By Fr. Christopher VanHaight, OFM
I was asked to write an article on what a typical day is like for me as a friar and pastor of Saint Bonaventure Church in Paterson, NJ.
One of the great things about being in a parish is that there is no such thing as a typical day. How boring that would be! Here, unexpected blessings are always right around the corner.
One constant, however, is that each day begins with prayer. I live with Fr. Stephen DeWitt, O.F.M., and each day we pray Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours together. Prayer is central to our lives and I find it vital to keeping me centered and ready to face the challenges and the blessings of the day.
One of the great things about being in a parish is that there is no such thing as a typical day. How boring that would be!
And those can be quite varied. A typical morning could include a trip to the hospital to visit a sick parishioner, overseeing various renovation projects at the parish, celebrating a funeral or, if I am lucky, a quick trip to the gym after breakfast to try and keep healthy.
Fr. Stephen and I take turns celebrating the 11:30 a.m. Mass here which is usually attended by no less than 30 and sometimes more than 100 members of the faithful.
Afternoons are often taken up by visits to homebound parishioners or those in nursing homes. I think this is can be an underrated aspect of our ministry. People who have been lifelong members of our parish, who have contributed to the parish not only their money but their hard work and prayers for literally decades, should not be forgotten in their last years simply because they are unable to physically come to the church. In fact, I am blessed to know several pillars of our faith community, who I have rarely if ever seen in church, by going to them and benefiting from their wisdom and prayers.
Returning home, it is time for Evening Prayer which, on Wednesdays, Fr. Stephen and I make a point to pray together before sharing some community time before dinner.
Evenings are almost always filled with some activity: meeting with a couple who wants to get married, praying with the Spanish Prayer group, attending the Parish Council meeting, or celebrating the Tuesday evening Novena Mass in honor of Saint Anthony.
Some quiet time precedes a good night’s sleep.
I realize that some might read the above and not find much there. But I feel blessed to be able to be of service to God in any way I can, even if that means simply holding someone’s hand and praying with them at a time when they are going through something troubling or joyous in their lives.
You see, for me, fraternity is a two-way street. Yes, I am called as a friar to be a brother to all those I meet. But I have found that as much as I have tried to do that, again and again I have found myself with someone who has been even more of a brother or sister to me. It just doesn’t get better (or more blessed) than that.