I want my life
To run direct into your embrace,
Not turning aside
Until I am hidden in the safety of your gaze.
Augustine, Confessions 13.8.9
One afternoon while I was at a halfway house I received a surprise visit from Frank. Per usual, I had my head in a book when the loudspeaker on my floor blared, “Resident Christopher Spicer, please come to the 105 desk. You have a visitor.” I shook my head out of the rural world of William Faulkner. “Room 408, please come to the 1-0-5, immediately.” As I spun off the bed Light in August flung out of my hands, and was replaced by the doorknob. I turned the corner like I was the emergency exit route bolted on the back of the door and whirled down the red stairs two at a time. I had no idea who had come and it didn’t matter; someone had come to visit me.
At the front desk a stern staff member reminded us that it wasn’t my official visiting day but was resigned to give us fifteen minutes to talk. Frank’s face, for whatever arrangements he had made in sacrifice, showed no sign of disappointment. His sunny disposition brought relief and it lingered with me even as I climbed the stairs back to my hermitage. I looked out my window at Sears Tower anticipating our next meeting Sunday when I had a two-hour, release pass to attend church.
Come time, I stepped out of the Salvation Army residence. Wearing a tan collared shirt embroidered Engineers Without Borders, Frank was waiting for me in the parking lot with the engine running. “Instead of finding some café,” he said checking his watch, “I made breakfast. We can eat in the park before Mass.” The Volvo interior was a contrast to the caged buses of the Bureau of Prisons; I wasn’t handcuffed; and in cup holders within reach, two berry smoothies sweat condensation. “That’s for starters.”
Who does this?
A twinge of guilt suspended my delight. I felt bold trespassing the hour fast, custom before communion. On the other hand, his preparation was touching me to the core. He rebutted my thanks with, “I’m a Catholic Worker and visiting the prisoner is in our creed.” Minutes later, sitting with a view of yoga practitioners limbering up on a grassy knoll, I watched as he pulled out from sealed Tupperware homemade pancakes still steaming, real butter and hot syrup, then blueberries and fresh sliced plums. It was the first time in six months I held plates in my hands and real silverware; and only beginning to enjoy sunlight for the fifth time in the fifth month, the picnic scene was like outdoor dining at a four star country club.
Frank consecrated our meal with prayer centering us in the Easter season. Bigger than the both of us, something larger than a visit or even a work of mercy was happening; we were celebrating a resurrection meal. And during seconds, I learned Frank had planned one more surprise: Friends would meet us at Mass.