Moving onward means accepting human limits

  • January 25, 2024

In his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis reminds us that as pastoral people we have to accept tension between fullness and limitation, and not be concerned with immediate results.

I have known Janice for over 16 years and accompanied her on her journey from addiction and prostitution to sobriety.

She has also progressed to better housing, and so once again I was recently sitting outside her apartment at 9 a.m. in my car waiting to help. She told me that a friend would be there with a truck, and that others would be there to help with the big move.

I called her to let her know I was waiting, and got no response. I buzzed her apartment, and got no response. I waited in the car and finally at 9:45 a.m. she came out looking for me. Apparently, she had turned off the alarm and had fallen asleep. I asked where the truck was, and she said the driver had got lost and would be there soon.

When the truck arrived, I asked him where all the friends were, and found out that they had all begged off and so it was just him and me to move the furniture.

“At my age, he said, “I should not be doing this.” I asked him his age, and since he was 20 years younger than me, my diaconal compassion suddenly evaporated. I was thinking of writing the Holy Father and asking how much tension between fullness and limitation I had to accept, and if it was OK to tell Janice that Pope Francis said not to be concerned about immediate results.

Late in the afternoon, we finally completed the move, not without aches and pains in parts of my body I did not know I had. Later in the week, when she took possession of the new apartment, I met Janice again before I went on the street for the evening and helped her move two cats and the few remaining items. For all the agony of the move she was grateful for the help and settled into a beautiful new apartment in the midst of the downtown area.

By the time I left Janice, the temperature had plummeted to minus 20, but as I walked the streets there were still many people around, most of them already on drugs which gave them a false sense of warmth. I sat on the ground beside a young lady and asked how she was.

“Why are people evil,” she said. “I am on crack, but God understands my addiction. I look up sometimes and I see God in Heaven.”

She smiled a lot as we chatted, and I told her that she is a good person and asked if I could bless her. She bowed her head and accepted the blessing.

I crossed the street to talk with another man I had not seen since the new year and wished him a Happy New Year.

“I just want everyone to see the power of the Father in the new year,” he said. “It’s our heart God cares about. Christ is the God that we can see, He forgives us. I’ve done lots of bad things, but I know I am forgiven.”

“Amen to that,” I said.

When I left him, I walked towards the area where there is a lot of drug action going on, and which is a magnet for the dealers. It is outside a downtown church which provides shelter and food for those on the streets. For some reason it was a “fist-pumping” evening, everyone wishing me well. As I was leaving a man who I do not remember seeing before shouted, “Bless you, Deacon.” It is a reminder that people see our actions even though they do not hear our words, and the actions can bring them closer to Christ.

Finally, I went to check on the lady I have often mentioned who lives in a doorway. She is the lady I have great hope for that one day she will find sobriety and get off the street. There was no sign of her around, but a friend of hers was there and I asked him if she was “okay.”

“Well, it depends on what you mean by okay,” he said. “She is okay since that last time I had to resuscitate her.”

As Pope Francis said, “We have to accept tension between fullness and limitation, and not be concerned with immediate results.”

(Kinghorn is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Toronto.)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.