Tag Archives: homeless
During the Second World War in Britain, while men were fighting and the war effort seemed to be paramount in people’s minds, in the background other politicians and civil servants were drawing up plans for important areas such as housing, health and education. This time it would be a ‘land fit for heroes’. In the event, prefabricated houses and schools were erected with a speed and in numbers never again seen and the National Health Service came into being.
A better housed, better educated and generally healthier population was the result. But planning can only go so far, as the Times Literary Supplement columnist Charles Morgan pointed out.
In all the plans that are made for the life we are to lead, how seldom is there evidence of any wish that life shall be enjoyed: that it shall be safe – yes; that it shall be instructed, equalised, rubbed smooth, supplied with dustless corners and chromium-plated taps; but that there shall be grace or charm or quiet or gaiety or sweetness or light in it, there is among the sterner planners neither hope nor desire. Utility and sameness are their guiding stars … Their ideal is to make of the art of life what a timetable is to a poem.1
He wrote, of course, from a position of privilege, and exaggerates in his last two sentences to make a polemical point. Certainly I have visited prefabs that have lasted nearly three times their planned lifespan, are light and airy, and well loved by those who have made their homes therein. And G.K. Chesterton considered timetables poetic; especially when they work! And what joy, post-war, when such things could be more or less relied on again!
Portsmouth, largely rebuilt after World War II
1Charles Morgan, Reflections in a Mirror, London, MacMillan, 1944, p.93.
The Glebe at Saint Mildred’s Church in Canterbury is where L’Arche Kent have their garden, and this year we were able to contribute some produce to the church for Harvest Festival. Then some of us joined the congregation for the Festival Eucharist and lunch.
Rev Jo Richards, the Rector, has quickly become a friend to L’Arche, looking in to say hello. She kindly agreed to our publishing the bare bones of her sermon, and with it her photos from the day. Thank you Jo, and welcome to Agnellus Mirror. (Blessed Agnellus would have been a member of one of the city centre parishes when he lived in Canterbury, so on Jo’s patch!)
Julian of Norwich was born in 1342, We do not know Julian’s actual name but her name is taken from St. Julian’s Church in Norwich where she lived as an anchoress for most of her life. An anchoress, that is someone who lives in a cell attached to a church, and leads a prayer focused life.
When she was 30 years old, Julian contracted a grave illness and came so near death they gave her last rites. At the end of her illness, she had a series of 16 visions, or showings, that she understood to have come from God. She spent the next 20 years reflecting on these visions and writing down what she had learned from them. Perhaps, the most famous of those showings is this one, which I felt was particularly adapt for today:
“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”
Julian made three reflections relating to this vision:
The first that God created us and all creation. However big or small everything throughout the universe and beyond is created by God. As we look at the conker in our hand, we acknowledge that God created this – the tree from which it fell, and the sun that made it grow, and the rain that encouraged it to grow.
The second observation was that God loves everything that God created; and that is unconditional love, everything and everyone, and that includes you and me, whatever our background, what ever our colour; ability or disability, as it says in 1 John “God is love”.
The third observation that Julian made is that God keeps and sustains – not just us but all of creation.
These reflections raise the question of God’s omnipresence, that is the understanding that God is everywhere, nothing is without the presence and activity of God; God is present with us, here and now; in all that we are and all that we do; in the incarnation the Holy Child; in the Eucharist and the bread and the wine.
Consider these lilies – created by God, loved by God and sustained by God….they neither toil or spin.
Consider God’s harvest – to share – the word share is found in harvest; as these gifts are given to Catching Lives (Canterbury’s homeless charity) may we remain ever mindful of those whose circumstances are such that they do not have anywhere to call home, other than the pavement of our city streets.
You just have to look in our shops bursting with the autumn range of clothing – subliming telling us what we need to be wearing and what colours are in – without which we might be felt to feel inadequate ; perhaps we should draw on our text from our second reading – it is the love of money (not money, but the love of money, that is at the root of all evil.
