Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers

An Ordinary Missionary of Everyday Life

 

      Arthur Mirell’s love for Jesus originated with free hot dogs, a carnival, and a friendly priest.

As recalled by his longtime friend, Sister Ave Clark, O.P., during an interview with me for

The Christophers’ radio show, Arthur was a young Jewish boy in Brooklyn, New York, when

he was walking by a church one day. The parish priest came out and invited Arthur and some

other children to come enjoy a carnival the church was having. The other kids quickly accepted

the invitation, but Arthur just stood there and responded, “I’m not Catholic.” The priest said,

“That doesn’t matter. There’s hot dogs and fun.”

     That simple welcoming attitude made an impression on Arthur, prompting him to further explore the Catholic faith. Though he always maintained a love for his Jewish heritage, he eventually converted to Catholicism. “He loved to go sit in church quietly,” said Sister Ave. “He said he would just look up at the cross and feel Jesus comforting him on his journey with his own cross.”

    That cross was the mental illness schizophrenia. Arthur read about the disease, said Sister Ave, “and he realized that this would be a lifelong journey. He took his medication. At times, it would help. Other times, it would make him feel weary.” Schizophrenia manifested itself in Arthur mostly through fragmented thoughts. Sister Ave noted, “He would be chatting with you, and all of a sudden he would go into his own reality or start talking about things not related to the conversation.” When he did this with Sister Ave, she would gently redirect him back to his original point. Arthur would then tell her, “Thank you for getting me back on track so politely.”

Sometimes people made fun of Arthur because of this tendency, but he would never get angry. Sister Ave said, “Sometimes someone has hurt us, and we want to ignore the person. Arthur forgave them...He said, ‘If I hold onto the hurt, I become it.’ That struck me as [the] radical kindness that we are asked to be.”

Later in life, instances of people insulting Arthur didn’t happen frequently, especially when he joined Brooklyn’s St. Jude parish. Sister Ave said, “I think people sensed Arthur’s goodness. They understood that he had differences mentally, but they always welcomed him.”

     Sister Ave first got to know Arthur over 15 years ago when he attended an evening of prayer she was holding at a Brooklyn church. They started talking by phone every day until his death last year. It was Arthur’s passing that prompted Sister Ave to write a moving and profound book about her friend, called “Arthur, Thank You For Being Jesus’ Love.” His example, she believes, could be a benefit to us all on many levels: “He wasn’t Pollyanna about life. He understood that there were hardships. Sometimes he would be disappointed or hurt, but he didn’t let that control his life…He chose to have a good attitude.”

    Arthur spread Jesus’ love not only through words, but actions. Sister Ave once told him that he was a missionary. He responded that he’d never been to a foreign country. But she explained, “You’re an ordinary missionary of everyday life.” She continued, “He’d wave at the garbage man, the mailman. Everybody knew him. I said, ‘Arthur, some day you will be like St. Therese. You’re going to live your heaven doing good on earth.’ I believe he is.”

 

You can contact Sister Ave about the book by emailing pearlbud7@aol.com

 

For free copies of the Christopher News Note WHERE THERE IS HATRED, LET ME SOW LOVE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

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