Father Patrick K. McGillicuddy, CSsR - Missionary
Serving Adult Street People in Curitiba, Brazil
Lessons in Free Falling
Began the day with a meditation that took me to how difficult is it for me to let go and let God. That contemplative nuns should encounter difficulty in achieving abandonment to divine providence may strike you as strange. Speaking from my own experience and my own self-knowledge, I can assure that contemplatives fall prey to the same control issues that plague all human beings. Seems that our DNA is hardwired for management! It doesn't help that for years I managed a career, home, and family as a single parent. Now that required management!
However difficult, trust in God and self-abandonment to divine will for my life must be cultivated on the spiritual journey. It can also be said that such a movement of the heart not only benefits the soul but also the psyche. Ask anyone who lives according to the 12 Steps popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous.
So this morning I thought about the metaphor of the circus high wire acrobat whose routine requires that she let go of the trapeze bar high in midair and TRUST that her partner's hands will be there to grab hers. Now that is what I call TRUST. Years ago I found that image very unappealing. I have a great fear of coming down from heights. As a youngster on a roller coaster for the first time I cowered at the bottom of the little two-seater car as it careened down the steep incline of the track. As an adult I almost broke my legs trying to get off a toboggan as it made its way down hill.
I preferred the image of ballroom dancing and trusting your partner to guide and protect you as you glided backwards on the dance floor. But this morning I had to admit that this metaphor is much to safe. Terra firma is always underfoot. A fall just means embarrassment and a bruise that heals. Trust in God, at least the kind of trust I need now, is much more of the flying trapeze kind; a willingness to hang out there in midair.
And how was my meditation and prayer for greater surrender rewarded? Divine synchronicity provided two experiences. A visitor to the monastery this weekend shared with us the video of her first experience of sky diving! And later in the afternoon this wonderful Redemptorist priest, Father Pat McGillicuddy, came to tell us about his missionary work with adult street people in Brazil, especially 18-year old young men, all of whom have been living on the streets, abandoned by their parents at the age of four, five or six. It took Father Pat a long time to to follow the call to do this work but once he received permission to do it he was off and running but without a dime. However, time and time again he had a need, a plan for the young men, a place that needed to be built, beds that needed to be bought, property necessary to acquire without the financial means to carry out the plan. Yet, each and every time, the money came, often miraculously, in the exact amount required. Over and over again he gave a lesson in letting go and letting God. In less than twenty years he has established: The Perpetual Help Project, a help and feeding center which serves female prostitutes; The Sarnelli Community School to which 18-year old young men come (no government services for street people after the age of 18) and present themselves to be educated from the ground up and prepared for eventual admission to university; and the Congregation of the Brothers of Our Lady of Perpetual Help dedicated to serving adult street people in Curitiba, Brazil. The school has a double A rating by the Brazilian government and begins with teaching the boys to read and write, to live in a home, to dress properly, to contribute to the daily running of the house. In five years they go from no education to the equivalent of our high school diploma.
Father Pat quoted Mother Teresa, "I always receive just what is needed and not more. That is to keep me from becoming dishonest." Evidently, Father Pat is an expert in letting go of the trapeze. I am so grateful for the lessons God provided for me today.