Emmaus Almanac: Week of February 21-27

February 21
In February 2010, the Emmaus Companion newsletter told the story of the 14th annual coat drive organized by Kelley Glass. She explained that she had expected there to be fewer donations that year because of the Great Recession, but in reality, people gave even more generously than they had for the past eight years. So many Emmaus stories hinge on this kind of miraculous generosity; so many people who have only a little are willing to share freely with those who have even less.

February 22
“If I am hungry, that is a material problem; if someone else is hungry, that is a spiritual problem,” wrote Paul Farmer, the doctor and public health pioneer, who died unexpectedly yesterday. It’s hard to overstate the impact he had, especially in Haiti, where he worked for decades. Farmer will be remembered as an unflagging advocate for human rights and an endlessly compassionate man.

February 23
Today is the feast of St. Milburga, an 8th century Benedictine abbess. There are many stories about her ability to heal diseases and blindness, but even more stories about how she helped the people in her town avoid famine. Legend holds that on this date in history, she prayed over a field of newly planted barley and it instantly grew enough to be harvested that day. This miracle was noteworthy enough that today became her feast day, instead of the anniversary of her death. It’s an especially good day to celebrate abundance.

February 24
Daniel Berrigan, SJ, wrote, “When I hear bread breaking, I see something else; it seems almost as though God never meant us to do anything else.  So beautiful a sound, the crust breaks up like manna and falls all over everything, and then we eat; bread gets inside humans. It turns into what the experts call ‘formal glory of God.’  But don’t let that worry you. Sometime in your life, hope you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives.  Hope you might have baked it or bought it – or even needed it yourself.  For that look on his face, for your hands meeting his across a piece of bread, you might be willing to lose a lot, or suffer a lot – or die a little, even.”

February 25
A local grade school had children write cards that would be given out to soup kitchen guests. One child’s message said, “I don’t know you or what you’ve been through, but I believe in you. I’m your friend.”

February 26
On this day in 1996, Sister Mary Miller was honored by the Women’s Roundtable of Erie, PA, as one of the finalists for its Woman of the Year award. The organizers said that Sister Mary “serves as a role model for other women and has done something extraordinary” in her work at Emmaus.

February 27
Today’s Gospel tells us that “every tree is known by its fruit,” and that you can recognize good people by the good deeds that they do. There’s a lot of truth in that, of course, but often, the small good deeds that people do go unnoticed. Let’s pray for the grace to recognize the unexpected good fruit of good trees around us: the usually-defiant child slipping her teacher a drawing she made for her, the homeless man on a street corner greeting his friend with a genuine smile, the old woman spending her money on food for her beloved cat.