Saturday, August 30, 2008

smell the coffee

Raul is a pain in the ass.

I imply no moral judgment here. It is a fact, pure and simple.

Raul likes to ring the rectory doorbell at 5:45am on Saturdays. Saturday is the one day of the week that I do not have to be up early for Mass at any of the three parishes I celebrate at on Sundays and during the week.

I doubt that Raul knows this. If he did I would have begun this post with, “Raul is a malicious pain in the ass.” That would most definitely have been a moral judgment.

Raul rings the bell adamantly and shouts, “Padrecito!! Padrecito!!”. I can only assume, even in my sleep smeared semi-consciousness, that Raul is trying to get my attention.

Groggy and alarmed, I stumbled downstairs and opened the door the first five or six times that Raul roused me, half expecting to find someone bleeding profusely from gang inflicted shotgun wounds on the doorstep. I would not have minded getting up at 5:45 for that. Not as much, anyway.

But no, no comatose victim gasping for breath, no hugely pregnant woman on the verge of childbirth, no family of transient workers seeking refuge from immigration raids... just Raul.

Raul wants coffee.

It is amazing that I actually ran this drill five or six times before realizing that my Saturday wake-up call was summoning me, not to some life or death situation, but to Raul’s mistaking the parish for Starbucks. I must not be too intelligent.

I will not speculate on Raul’s intelligence.

The first time I responded to his beckoning, I could hardly believe my ears. I said something like, “Raul, I can hardly believe my ears!”. I told him that there would be no coffee at the rectory until 7am at the earliest. In fact, to be on the safe side, try back sometime after 10.

Raul looked at me as if he couldn’t believe his ears, and shuffled away.

In the meantime, a lot went down between 5:45 and 10am that particular Saturday and, sorry to say, I kind of forgot about Raul. Returning from hospital visits at around 10:50am, I stopped by the local Dunkin Donuts and ordered a double shot Turbo with three Splendas. This was to be my breakfast.

I got out of the car and, lost in thought, turned the corner to the rectory where I nearly stepped on Raul, who was patiently sitting on the steps.

Raul’s eyes welled up and he drew his tattered sleeve across his grimy, moist nose. “I knew it, Padrecito! I knew you did not abandon me!

Ever the hero, I surrendered my steaming cup to this Jesus-in-disguise. Raul removed the cover and stared at its contents. “Padrecito, next time I like a little bit milk in my cafĂ©.”

Weeks have passed and Raul and I have grown in our relationship. I have convinced him that Thursdays – food pantry days – are the best days for prompt and friendly service at the parish. Raul, on his part, has confided to me that he never really knows what day it is anyway so any further counseling I may wish to offer him on the issue is probably moot.

I was sorely tempted to disconnect the rectory doorbell on Saturdays, but, with my luck, the day I do one of this miserable city’s victims will actually show up at my door. I don’t even want to think about that.

So, I had the parish spring for a Braun with an automatic timer. Coffee is served from 5:45 on. There is milk in the refrigerator. All are welcome. Raul loves company.


Friday, August 29, 2008

a prayer for the brokenhearted


I was celebrating a funeral Mass at 5pm this afternoon at St. Michael when my cell phone began buzzing wildly in my pocket. When Mass was over I learned that 9 young girls of our flagship school in Santiago had perished in a horrific bus accident in Putre, northern Chile.

I know some of the families of the deceased and injured and can barely imagine the pain and heart sickness of their families and the entire community that I was so deeply involved with for 10 years of my priestly ministry.

My thoughts and prayers for you all.