Seminary Pilgrimage to St John The Compassionate: Day 4
by Seminarian Nicholas Mihaly
Fr. Deacon Pawel and I stayed up quite after our bedtime last night and talked about many things pertaining to our lives, the mission, the diocese and the church at large. One of the things that stuck out in my mind was something that he had mentioned to me about the chapel services.
He had told me that he noticed that when we, the seminarians, were chanting psalms or prayers during services in the chapel that we “project our voices.” He specifically asked me to tell my brother seminarians not to project our voices so loudly and to pray the psalms and prayers in a quiet and solemn voice. When I asked what the reasoning behind it was, he told me that it was to ensure that there was a prayerful stillness throughout the mission.
As I was walking back to the Lived Theology School house to prepare for bed, I was thinking about the stark contrast that I saw in the loud, busy, mission dining hall and the quiet, prayerful stillness that Deacon Pawel had asked from us and what I had seen during the services in the mission chapel. How could you be still and quiet in the chapel and be loud in the dining hall, aren’t they two polar opposites? My answer came to me early this morning on my trek through the miserable Toronto weather to the mission. I was literally blown from the Lived Theology School house to the steps of the mission with wind and rain pounding me in the face, but I paused for just a second at the door. While I could hear the wind blowing around me, I could not feel it hitting me, I could not feel the raindrops on my head.
It was then that I realized why people come here. People who are hurting, broken, despairing and feeling a sense of worthlessness come here to feel community, to feel like a person, to be loved. They come in to escape the storms of their lives and get some shelter in the form of people. They come here because it is calm, a calm that comes from the leadership of the mission being still, quiet and prayerful.
St. Seraphim of Sarov says, “acquire the Holy Spirit and a thousand around you will be saved.” How can we acquire the Holy Spirit? By being still, by being quiet, by being prayerful. Not by jumping around and being loud. Once you are quiet and prayerful and can acquire, or at least begin to acquire, the Holy Spirit, then you can begin to help others. I see this very clearly portrayed by Fr. Roberto. A quiet, simple, humble man who is always praying. He is most quiet in the chapel, and when he is in the mission hall with the people, he is still quiet, but he exudes joy-a smile, laughing, quiet, contagious joy. The sounds I hear in the mission dining hall is the comforting joy of the Holy Spirit spreading from one person to the next, causing it to naturally get louder.
This afternoon I had the chance to talk to a few of the people who have some pretty big storms in their lives-alcoholism, drug abuse, joblessness, homelessness-they do not go to the mission for immediate healing, they know all too well that it is not going to come. Rather, they come in for a brief respite from their wind and rain and snow, to get warm by the fire and feel loved and wanted by somebody. Indeed, this is what we are all crying out for, to be loved! And it is through a prayerful, still life that we realize that God’s uncontainable love pours out over everyone and through everyone because we are all human beings made in His image and likeness.