For Means With

Thomas, center, working with others to set up a recording studio in a former bathroom at PBMR

by Thomas Weiss, Precious Blood Volunteer

I’m getting better at this. Summarizing, synthesizing, selecting particularly poignant moments laden with “spiritual significance.” My parents ask me to do this when I visit home. We sit around the kitchen table fidgeting with our coffee mugs and they, God bless them, ask me questions as if I’m returning from overseas. My friends on Chicago’s north side hush their voices when they ask me about my work day, like we are passing notes in the back row of middle school algebra. I hope Ms. Hopewell doesn’t catch us! Or, put on the individual level, it’s like a child flipping through the pages of forbidden fiction beneath the bedsheets, flashlight in a vice grip between incisors. The (mostly white) circle into which I was born is undeniably fascinated with my work, just a minute fraction of the labor Precious Blood clergy, lay workers, and Companions devote toward the ultimate renewal of the world. Needless to say, I am gladdened by their fascination. Many are even fascinated enough to offer generous donations, and for this, of course, I am delighted.

And yet, there’s a nagging dissatisfaction when the evening ends and I am alone. At the end of it all, I do not want your money: I want your allegiance.

The most outspokenly Catholic kid in my class at college proudly toted a MAGA hat around campus. His sweaters were Burberry, his shoes Sperry’s, his parka made from goose feathers. I believe he is now discerning the priesthood. After the shooting in Kenosha, another young lady from my college made sure to let me know that Jacob Blake was a rapist, and that Black Lives Matter’s founders were Marxists not to be trusted. She later invited me to Mass the following evening.

Let me be clear: I am not exempt from my own criticism. My parents gave me a car, debt free, on my sixteenth birthday. I attended highly privileged high school and university, never having to work a job outside of class to keep myself afloat. I went to summer church camps with water slides and power boats.

I’ve been to Europe on four different occasions. My family has vacationed in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Alaska. My story bears the indelible mark of unapologetic privilege.

I suppose that’s why I felt I felt like Saul on the road to Damascus last month, walking down Michigan Avenue.

A few of the boys I mentor at PBMR wanted to drive downtown to Millennium Park to see the Christmas lights. As we walked toward the park, we saw an old man, homeless, sitting on the sidewalk, his back curled up against the concrete retaining wall that runs along Michigan Avenue. The man was singing, wailing, head tilted up into the yellow street lights, colored intermittently with the red beams of brake lights. He jingled the coins in his Big Gulp like a tambourine.

One of the young men raced ahead of the group and dropped half of what he had in his pocket into the man’s cup. Another of the young men droped in a few bucks as we passed. They told him to stay safe and we walked on toward the Christmas tree. “Man, I just hate to see people like that,” one of them said to me. “If I make it to college, I’m going to open a homeless shelter. I hate to see people like that.”

I was dumbstruck by the unbridled Catholicism of these young men, neither of whom were religious. Both boys would be considered “poor” as we commonly understand the label. Yet, there they were, giving away their few and precious resources to a man they have never met before. I saw a mixture of the Good Samaritan and Mary Magdalene, anointing Jesus’ feet with her precious perfume.

Jesus was for the poor; this much is obvious. What I find to be often forgotten is that Jesus was poor. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus tells those of us with two tunics to give one away to those who have none. As if this were not explicit enough, he says to do the same with food. Fundamentally, Jesus means that to be for the poor is to break bread with the poor. It means giving beyond what makes us comfortable. It means giving $10 to a homeless man on Michigan Ave when you have $20 in your pocket. I ask myself daily what it means for me, and I ask the same of you.

To give a sizable amount of cash can change lives. It ferries resources into resource-scare areas. It opens doors which were formerly closed. But the real act of service stems from the realization of equivalence: just as Christ “emptied himself ” and took on the flesh of us sinners, we must realize our kinship with the beaten, hungry, weary, and alienated. Though we are not Christ, together we might become like Christ through allegiance to one another. This is the call of Christ, not toward judgment, skepticism, and cowardice, but toward radical hope, healing, and hospitality.

We—the privileged, the well-fed, the comfortable—risk the fate of the Pharisees if we do not soon recognize that Jesus’ teaching explicitly commands us to eradicate the existence of privilege. The ball is in our court, and the stakes are high. I pray that we, stirred by courage and humility, may sift through the distractions and delusions which obscure the substance of the Gospel: “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

This reflection originally appeared in the January 2021 edition of the “New Wine Press.”

Thomas is serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. Go to preciousbloodvolunteers.org to learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers.

