Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chalices, not calluses - sequel

Interestingly or not, near the end of my assignment in Rochester for the summer, I was asked to visit a parishioner's farm for there would be a group of people working on preparing donated goods for export to Haiti. Apparently, some very good Catholics in Rochester started up their own non-profit organization called the Sacred Heart Haiti Mission. They round up various non-perishable goods and send them en masse to the Missionaries of Charity in Haiti to distribute to the extremely poor there. Quite the praiseworthy endeavor and accomplishment.

Well, anyhow, I hadn't really heard all that much about the Mission and I wanted to go and simply support the people and their endeavors, so I went out there. Now, remember, when I do such things - when I do most everything - I am in my clerics. So, I arrived and they were yet waiting for a full semi-truck load of goods to arrive to be stored at this farm as a receiving station so it could be packed later. The pretense that they had asked me to visit under was to bless the objects, and that's really all they wanted me to do.

This was so much the case that when the truck finally arrived and the unloading began, one man (who was probably in his sixties) whispered to me, "You don't need to help." When I shrugged his suggestion off, he repeated, "Don't help." Now, with utmost respect for the man, but consider the situation. There were probably 15-20 people there to help, among them about three men in their 50s, 60s, maybe even 70s, and numerous women. Here I am, a healthy 26 year-old man (from their vantage-point, perhaps "boy" would be more appropriate!), so I am not just going to sit around and watch these people work.

Well, so we all finally finish unloading after an hour and a half of trips between semi and barn. Then, there's the (apparently) customary cinnamon rolls and water in thanksgiving for the assistance. Well, as we're all sitting around getting ready to leave, I have an opportunity to sit and talk with the husband and wife who run this whole operation. Of the various things they tell me, the speak exasperatingly of the need to raise money to send the supplies they receive. Apparently, it costs some $5,000 for a single container (about the size of a semi) to be shipped to Haiti.

Before I continue (and get to the "chalices, not calluses" part) I want to speak in sad, but somewhat true and meaningful generalizations, perhaps even stereotypes. Sometimes, those who promote such causes - causes for the poor, causes for social justice - have a tendency to minimize, how do you say it, eternal perspectives. Perhaps piety and devotion might fit in here, but not quite. Neither does "other-worldly perspectives" quite fit. Well, anyhow.

As the conversation began to draw to a close, the wife who co-founded the organization, said to me, "You know, Father [sic], I have to tell you. When I was younger, my brother became a priest, and before he was ordained, he came home for a visit and all of us had to go out and do chores, but my mother said that all of us should go out, but my brother-the-seminarian couldn't. 'He shouldn't do manual labor. He's got to save his hands for the Eucharist.' And, you know, seeing you working today, well, I think you shouldn't have been. Father, you've got to save your hands for the Eucharist."

Whoa! That was about the last thing I was expecting, and I was speechless. I didn't know what to say. If anything, I expected something like, "Seeing you working today, I'm so glad those olden days are gone." To be honest, it was a bit refreshing. Aside from some members of the hierarchy, most of the people I have run into (whether in person, by video or by reading) who push for social-justice issues and the causes of the poor lack a sense of piety and of the elevation of the temporal to the eternal by way of the sacred. This woman, though, had an uncommon (not to say perfect) integration which was impressive, nay, edifying.

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