Monday, May 30, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
On April 12, 2011 St. Anthony’s served its 37 millionth meal since it began doling out food on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi-- October 4, 1950. On hand to serve meals that day--beside a core army of volunteers--was San Francisco Giants, pitcher Barry Zito. St. Anthony’s website reported that A ‘momentary pause’ in the usual service was made to honor the significant moment with the Giants’ player, celebrating a ‘giant’ contribution to the community.A statistic like “37 million meals served” should be news in and of itself. It’s a sad but impressive fact. And I hate to admit it, but the reason I read the article St. Anthony's milestone: 37 millionth meal by Heather Knight is because I saw a photograph of Barry Zito next to the headline. Part of me wishes that he had not been part of the story, but St. Anthony’s can and will take all the good press it can get. With the mission "to feed, heal, shelter, clothe, lift the spirits of those in need, and create a society in which all persons flourish," St. Anthony Foundation is supported entirely through the generosity of the community; they do not accept government funds. That's correct, Fr. Alfred Boedekker, OFM did not want any financial assistance from the local, state or federal government. Their doors have remained open because of donations of people like you and me.
And every year, the goal of St. Anthony’s is to close its doors. In an ideal world, they would not need to serve anyone; no one would go hungry. The reality however is different. Knight reports, "It will probably hit meal No. 38 million much faster than it would like. Since January alone, the dining room at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Jones Street has seen a 10% rise in the number of people seeking food, and more than 3,000 now form a line snaking down the block every morning. For many of them, it's the only food they'll eat all day."
While the line or cue may be the face that many San Franciscans first see of St. Anthony’s, the dining room is the entry point for all that the foundation provides—Food to Clothing, a Social Work Center, a tech lab for job searches, a free clinic and more. "And so St. Anthony's is moving forward with a plan for a new 10-story building featuring a remade dining room, a free clothing shop and a center for social work. The top eight floors will house 90 units for low-income seniors, which will be run by Mercy Housing. Construction is set to begin in July 2012, with the building due to open in 2014 (Knight)."
Looking at the architectural designs earlier this evening, I could not help but think of another architectural masterpiece—AT&T Park. I thought of how this cathedral of baseball has transformed the China Basin neighborhood, how it is a source of pride of so many people in San Francisco and how what takes place inside, buoys the spirits of people of every age, race and creed on a regular basis.
It’s safe to say that St. Anthony’s dining room does just that on a much deeper level. As a Catholic it is a source of pride for me. I believe in a faith that does justice. Because of its belief in the inherent dignity of each human person, St. Anthony's buoys the spirits of all guests whether they come for a hot meal or for rehab. St. Anthony’s both the old and the new has transformed the Tenderloin; a neighborhood where human need is great. Please consider giving tor volunteering at St. Anthony's. If you do, you make witness was Zito said, "They're all very grateful and really good-spirited people. I think they are Giants fans, too." And why wouldn't they be...?!
Sunday, May 22, 2011
The young man asked to introduce the chief of police revealed that Chief Suhr is his father’s best friend and his sister’s Godfather. A proud product of Catholic schools, Chief Suhr heard several cheers when said he was a St. Brendan’s Bear. He noted both schools had a tremendous impact on him. “So many people helped me in both communities. I learned when you help people, they give back one-hundred fold. You always get it back.”
He played football at St. Ignatius and stood in the classroom of his former coach. He continued to play football at City College and asked the assembled crowd if anyone in the room plays rugby. (St. Ignatius does not have a rugby team. A small but vocal minority of students play in the Golden Gate Rugby league. Every year, I find out who these kids are because of their love for the sport and their commitment to the league. I’m glad they have it.)
Chief Suhr continued to talk about this rugby team, even though only one person in the room was a rugby player. I can talk about a sport as long as possible, but in all honesty, I wondered where his story was going. Yet, I’m sure many people feel the same way about their vocation—Where is it going? Where are they going?
Suhr said his team, the Castaways, was a band of brothers. This fraternity was so loyal to one another that after a very unlikely win, the team could not celebrate because one teammate was taking the San Francisco Police Academy entrance exam the next day. He needed to be rested and sharp. It was too important to take any risks and yet interestingly enough, this teammate asked Suhr and others if they wanted to take the test, too. Suhr knew a starting police officer made $25,000 a year and figured Why not? He must have done well because he received a call within the year to further the process. We could say the rest is SFPD history….
