It's amazing what can happen when we make ourselves available for God. He uses our weak and broken vessels to show forth His glory. I've always said, and truly believe, that it is the most willing souls that are given the most graces. It's not about how "special" or "holy" we are (trust me), it's about how WILLING we are to show up. I really think its that simple. Show up, make yourself available, and God will use you! Oh how He delights in it! I can feel it when we are out there talking to people about Him. I sense His loving gaze on us as when speak of Him and His mother. When I silently pray to the Blessed Virgin when I put a miraculous medal around someone neck, It's almost as if I can hear her say "Yes, daughter...I will bring them to my Son..."
The other day Scott and I walked from Holy Rosary over the Burnside Bridge to downtown. We had our usual supplies, cooler full of cold drinks, chocolate, rosaries and my bag of miraculous medals. The first people we met were a couple who had been homeless for 8 months and their friend, a marine vet. At 10 in the morning, the marine had already gotten drunk and was holding a beer in his hand. The couple were high on meth and yet seemed so coherent and friendly. We stopped and offered them a cold drink and some candy to strike up a conversation with them. They gladly consented and seemed to want to talk to us. Scott started talking to the Marine while I spoke to the couple. This made me realize why it is so good to go out in pairs. A real "tag team" of evangelization, if you will. Plus, this way I can listen to Scott's responses and learn from his wisdom. He really helps me know how to engage people in conversation about the faith and the advice he gives me I hold in high esteem.
The women I spoke to accepted a rosary from me gladly and let me put a miraculous medal around her neck. She started to tell me about her problems with meth addiction and how it had taken everything from her. She has three children who, for obvious reasons, were removed from her care. Mostly listening to her story, I chimed in to let her know I had experienced the same heartaches in my life at times. I was struck by her smile and her apparent lack of sadness. Her skin was smooth and glowing. It took some effort for me to notice the telltale signs that she was homeless. Her clothes were dirty and she had healing MRSA sores on her arms. Despite all this, before I left her, I hugged her. I like to touch the people we meet whenever I sense they want me to. I see Jesus in them, wanting to be touched and loved. I hope they see that not everyone is repulsed by their filthiness and that Jesus desires to embrace them as a loving Father. As this women was talking to me, I gazed into her eyes. They were clear and bright...a beautiful shade of light blue. This was another instance when I felt like I could see right into someone's soul and it was so beautiful I could see why Jesus wanted to claim it back for His own.
Some people make it much easier to see Jesus in them for they are more transparent. Some people seem to have a more clear soul, there is more goodness in them. Other people, when I look in their eyes, I see only darkness. The disturbing reality that some souls have chosen against God and have been consumed with evil. Its always those people who are the first to say that the devil has "no power" over them that they "aren't afraid of evil spirits". Scott and I shudder whenever we hear someone say those words, for we know what a formidable enemy the devil really is. I always say that the devil doesn't care if you know you're in his army or not, he doesn't need any kudos. He'll take anybody he can get to do his bidding. In fact, I think he prefers to lead his slaves of darkness in secret. That way, he can betray them at the last moment and they won't even know what hit them. Every time I think of it, I feel an icy chill wash over my soul.
As we said our goodbyes and kept walking, we started to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as is our custom when we are walking, waiting to see who God will send our way next. Walking over the bridge, looking out at the waters, along side my very best friend, I had a sense of real peace. I felt like Jesus was saying to me, "Yes, this is what I made you for... I had the real sense that Scott and I were very special to Jesus because we were wiling to let Him use us. We both share an unshakable conviction that Jesus and His Church are everything. There really is nothing else! We are not saints...but we want to be and thats what matters. Every day, we try, sometimes we fail. As Father Gabriel said in a homily once, "If you fall, pick yourself up and walk the way of the Cross with Our Lord!"
As we came to the end of the bridge, the first person we met was "John". John was leaning forward with his eyes closed, lost in a heroin nod. We woke him from his chemical coma by asking if he wanted a cold drink. He gladly took it and I put a miraculous medal around his neck. John then did something that is rare, but when it happens is so special. He asked us to pray for him right there. He looked so saddened as he told us that he experienced the soul of his diseased mother coming to ask for his help. He said he felt that her soul was in unrest and this greatly disturbed him. I instantly wondered if this meant her soul was crying out to her son from purgatory, because the souls of the damned have no such recourse. Scott put his hand on one of his shoulders and I on the other. I let Scott take the lead in prayer and I added my own petitions silently. We asked God to heal this young man and to help the souls of his mother find eternal rest. It is so wonderful when these types of encounters happen. It's amazing how certain souls recognize their need for intercessory prayer. This is the type of example I use to defend the pious practice of praying to the saints for their help, especially the Mother of God. As we left John, he thanked us sincerely for our prayers and seemed a little more at peace. I knew that after we left him he would fall forward, back into the abyss of the devils "rest".
We walked around some more and emptied our cooler, having brief conversations with the "poor in spirit." Each time I go out, I am keenly aware of two things. One, I understand why Jesus loves the poor so much and Two, that He expresses such great delight in us as we work for Him, being such wretched sinners who have turned in repentance.
Walking back over the bridge to our cars, Scott stopped to teach me some of his wisdom. I stood next to him as he pointed to a swimming pool in an apartment complex. It was a perfect shade of blue and sterile with chlorine. He said, "See that pool? That is what the devil offers. So "pristine" and "perfect". Now look over at the river and compare the sheer size of it to the pool. The river is what God offers. Notice the rushing, life giving waters of the river. All the fish that swim and the animals that drink from its source. Compare that life giving power to the swimming pool, where nothing can live as it is a chemical soup." Then he pointed to the river as a boat rushed by causing many large waves. He said, "See that boat? That boat is like one of the saints. Its one great missionary causing so many ripples in their wake, affecting a great multitude of souls." As I listened to him, I allowed the words he spoke to lull me into a place of serenity within me. He told me the giant trees on either side of the street were like giant angels in heaven and painted the whole scene so that I could really see it. I told him I could just imagine the two of us sitting with our favorite saints, no longer needing their relics because we had them right in front of us! Oh the stories they will tell us! Oh how we will reunite with them in the loving embrace of a long lost friend when we run up to them for the first time in heaven! We will sit at their feet and ask them all the questions we've been longing to ask. Ask them to tell us all their stories from their lives of such virtue and beauty...what a glorious day it will be. I am so grateful for my friendship with Scott who takes the time to impart his wisdom to me. He truly is so special to God.
As we move forward into the winter months in Portland, we are anticipating the rain and cold. We will fondly remember the bright shining sun and glittering waters of the river as we tread through the snow and bitterness of cold. This is the glory of our faith, that even in the suffering of penance, there is real beauty to behold united to the Cross of Christ. Soon, the summer will seem like just a dream as we walk in the spirit of penance, offering up all our little sufferings for the conversions of all the poor sinners we meet.
The weather has started to turn and rain is coming this next week. As I put my sweater on for the first time, I feel the sweetness of gratitude for all the graces God has given me this summer. In May I started walking the streets with Scott and my whole spiritual life changed. I've gained life-long friends and the knowledge of what God created me to do.
What more could I ask for?