A Gift for the Garden of the Friars
December 21, 2023
Among our generous guests is Maria, whose journey over the years led her to our doors at St. Anthony’s. Maria, a devout Catholic with a particular reverence for saints, especially St. Michael, found comfort at St. Anthony’s years ago. She describes St. Anthony’s as “a Godsend for a lot of people” and highlights her own devout nature, saying, “I love all the saints; St. Michael is one of my most favorite.” Like many who face life’s challenges, she turned to St. Anthony’s, the friars, and the community for help. An august woman with sparkling brown eyes, she often recalls her regular prayer sessions with the friars, particularly Br. Chris, now serving a community of retired friars in Oakland, as having had a significant impact on her life. She fondly remembers, “Brother Chris and I were on schedule back in the day when he was working here… we would sit and pray.”
In a humbling development, Maria recently donated a statue of St. Michael to the garden of the retirement community where Br. Chris devotes his time. She wanted the gift to remain anonymous, but when we caught wind of what she did, we insisted that she let us share her story. She saved for months for this statue, which symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. Maria humorously commented, “Every garden needs pest control,” referring to St. Michael’s role in defeating Satan, who is depicted as a serpent in the Garden of Eden. This unexpected gift surprised the friars, who are more accustomed to giving than receiving. Her joy in contributing is evident in her playfully irreverent sense of humor and frequent, contagious chuckles, underscoring the importance of giving for living a life of joy and fulfillment—something we hope for everyone who walks through our doors.
Many guests first visit us for a meal in our Dining Room, clothes from the Free Clothing Program, or a shower in the Hygiene Hub, among other direct services we offer. But many also come to us for spiritual connection, guidance, and prayer. While we often discuss our direct services, we seldom mention the spiritual support our friars and St. Boniface provide, yet this “program” is our most important. It is why the innovative Companionship program incorporates spiritual and communal stability as a vital element for transformative change, alongside other key stability measures, including housing, employment, legal support, and addiction recovery.
Guests arriving on our block are like seeds carried in the wind, finding the promise of renewal in the nurturing environment of the Golden Gate Greenway. Blessed by St. Anthony’s, these seeds of potential transform into beacons of hope, establishing stable roots and blossoming towards the light to share their own beauty, much like the statue of St. Michael in the garden of the friars.
Thank you, Maria!