the story of the feeding of the 5000. I just found out today that Father Floyd Lotito, OFM,
had passed away and this Gospel is perfect for inspiring thoughts about Floyd and his life.
If you have ever seen a mountain lake early in the morning, the water is perfectly
smooth. It looks like glass. If you toss a stone into that water, the ripples caused will
eventually reach the other side of the lake. In our lives we create ripples. The ripples effect
all who encounter us and not always in a positive way. The goal of life is to evaluate the
ripples we cause and determine their value. If we don't like the effect we are having, we can
change and go in a new direction.
Father Floyd Lotito, OFM, made not just ripples, but waves, throughout his life.
He washed over his community of Franciscans, his family and friends, and the people he
served as a priest; a friar and a person. Floyd took over the St. Anthony's dining room
(the miracle on Jones St.) from Father Alfred Boedekker, OFM. Floyd imbued St. Anthonys
with his spirit and innate kindness. Floyd greeted everyone he met as "brother or sister".
At first I thought it was quaint (it was language St. Francis used). As I got to know him, I
realized that it wasn't quaint, it was true. He believed all people were his brothers and
sisters; and he treated them as members of his family.
Floyd loved his fellow friars. He loved community. He lived a life in the spirit of
St. Francis, and he showed obvious affection for all his fellow Franciscans. Floyd encouraged
his community to embrace St. Anthonys and to become a part of it. His arms were always
open; and St. Anthonys became a living sacrament of Francis and Jesus and God, and Floyd
loved that spirit.
For over thirty years Floyd helped direct St. Anthonys; and it must have been so
hard to watch the needy grow and grow. What started out as an attempt to serve a mostly
male clientele from the city's skid row, turned into a multifaceted foundation that fed more
and more men, women, and children (35 million and counting); as well as providing clothing,
furniture, medical care, drug rehabilitation, protection from domestic violence, and so much
more. Floyd oversaw an explosion of services necessitated by an explosion of need. I once
asked him if he got depressed when he saw so many people in need coming through his doors.
Did he get angry that in the richest nation on earth (a Christian nation some say) that so
many people needed the help of St. Anthony's? He smiled and said I didn't understand. The
people he served "evangelized" him. The men, women, and children he greeted each day
showed him the face of God. He pointed out that they had so little, struggled each day for
food and shelter, were treated as second class citizens; and yet each day in the dining room
they would greet him with smiles, tell him how grateful they were, and wish him a good day.
Floyd was inspired by their humanity and the love they showed for each other. Floyd was
challenged to rise up above petty grievances or inconveniences, and had an appreciation for
life he says he never would have had had it not been for the people who came to the dining
room each day. They were his brothers and sisters.
Each year Floyd would hold the "Blessing of the Animals". He was inspired by
St. Francis' love of animals. Every year people brought dogs and cats, hamsters and guinea
pigs, and birds and snakes to St. Boniface to be blessed. It was noisy and messy and chaotic;
but it was typical Floyd. In the midst of the cacophony of animals and their owners, adults
and children, Floyd had a huge smile on his face and loved every minute.
One year, Floyd took his vacation by going to the island of Molokai and saying
Mass; and ministering to the lepers who lived on the island made famous by St. Damien.
A community that had been exiled to this island by those who were afraid and appalled
by them. Floyd would light up when talking about how they "allowed" him to be a part
of their community. He would tell stories about his time there, and the love and affection
he felt from them and for them. They were his brothers and sisters.
For eighteen years I sat with Floyd on Thanksgiving. We would talk about what
we should be thankful for and how grateful he was for all who made St. Anthonys possible
because St. Anthonys allowed him to serve his brothers and sisters. We would talk about
the needy, and how as a nation we had to care less about war and weapons, and more about
love and caring for each other. I brought my children to experience Floyd and the miracle
of Jones St. We left each year with our feet barely touching the ground. He had washed
over us all and reminded us about what was truly important, and to be grateful for the love
and affection we showed with each other.
Floyd Lotito created ripples amongst the weak and the powerful, the rich and
the poor, his fellow friars, and his friends. Jesus said "...I come to bring you life and life
to it's fullest", and Floyd Lotito lived a "full life" in every sense of the word. He took a vow
of poverty, but left a legacy of riches that may never be totally calculated.
In St. Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 25, people are standing in line to get into heaven.
Jesus reminds them that He was naked, hungry, sick, and in prison; and those who helped
were welcomed into paradise, and those who turned away were themselves turned away.
"When did we see you naked or hungry or sick or in prison?" they asked. "Whatever you
did for the least of your brothers and sisters, you did for me." Floyd lived out Matthew 25
his entire life. He is being escorted into Paradise by the angels and prophets. He listened
as he heard God say "...well done my good and faithful servant". I will miss him and his
ripples so much. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org