Thursday, December 24, 2009

Contemporary Saints

{{en|Mosaic glass window on East side of Stanf...Image via Wikipedia
Tired of holiday posts yet? We blogger types can get a little carried away when there's a "big" topic, and what could be more timely for a recovery-oriented blog than the holidays? All the elements are there: emotion, expectation, booze, drugs, permission and relapse potential. It lets the blogger (me) give a sermon, preach to the choir, and tug at the heartstrings. How great is that?

For my narcissistic self, constantly craving even more attention and love, it's just swell. For my reader, (and I know you're out there!) it has to be as tiresome as a long bus ride with Joe Lieberman. So, a rest from the holidays, and a thought for the end of the year:

Contemporary Saints.

I don't mean to be sacrilegious or shocking for its own sake, but I believe that we all know saints. Sometimes we know them well, sometimes we only know them for a moment. But regardless how long or how little they are in our lives, they touch us. They make a difference.

A friend tells a story about a night that he was at a meeting, and was talking about how his marriage was coming apart. He wanted out; he couldn't take it any more. It's over, he said.
After the meeting a guy came up to him and talked about how he had felt the same way, got divorced and regretted it. "Don't do it, man," he said. "If I had it to do all over again I would have stayed and worked it out. Hang in there." My friend really took what the guy had to say to heart. He asked if the guy came to that meeting often, said he hadn't seen him before. The guy said, "Oh, I've never been to one before--this is my first one."

A saint? My friend thinks so.

My favorite contemporary saint was my best friend from New York. Call him Felix. We were peer educators in a street outreach program. Felix had been through some hard times, really hard times. From Vietnam to addiction to AIDS. If you looked at his life there would appear to be little to live for: alienated from family, addicted, poor health. He was diagnosed with the Virus while in the hospital kicking dope. He said that someone walked up to him and said, "the bloodwork's in, you've got AIDS. Here's some tissues if you want to cry."

That might sound far-fetched to younger people--anyone who worked in public health in the 80's knows it's true.

They gave Felix less than six months to live, and frankly, everyone, including Felix, doubted that he would make it that long. Why not follow the short road to death that heroin offered, rather than suffer pain and illness?

But, as Felix himself often said, you want to make God laugh, show him your plans.

He went on to live for nearly 10 years, clean and sober every step of the way. His whole life was about service. As a peer educator he was excellent. We used to go together into a hardcore, boot camp juvenile facility. I am pretty good with kids, but these kids were way past my ability to reach them. Felix, a profuce of the same mean streets as them, could have been an older brother. In a pastiche of Brooklyn-accented "Spanglish" he talked to these kids about a world they knew, but in terms of hope. He talked to them about a world beyond the crackpipe and the needle; the Glock and the Virus.

And they heard him.

Felix, who was probably a candidate for an unmarked grave in Potter's Field, died peacefully surrounded by people who loved him. The hospital corridors were so filled with people he had helped wanting to say goodbye, that they actually had to cordon areas off and limit visitors.

Felix leaned on God to help him get clean and stay clean; God used Felix to show that every life has the potential for greatness, when turned to His purpose.

So there is my candidate for a contemporary saint, St. Felix of Brooklyn.

Who's yours?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments:

Post a Comment