Today as I drove back from Mt. Calvary, WI I decided it was time to do what every good Catholic does after an Easter celebration:
Binge on everything you gave up for Lent!
So after taking one of the postulants to the train station, I decided to go out for some food at Taco Bell. I'd been jonesing for some fast food for weeks, and decided today I would order more food than I could possibly eat and sit in front of the TV for the rest of the day. A standard Easter for most people in the US.
Along the way through downtown Milwaukee, I saw a few guests from the St. Ben's meal walking by. I hadn't seen anyone from St. Ben's in over a week; their appearance was a quick reminder of my ministry. So rather than just honking, waving, and driving by, I decided to drive around the block and park.
I got out and spoke with John and Laura, asking how things were going. They were headed to this side of town after the continuous harrassment from the police. They couldn't understand why, on this day, the police chose to harrass them and the other homeless that resided in this part of the city. I told him that with the Easter holiday, and so many people going to the Gesu Church at Marquette University, they didn't want the poor people panhandling to the pretty-dressed people as they walked in/out of church.
Without thinking, I told them that I was going to get some lunch, and did they want to go. When talking with the homeless, inviting them somewhere means that you are also treating them. They happily accepted, and turned around to their friends who they'd been traveling with. Again without thinking, I asked if they wished to go along as well. They were a little shocked by the invite, and I had to introduce myself as the chaplain at St. Ben's before they felt comfortable.
"Vito, I'm black," John said to me, laughing. "I don't eat burritos. I eat me some chicken!" And with that, we headed out to a KFC at 12:30 in the afternoon on Easter for a Sunday brunch.
As we entered the KFC (it was one of the ones with the full sheet of bullet-proof glass between the cooking area and the dining area) it was clear that the worker was not happy about working during Easter. I tried to make the ordering as painless as possible, and I think that our joy was infectious. She started out being crabby, but eventually warmed to a Mexican and four homeless people who were sitting in her dining area...enjoying lunch and life.
Halfway during the meal, an older lady walked into the restaurant, only hoping to rest her feet. Knowing John and Laura, and knowing that they could not buy food at KFC, they told her about me. She humbly asked for something, not wanting to be imposing, and I gladly gave her my mashed potatoes and a Snacker from my order. She thanked me and with a devilish smile asked if I was married...to which everyone laughed.
Later on that day, I would stop into St. Ben's as they offered their Easter meal to the guests of Milwaukee. I had a chance to meet with many volunteers, one of them being a girl whom I'd met at a Lenten retreat where I'd given a talk. She remembered me and what I had said...something that made me feel proud.
After the St. Ben's meal, I was invited, along with the other friars of my community, to eat with some hospitable parishioners of St. Martin de Porres Church...the parish that exists next door to our friary. With a wonderful dinner and great stories, it was the perfect capstone to a wonderful Easter.
And sitting here at my desk, later at night and with time to reflect, I can see where I found God today. This Easter holiday, where we celebrate the greatness of the risen Christ, I was able to see that glory at work in my life. I could see it in the joy of being surrounded by good people. I could see it in the hospitality and caring of others. But most of all, I saw it from it's very beginning: a selfish act that, but for the grace of God, became an opportunity for me to live the Holy Spirit on the most important day of all.
Today, like the disciples, I saw Jesus again. And the joy of having seen Him today is so great, it moves me to tears.
May you all find the risen Christ in all that you do this Easter Season.