St. André Bessette Church offers enormous challenges of the spirit. To all appearances, our ministries are very well planned and organized, but spending time with our guests really raises extraordinary thoughts and feelings. I again experienced this last week, as we began a new program.
I advertised the program as “Spirituality Sessions,” and described it as an opportunity to gather each Thursday morning, hear a presentation on some aspect of spirituality and reflect on it as a group. We began the first Thursday of March. I set up the chairs, announced when we were ready to go and made a second announcement when no one showed. No one showed after the second announcement either, until one young man came in, looked around and asked where the others were. My question exactly!
We sat and talked, he and I, with him saying he didn’t think he would stay without others present. He said it is by listening to others that he grows. We were together for about one half hour. I listened; he talked. Of course, the subject quickly became his life. When he left another guest came in. I felt awkward in the situation. Both guests articulated their own profound spiritual quest quite well. But I was thinking about their homeless condition.
I did not ask how they became homeless—I preferred to let them direct our conversation. But I did wonder about the value of offering a spiritual conversation when they have no place to eat or sleep or call home. I had been in their circumstances—perhaps even at their age—but for a very short while and many years ago. I was most definitely not thinking spiritual thoughts at that time. I was thinking about how to get out of it all, whether dead or alive.
All these years later, I wanted to fix things for them. What do I have to give them? Should I say: “God’s ways are mysterious?” “Your suffering now will earn you a great reward?” How condescending! In my mind, they needed food and shelter before they needed me.
But, it seemed, not in their minds. Both of them felt the reality of their own circumstances, and accepted what is. Thursday, they wanted meaningful, engaging conversation. They wanted to talk spiritually when the opportunity to do so arose. They seemed to instinctively know that their spiritual attitude is the greatest possession they have, and that it will sustain them in any circumstances.
I had prepared a topic for discussion with the group that didn’t show. It was ‘spiritual attitude.’ Too bad we never got to it!