Unfortunately, I did not make it to Mass at the CIC at Noon. I'd stayed up late completing a blog, and had to drag myself out of bed around 11:15. Despite missing church, today was not a waste.
I spent a lot of time visiting with friends, old co-workers, even my spiritual advisor at my parish church. Just taking the time to sit and talk reminded me of how I'd spent last month - sitting in a soup kitchen in Detroit and talking with people over lunch.
As of right now, I've visited the Capuchin Franciscans about 4 times this year. I feel more and more welcome each time I go, and it reminded me why I was working so hard to accumulate so much money.
At the end of October, I had the chance to visit the Capuchin Monastery in Detroit, as well as some of the other ministries in the greater Detroit area. Until then, I'd only gone to see the O.F.M. Caps in Chicago at the Formation Friary...a house with little outside ministry. This would be my first glimpse of Capuchin life in action.
After working at the car lot until 6 that night, I remember racing across I96 from Grand Rapids to downtown Detroit. Despite the ugly weather, I was able to make a '97 Honda Civic fly at 90 mph as I hurried to get to the Monastery before everyone headed for bed.
The monastery (technically it is a friary, however the locals took to calling it a monastery and the name has always stayed the same) was a beautiful place located in a very bad part of town. Near the monastery is a Capuchin soup kitchen, where meals are served at lunch and dinner for all that come through the door - no questions asked.
The next day we learned about the ROPE program, sponsored by Capuchins in Detroit. We listened to grown men, hardened by prison, drugs, and a life of crime, come close to tears as they spoke about the Capuchins, the chance they gave to those men when no one else would, and the spiritual direction to turn their lives around and find peace in life and in spirit. Men that would still be lost in the system and living on the streets now support themselves by working as bakers and selling their wares to local churches throughout the Detroit Diocese.
After visiting one soup kitchen we went to the other side of town, just in time for lunch. Rather than just watch the poor be fed by volunteers, the brother in charge had us get in line, eat lunch, and strike up conversation with those we sat next to. We were instructed not to group up, but rather to mingle with the others.
I could tell some were a little apprehensive about sitting and talking with total strangers, especially in that type of setting. I felt I had an advantage on the others, not only because of my ability to initiate a conversation with just about anyone, but I remember the times my mother and I ate at the Salvation Army in Iowa. Being poor was nothing new to me; I'd lived that life already.
Despite what many would think, the people there were not destitute or all homeless. Most were hard-working people, just trying to make ends meet in a city with a dying economy. Two of the men I ate with worked full-time jobs, yet ate lunch at the soup kitchen to save money for their families. Even I know that 40 hours a week doesn't always pay the bills.
After touring the city, we trekked north for an hour to visit the Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, MI. Not only did we have the opportunity to tour the facility, but we were given 2 hours of personal reflection time in which to walk the grounds, pray in the chapel, or just sit and ponder what the day has meant so far.
Being the traveler that I am, I chose to brave the rainy conditions and walked outdoors through the trees. Looking back, I don't so much remember how cold or windy it was; I remember thinking: "So what have I learned so far from this weekend?"
As I walked through the trees, my mind kept falling back to the first stop with the men from the ROPE program. One look into their eyes and you could see the sincerity of their gratitude, the conviction of their belief, and their never-ending praise for Fr. Stadmeyer who first got the program off the ground.
What struck me wasn't just how these men looked towards the Father as some embodiment of Christ. In our way, we as humans have the ability to be Christ-like when we stop and offer to help our fellow human beings. What struck me was how Father Stadmeyer stood, humble yet smiling, as if he'd done nothing more than what the Lord asked of him. These men owed him their lives, yet he was content in knowing they were safe.
For those two hours I thought about humility, about my life, and how I still walked a fine line between personal materialism and a personal spirituality. I wanted my life to lead in one direction, by my lifestyle required me to go another. I knew I'd have to make a choice, sooner rather than later. I knew I had to decide if I was really going to try and follow this calling, or if I'd push it to the back of my mind like so many other ideas. Was I really ready to see what God wanted me to do?
I left Detroit on Sunday, knowing I had a big decision to make. I knew I'd have to talk with the Vocations Director about taking the next step. I knew I'd have to decide what job I was going to work at until next fall. I knew I'd have to take some time, hopefully at the Retreat Center, to better prepare myself for a year of postulancy.
I've already taken too much time. I have a meeting this morning at 8AM, and it's already 4:23.
Perhaps I'll make it to Mass this afternoon if I don't drive home right after breakfast.