Friday is Veterans’ Day, a day set aside by our nation’s leaders to honor all those who have served in the military. A certain professional sports league commemorates our country’s military veterans throughout the month of November with their Salute to Service at each stadium in the league. Here at St. Anthony’s, most of us have at least one family member who served in the military. We also have a couple of friars buried in the cemetery who served in the military, Fr. Ben and Fr. Myron. I am sure we also have more than a few veterans among our volunteers, donors and guests as well. But our salute to service goes well beyond those who served in the military.
As Christians, we are all called to serve, and although our service is often not as heroic as our military veterans, it is no less important or necessary. Especially here.
We have benefited from the commitment to service of our local volunteer fire department and first responders, perhaps more often than any of us here would have wished. These dedicated public servants have responded to multiple medical calls and at least one elevator rescue mission over the past several years. Our grounds and facility present enough of a challenge that they frequently train here, often staging mock fire drills and rescues. On Wednesday, they were here practicing a night rescue in our woods. We are grateful for their service as well as their familiarity with our special needs.
We have also benefited from the commitment to service of all our loyal volunteers. From helping in the kitchen to housekeeping, the gardens to the woods, and myriads of chores in between, our volunteers provide thousands of hours of volunteer service every year, making it possible for the staff to maintain their sanity while still doing all they need to do.
And speaking of staff, all of our guests benefits from their commitment to service. This weekend is a perfect example. We expect more than 150 guests to come through our doors over the course of the next several days, participating in one of four different retreat groups. This is by far the largest number of guests we have had in nearly three years, and two of the groups have not been here in three years. The logistics of caring for the needs of that many guests in so short a time takes a lot of cooperation and commitment to humble service from our dedicated staff and several volunteers. Bedrooms and meeting rooms must be cleaned between groups in hours, rather than days. Cooking, serving and cleaning up after meals for groups ranging from 32 to 80+ is a challenge. Coordinating the use of shared spaces like the chapel and dining room is another challenge, but communication and cooperation make it all work.
What we know from our experience here is service is more than just doing a job, more than just a transaction where monetary compensation is exchanged for labor. Service requires a different attitude. It is based in an attitude of love, care and concern for others. The compensation for service is largely intangible, such as the positive feelings generated when you know you have done something to care for your brothers and sisters in God, when you know you have contributed to building community, when you know you have helped meet the needs of others.
For the commitment to service of so many brothers and sisters in the family of God, for the love, care and concern they show their neighbor, we salute you and say Deo Gratias!