Poverty comes in many forms. It isn’t just financial. Trust me, as a priest I find the poorest people have the largest bank accounts and the weakest spirituality. The love of things that will pass drive people to insanity as they chase the elusive dream of happiness through objects of little permanence. True giving is foreign to them.
I, personally, find that I am living in what I call an eternal Lent. I am never salvageable, never free, never loved, never quite whole. My past mistakes and transgressions are never far from my next thought as I never find myself able to feel forgiven or a recipient of grace. Perhaps it is why I built Saint Miriam, for people like me, who hurt and despair that they are not good enough for God. And while I am still here, despite the threats and wishes of a few with loud and penetrating voices, I am still here, but I also am living in my Lent.
I am also in many ways poor. No, I am not living in the poverty of some, or on the streets, and make my way in the world within a comfortable two-income household. But I am poor because I am losing things that I never thought I could. I almost lost this parish, I see a therapist so that I can try to heal and not lose my mind, and this past week I lost my mom after only 5 days on hospice care.
As some of you will recall, I lost my dad a few years ago and now that day of my nightmares has come, and I am an orphan once again. I was adopted as an orphan by my wonderful parents, but I know that now since mom is gone, I return to being an orphan again. So, yes, I am poor in many ways.
I am also in poverty because I almost lost my second son. Caleb was seriously ill, and we almost lost him and daily we continue to deal with his health issues and protect him. He is whole in so many ways and certainly has beaten the odds, but his constant medical needs took a seat deep within Katelyn and I and we worry constantly. So, in that way, the way of worry, I am also poor.
I am also in poverty because of the hated and rumors of others who attributed actions to me that were not only false but exaggerated and inflamed. In the end, I am still here, but I am deeply wounded. I find that I walk now more carefully and give much less of myself. I am far more reserved, tentative, and unsure of myself. I am also highly guarded, don’t share as much on social media, and meet with people only with my office door open, and with someone directly outside my office to prevent anyone from accusing me of anything ever again. I also feel hurt every single day. I pray every day and weep often. I am unsure of my place in the world and perhaps I will never feel whole. So, I am poor in this respect, too.
Proverbs (26: 22-24) reminds us directly:
Rumors are dainty mortals
That sink deep into one’s heart.
Smooth words may hide a wicked heart,
Just as a pretty glaze covers a pot.
People may cover their hatred
With pleasant words
But they are deciding you.
I suppose this is why I sink deeply into every Lent. Lent is a time to turn back to God and a time to allow God to correct our mistakes and to remind us of how we hurt others. It is a season of the liturgical year which calls us to a deeper time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to orient our lives even more deeply toward Jesus. Lent is an invitation to interior conversion, and every Lent I pray I will not only find my own way to that goal, but also, maybe – just perchance – be able to leave my eternal Lent to feel the joy of a new Easter.
This Friday we will begin a 40-hour Devotion at 6:00pm. We start and end at Mass and in between we will sit with Jesus, sing, pray, cry, and rejoice. Perhaps, if we do this correctly, God will actually come. I pray so. Lord, I need you. I pray some of you will need to sit with us, too.
Blessed Journey. Blessed Lent.