Wednesday, February 3, 2010

St. Xavier: Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

From January 26-29 we had a group of boys come down to the Farm from Xavier High School in Cincinnati. It was the smallest group we have had, with only 6 boys and 2 chaperones so it was a nice change of pace. They were only here for a few days but they got a lot of work done in their short time here.

We got to work with Ricky's crew on the Town Branch site on Wednesday. It was pretty darn cold in the morning and there was a healthy layer of mud everywhere outside. We spent much of the day painting trim and laying down luon for the floor. Myself and two of the guys had to go outside and remove the wood protection from the cement walk out front. It was pretty rough work as the cold had frozen the wood to the concrete in some places and the wood pieces were often nailed together. To make matters worse, the mud was especially bad around the walkway so we all got nice mudpatches on our knees. But the guys never complained and we removed the protective border pretty quickly.

The thing that stuck out to me was the level of patience the construction guys had. Daryl in particular exhibited this. He was cutting the trim that we had painted and because of the way the outlets were arranged had to position himself in the front of the hallway. This meant that any time any of us had to go to the back rooms, we had to literally walk right over him. He never said a word or complained at all.

One of the things that stuck out to me the most from the week was the reflection from the last night. Specifically, it was their use of what is commonly known as The Romero Prayer. I'll put it here:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the
magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

It's funny because this was acually the reflection that was used during my site leader training before I came down to the Farm for the first time a year ago with school. I hadn't really given it much thought since then but it was really interesting to come back to it after having been here for a few months.

The sentiment fits exactly into what we do here at the Farm. It applies to the work the volunteers do, the role of Farm managers and the role of the Farm in Lewis County. Many of the volunteers that come down to the Farm are frustrated because they can't often see the effects of their work. Sites like the clothing pantry, the food pantry, and construction aren't particularly conducive to seeing the results firsthand. We often see volunteers struggle to make the connection between what can be tedious tasks (putting food in boxes, folding clothes, painting etc.) and how they can affect people.

At the same time, we often start a lot of projects that don't end up getting finished right away. We have a pretty full schedule every week so we try and fit in projects whenever we can. Because of that, we can't always devote the time it takes to completely finish projects. So it's often start-stop-start with some of the things we do around here. Volunteers sometimes have trouble with that aspect. It's understandable, really. The volunteers come down to the Farm ready and willing to do work. They have a lot of enthusiasm and want to truly serve the people of Lewis County. While the Farm Managers are here week in and week out, the volunteers only have this one opportunity to serve. Naturally they want to get as much as they can done for the people here.

The Farm, though, is not about completing every task we're given. Sometimes we have to remember that it's not our place to finish the task at hand. Our role here is definitely the worker and not the master builder. One of the charisms of the Farm is that volunteers build on the work of those that come here before them. Sometimes our role is just to lay the foundation down for the people that come after us. It takes a lot of humility to realize this. It's the tendency to want recognition for our hard work and it's difficult to get that recognition if we don't get to finish the job. But putting others before yourself pervades everything we do here and so oftentimes we have to remember that we're planting seeds that will grow in the future.

It's something that even Farm Managers have to remember. While a year may seem significant, it's really hard to try and make real changes in a year's time. The Farm is not set up for systemic change here in lewis County. Glenmary certainly has done its part here in building up infrastructure. People's Self Help was started by a Glenmary brother (and coincidentally is run by a former Farm Manager) and the Primary Care Clinic also came partly from Glenmary's work among other things. But the Farm, as it's constructed right now, does not work in that capacity. We're here to work with and for the people the Lewis County. My buddy Matt said that while he really respects the work we do here, it's not something he could do because the frustrating element of never seeing large scale change. But here at the Farm it's something we embrace. It is that element of liberation that Romero writes about that comes when you realize that you can't do everything. Recognizing that allows us to accomplish the tasks we are given to our fullest without worrying about the grand scheme of things. I look at it not as a shirking of responsibility but as the recognition of our specific role. We do our part as the worker so that the master builder can see it through to the finish.