I imagine his hands. The gloved fingers wielding a chain saw that rattles and buzzes as a pine tree is leveled in the acreage outside his homestead. In my mind’s eye, I see the ax or mechanical splitter that he operates, separating the logs into firewood.
I can see her hands complicit in the intricate dance that is knitting choreography: moving her fingers and guiding needles that move wool strands – back and forth. Knit one, pearl two, in the creation of a warm, winter hat or scarf.
“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours…
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.”
– Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
We have an unspoken ministry that is part of our presence in north Minneapolis. It is a ministry of warmth — of fire, of gloves and hats and coats that, in our deepest hearts, extends God’s love and care to each of our northside friends and neighbors. It is a literal ministry that has grown organically from our prayer and presence in the heart of the city; one that invites each of us into deeper union and fellowship with one another, by virtue of tending to the temperature.
When the cold sets in, you may find Sr. Mary Margaret or Sr. Katherine at the hearth’s edge, stacking logs in the Fremont House living room fireplace, placing kindling in precise igniting points under the wood. Later, you may stumble upon any one of the Sisters poking the burning timber, stoking the fire to keep the living area bright and warm.
Twenty five years ago, when our founding Sisters first arrived in north Minneapolis, they began these cold weather rituals. Living their Visitation charism, they invited those knocking at the door to come inside– to be their guest before the fire. Not unlike extending a glass of cold water in the summer’s heat, extending a seat by the fire in the monastery living room became a practice of their monastic hospitality and Salesian ministry in the winter.
Joe Neumier was tuned in to a Channel 4 news story about the Visitation Sisters’ ministry to children some twenty years ago, and was inspired seeing a child happy and warm sitting next to the Sisters’ living room hearth. He decided to send a truck load of firewood to the northside nuns. This Visitation friend was moved to contribute in this small way to the winter warmth ministry and presence of the Visitandines.
Sitting in the chapel last Saturday morning for prayer, I heard the sound of repetitive footsteps on the front porch of Fremont followed by an exclamation from S. Mary Frances: “The firewood is here!”
Punctuating our prayer was this delightful tale of how the firewood began to be delivered by Vince Waldock and Lawrence James — “Mr. Neumier’s firewood men from Little Falls.”
Pointing to the laborers, S. Mary Frances’ said, “This is just an example of the behind-the-scenes folks that make our lives so warm and inviting.” In addition, of course, we have the countless Visitation friends who provide warm coats and those knitting hats and scarves for our winter clothing give-away.
With Sister’s words, my imagination and prayer has taken off to visualize how intricate this web of charitable giving and heart-felt labor occurs.
Where do your hands take you? What ways do you work to make your community warmer? How is Love’s presence revealed through your small action this day? To echo Teresa of Avila: how are you Christ’s hands and feet?
LIVE + JESUS!