By Marian West
On Thursday July 12th two members of the Brooklyn community and a member of the St Maximilien Kolbe Fraternity took two of our friends from the nearby women’s shelter for a day out to the Catskills.
"Pat and Paula arrived at our front door at the appointed morning hour for our day jaunt to the ICCC — a chance for them to breathe fresh country air into their citified lungs and to behold lush green fields aglow in the sun, with eyes so accustomed to cinderblock walls and overhead lighting.
They were so happy to arrive at the Center for Compassion. "This is beautiful!" they exclaimed, as they got out of the car. We enjoyed a leisurely BBQ picnic under the trees and then ventured up to the Shrine of Our Lady of Compassion, praying the Rosary together as we climbed the meadowed hill. There was a calm and focus. I could sense these women decompressing, bringing their full hearts in a simple way to each bead, to each pilgrim’s step.
“You see it, Paula?” (the sculpture of Mary holding Jesus’ fully surrendered body).
“Yes, I see it, Pat.”
After a peaceful rest at the shrine, the women were courageous enough to continue hiking through the woods to the pond. Sr. Diana took Pat for a little boat ride. Pat was holding onto the sides of the canoe for dear life, but as happy as a clam, being rowed merrily along. A huge, bright smile shone across the water to a delighted dock of cheers and thumbs-ups!
While our friends enjoyed ice cold water under a canopy of shade, I offered them two dances: the first as an expression of their feminine strength and call, and the second as a prayer for the calm of this day to rest in their hearts as they return to their trying lives in the city. All of nature was joining in my heart’s cry for these women — for soft breezes and gentle sunlight to find a home in their hearts, for Beauty to carry them no matter what ugliness they may face that evening in the shelter.
We asked Pat and Paula if they enjoyed their time at the ICCC. Pat flashed her white, teethy grin and in her Trinidadian accent said with deep delight, “It was beautiful. It was spiritual. Real spiritual.” To my surprise, quiet Paula chimed in, "My favorite part was lunch! (laughing)... and walking up to the shrine. I liked praying."
We sent them home with fresh-cut hydrangeas from the garden as a living memory of the beauty they experienced. Fr. Alex offered them a special blessing, and then we headed home to Brooklyn — all smiles... and sleepy, contented eyes.