Sunday, February 18th
By Keara Ette
Gathered at Table: What Are You Hungry For?
“Old St. Pat’s is such a great church. It’s like you really have it all together.” “What a great array of ministries you have there – it must be a community really motivated in faith and mission!”
These recent compliments about us elicited from me two different responses. At first, I smiled and proudly said something like, “Thank you! I love being part of this community!” But my secondary response was one that gave me pause: I thought to myself: “Wait – do people actually think that we (members of this faith community and leaders of these ministries) actually have our acts together?” Of course, then my Catholic guilt complex gets going and I wonder if I should have tracked down those individuals to confess to them that I, and often many of us here, are actually a mess.
Because while it is always our goal to “put our best foot forward” for the members who give of themselves with such passion and generosity and for the visitors who have heard so many good things about us …the truth is that Old St. Pat’s is a community of broken people. Over the course of my 10.5 years as a part of this community, I have been the humble recipient of stories of people whose lives, relationships, identities, and spirits have been broken open … and a world that didn’t always hold them tenderly at those moments. I have been part of moments that felt like we “were at our best,” and I have seen us fail to truly follow the radical call of the Gospel, the radical challenge of discipleship.
I am also reminded of a story that Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ often tells* of a young man who was finishing up the 18-month process of job training and transition at Homeboy Industries. Fr. Greg had asked him to share his story at a conference room full of social workers. The young man shared:
“My mom beat me every single day of my elementary school years with things you could imagine and a lot of things you couldn’t. Every day my back was bloodied and scarred. In fact, I had to wear three t-shirts to school each day: first t-shirt because the blood would seep through; second t-shirt you could still see it; finally the third t-shirt you couldn’t see any blood. Kids at school, they’d make fun of me, ‘Hey, fool, it’s 100 degrees, why you wearing three t-shirts?’”
And then, he stopped speaking, so overwhelmed with emotion, and he seemed to be staring at a piece of his story that only he could see. When he could regain his speech, he said through his tears, “I wore three t-shirts well into my adult years because I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn’t want anybody to see them. But now I welcome my wounds. I run my fingers over my scars. My wounds are my friends. After all, how can I help heal the wounded if I don’t welcome my own wounds?”
Throughout Lent, what would it look like if we all did some excavating of the soul? What might happen if we were able to Gather at the Table with our authentic selves to be transformed by the Spirit along with the bread and the wine? What would it look like if we held up our hurts along with the hurts of others who have been cast aside or cast out?
Fr. Greg seems to think that if we make friends with our wounds, we are able to more naturally stand with the wounded who are poor, marginalized, discarded. And when we stand with these wounded brothers and sisters, we might “stand in awe at what they have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”
Are we willing to risk this work during Lent? Can we let ourselves deeply consider, “What am I hungry for?” If we do, perhaps we can discover if our common brokenness, our common, hunger, and our common humanity might draw us together in kinship, and bring forth the hope of new life and Easter Resurrection.
*This story can be found in Fr. Greg’s new book, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship (Simon and Schuster, 2017).