Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2000

ANNA MONICA / L’Observateur / March 29, 2000

He sat in the same place every day. The clothes always seem to be the same;rather old, and somewhat worn. He always wore this sport coat, no matterwhat the weather and in the summer, it had to be hot. Regardless of theweather he was always there, in church .

The church was the Immaculate Conception on Baronne Street in downtown New Orleans, commonly known to most as Jesuits and highly frequented by the downtown working crowd of which I was one for many years. I don’t knowwho the man was; at least, not his name or any other thing about him. Noneof us did. But, we knew he would be there at mass whenever we went. Healways was.

One could only guess at this faithful man’s age, but it seemed to be somewhat advanced. The rosary in his hand was always visible, and never didany of us ever notice that he had any kind of relationship with anyone else in or around the church. The smile he shared with everyone was always noticedthough, as well as his apparent faith and devotion. Did he live anywherearound there? Was he completely alone? Did he indeed have a home? Certainly there was no worldliness about him to indicate he had much in the way of privileges in life. We never knew. We only knew he was there when wegot there; he was there when we left; and, he would certainly be there the next time we came.

Except, one day he wasn’t there. He wasn’t there for a long time and webegan to wonder and question each other. Finally, we decided that somethinghad happened and knew he would never be there again. This unknown, obscureand seemingly humble man never knew us even to the small extent we knew him. How sad that he would never know that in some way he had inspired usand challenged us to have even a little of the peace and faithfulness he seemed to possess. I will undoubtedly remember him for the rest of my life.As I attempt to do each year, I attended the Charismatic Conference at the Pontchartrain Center this past week. My young friend, Dana, who in just afew weeks will add the initials M.D. behind her name, went with me. A weekendof spiritual re-enforcement certainly helps to keep me focused and find inspiration. So much of that inspiration comes from my fellow man.There is another one I don’t know. He wheels about in a scooter and is verymuch deformed. Nonetheless, he is all over the place at every religious eventI attend. I have seen people acting as his helper, and he gets patientattention from all. The point is, this man is there, well dressed, bearing hisinfirmities, and devout. So far, prayer has not relieved him of his deformitiesbut his handicap has not hindered his willing spirit, either. I tell you, nothinginspires like the way people handle their trials.

Since it is Lent and many people tone down the activity in their lives and include little penances and sacrifices, it seemed like a good time to share these stories with you. It’s a good time for reflection regardless of yourreligious affiliation. They say you never know whose life you have touched. Surely you can see this is true.

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