Entertaining Angels Unawares

“Do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”  (Heb 13:2)  I had a visit from one of those strangers who ultimately became an ‘angel’ in disguise.  Here’s the story.  

A couple of months after the pandemic took root, a man called me at work about getting some spiritual direction.  On the phone, he shared that he’s been homeless for a while, living out of his van.  During the day, he would find a parking lot where he could pick up a wi-fi signal and search for jobs.  In the evening he would find a deserted cul-de-sac where he could sleep undisturbed.  My initial thought was to redirect him to the various resources for the homeless.  I didn’t think we could go very far in spiritual direction if he’s in such a desperate place.  I also wasn’t sure I wanted to spend any face time with a stranger who might have ulterior motives.
But something told me otherwise.  I was coming into a deeper appreciation of my position at the Catholic Conference Center as not being just a job but a ministry, a ministry of hospitality to be more precise.  This phone call might have been a test to see how committed I was to this newfound identification.  

I set up a time for him to visit the center.  He told me an unbelievable story of high-paying corporate jobs, family betrayals, broken marriages in both Europe and South America, and a start-up that consumed all his wealth.  The start-up was mistimed, launched right before the pandemic ravished the economy.  He had also written a series of fictional novels to be used as catechetical aids.  I was mesmerized.  I had decided that either this man has had an amazing life, or he was delusional.  In the end, he asked for nothing but prayer.  I invited him back to our “Date Night with a Saint” series where he could at least share a meal with other people of faith.  Over time, we developed a nice relationship.

His job search paid off.  He got a new corporate job paying “ten grand a month” and returned to his home in Texas.  I thought that was the last I would see of him and was happy to have made his acquaintance.  That was two years ago.
Three weeks ago, he reached out and shared the good news.  He said he caught up his debt, plus had inherited a portion of his parent’s estate.  He then said he would like to give back and sent the center a check for $5,000.  Coincidently, that very week I was praying for God to show me a way to build a nice patio area in a neglected alcove at the center.  I believed in the idea but couldn’t figure out how to pay for the materials.  The donation will just about cover the materials (I’m hopeful that some volunteers will cover the rest!)
As a reminder of this experience, and of God’s mission for me, I purchased a replica of the sculpture pictured above, “Angel Unawares” by Timothy Schmalz.  I see in it people of all walks of life coming into my life.  Imbedded in the midst of this throng are the wings of an angel. I need to pay attention to all the people that cross my path.
May God send many ‘angels’ your way, and may you not be caught ‘unawares’.