‘Street sabbatical’ opens eyes of Delaware priest

by | Oct 22, 2014 | Vincentian Family

Paul-Mast-C-717x450‘Street sabbatical’ opens eyes of Delaware priest.

A man without a home helped him map out his sabbatical, a man without a home showed him the face of compassion, and a man without a home suggested all of us — all of us — are beggars.

Beth Miller of The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal writes in  Crux of  the experience of a priest trying a novel treatment to slow memory loss.

Even Paul Mast, a native of Delaware and a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. The 68-year-old encountered these men and many others during a six-month sabbatical spent in search of those who have no home as he embraced the title of “contemplative beggar.”

That wasn’t his first plan. He had no plan really for this sabbatical, only to pursue something he was not accustomed to doing as a way to address a recent diagnosis of early-stage memory loss. The theory was that by living outside of his normal routine, his mind could map new pathways and, perhaps, slow the decline and recover function.

The details of the story are fascinating. Be sure to read the full piece at Crux of the News. At the end of it he shares some of what he learned.

In most encounters, Mast asked the people he spoke with what they wanted others to know.

“Tell them that if they don’t trust me with money, a greeting or wishing me a good day means just as much,” a man said.

“Tell them to look beyond the mess that is me and find God hidden somewhere inside,” a former crack addict said.

“Tell them I didn’t plan to make this my life,” another man said. “I have so few people believing in me the drugs sometimes win.”

He collected many lessons, he said. Among them:

  • Good things happen when the inner voice of fear is turned down and the inner voice of trust is turned up, “enabling two beggars to bond through the power of storytelling.”
  • The more comfortable you are as a beggar yourself, the more at home you are with the God hidden in the homeless who beg.
  • Having fewer things means more contentment.
  • Not every house is a home.
  • If you want to address the problems of the homeless, ask them for input.
  • You can find spiritual direction from a beggar on the street.
  • Compassion is a game changer.
  • One lesson, especially, pulled them all together, Mast said.
  • “Practice is a contemplative attitude toward life,” he said. “‘Don’t walk by this person,’ God says. ‘I’m hidden there and you will miss me.’”

Beth Miller writes in the The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal October 22, 2014

(AP Photo/The Wilmington News-Journal, Kyle Grantham)


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