Seminary Pilgrimage to St John The Compassionate: Day 3
by Seminarian George Ellis
Today is April 11, 2013, our second full day at St John the Compassionate Mission in Toronto, Canada. We have been staying at the Lived Theology School (LTS) with a few of the other students who live and study here year round.
Their hospitality has been astounding. They are all easy to talk to and we get along with them wonderfully. They show what a community really is, not just through their work at the Mission but also through their interaction with us here at the LTS since our arrival Tuesday evening. They have definitely made it easy for us to feel at home.
Today started out with the third hour service at 9AM. After this, Deacon Pawel gave a talk on the start of the St. John the Compassionate Mission. He told us that a common misconception about the Mission is that Fr. Roberto started working with the poor and developed it 27 years ago. This is not true. He actually has been doing it for most of his adult life. The Mission started in a low income part of town. The goal of the Mission is to work with the people and help them, and in the process you start to realize that they are helping you. At the Mission we keep hearing that the best way to help someone is to ask them how they can help you.
Fr Roberto shared an example of how helping another person ends up helping both the person AND the helper. The first example happened on one Valentine’s Day. There was a gentleman who would always come to the Mission to eat. He always appeared angry and thus intimidated everyone. On that Valentine’s Day, one of the Mission workers got up enough courage to go and sit down next to him and talk to him. Despite all her attempts to be courteous, he refused to say a thing. After the gentleman had left, the worker felt as though she had failed at her attempt to help him, because he didn’t say anything to her: he just ate his meal and then got up and left. Later on he returned with a bouquet of flowers and gave them to her with great gratitude that she showed him courtesy and actually sat with him while he ate his lunch.
I have another example of this that is personal. It happened today, while eating lunch with a gentleman and some fellow seminarians. The man told us about some of his problems -- that he had arthritis in his neck, and more seriously, had been re-diagnosed with cancer. On top of all this he is divorced. Despite all these trials and tribulations, he still seemed content and happy with his life. What I learned from this is that the Mission helps those who are poor in spirit. What I didn’t know until after talking with this gentleman is that I, too, am poor in spirit. The man’s life story made me look at my life in a different way and made me realize that I don’t have as much faith as these people do. You can have nothing, and yet still be happy; there is no reason to worry about not having enough money to buy those new pair of shoes that you want or about how, exactly, you will pay for your college loans the next month. If you have enough faith and trust in God then He will truly provide us with what we really need.