My sister-in-law came over for dinner last night and shared with us a bit about her week in San Francisco.
She is a catechumen at St. John the Baptist and is looking for ways to work with orphans and homeless people. For a long time, she thought she might have to leave the country to do the kind of work she feels called too. After a week in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, she's not so sure she needs to leave anymore!
She was there with some of her evangelical friends, praying for the city and trying to find ways to volunteer to help the homeless. At one point, a rough looking man came up to them on the street. He saw that several of the girls had crosses around their necks and asked if they were praying. Tentatively, they said yes. Then he surprised them--he asked if he could pray with them! Not only did he pray with them, but he concluded his prayer with ,"In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." He smiled at them warmly and walked away....Strange things....
It reminded her of St. John Maximovitch and she asked for his prayers, knowing that he still prayed unceasingly for his old city. She could see now why he wept over San Francisco...in many respects it was the most spiritually dark cities she had ever been to.
My sister-in-law struggled with certain elements of her experience there. Her group constantly worried about where they were going to eat, at one point even fighting over doughnuts in front of some homeless. It saddened her how pettiness and pride still overtook them on many occasions.
As the week wore on, she noticed how much similarity there was between the homeless and her group. And how, in more ways than she could count, she was a sinner in the same ways the homeless were. The only difference is that she is better able to hide her sins. The greed, the gluttony, the lust for power, the sloth....in a new way, she realized the power and truth of the Prayer of St. Ephrem that the Orthodox pray every day in Lent:
"O Lord and Master of my life, give me not a spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant.
Yea, O Lord and King: Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother.
For you are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen."