We will find ‘rest’ through service to poor, speaker says

BOSTON -- All who follow the example of Christ by caring for His little ones -- the poor, elderly and young -- will receive His peace, said Kerri Marmol at the third lecture in the spring Christ Speaks in the City series April 26. Her topic was, “My Yoke is Easy: the Joy of Living the Gospel in Prayer and Friendship with the Poor.”

The series is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Vocations Office. The talks are held each month at the Old Statehouse in downtown Boston.

Marmol cited the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus exhorts His followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger. Also in Matthew, Jesus says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

“A yoke sounds like something heavy and burdensome,” she said. “How in the world can that give us rest?”

The “rest” Jesus speaks of is not physical but rest for the soul, she added.

Marmol is a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio, an international lay association, and participates in their semi-weekly prayer services. She also founded the School of Peace in Jamaica Plain, a Saturday program to help students with their schoolwork, and the School of the Gospel in Allston, a Bible discussion for adults.

The Community of Sant’Egidio has been present in Boston since 1998 and members began visiting the elderly in 1999.

Marmol said that her visits with an 83-year-old woman named Adrienne has led her to be more aware of how she covets her own time. It has also helped her to give more of her self in other areas of her life, she said.

“In that service of the elderly, I have been pushed beyond what I thought my heart was capable of,” she said. “Adrienne’s call for me to visit is the call of the Lord, saying, ‘Come near.’”

Marmol said she has also learned from a young man named Antonio who she has tutored through the School of Peace, which she founded in 2002. Antonio and his mother are immigrants, and his mother speaks little English, which makes it difficult for her to help Antonio with his homework.

“She definitely cares about her child, but she just doesn’t have the resources to help him with something like that,” Marmol said.

Marmol understands that finding time to help others is difficult in our busy lives. A native of Minnesota, she moved to Massachusetts to attend Boston College. During her years there, she began to yearn to “live for love” and joined the Sant’Egidio community. She is also the mother of two children and said that life is often so very busy that we lose sight of its purpose.

“Do you ever feel like on weekends you need to choose between sleeping in or catching up on errands?” she asked.

Our lives are so complicated and scattered that it is difficult to imagine doing more. There is constantly stress on our time, energy and attention until we start to wonder what all the running around is for, she said.

“Often our exhaustion comes from a lack of feeling that our lives have a purpose and a meaning,” she added. “We would not feel so weary if we felt our labor was for something good and meaningful.”

In order to meet the hungry, the naked and the stranger, Catholics need to reach out to more than the people closest to them. It is not enough to be friendly with family, friends and co-workers, Marmol challenged.

Marmol urged those gathered not to brush aside the call of the poor but to serve them as Jesus did in His lifetime.

“Yes, we will find rest. It’s not the rest that’s calculated in the number of hours of sleep. It’s rest for our weary souls, weary from this chaotic life of deadlines and obligations, falling behind and then catching up,” she said. “We will find a new freedom in our lives when we discover that our value does not come from what we produce but who we are and how we care for others.”

The final spring Christ Speaks lecture will feature Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley speaking about “The Power of the Eucharist” at the Old Statehouse on May 24 at noon. Lunch will be provided.