23 October 2011

i don't know where you are...

...& i'm not sure that it matters.

during my time praying lauds yesterday, i was remembering some folks who have asked for prayer for various reasons, & i stopped to dwell for a moment on a man named George.


periodically over the last few weeks he has been on my mind both during my prayers and at odd moments outside of them, popping up while i fold some laundry or stir the soup. yesterday, i let my mind wander just a bit more beyond my general begging for God to bless and assist George~~ turning to some very serious gratitude for him being in my life. you see, he is the one who really taught me to pray.

prior to meeting George almost 10 years ago, if someone asked me to remember them in my prayers, i would happily agree to do so and then go my merry way. what followed was some variation of this: run into person who requested the prayer or someone who knows them to find out that a) the circumstances had improved, b) the circumstances has worsened, or c) things were basically the same. i would nod politely (& embarrassingly if the person thanked me for my prayers), then shuffle away feeling awful that i had not honored such a simple & IMPORTANT request. Why? & yet, i continued, as if paralyzed, in this same pathetic mode.

enter George. i met him one of the very first times i was at the sunday homeless dinner in the nearby city. he was an outgoing gentleman with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye. always. our first conversation was full of laughter, sharing some of our stories as people do when they first meet. it goes without saying that not every part of his life was sparkly, as he was living on the street, but those tough parts of his life did not remotely dampen the joy that he carried & shared. for many weeks & years after that first encounter, every sunday that it was our family's turn at the dinner, George was always front & center to share a hug, some good news & encouragement. one of those many sundays in the mix of years, as we were ready to leave for the day, he grabbed my hand & looked me square in the eye, requesting, "will you pray for me? i will pray for you everyday."

something about his look & the urgency of his words made my soul sit up & pay attention. it was as if it said to me, ... look, you failed in this before, but this is serious business. it is necessary. & you must do it. no more dragging of the feet.

i could not, under any circumstances in that moment do anything but say "yes" & mean it. my drive home was spent pondering how to make this real. every. day. i scanned my brain for something that would help me remember to take this request seriously, to integrate it into my daily life. i realized that my prayer life in general was quite haphazard; it lacked any sort of structure that would be the skeleton that held it together. considering my daily activities, i remembered the journal that i used nearly everyday for poetry & nonsense, thinking...hey, why not write notes to God. & along the way, write George's name in the margin to jog the lazy memory. this urgency for my friend's request opened up a whole new beautiful world to me as i realized that God is not something far off & He loves to chat over coffee, or to receive my tears poured out for a friend who is hurting, or to hear me moan over some silly perplexing thing of mine while i vacuum, or maybe best of all, to have me just sit with Him in the Adoration chapel quietly & gratefully just. just...

through the years George has also taught me more about the Body of Christ than all of my intellectual theological pursuits combined. what it really means to be members of His Body, to sorrow when when part hurts, to take joy with another. a few years ago George stopped coming to sunday dinners. not one of the regular crowd knew where he was or why he wasn't coming. i missed him very much. of course, he remained firmly in my prayers.

but now...

at first it was strange for me to intercede for someone with whom there was no follow up. i no longer knew of his needs, his struggles, his triumphs. but in my praying for him i discovered that we were still connected somehow. & it didn't matter that i didn't know. God certainly knows. i am not to worry. not a bit. but i am to keep that promise to George. i do. & in this doing, i've learned to trust. that He cares more for George (& for all of us) than i could possibly imagine. that faith means doing things for something which i may never know the outcome. that my very small sacrifice of intercession for George matters very much to God because He created George as a unique individual out of His infinite love....something true for each and every of us.

it no longer matters where George is...what matters is love.

09 July 2011


no mincing words...it was a long blog break & it was as it should have been. yesterday as i contemplated the outcome of my daily errands, i knew something had changed.

2 boys. not our boys. but they could easily be our boys.

in orvieto, italy last week, D. & i stumbled into a church as we are wont to do while meandering around italy. we wander in our separate ways, breathing the quiet in prayer, begging, thanking. i usually light candles for various intentions. in that darkened church my eye was caught by something i had not encountered previously in italy...a photograph of a young man & a guest book for his forthcoming funeral. immediately there was a lump in my throat. he was young~ late teens or early twenties. my gut said "no" but the evidence & the reality whispered "yes." ok. i steered back in the direction of a side altar near the high altar where the candles could be lit, to offer prayers for his soul & his family. as my eyes adjusted, i realized that the young man's coffin was resting in front of the high altar. alone. i was undone by this memento mori, knowing that orvieto has stuck with me in a profound way from this defining moment. candles lit, prayers offered, i stumbled out into the light that was both welcome & harsh, thinking on death & not without hope.

fast-forward to yesterday. my early morning errands included a stop at the bank machine before daily Mass. at that hour the bank is not open, but it is not unusual to find another car or two there for the same reason i was there. there was a car in the lot, but oddly, no one at either bank machine making a transaction. my first impulse was to circle out of the lot & return at a later hour when the bank would be open, but for some reason, i did not. nudged on, i pulled up to the bank machine directly beside the suspicious car. my heart went to my throat at the sight...a young man was sleeping in the front seat & did not stir at my arrival. in the back seat of his car seemed to be all the possessions he owned, clean & rather neatly arranged. he, too, seemed clean & dressed just as any other young man in a crowd of late teens or early twenties. the car was not a newer model but it was in decent shape.

were i to see any pieces of this total picture by themselves...the boy, his belongings, the car...they likely would not catch my eye at all. they were ordinary. but together... i looked for a long moment, wondering what brought him to this. wondering if he had someone missing him, if he had a place for a soft landing. wondering if his mother ached to know where he was in that moment, remembering the days she rocked him to sleep in a loving, safe home & kissed his forehead goodnight. these and a million more thoughts broke my heart. i was tempted to tap on the window & offer to buy him something to eat, to take him to Mass with me. but i didn't. the same thing the urged me into the parking spot beside him held me back from doing more. so i did my banking & returned to the car, taking one last look at him. i knew in that moment that this boy would be in my prayers for a very long time.