Monday, January 14, 2008

Searching for Father Beiting

The past two weeks have been trying ones to say the least. I know many of you readers out there think that volunteer life is all teepee building, caving, and general farting around. But at times it can be quite difficult and unforgiving. We are now in the thick of the sunless cold months known as January and February (aka the widow maker and the toe freezer) We are working diligently on a now 67 foot wheelchair ramp in the cold and blowing Appalachian air. Also, as a side note, steel toe boots are great and have saved me much pain, but in the winter they FREEZE your toes. We haven't seen the sun since late October, and I'm beginning to think that it has permanently gone on vacation, probably down to old Magnetic Island in Australia or some such place. I also think I officially have cabin fever. In the summer, there is always hiking to do and basketball to be played, but in the winter, you want to hibernate like the bears who are doing so not 100 yards from your own bedroom. Anyways.

These trying times reminded me of when I went searching for Father Beiting. Father Beiting is a great man. He is actually a Monsignor, and founded CAP about 50 years ago, bringing about 70,000 volunteers to Appalachia since he first came here himself. Oh yeah, he's on wikipedia too... . Father lives and has a parish out in the Sandy Valley region of Kentucky, not far from Johnson county which we visit often. I had been out to Johnson county twice before searching for Father Beiting, but he was out of town saying mass or doing mission work on both occasions. I greatly desired to meet the priest who had inspired tens of thousands of people to come to Appalachia.

Just before Christmas, I caught up with Father Beiging and was able to attend one of his masses and receive the Eucharist from him. His homily was so profound and inspiring. He started out talking about how this had been the worst Christmas season for him and how so many people needed help in the region, who he was stretching to provide for. Every time he would help one person, it seems, another would approach him needing food, presents, or money. I remember thinking to myself, "Oh No! 60 years and he's finally lost it, he's gone off the deep end, and in a homily!" But then he said, and I paraphrase, "During times like these, I always remind myself, 'don't you know that Christ endured times like these? Don't you know that he was born in a stable among animals? Don't you know the hardships he endured? He was betrayed by his closest friends, he endured an embarrassing, gruesome death. And what about his mother, the holiest woman to ever live. She had to give birth to her son in a manger." He reminded us of how, when hardships and sufferings arise, it is essential to unite our sufferings to those of Christ. To remember that he suffered, he humbled himself, he sacrificed everything and that we should try to do the same.

After mass, Father told us some stories about the early days of CAP and told us that maybe the greatest thing he ever did was bring volunteers to Kentucky. To bring those willing to serve to the people who are willing to be served. He thanked us and then said he had to be on his way because he was saying mass at the local prison. He's an inspiring man. In the early days of CAP, his first volunteers were his family. Also, there was such a staunch anti-Catholic sentiment in the area, he was at times physically confronted, not trusted, and even received threats. No one would sell him land, so he had to make friends and give them money to buy the land for him. And yet, he enacted powerful, lasting social change. He brought physical and spiritual nourishment to this region, and his presence and vision carry on.

So, that's what I try to remember when I think I have it hard.


Quote of the day:

Have I not walked without an upward look
Of caution under stars that very well
Might not have missed me when they shot and fell?
It was a risk I had to take—and took.
-Robert Frost

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First: nice quote from Frost

Second: use wool socks and don't lace your boots too tight

Third: let some sun shine on your bean

Fourth: all 70,000 of you can be proud to have such a leader and he I am sure is proud to have you