By: Rick Hernandez
When I was born, my family lived in New Haven, Connecticut, and at the time, my father held a job as a custodian for Yale University. It was a humble blue-collar kind of job, but one that came with a great deal of responsibility. Like Saint Peter in our Church, my father literally held the keys to that academic kingdom. While many did not even think twice about the importance of his tasks, his was most definitively a necessary job, one that certainly needed doing. He would clean, fix, protect, and maintain. He would serve the needs of the many who used the university's various facilities; most of this was done in the background, without thanks or public recognition.
You can easily imagine the invisibility that comes with this humble job. It can be effortless to just blend into the surroundings and just pass the time, but I am certain that is not how my father did it. My father is a proud man and also a God-fearing one. I have never known him to do anything halfway, be it a high-visibility endeavor or a nearly thankless task. I know that receiving praise and recognition is not what drives him, but the understanding that his duties are an offering, and he would do them to the utmost best of his abilities. He would own the effort put forth and be thankful that doing his job well would help take care of his family and loved ones. I know that through our life together, my father infused that way of thinking in me, and for that, I am ever grateful. Being in the background doing your best, offering your effort, taking care of what needs doing, and doing it with a joyful heart for the love of God and fellow man. I like to call this life approach "having a custodian's heart."
What is a custodian? The word "custodian" comes from the Latin word custodia, which means a person who has custody or care of anything; a keeper or guardian; a person entrusted with guarding or maintaining something.
A person entrusted with guarding or maintaining, a caregiver, a protector. Is not that part of what we are all called to be?
As a member of a family, we care for and protect our fellow family members. If a parent, then we care for and protect our children. If a husband or wife, then we care for and protect our spouse. If a friend, then we care for and protect our friends. If we are strong, then we are to care for and protect the weak. As a child of God, we are called to care for and protect the ones in need. We are to do this humbly but to the best of our God-given abilities. There are no half-measures here.
We are to do this "...with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30) because our Lord is asking us to love as He loves, to care as He cares. Our Lord is asking us to develop our custodial heart.
It is in this humility of surrender to His will for us, in the accepting of His call in the form that is present to us at this very moment, that we truly embrace our role as God's faithful. Our Lord's heart is a custodian's heart. He cares for us and protects us. In the Eucharist, He nurtures us. In the Eucharist, He sustains us.
What are we to do to acknowledge God's custodial heart? We care for, guard, and protect God's loved ones, to the fullest of our ability, with all that we are. Our best efforts become then a beautiful tribute we can offer to our Heavenly King. It is a sweet offering and most pleasing to Him who is love.
We take all of this and bring it to the moment of encounter. We bring this to the Eucharist, that as we receive, we also offer. We unite the humble work of our human hands to His mighty and Holy offering. The Eucharist, as always, is no idle thing. It is dynamically alive in us, His people. Our hearts, in tune with His, then also become custodian's hearts. We take care of what is needed, big and small.
Not too many years ago, my dear wife and I were involved in youth ministry. Every week we would meet at the youth house and help lead many activities. We would play and pray; we would give talks and listen to what the young ones were going through. We would offer words of advice and comfort, and we would also be comforted by the bright future these young ones had and the love we received. While this was happening, we would always keep watch. These wonderful young ones were directly under our care, and we were both friends and mentors to them. They were our responsibility, and we took that seriously. We would help build their faith up and help them maintain their self-esteem, show them that people truly cared for them. We were their custodians, and we were very diligent in all the "big tasks."
After our meetings were over, I would often sweep the floor. It had to be done, and I tried diligently to do it the best I could, for this humble task was part of my contribution to our whole effort. Every time I was told that "I" did not have to sweep the floor. Yet, my custodial heart told me firmly that I had to, for in the joy of that simple task at that precise moment, I could offer the present me that diligently worked for the Kingdom, the me that cared for our work and the ones under our charge.
I like to imagine my good 'ole father sweeping that old institution's floors, and a big smile would come to my face. What once was, is yet again. This is a reminder that nothing that needs doing is beneath us. All parts of the whole are important, all tasks have to be done, our call is not partial but total...
We do what needs doing to the best of our abilities and with as much love and hope as we can muster. After we do that, all that is necessary is to pray that we are gifted with a little more faith. May we all find our custodial hearts.
Let us pray: Lord, you care for us so much that You left yourself behind in the Eucharist to nurture and nourish us while on this earth. We ask Lord that You help transform our hearts. Help us to love as You love and to care as You care. Help us be diligent in all our responsibilities, that we may show Your love in all that we do, and that every one of our actions may become an acceptable offering to You. Grant us Your custodial heart. Amen.