I knew a man who did everything in life. They say he had been an atheist and a Marxist, that he became a mercenary in the French Foreign Legion and had shot many people.
Suddenly he converted. He became a monk, without withdrawing from the world. He began working as a stevedore, but he devoted all his free time to prayer and meditation. During the day he recited mantras: “Help me Jesus”, “Forgive my sins, Jesus”, “Sanctify me Jesus”, “Make me a friend of the poor, Jesus”, “Make me as poor as the poor, Jesus”.
Curiously, he had his own style of prayer. He thought: if God became a person in Jesus, then He was like us: He peed, cried like a baby asking to be nursed, threw temper tantrums when something bothered Him, as when His diaper was wet.
At the beginning He would have liked Mary more, then He would have liked Joseph more, matters that psychologists explain. And He grew up just like our children, playing with the ants, chasing the dogs, throwing stones at the donkeys and, the rascal, lifting the skirts of the girls to infuriate them, as Fernando Pessoa imagined irreverently.
He prayed to Mary, the mother of the Child Jesus, imagining how she rocked Jesus to sleep, how she washed His diapers in the tank, how she prepared baby food for the Child and a substantial meal for her husband, the good Joseph. And he would be innerly happy with such ruminations because he felt and lived them as matters of his heart. And he frequently cried from spiritual happiness.
When he became a monk, he opted to join those who make the world their cell, and radically live poverty, together with the poor: the Little Brothers of Foucauld. He created a small community in the poorest favela of the city. He had few disciples. Life was very hard: to work with the poor and to meditate. They were only three, who wound up leaving. Such a life, so demanding, was not for them.
He lived in several countries, always threatened with death by the military regimes; he had to hide and to flee to another country. There, soon after, the same thing would happen to him. But he felt safely in the palm of God’s hand. That is why he lived unconcerned.
He was uncomfortable with the institutional Church, the devotional Christianity without commitment to justice for the poor, but finally he worked with a parish that worked with the people. He worked with the landless, the homeless and a group of women. He welcomed the prostitutes who would come to cry their sorrows to him. And leave consoled.
Courageous, he organized public demonstrations in front of city hall and encouraged the occupation of uncultivated land. And when the landless and the homeless managed to establish themselves, he would arrange beautiful ecumenical celebrations, with many symbols, the so-called “mystics”.
Every day, after the afternoon mass, he would retreat into the dark church for a long time. Only the night lamp would send hesitant glimmers of light, transforming the dead statues into living phantoms and the erect columns, into strange witches. And there he would remain, impassible, his eyes fixed on the tabernacle, until the sacristan would come to close the church.
One day I went to the church looking for him. I asked him, on the spot: “Little Brother, (I will not reveal his name because it would make him sad), do you feel God when you come here, after work, to the church to meditate? Does God say something to you?”
With all tranquility, as someone who wakes up from a profound dream, he looked at me sideways and said:
“I feel nothing. For a long time I have not heard the voice of the Friend (that is the how he referred to God). I felt it once. It was fascinating. It filled my days with music. Now I hear nothing. Perhaps the Friend will not talk to me anymore”.
I answered him: “Then, why you continue there in the sacred darkness of the church?”
“I continue -he answered- because I want to be available. If the Friend should want to come, to leave His silence behind and talk, I am here to listen to Him. Can you imagine if He wanted to talk to me, and I would not be here? Because, in every opportunity He comes only once… What would happen to me, unfaithful friend of the Friend?”
Yes, he always continues “Waiting for Godot”. “And he does not move”, as in the play of Samuel Beckett.
I left him in his total availability. I left marveling, and meditating. Thanks to these persons the world is safe and God continues bestowing His mercy on those who forgot Him or who considered Him dead, as a philosopher who went mad said. But there are those who stand vigil and wait, they wait for Godot, filled with hope. And this waiting will make every day new and joyful.
One day the sacristan found him bent on a pew of the church. He thought he was sleeping, but he noticed that his body was cold and rigid.
As the Friend would not come, he went to find Him. Now he does not need to wait for the arrival of Godot. He will be with the Friend, celebrating a friendship, the finest imaginable joy, for time without end.
Leonardo Boff Theologian-Philosopher,Earthcharter Commission
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, email@example.com.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.