November is coming to a close (and quite quickly) and so I wish to give you an update as to what has been happening this month.
November was supposed to be a “low key” month. In some ways it was but I think that every month here is unique and comes with its own opportunities, challenges, and joys.
The first thing I wish to note that unfortunately sickness has been something that has been plaguing me. One of the sisters is of the opinion that my body doesn’t like the high altitude or the dry, dusty weather. I had a cold in the middle of October, and a week and a half ago I got a nasty liver infection. Once the liver infection let up, after a few days, a cold began to wreak havoc on my system and am only now getting over it. Thus I have been sick 3 times in about five weeks. I have spent much time in bed to say the least. It is interesting though. Except for the liver infection (I could barely move for a few days), I have actually been wanting to work despite the sickness, but the sisters insist I rest, and so I obey.
There was one week this month where we had three good things happen. First, one man was able to find a place to live and thus no longer need to come to the soup kitchen to stay at our shelter. Another man asked us for black pants and a tie for a job interview and ended up getting two jobs! Finally, the most touching was a man who got stuck here for a few weeks. He was trying to get back home, but fell into his drinking habits while he was here. His story is heartbreaking, but the end was joy-filled. I ran into him when running errands one afternoon and so we went and got a bite to eat together and he was telling me his whole life story. He also told me that he was just waiting as his daughter was coming to pick him up today. I was there when his daughter came and she was so joyful and thankful that her father was ok. He was crying tears of joy seeing her. They were both very grateful to me and the sisters for the work we’ve done too. He went off with a smile on his face back home. Yet for me, the real joy of all these stories is that real change happens not on bureaucratic levels but on the individual, one on one level. Jesus says “where two or three are gathered in my name”…I believe one of the ways one can interpret that saying is that Jesus is there in the small, intimate encounters between individuals. Policies rarely effect change because they don’t deal with the human heart. The work the sisters do does deal with the human heart. They take each person that comes through our doors with great love and hope for them.
We also had a family visit us for a week. They were from Colorado Springs and decided to bring their daughter down for the Thanksgiving Week holiday to expose her to work with the poor. It was really great to meet them and it sounds like it was a very fruitful trip for the whole family. They told me that they came to the agreement that this was their best family holiday ever. It is always a joy to meet faithful families like this.
I have actually been meeting people in town too. Getting to know the Catholics in town is helpful, especially hearing their stories as to what brought them here and there is a lot who believe God has called them to work here. I have even met a young mother from Surrey, BC! Small Catholic World! They invite me to social events once in a while and I get to hear a lot from them because many work in some capacity with the native population and thus are able to give a lot of insights into the history of the problems that occur on the reservations. What is sad is actually that when I hear these stories I can’t help but think that it is more or less the same in Canada, especially the struggles with broken families and addictions. There is a lot of praying we need to do.
I am also beginning a Bible Study and some side sessions for a couple guys who want to receive baptism at Easter. I preach every day here as well. I have said it before and I will say it again: preaching to an audience that is mostly drunk is an interesting experience and is good preparation for preaching in a parish (that is, if I can deal with the distractions here, they ought not to be a problem in the parish). But it is really interesting: here my preaching is simple – I preach the kerygma, the fundamental message of Jesus’ saving actions for humanity. And the kerygma must always take seriously the situation of those who are being preached to – in this case one needs to take into account the heart of the addict which is filled with pain, anger, resentment, etc. Then one shows how Christ is the answer to all their longings, desires, that He is the One Who offers forgiveness and not only that, but that He wants to take on our pain, suffering, and sins. That is my message day after day. I used to worry about being redundant, but most of them forget because they have already had too much to drink. Plus, every once in a while, someone wants to talk after our time of prayer together. The sisters are good to free me up to do that and it is a real honour to hear these people bear their whole soul. Already, for me, it is a hint of what hearing confessions will be like. It is holy ground in such times. Plus it has really increased in my heart the need to grow in desiring to offer intercessory prayer for others. It is not that that has never been a part of my prayer life, but when people are coming through these doors with such pain and so many hidden demons, you realize the best thing you can do for them is simply to fall onto your knees and pray.
And so now December falls upon us. On December 9th, Sr. Isabelle-Marie is going on her once every 10 year vacation home. She is from Edmonton and so her and I get along very well. But she is the only driver of the community, which means my chauffeur duties will be on the rise. There are also parties for the volunteers to say thank you, a children’s Christmas pageant, and many other things to do at Christmas time. So I am sure it will be a very busy month.
In January there will be two seminarians from Denver coming by for the month as part of their propadeutic year. Plus the Junior sisters of this province will be coming for a retreat and then courses until the end of February. So we will be hoping along here come January.
Finally, over the Thanksgiving long weekend I met Josh, one of the seminarians of this diocese. On my day off we went for a three hour hike, had lunch, and just hung out a lot. It was great to meet him for many reasons. But one of the neat things that came out of it is that he and I came to the conclusion that our dioceses are actually very similar in many ways and that perhaps God will desire to have a special bond grow between them.
There is obviously so much more that I could say, but I feel that is enough for now. Things are joy-filled, fun, challenging, but always permeated with Christ and His love for us from the Cross. It is that Cross that I encounter every day not as a burden, but as a sign of liberation and hope for all of us.
God bless you all.