Lenten Blessing Print
By Brad Miner   
Monday, 12 March 2012

March 11, 2012
Dear Fr. Barron,

I watched the video link I received Friday from Word on Fire – the one about the three Lenten practices that appears on the WOF page for the My Beloved Son CD.

And I thought to myself: I’m doing well with prayer and fasting, but I could vastly improve my almsgiving.

And that made me think of “Tommy.”

Tommy (not his real name) is a poor man who attends Mass daily (as I try to) at St. Joseph’s in Bronxville, New York, certainly one of the wealthiest parishes in the archdiocese. I still don’t know much about him, but I’d always assumed he was homeless, because he seems simply to wander the streets of Bronxville, pushing along his walker when he’s not in church. And he has the puffy, flushed, and ruddy complexion of an alcoholic of the streets, although – again from my brief encounter this morning – I’m pretty sure he’s sober now and has a place to go. 

As it happens, I had a partial knee replacement three weeks ago today, and I was discharged from the hospital with a brand-new walker that, in fact, I used just once: to get from the car that brought me home from the hospital to my own front door. So when I went to Bronxville for the noon Mass today, I threw the walker into the trunk of my car. I was dropping off my younger son at the train station (on his way to work in the city), and he asked:

“What’s up with the walker, Pop?”

I explained that I intended to give it to a man who wanders Bronxville on a walker that’s seen better days.

“That’s very cool,” Jon said.

When I got to Bronxville, I saw Tommy sitting outside a Starbucks, for which I thanked God, feeling as though this truly was a moment of divine synchronicity. So I walked over (using my cane, which I also don’t really need), intending to ask him how his walker was holding up, but when I got to where he was, I saw he was asleep, his face turned up to the sun. I respect sleep, so I figured I’d catch him after Mass.

Of course, when I walked back by the Starbucks later on, Tommy was gone. And that actually made me angry. Yes, I knew there’d be other moments on other days when I might find him. But if there’s one lesson I’ve learned over the years, it’s this: carpe diem.

Knowing that I’ve often seen him throughout the day in various places around town, I got back into my car and made a circle around the main streets looking for him. No luck on that first lap. The second time, I drove a little further in one direction, a longer loop, and then I did see him – but only after I’d moved into the wrong lane to turn to park where he was just settling onto a bench. So I took a third lap and came to the street where he sat, parked in a no-parking area (caution lights on), got out of the car, and went and sat beside him.

“How ya doin’?” he asked.

“I’m well, thanks. Say, I had knee surgery three weeks ago and got a new walker when I left the hospital. I never really needed it, and I’d like to give it to you.”

I see that his walker is much older, pretty beat up with worn front wheels, and has yellow tennis balls on the rear legs, whereas my new one has rubber caps tipped with the same sort of high-tech plastic that has replaced the meniscus cartilage between the titanium caps – femur and tibia – in my new knee.

Tommy said:

“Well . . . that’d be really great.”

So I go to the car, pop the trunk, and bring out the new walker, which I open for him.

“This looks to be set a tad higher than your old one. Do you want me to lower it?”

I pull away his old one and put the new one in his hands. He struggles to his feet, and takes a few steps on his new walker.

“No!” he says. “It’s better higher, I don’t have to hunch over.”

We sit down together on the bench in the sun.

“You go to St. Joseph’s, don’t you?” I ask.

“Everyday,” he says. “On Sundays I come to the 10:45. I’ve seen you there.”

“And I you. What’s your name?”

“Tommy. And tell me yours, so I can say a prayer for you.”

We shake hands.

“Shall I take away the old walker for you?”

“Sure. See you around, Brad.”

“God bless you, Tommy.”

As I walk to the car, popping open the trunk again and tossing in Tommy’s walker, a young mother with two kids sitting on another bench a few feet way, says to me:

“That was wonderful.”

I can only smile, because I need to get into the car, so I can cry a little without anybody seeing. I can’t recall when I’ve felt so grateful – so thankful for the grace of God that gave me a moment like this. A Lenten miracle, really. Well . . . a blessing certainly.

So, as always, thanks Fr. Barron. I think of the great observation of Henry Adams: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

In Christ,


Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing and a senior fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute. A former Literary Editor of National Review, he is the author of six books and is a board member of Aid to the Church in Need, USA.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.


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