by Steve Héroux.
Last November, Doreen Dykers wrote a poem about life here from the point of view of one working in our tiny flower garden by the sidewalk at our back door.
She has the gift of seeing life with somewhat different eyes—eyes that see the Kingdom where others only see a tiny, heavily fenced-in garden in just one more cement backyard in a poor, dilapidated neighborhood and ask, "What for?"
The last line of her poem is: "for a suspended moment / we live in paradise."
A suspended moment… What if this moment—this flash of beauty, however momentary—were of everlasting value? What if it never died?
We serve the poor in many ways. Yes, we give food to the hungry; yes, we clothe the naked. All this we can see with our eyes. But there is more.
This precious "more" reveals itself in fleeting moments: in laughter and smiles, and, one day not long ago, in the clapping hands and tapping feet of a Brother Christopher* enjoying the live music we played over the lunch hour—our humble banquet.
Joy! Joy! You should have seen him. Such happiness!
And then, later that same day, sincerity and truth—or was it light?—in the eyes and face of this same man saying "thank you" when we were closing and had to ask him to leave and go back out in the cold.
Gratitude for a suspended moment. Yes, he went back out into the cold leaving us with—and taking with him—the joy we shared.
Perhaps it warmed him up a little. Perhaps "paradise" walked with him. Perhaps, perhaps not. Who can tell? But for a suspended moment, we lived together in paradise.
A moment broke open into our hearts, opening them up to life. Was it a moment, or a presence, or a face?
Since I arrived, not a single day has passed without such moments—each one unique. And in each one, the same joy and awe are revealed. An exchange of looks, of smiles, kind words, gestures. Heaven in a coffee cup, a hand shake.
In the midst of such hard and despairing reality, where the burden of broken lives weighs too heavily, Marian Centre is a house of joy.
It is a house which has filled me with wonder as I behold its operation and the eclectic group of staff who now serve here and form a family.
The house of Regina—the Latin word for "queen,"—the Queen of Heaven. In her house no one who comes as a beggar for paradise is left untouched by her grace, her gentleness, her joy.
Our happy Brother Christopher left this house a few days ago, along with the 75 or so men we serve every day, just before we closed for the month’s end. I can’t wait to see their faces again.
After we have some days of rest and quiet, the rhythm will beat again. Morning silence… and then, the explosion. The buzzing beehive. Work begins, and the house fills up, until, by mid-afternoon, all is quiet again—as though nothing had ever happened.
Similarly, one day, it will seem to us as though all the suffering in our lives had never happened. We will clap our hands and tap our feet together to the music at the heavenly banquet. No one will ever have to go back out into the cold. And no one will have to ask anyone to leave, ever again.
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