Saturday, June 8, 2013

Some years ago I sat in my very comfortable office in the Diocese of Harrisburg and a secretary told me that I had a visitor. It was someone I knew well. She brought a young man with her. The visitor was Sue Rudy, founder of the "Silence of Mary" homes in Harrisburg, and she had a teenaged African-American boy, about 16 years old, with her. Some years earlier I gave a week-long directed retreat to Sue, during which she began to discern God's call to step away from her "comfort zone." A short time later she founded the Silence of Mary ministry.

The young man told me how he had come from the Bronx, where he had been a rising officer in one of the major gangs. The only time he had been to church since he was a young child was for the funerals of his gang members. He had no family life; his father was mostly in prison and he had only met him briefly. He had been to 3 funerals in the past few months, including that of his younger brother. He told me that he fell on his knees in church at his brother's funeral and asked God to show him if there was another way to live than what he knew: gangs on the streets of the city, violence, killing, drugs, stealing to find a little money. Soon he met a Franciscan friar who helped to send him to Silence of Mary in Harrisburg. A tear crept down his cheek as he told me, "If not for this I would probably be dead by now, but now I know that there is more to life than what I knew before. I know that there is a God who loves me. I know there is a better way to live. I cannot go back."

That night I fell to my knees as well and apologized to God for allowing my life to be so comfortable, so insulated, so "suburban." If Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners hear from me a vision of stewardship that involves going outside of our comfort zone to serve others, it is because God has provided me wonderful grace-filled moments to become uncomfortable in His presence, and to allow Him to expand the capacity to love.

I think of the 13-year-old runaway in Washington DC who caused me to miss a final exam in canon law school as I found a place for him to stay and helped him reconnect with his parents 7 states away who were filled with anguish. I think of the young women whose confessions I heard at Catholic Charities' Evergreen House and Lourdeshouse in Harrisburg, and the stories of their lives on the streets. There are so many more stories, but all point out how God works in the opportunities to love that surround us. It is in love that God is found most purely.

Pope Francis has been spending much time preaching about the scandal of poverty in our world, and how the culture of waste preserves and sustains the cycle of poverty. His simple words are convicting and convincing.

Dear Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners, brace yourselves: this summer you will hear a challenge and will learn of opportunities to embrace stewardship in ways that will make some parishioners squirm. There are moments when we cannot be perfectly embraced by God's love until we allow ourselves first to be made uncomfortable! Perhaps our transitory discomfort is the embrace of God to another.

June 7, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

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