Matthew Spotts, a Jesuit novice who made the Long Retreat at the same time I did has written a short reflection about the film The Soloist. The film looks at the relationship between a journalist (Steve Lopez, who used to write for my hometown paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer) and a homeless man - and gifted cellist - he tries to help. Coming as he is out of a short period working with homeless men in Washington, DC, Matthew's comments are thought provoking.
As I traipse into and through Philadelphia every few weeks, homelessness and the mental illness that is so often part and parcel of it is more visible to me than it is in my sheltered surburban neighborhood. Nearly every time I go, I encounter the same gentleman in the church where my spiritual director is pastor. We have the same conversation each time. He wants to know my parish, if I'm a nun, why I've come, what am I praying for. At first I resented the intrusion into my silence, into my time to prepare to see my director. Until the parallel to that very meeting struck me. My director often begins by asking, "How is your prayer?"
Who am I encountering in that space between spaces? Between the street and the pastor's office? Would I brush off Christ if he stopped by me in the pew and asked, "What are you praying for?" As, of course, I was. And I'd likely be just as tongue-tied in response.