But look again at your conker, and feel it beautifully created, loved and sustained by God.
Now take your hand in the other, this too is beautifully created, loved and sustained by God.
You and me are beautifully created, loved and sustained by God, for this day and for ever more.
Usually the only people wanting to stop passers-by on Station Road are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they do not sit in the middle of the pavement (sidewalk) with a hat on the flagstone beside them.
Often these beggars mumble a few words, asking for change. They may look at the floor, but they do not turn away their heads. This young woman did. She looked like Ruby, but with more flesh on her bones than when I taught her; I wasn’t sure.
Deliberately, I slowed down. She twisted herself even further away from any eye contact. She did not want to speak to me. A few metres on, and I turned about. Again she was turned away from me, deliberately, in the opposite direction this time.
I felt obliged to respect this decision, whether or not it was Ruby there. But if it happens again …
Other ex-pupils have crossed the street to avoid me; some have even crossed the street to say hello. But such friendliness is a precious gift that they can withhold or offer as they see fit. I felt obliged to respect Ruby’s decision. If it was Ruby. Or even someone else.
I shared this story with Christina, who commented:
Our good friend Christina Chase has allowed us to use this story from her own blog, ‘Divine Incarnate.’ It’s always worth reading her reflections; the second half of this will appear tomorrow. And thanks to her father Dan for the picture, which shows Christina’s hands cradling a family heirloom – a tin cup used by her grandfather in logging camps. Thank you for a glimpse into your family’s eternity!
It happened on a chilly September day, a simple moment that’s never left me. I was a young adult with my parents, following my eldest French-Canadian cousin in a tour of old Montréal. I remember the colourful splashes of garden amidst stone buildings, the glassed-in eatery where we had hot chocolate and poutine, and, indelibly, the old man begging outside of Notre Dame Basilica.
When I saw him, I was being pushed in my wheelchair by my father, because the sloping, cobblestone roads had tired me too much to power it myself. The imposing structure of the Basilica came into view from the sidewalk, soaring above us, and there, ahead of us, resting against the thick outer wall, was a man with grizzled gray hair, wearing faded clothes, and holding out a little cup in his hand.
Having lived a fairly sheltered life, I had never seen an actual beggar in person. Homeless people I had seen with their shopping carts downtown, but they were not beggars because they didn’t ask for anything. This man, however, this old bearded man with beautiful, wide-open eyes was holding out a little begging bowl, silently requesting someone, anyone, to help him.
What I Did
My cousin, an inhabitant of Montréal, was walking ahead of us and obviously saw the beggar, but didn’t stop walking and passed right in front of him. My parents followed suit, and so, I did too, literally pushed along with them. Perhaps they were thinking that any money given to the man could be used to buy alcohol or drugs and they didn’t want to take part in enabling his habit, but this thought didn’t occur to me.
In my youthful idealism, the sight of the beggar was a call to action. My immediate impulse was to put something into the old man’s cup, to do something for him, to at least give him my coin-sized care. In order to act on this, however, I would’ve had to stand out from my little group of people: asking my father to stop pushing my wheelchair and to take some money out of my bag to put in the little begging bowl. Easy enough, but thinking about the reactions of my group, I intimidated myself.
Of course I knew that my parents and cousin would think warmly of me if I asked to put money in the beggar’s cup. But that’s precisely what I didn’t want. I felt like a little girl, like any little child who gleefully wants to put money in every donation bucket that she sees. I still looked like a child, and often still felt like a child because I had to be cared for by my parents, but I was supposed to be an adult and I wanted to walk, so to speak, in the company of adults, not sticking out as the child among them.
Giving in to my pride and cowardice, I chose to go along with the crowd—a rather childish thing to do.
As I passed directly in front of the beggar and looked into his sky-blue eyes, it was as if we were both suspended in a chasm of time where I felt, where I knew, that I was about to pass by an irretrievable moment, an irreplaceable something. He did not look down at me, his gaze remaining straight and above me, and perhaps this was what made me look up to him so completely, experiencing the lowness of my place, as though I were down on my knees, dejected there on the pavement.