Chief Suhr’s message was a reminder to the students—do what you love. When you follow your passion, you are your best self. Rugby grounded Suhr in a community that he trusted and supported. Their unsuspecting win and a simple decision for the good of their teammate’s obligation became something they took on as their own. And in doing so, it became the seedbed for much more. It yielded an unlikely result!
One of the more popular movies about rugby is “Invictus.” Its title is from the poem by the English poet, William Ernest Henley. The final stanza reads:
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.Greg Suhr was captain of the Bayview station and today he is the captain of the SFPD captains—a position rife with city politics. Being that his position is temporary, it is difficult to say he is the master of his fate until the newly elected mayor is in office. If however, he lives by the motto of being a man for and with others, regardless of what will happen, he will remain the captain of his soul…no one can take that away from another person. And you might just figure that out doing something you love to do… playing rugby or working for the SFPD.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Who am I to disagree with (now) Blessed John Paul II, but have your ever thought we put too much power and pressure on sports as a moral training ground? We hope that our favorite athletes will serve as role models; we want our coaches to teach us skills, devise game plans and assemble a group of athletes that really believes that there is no “I” in team. We want to know that under pressure we will show integrity, exhibit courage and be selfless; we know sports will reveal this. When it comes to athletics, have we become overly concerned with both the inner and outer scorecard? Does it carry more weight than it should?
To a large extent, I hope it does. Pope Benedict the XVI stated Sport possesses considerable educational potential particularly for young people. So, for this reason, sport is of great importance not only when applied to free time but also in the formation of each individual. And yet, I wonder, does everything, including our leisure as sport need to be viewed as a means to an end? I think Patrick Kelly provides an interesting answer.
In his article Experiencing Life’s Flow, Kelly says The word autotelic is derived from the Greek words auto, self, and telos, goal, and suggests that the goal is within the activity itself. In terms of sports, the games would be played for their own sake. This emphasis differs from what is usually set forth as a rationale for the value of sports for young people: that participation in sports will build character or help prepare them for life or for competition in the business world. Some parents and young people also view sports as a way of gaining upward mobility. Usually the emphasis is on some goal outside the activity of sport; little attention, however, is given to the enjoyment of the activity itself.
I know parents who have given their children fencing lessons because the elite sport is popular at many Ivy League colleges. Experience in fencing was a means to an end—a distinctive edge on a college application. Upward mobility in a nutshell. Yet, let's be honest. Most people learn and participate in a sport for the enjoyment of it. I think the movie “Soul Surfer” is an accurate description of autotelos. This movie, still in some theaters is about the life of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her left arm in a shark attack when she was 13 years old. The title is a word play on the term soul surfer, coined in the 1960s to denote someone who surfs purely for pleasure. As Bethany learns to live with one arm, she learns a whole lot about herself as she struggles to determine what is more important—winning or the sport itself. Surfing and surfers are like no other. It’s innately spiritual; they are too.
I believe autotelos could apply to the spiritual life as well. We hope that our commitment to prayer will lead to inner peace, that our prayers will be answered, that we will grow more patient and loving in the process of learning to trust God. And we should. Yet, can we come to recognize that time with God in prayer is gift itself. To simply avail ourselves to God’ presence is to be with the source and center of life. Can we enjoy and appreciate just that? Ultimately, our commitment to deepening one’s relationship to God will bear great fruit. But can we be content with the grace of God in and of itself?
I wish our society shifted its mindset. It’s not easy to do. We love sports because of the clear answers they provide—win or lose, in or out, fair or foul, game on or time out. And we know the spiritual life doesn’t always give us the answers; all too often, the math doesn’t add up. But I do think the grace of a spiritual life is that it helps us live with the questions. And the grace of athletics is we really do have experiences that prove when tested, we can do that. When the questions are too difficult, we don’t face them alone. A team or coach and lift us up, above the hardwood or moral training ground. Take your pick.
John Paul II hosts a mass for athletes
No "I" in "Team" shirt
Soul Surfer Movie Poster
The real Soul Sufer!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
I love you, Mom.
I love your aliveness, your joy in living, your understanding, your giving.
And what I love best of all is that you love me.
God of all Mothers, thank you for my mom!