When I entered the sacristy this morning, I heard the words, “Anna is here.” Anna has been in and out of our shelter since the beginning six winters ago. She is complex: highly intelligent, schizophrenic, and a volatile combination of sweet and sour. Everyone on staff has an interesting story and lasting memory of and with her. I will never forget the time when I mentioned in passing Absalom, King David’s son, and she perked up and said, “He whose hair weighed 200 shekels.” What?? As soon as I got to the office and googled “Absalom” and “200 shekels,” there it was: 2 Samuel 14.26. Don’t lie, you didn’t know that either. That’s why for this blog, I will call her Anna, after the prophetess.
Anna is the homeless guest most likely to join us for mass, both during the week and on Sunday. Today, she was having a good day. She stayed for Morning Prayer and Mass (Ember Day, Commemoration of the Feria) and talked a parishioner in taking her downtown to the bus station. She always has the most manicured nails – hands and feet (flip flops today). Her nails aren’t painted, but they are clearly attended to and I always notice them. It’s one of those things that causes me to really think about my position, what I don’t know, and how far I have to go. I imagine that if I were homeless, the state of my nails would be the last thing I would care about. But it may be one of the only things I have control over. Why does this surprise me? Just because she’s homeless doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about her hands and feet.
After mass, a quick run to the neighborhood Starbucks for Grande Dark Roast and Red Pepper Egg Bites, prepared the bulletin for the noon mass, took a call from a colleague, and sincerely thanked my Bible Study participants for coming an hour and a half early to help fold and label the January issue of the Parish Magazine.
Bible Study was next at 10:30 and we spent a great deal of time exploring the parallels between David and the Ark in 2 Samuel 6 and Mary’s visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1. Sunday’s homily will most likely explore Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.
After Bible Study, a quick dash to the chapel to say the noon mass with unction, and then another mad sprint to meet two friends for lunch. Katie and Paul were both interns with the Abraham Project, our year of service program that ended this year after 7 years. Time flies and I can’t remember which class they were in, but they were from different years. Katie spent a second year working at St Timothy’s when Paul entered the program. They feel in love, I have the privilege of marrying them, and now they are both in graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta. Paul in law school and Katie is at the school of theology (my alma mater) preparing for ministry in the Presbyterian Church. They were in town for a short stop and it was so good to see them. I’m very proud of the Abraham Project and the lives that touched me. It’s been a real thrill to keep up with them as they left to do wonderful things: Peace Corps, graduate school, ministry, etc. Some completely changed their vocational trajectory after the Abraham Project. Some stayed in Winston-Salem and have become a permanent part of our lives. This wasn’t the case for everyone; some left early and unfriended us on Facebook as soon as they crossed the county line and some I doubt I’ll ever hear from some again. But all of them, all of them, made a mark on our community and I trust we made some mark on them and I shall always remember them in my prayers.
When I returned from lunch I had a pastoral care appointment to help someone find their grounding after life seemed to crumble apart. My spiritual direction is pretty consistent: go mass every Sunday, find a challenging and accountable community, and find a way to really serve others. Don’t let your mind get idle. We get in trouble when we get bored. Discipline your body and make it serve your will. Pray with the Church so the Church can help you pray when you don’t feel like it.
The day came to a close with Evening Prayer (O Radix Jesse), Shrine Prayers, and the Rosary (Luminous Mysteries tonight). On Wednesdays, I’m in prayer for two hours: Morning and Evening Prayer, 2 masses, Shrine Prayers, and the Rosary. I think it was Padre Pio who said that an hour of prayer a day should be sufficient, unless you are busy, then you need two. I completely agree with this counsel. The busier I am, the more time in prayer I need. I would not be as disciplined in prayer without the accountability of a public schedule. Whenever I have found ways to skirt time in prayer, I’ve paid a price.
The rhythm of prayer in the parish is demanding and can sometimes feel like a burden, but what it does to a soul is priceless.