As we prepare to celebrate The Ascension of the Lord, we hear again his great commission: “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16) I wish to share with you a reflection from one of our Permanent Deacons about an encounter he had while serving those who are on the margins of society. Please enjoy this contribution from Deacon Frank DiGirolamo.
“Going Forth” – with Deacon Frank
Periodic reflections on the ministry of charity, and privileged encounters in the margins of society. The intention is to reflect on how God reveals His Truth even in the midst of great suffering.
We meet “M” (“that’s what they call me out here”) as he is preparing to walk away from one of the most intense open-air drug use areas of town. He says, “it’s getting too crazy here. I gotta move on to get some sanity.”
A desperation to move on…but also a lingering look at us… to see if we were maybe available. We were. And wow, he wanted to tell his story.
There, in the midst of background yelling, purchasing, and rampant drug use, he told us about all the traumas that happened to him in the past year… things that left him very much alone, far away from home… feeling like no one knows him or loves him.
These are significant. The sudden loss of a young spouse; a violent burglary. All happening just as his future was looking bright. He had worked hard for years to receive his college degree, and was on the verge of the promise of a new job and new life with his family. Suddenly, the love of his life is gone, and then trauma by violence, and further despair by being robbed of key valuables and savings. How to move on? Distant family says that they care… (“…but what do they know?”) They haven’t had to go through what he’s going through. How can they help? He just wants “…the pain to go away.”
Lots of lengthy pauses. Lots of ambient noise from those around us. Standing there. With each other. No rush. This seems to be the first time he’s had someone to listen to all of this.
He wants to pray. (Wow. God, give us the words.) They are imperfect words, but we begin with thanks, and we beg for help. “Thanks for “M,” and for how wonderfully you made him… for his capacity to love and to be loved… we don’t understand what’s happening. The overwhelming pain. The darkness. The need for comfort…we know that the comforts of this world are fleeting. We humbly beg you to give comfort to “M” in his heart. Let him be overwhelmed by your love for Him, even in this valley. We love him, and we trust in you.”
(a big pause, and then a pleasant surprise…) “S.” – “…actually, my real name is “S.” (he gazes at us) “I just wanted you to know who I really am. Thanks for listening, and for praying with me.”
It’s privilege to hear his given name. Sacred ground. It reminds us that God calls us each by name, and knows us intimately. Sharing a name is a participation in that communion. “Thanks, “S,” for talking. It is a blessing to meet you.”
My friends – God knows you, and is always with you in your struggles. May you be overwhelmed by His presence. And, let us pray for those who are particularly in need of that reminder today. Perhaps we are being sent to their side to help make God’s love more concrete.
Deacon Frank walks weekly with those experiencing human trafficking, homelessness, addictions, and associated ills. He works with fellow local clergy and several organizations. If you would like to help, please begin with prayer. To explore other options, contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org