Broken away from that moment, I squirmed and fought myself to ask to turn back. But I didn’t. I let my childlike desire to help go unspoken, and as the beggar receded further and further into the background, I didn’t experience remorse so much as petulance. Like a petulant child, I thought only about my inabilities, placing fault on the others beside me while really angry with myself.
I finally caught up with Sister Rose the other day: do you recall her sleep-out to help homeless people in Sussex? (see January 18th and subsequent posts). Well, I managed to walk out of St Thomas’s Church with her and have a short chat. Between herself and Sisters Clare and Anne, they raised nearly £3,000. I guess they could have paid that for a West End Hotel, but the money has gone to a much better cause.
Well done, sisters, and thank you and well done to all who supported them. If you did not manage to help the sisters back then, spare a thought for your local food bank, as parents have to find an extra meal per day to make up for the dinners their children would have eaten if they had been in school.
JESUS FALLS AGAIN
A Lawyer who tried to trip Jesus up in his teaching sees him fall on the way to Calvary. The story is told in Luke, 10, 25-37
I know this man, I almost wish I didn’t. I helped to bring him to this, but I never wanted it.
Look at him, covered in mud and bruises, he can hardly see for blood and sweat.
Remember the story he told when I was arguing with him? The traveller battered half to death, no-one to help him but the Samaritan.
Even with that big African helping to carry the cross, Jesus will not survive. No-one can do much for him.
At least that woman has wiped his poor face but still he falls.
And gets up and goes on.
Let us Pray :
Lord, never let us forget that you are there, even among the most desperate people, and those we seem unable to help : at home, at school, at work ; in the street and in the wider world.
Lord in your mercy, hear our Prayer.
(From the Newsletter of St Thomas’ Church, Canterbury).
I would like to thank all those who sponsored me for the Sleep Out in Littlehampton last month. Twenty people took part. I don’t yet know the final sum raised. It was bitterly cold – minus four degrees – but we survived!
Sister Rose survived her ordeal, sleeping out in Sussex to help homeless people through Worthing Churches Homeless Project.. She does not yet know how much money she raised – along with two other Sisters – but when she tells me, I’ll let you know.
Sister says she was not too cold overnight, thanks to ‘the concept of layers’, and the big cardboard box within which she lay. It was an experience to be under the sky, and she felt greater sympathy for those who do this all the time.
It’s good to have her safely back in town!
Sister has a website for donations: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rosearden-close1
She says thank you for all your support,
Saint Francis famously found it difficult to approach the lepers he met around Assisi. Father Daniel picks up this experience of being repelled by those we are sent to, and how easy it can be to take the comfortable option and convince ourselves we are worthy Christians. Our own judgement can be very much at fault.
The Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, speak not only of one who would conquer as mighty King, but nurture as Shepherd and take-on punishment as the Suffering Servant. And here, for the first time, Jesus finally reveals Himself as the fulfilment of all of these. In fact, it is because He is all of these that His judgement is infallibly just and final.
It is fair to say that those who are the most needy, the most poor, the most worthy of our love and service, are in some way repellent to us. The homeless person smells, has dirty hands. It can be very hard to find any adequate words to offer to the person sick in hospital or nursing home. It is so much easier to come to Mass and smile and chat with those we have known for years rather than reach out to the person we have never spoken to before. And what about that person at work who doesn’t quite fit in; the member of my family who is (to all intents and purposes) the ‘black sheep’, the priest who doesn’t meet my expectations when I’d much prefer to have back a previous one(!), the person who seems to only ever offer criticism, never asking how I am. Jesus Christ has identified Himself with every single one.
And the truth of His Gospel can sting: If I have loved only those who love me already, I have no merit.
Tonight’s the night!
Please support Sister Rose for her sleep-out in Littlehampton on Saturday 24th February to raise funds for Worthing Churches Homeless Project. Sister has a website for donations:
Thank you, Maurice.