My day begins with a quick dip into the office, where I talk to my hermanitas (I am hermanito) about everything going on in our lives. In just a few short years (and a once in a lifetime global pandemic), we have become as much a family as a workplace, which is to say that we genuinely care about each other, and that caring is contagious.
Which is good, because when I go next door to Emergency Assistance at Morning Glory Ministries immediately after, I never quite know what to expect. Our director leads with a unique mixture of energy, humor, and an indefatigable compassion for our guests. That too, is contagious, and empowering for staff and volunteers.
My first guest is a man in a wheelchair with a warm smile and an amputated leg. He needs some clothes, and when I asked if he needs socks he laughs and say, “I don’t need socks, I just need A SOCK!” He laughs, and I tell him I’ll give him two and he’ll have one to change into if he needed it.
There are a lot of moments like that, where suddenly laughter and light breaks through. And there are certainly hard moments where the hard realities of living unhoused, coupled with societal indifference, abject poverty and injustice, can be almost overwhelming.
But most of the time it’s a community of caring, and our guests model dignity, patience, and compassion for us. And sometimes, we are able to change someone’s life with change of clothes, access to state identification, or a connection to housing and employment.
When my work ends at Morning Glory I return to my office to check emails, mail out birth certificate requests, and complete other paperwork. At 12:15, I take whatever I’ve experienced that morning to prayer at Daily Mass. Our pastor presides at every Mass with intention, authenticity, and warmth. It too, is contagious.
After Mass, a woman comes to the door of the parish office. She is elderly and in an electric wheelchair. It is 97 degrees outside, and she has been homeless for a week. I walk with her over to Morning Glory and introduce her to our director and case worker. They help her problem solve how to find a place to stay for the night, and how to find long term housing.
Later, two men knock on the door looking for food. I grab them each a couple snack bags and cold waters and tell them to come tomorrow at our regular hours for a full meal. They are grateful for the refreshments, and ask God to bless us in our work.
Behind the scenes we do all the work that keeps a parish running smoothly. Most people never see it, but there is an astonishing amount of paperwork in the Church. It keeps the institution running, our records clear and accurate, and our local and global community on the same page. It, too, is an act of love, however hidden it might be.
In the late afternoon I sneak away for prayer in front the tabernacle. In the still, cool silence of the Cathedral I feel at home, with God, with others, and with myself.
Eventually, the sun sets on everything, even those chapters of our lives we love so dearly. And the sun is setting on my time at the Cathedral, as a new opportunity beckons. It is, and will be, a bittersweet farewell.
There’s a quote from a film I love, “The Tree of Life.” A voiceover at the end of the film advises: “The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.”
I’ve found these words to be increasingly true as I’ve said goodbye to many more people and places over the years. And yet, the love I shared with them somehow still remains. Deeper than memory and the decades between us, it stays with me, in some ways closer to me than I am to myself. I need only recall faces and moments, and it’s right here with me, always.
When I first came here to the Cathedral I was mourning the end of one vocation and beginning my first wobbly steps in another. Now, thanks to the community of faith and love I’ve found here, my feet aren’t so wobbly, and my days of mourning have long since past.
It has been, from the first day to the last, an experience of grace, healing, and love.
And that won’t ever leave me, and, I pray, will never, ever end.