Christ the Redeemer Welcomes All

Christ the Redeemer Stained Glass Window at Most Holy Redeemer Church

By Mike Price, current Precious Blood Volunteer

We are all pieces of the stained glass window of Christ the Redeemer. We are an eclectic group of individuals that come together to form the image of Jesus in the Eucharist as a community.

As a Precious Blood Volunteer, we have great opportunities to serve a widely diverse community of people from all walks of life. I am currently serving at Most Holy Redeemer, also known as MHR, in the Castro district of San Francisco, California.

MHR has a deep rich history associated with the AIDS epidemic. MHR opened her doors and hearts to the Coming Home Hospice across the street from the parish. This was the first-ever recorded hospice house opened that ministered directly to those dying of AIDS. The church community came together and would be their first volunteers to care for those who were rejected by families, friends, and their faith communities. MHR is known for being the only catholic parish in the Archdiocese of San Francisco that ministered and offered the sacraments to those who were dying, including doing up to 16 funerals a day for those loved ones who had passed away. Most of these young men and women died without ever having family or friends to hold their hearts as they were suffering. Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church community was the family and loved ones who held their hearts as they passed from this life to the next. MHR was Christ the Redeemer to many as they were left behind by the world.

Some people would also say that this parish is a pilgrimage site for those who are seeking healing from past hurts. This community is filled with former religious sisters, brothers, and priests. There are far more people who have passed through this community to only get a glimpse of God’s grace and love for them. MHR is home to many all over the world because this is where they were redeemed by Christ’s grace and love for them. This was the place where they met others who were and have been rejected by the church. This is a community that has blurred lines of the marginalized and choose to serve their community well through many ministries that are offered by MHR. This is where God’s inclusive love is given to the brokenhearted. The MHR community takes the broken pieces of their heart and welcomes them as Christ the Redeemer.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church is an eclectic group of redeemed and loved people who come together to form the image of Christ who is our redeemer. We are a community that serves others because we are rooted by Christ the Redeemer.

Mike is a current Precious Blood Volunteer serving at Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco, California.
To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org

Introducing the 2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteers: Thomas Weiss

2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteer, Thomas Weiss

Thomas Weiss will be serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in the Program of Liberal Studies, Notre Dame’s Great Books education.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“The most formative experience of my education was the summer service program I completed after my sophomore year at Notre Dame. Living in intentional community at Hope House and serving at PBMR will hopefully be an equally illuminating and restorative experience for me.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?

“The values of Precious Blood Volunteers outline the kind of life I hope to live. Commitment to serving those from suffering communities and a drive to redevelop often backward social systems resonate with the direction of my heart as I transition out of college and toward a career informed by Christ’s message of peace and compassion.”

What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?

“I am excited to step out of the classroom and into the real world. Having spent four years mostly reading books and writing essays, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to put my ideals into practice and to learn to sharpen my understanding of social realities through first-hand experience with those living on the south side of Chicago.”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.

Introducing the 2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteers: Allison Spraul

2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteer, Allison Spraul

Allison Spraul will serve at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri, and live in community at Jerusalem Farm. She grew up in the town of Effingham in central Illinois between St. Louis and Indianapolis. She attended the University of Notre Dame and graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Catholic Social Tradition.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“I want to volunteer because I want a year of learning the kind of skills that I cannot learn in a classroom or from a textbook that will make me a more empathetic physician. Skills like connection, accompaniment, cultural competence, and sensitivity, in addition to clinical experience, will make me a better doctor going forward.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?

“I want to volunteer with Precious Blood because of their focus on accompaniment and service alongside. I want to do what I can to help bring in those on the margins.”

What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?

“I am looking forward to building community with those I am working with and with my fellow volunteers, as well as the chance to put my faith into real-world practice.”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.

Introducing the 2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteers: Mike Price

2020-2021 Volunteer, Mike Price

Mike Price will serve at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco, California, and live in community with Father Matt Link, C.PP.S. at Most Holy Redeemer. Mike grew up in Granger, Indiana, and graduated in May 2017 from Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana with a Bachelor of Arts in Catholic theology and leadership management.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“I know volunteerism is something that people love to engage in to give part of themselves to the world, but I know this will also help form me in ways to encounter the Lord. I believe in the works of all religious orders, and I am excited to be part of this community for the coming year.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?

“I’d met Fr. Matt Link C.PP.S. from Most Holy Redeemer a little over a year ago, we’ve remained in contact and he suggested I should pray about giving myself a year of service. I was inspired and encouraged by the ministry Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church was doing in their community which led me to take this next step as a Precious Blood Volunteer.”

What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?

“I look forward to the encounters I will have with the Most Holy Redeemer community in a parish setting. I am excited to learn more about parish life, but also about myself as I grow as an individual spiritually.”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.