When I began my short time with the Franciscans, I started postulancy living on a mountain in Maryland. The first week, my superior sent me out to do “pick-ups”. Let me explain what “pick-ups” is.
These Franciscans don’t own any property, nor carry any money – complete renouncement of possessions. So, in order to eat, they beg for food like the very first Franciscans. One of the ways people give them food is by leaving some food at a location for them – a brother then goes and “picks up” the food at the drop off spot. Got it? Today it was my turn to do the “picking up”.
So I set out from the friary atop a mountain. Let me now explain to you the circumstances that day. I now had a bald head and a growing beard and a pair of sandals. I was now living with all new faces. I was attired in a full body-length wool robe called a tunic – and it was 85 degrees in August in Maryland. I also wore a poncho – did I mention it was also pouring rain? I had attached to my back a backpack that was fit for a cross-country hike. My old friends are nowhere to be found. No more engineering, no more computers and internet and email and cell phone. No more shorts and tee shirt and umbrella and air conditioning. No more Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. As I reached the bottom of the mountain (remember the mountain part?), and as all this sank in, I asked Mary in my heart: Why am I here? I heard the response: You don’t see yet. Good enough for me – I knew I was with her.
Well I walked about 3 miles into town like this and reached the local supermarket for pickup number one. I entered the front door and found a brown bag just where I was told it would be. It said “Franciscans”. I put it in my bag and left. Now I was 5 pounds heavier.
I made my way to the local subshop – they had nothing. Finally, I made my way to the local Basilica. Now this is a large Basilica, in honor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. It has many doors about its veeery loooong perimeter. Needless to say I walked around the entire Basilica seeking the one door where the pickup would be. Finally when I reached there, I was referred to a receptionist Julie.
I sat with her and she began to tell me about her problems. She had so much on her heart, and she was glad to be able to share it. Clearly, God was doing something great with her, bringing her back home. When she was done sharing, I shared with her what I thought the Lord wanted me to say. Her spirits suddenly changed. Exuberance returned to her personality. It was like a light went on – she was so excited and happy. I took up the bread she had for us, put it in my backback, and left. I walked the 5 miles back to the mountain in the rain, climbed the mountain in pouring sweat, all half-miserable. My back hurt, my legs were tired … It wasn’t until later that night that I got it:
That whole trip was all about Julie.
All this – the bald head, the big beard, the sandals, the renunciation, the wool, the mountain, the heat, the rain, the weight, the long walk – all of it was because there was someone so very special to God that He wanted me to reach so that He could raise her up.
This is a little taste of Jesus’ Life. He left the comforts of Heaven, He walked among us, He lived with us and relied upon us, He suffered and was killed in the most humiliating fashion, and He has continued to do all this in the Eucharist for 2000 years, all in order to reach one person:
His whole life is all about you.