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A Friar’s Notes
Do You Need a Lenten Pick-Me-Up Like My Friends Did?

Fr. David Convertino, OFM
Executive Director of Development

Happy Lent! Are you prepared for Easter and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? When I said this to my friends, Carol and Frank, I wasn’t expecting their response.

Frank said, “What’s so happy about giving up coffee and wine for Lent? I’m fasting and gave a little extra to charity. I’m ready.” Carol was a little more diplomatic: “There’s so much gloom and doom in the scripture readings. I can’t wait till Lent is over.”

It sounded like Carol and Frank were on Lent autopilot and needed a Lenten pick-me-up before Holy Week, so I invited them to volunteer for breakfast service at one of our Franciscan soup kitchens. That’s where they met Keith – mid-40s, homeless ever since losing his job three years ago – everyone’s friend at the soup kitchen.

Keith sits with other guests when they’re eating alone, not just to break bread, but to pray with them. He brings a sense of calm and hope to their day. Keith also looks forward to clearing tables in the dining room. He tells the friars it’s the least he could do in return for their kindness and for making sure he doesn’t go hungry.

But what really amazed Carol and Frank that morning was Keith’s compassion for others. All guests receive a to-go sandwich bag to hold them until they return to the soup kitchen for dinner. When Keith left, he went straight to a homeless man sprawled out on the sidewalk across the street. He swept away the used hypodermic needles with his shoe and placed the sandwich bag next to the man. 

Keith changed Carol and Frank’s entire perspective on Lent. Frank realized giving up coffee and wine for 40 days was easy compared to what the homeless and poor guests at the Franciscan soup kitchen face every day.

It showed them that fasting doesn’t always mean doing without, but rather doing something from within – like Keith did in the simple act of clearing tables in the dining room. Almsgiving is sharing something with others, even when you have so little yourself – like Keith did when he gave away his sandwich bag to someone in greater need. Prayer is about praying more intentionally – like Keith did when he brought spirituality into the day of other guests.

Holy Week and Easter don’t get the same attention as Thanksgiving and Christmas when it comes to giving. But isn’t Easter all about giving? Isn’t Jesus the ultimate Giver? Jesus gave His life so that all of us may have the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven. Keith is a powerful witness to Lent and how we prepare for the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday.

God’s poor and neglected hold a special place during this Sacred Easter Season. Jesus Himself instructs us to give generously during Lent in preparation of His glorious Resurrection. Generosity, as Carol and Frank saw in Keith, comes in many different ways.

The friars are grateful for your support throughout the year, and especially in our upcoming (March 18) Night of Stars – a dinner theater evening of extraordinary live performances by some of Broadway’s brightest stars, featuring songs from Grease The Musical.

If you can’t be with us in person at this annual Franciscan fundraising event in New York City, you can support the friars and our ministry work with the poor by visiting our Night of Stars Website – The Franciscans.

Your generosity helps us educate young friars for future ministry and care for our elder friars, and it enables the friars to continue our service to those who face the daily obstacles of poverty, hunger, homelessness, and mental illness. We do this at our outreach ministries, food pantries, breadlines, and residences and programs for immigrants, substance abusers, and mentally ill – and at our soup kitchens like the one that cares for Keith and hundreds of others.

Are you like Carol and Frank (before they volunteered at our soup kitchen)? Or are you like Keith – having a Happy Lent in preparation of Easter and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

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