May 31 San Juan Diego Friary

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

I wanted to do something for someone today so I went online and looked up the “Begging List” for the Franciscan Friars in my neighborhood. These are 21st century Friars, they have a website, ya’ll. A Begging List is a list of things that the Friars want and need. I may slip up and call them Monks interchangeably but the difference between a Monk and a Friar is that Friars live in service to society and Monks live amongst themselves in seclusion and pray.

Friars take three vows upon entering the monastery: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. The Franciscan Friars serve the poor as their life’s work. They live off of donations. None of them work or have any money. If you have money in the bank when you enter the Friary, you must give it all away. If you have possessions, like a car or a house, you must give that away too. The point of this is to give up the trappings that society tells you will make you happy (stuff). You will realize that true happiness is inside of you – not in a car, a house, a salary, a beautiful spouse, nice clothes, vacations or jewelry.

These Friar Dudes must have a “company car” or a holy mini-van or something because they had a GPS listed on their Begging List, so I gave them mine. I guess they have places to go. While I  was donating the GPS, I remembered that Tuesday night (tonight) is food prep night at the Friary for the Wednesday meal in which they serve about 300 people. I stayed and helped prepare food. For three hundred people. My mind was blown when I saw all of that food and all of the work required.

Cooking and serving others has been heavy on my mind since I watched the Netflix Series “Cooked” yesterday. Meal preparation (for anyone) is such an act of love and service.  Fast-food corporations have stolen that (love) from us by serving us Crappy Food for a cheap price that is warmed up and served within minutes of our order at the counter or drive-up window.  Crappy Food is so cheap and Good-For-You food so expensive, that we are in a nutritional, as well as a spiritual, deficit regarding how we nourish ourselves.

The Franciscan Friars treat the poor with dignity. In the world, poor people are often treated badly and begin to believe that they are bad. So many people think that you can just become un-poor by getting a job. Poor is a state of mind. Many people have mental illness, emotional disturbances and have had the most horrible things imaginable done to them. Once you believe yourself unworthy, you are done for. So I understand the Friars wanting people to know that they are worthy of love and kindness. We are all worthy.

While I sorted gazillions of chicken body parts, beef and turkey sausages and cleaned up leaking meat-blood, I met all of the Brothers (or are they fathers?). Some are Fathers and some are Brothers, but I just call all of them “Brother” and they know that I don’t know and they don’t give me hard time about it. I met Brother Joachim (he was head chef tonight), Brother Vittorio who came to Albuquerque from a Friary in the Bronx, Brother Maxmillian who I met briefly a year ago, Brother Elijah with the wicked goatee and Brother Daniel who has served in a Friary in The Bay Area and knows Richmond well. They were all so nice and thanked me profusely for the GPS. They must get lost a lot. Yeah, I get it. I’m glad I could help them with that.

I spoke to Brother Daniel for a very long time about their work and their vows. I told him about my life and he told me about his life before the Friary but I was mostly interested in his life within the Friary. We talked and talked, because you know I can talk and talk. I think he had holy stuff to do, but he probably needed to talk to me just as much as I needed to talk to him, so we just stayed talking. I have no idea why I chose this very specific group of people to help with their mission today. I have to believe that when you open your heart, the opportunities will show up and when you open your mind, you can be transformed. Helping others, is helping yourself too. If God is talking to me, I hope she speaks slowly and doesn’t mind repeating herself. I’m a special case, God.

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