, I breathlessly exclaimed to Chris, "Eon doesn't know it, but he is one tiny step from conversion.  He would make a great Christian, maybe even a saint!"  
"Do you really think so?"
"Yes!  He's already more Catholic than the people at your old parish, St. XXXX" (name redacted to protect the guilty).
"Yeah. that's true,"
God's already laid all the groundwork.  Eon's got an eros for truth, a spirit of sacrifice, he's got zeal in spades, and he likes to mix with the poor.  Let's pray he's given the grace of faith.  Maybe one day he'll join us!  He'd be tremendous." And so we prayed that in God's time, Eon would fall on his knees and pray.

Dear readers, please pray for Eon's conversion!


  1. Amen! Will keep Eon in my prayers.

    1. Thanks J! I don't think many people pray for him given what he said about his family. We'll have to suffice.