The Shacks of Our Lives

Because our Lenten self-denials often involve a self-amputation of our will, habits and surface pleasures, forty days can seem like four years.

Fr. Al arriving in Korea

Four years. Shortly after his arrival in Korea in 1957, Fr. Al actually made his Lent last four-plus years by choosing to move into an abandoned shack at the base of a mountain. The “Pastor’s Poorhouse” had no running water, electricity, plumbing, or furnishings. There was little protection from the elements. Rats and insects were his lone companions. He often felt the cold winds rushing in from the Sea of Japan while trying to sleep at night. Summertime introduced stifling heat.

He wrote in his private journals that these were the best years of his life.

Entering the Desert

There are striking similarities of Jesus and Fr. Al in their shared desire to accept and even embrace mortifications, crosses and isolation to maintain intimacy with God the Father. Each of us are invited every Lent into a deeper journey with understanding of God’s work in our lives, which often unfolds in the most forlorn places.  

As Jesus lived like a Poor Man, Fr. Al understood in a provocative manner that he could serve the poor most effectively by becoming poor. As a population of Korea’s lepers, orphans, and homeless, and beggars awakened each day to discomforts, sickness, loneliness, lack of sustenance, and alienation, Fr. Al wanted to join them in their persistent Dark Night. He knew that once the poverty-stricken saw that he was living like them – that some might see a show of solidarity, true care and warmth.

The abandoned shack that became the Pastor’s Poor House.

Why did Jesus choose the desert prior to his public ministry? Why does that Gospel say he was “launched” by the Holy Spirit? What actually unfolded out there with His Father under the stars? Since he was both human and divine, were hunger, the elements, and loneliness an issue for Christ? 

As Christ sought his Father in silence and in the austerity of the desert, Fr. Al knew that he, too, might better discern God’s will for him while living uncomfortably. Fr. Al knew living the cross would help him to understand the cross.

In the latest One2One Podcast, Fr. Dan and Kevin Wells discuss how Fr. Al’s lifelong impulse to oblige the cross helped to impact and save countless souls throughout the world.

Click here to dive into the Lenten Journey podcast with Fr. Dan and Kevin Wells.