"This is the place to be if you are feeling bad about yourself."
~Old Man Marley in the movie Home Alone
|church scene from the movie Home Alone (source)|
I frequently remain in church after daily Mass to make a mini holy hour before dashing off to work. I'm often kept company in prayer by several others including a few homeless people who occupy the back row of the church. Some days tears softly fall from my eyes as I pray, letting out all of my fears and worries to the Lord, and some other days I notice that I'm not the only one sniffling and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. There are an awful lot of people who feel bad about themselves who bring their sorrow to the Lord. It seems natural to release our sorrows in the form of tears while kneeling before the tabernacle, doesn't it? They become a gift to God and to us as well, bringing about much needed relief from stress and sorrow. So there we are, a motley crew remaining after Mass to give God the gift of our pent-up sorrow in tearful prayer.
On Monday before Christmas, the church had quickly emptied out after Mass, except for me and the homeless couple who recently started showing up in the back pew. Several church employees were busily setting up the Christmas trees and manger around the altar, making the church look even more lovely than it already does, for the upcoming holy day.
I glanced up from my prayer book as a homeless woman walked past me on her way to reverently light a candle. After her moment of prayer she stopped beside my pew, and then came and sat beside me, like several other homeless people have done when they were in need of a little cash. "I'm Sue," she said as she stuck her hand out to shake mine. She told me that she never knew Old St. Mary Church existed until she became homeless. We talked about what a treasure this beautiful old church is and about our Christmas plans. She was taking a bus across town to visit her brother but was short of cash for the fare and wanted to know if I had a few dollars to spare. I wanted to tell her about how I never have any money because one or the other of my five kids always seems to have a hand in my pocket and that I couldn't help her right now. In my mind I justified my stinginess with the thought that all mothers of teenagers surely must be broke.
But it occurred to me that God was whispering to me as I sat in that pew, telling me that Sue's prayerful request, and the tears she surely must shed like so many others in the silent church, were like those of a child, perhaps even those of the Christ Child in the manger that was being arranged in front of the church. So I gave her the last few dollars and the coffee gift card that were in my wallet. Maybe, like my own children, the homeless who frequent daily Mass will be keeping a hand in my pocket, forever in need of a dollar or two to get them through the day. And I will give it all away knowing that I will receive the benefit of watching the Christ Child grow within the homeless people who carry Him so tenderly, so lovingly, through their waking hours of wandering and prayer, giving me a generous example of simplicity and trust in God. A few dollars-what a small price to pay for so great a lesson!