After spending a year in Missouri and Kansas, I am now spending a year doing missionary work in San Francisco, CA. What is striking about the city is the number of homeless people. Some streets are lined with five to ten tents at a time, and you can even find the makings of a furnished living room set up on the sidewalk.
One day when I was entering the rectory in the Mission District where I am staying, I heard what sounded like the recording of a woman reciting the rosary. As I approached the building, the sound was getting louder and louder. To my surprise, there on the steps of the main entrance of the rectory was a homeless man with two backpacks, approximately ten sets of rosary beads around his neck, and a speaker blaring its prayers. He covered himself with an umbrella although it was sunny and there was no chance of rain in sight. He did not ask me for anything but continued to sit on the steps and pray his Rosary. I approached him and asked him if he could pray for me as well and he said he would “be happy to.” I then asked him his name and at first, I couldn’t believe my ears. “My name is Lazaro,” he said.
Some years before at the seminary, I had written a paper on one of my favorite parables, The Rich Man and Lazarus and now, right in front my eyes, the parable was coming to life! At my “gate” lay a poor man named Lazarus. I gave him the money I had in my pocket and took out my Bible to read the parable with him. When it was time for me to leave, I thanked him and reminded him that his name meant “God is my help.”
I reflect on this experience time and again and it reminds me of something a priest once said to me, “Oftentimes our baptismal name indicates the very mission the Lord wants to entrust to us.” It occurred to me that this man Lazaro’s mission was none other than to be “helped” by the grace of God in his poverty.
As I am being formed for the priesthood, it is so easy to be caught up thinking about my inadequacies, which lead me to feel as if I will not measure up to the vocation the Lord is giving me, but then I remember Lazaro and it makes me think about my own name, Gabriel, which means, “the power of God.” It indicates a characteristic not about my own power, but God’s power. This also brings to mind the words of my rector who once told me, “God does not choose the qualified, but always qualifies those whom he chooses.” That is to say that my poverty, like Lazaro — my weakness — is not a curse, but the door through which the Lord seeks to manifest his own power and glory. If that is the case, as Saint Paul says, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The fourth of six children, Gabriel was raised in a Catholic family in Framingham, Massachusetts. By the end of High School, it was clear to him that God was calling him to the priesthood, but the difficulty was accepting the vocation. Gabriel first tried to fulfill his dream of studying art, but for some reason, the question of the vocation would not leave him alone. He decided to stop running and went to the Domus Galilee in Israel for a time of discernment. This decision was pivotal because it was there that Gabriel was able to say yes to God’s call. Gabriel has now completed his third year of seminary and has been ordained as a transitional deacon. He is currently serving at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough, Massachusetts.