Tag Archives: stranger

October 9: Month of Mission: Pilgrims or Missionaries?

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When we planned this year’s L’Arche Kent pilgrimage, we did not see it as a missionary enterprise. It was a chance for the community to spend time together, which is not going to happen unless we make space for it, as we now number more than 100 people with and without learning disabilities, living and working together in a mosaic of different ways, but sometimes not seeing a friend for weeks or months at a time.

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There was a fairly simple shape to the pilgrims’ day: pray, walk, eat; pray, walk, eat being the plan. Looking back, it seems to me it was a missionary journey. We began at Dover beach, with prayers in the open air; but most of our formal praying took place in churches we visited on our way. The invasion of upwards of fifty walkers was out of the ordinary for each church we visited. We were made welcome everywhere.

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‘It’s so good that our church is being prayed in,’ was one reaction to our visit. Other congregations laid on refreshments. Another asked that we sign the visitors’ book, which we gladly did wherever we found one. ‘It will help us to get grants and permission for toilets if we can show that we are welcoming pilgrims.’

Toilets as a missionary activity? We would say so, based on our experience. At one point on our journey maybe 20 people used the facilities in the home of a centenarian friend (or should we say member) of the community.

Saint Paul does not go into such details!

We came to each church to pray and refresh the outer man or woman as well as the inner. We came to visit the Lord, but we, and our dogs, visited the body of Christ that Paul did talk about, and, I believe we helped to build it up wherever we called.

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So it was a missionary journey in many ways that I at least did not foresee. Mutually building up the body of Christ in our L’Arche and parish communities. Perhaps we will be more aware of that next year!

MMB.

L’Arche Kent, 18a St Radigunds St, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AA.  Telephone 01227 643025

www.larchekent.org.uk

 

 

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13 February: The love of those whom we do not know.

I think we need an antidote to Virginia Woolf’s desperate feelings of superiority to others. We are put on this earth to love God and our neighbour, that is what being human is all about, whether or not we abide by the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures. GKC did both. Here he writes about the young Robert Browning, but also ‘almost everyone’.

“Love of humanity is the commonest and most natural of the feelings of a fresh nature, and almost every one has felt it alight capriciously upon him when looking at a crowded park or a room full of dancers. The love of those whom we do not know is quite as eternal a sentiment as the love of those whom we do know. In our friends the richness of life is proved to us by what we have gained; in the faces in the street the richness of life is proved to us by the hint of what we have lost. And this feeling for strange faces and strange lives, when it is felt keenly by a young man, almost always expresses itself in a desire after a kind of vagabond beneficence, a desire to go through the world scattering goodness like a capricious god.”

(From “Robert Browning” by G. K. Chesterton,  via Kindle)

Photos: Amsterdam, MMB; L’Arche India; St Maurice Pilgrimage; Brocagh School, Co Leitrim 1967.

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3 October, What would you do? The Beggar II: The Aftermath.

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To conclude Christina’s story from Divineincarnate.com.

After all of these years, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve never left the spot where I encountered the beggar. My group’s intent had been to go on with life without his presence in it. But it didn’t work. Somehow…I’m still there.

In the wordless waiting of the old man with his begging bowl outside of a sacred place, I caught a glimpse of myself. I see the poverty of my excuses: “I can’t, I’m disabled” or “I would help you, but it’s just not convenient right now” or “Well, if someone else had gone in to help, I certainly would have pitched in too.” And I see my own need for others—not my specific need as a disabled person dependent on others for daily survival, but my innate and intimate need as a human being for deep and generous loving.

My identification with the beggar, however, has become even more profound than that. Hoping to receive some gift of kindness, he was waiting for the reaction of another human being. The reaction that gave him was of emptiness. Devoid of courage, devoid of humility, I was pitifully poor, with nothing to give. Nothing. My human foibles, which caused me to choose poorly, put an empty begging bowl into my own hands. So, now, the beggar is still standing outside of the sacred place, but it is not him who begs and waits there—it’s me.

A stranger is never just a stranger. The beggar waiting outside of the church is Christ and Christ is that beggar. There should be no understanding of separateness in this, I don’t mean to remove the beggar on to some kind of a pedestal as a representative of the Holy Other. We are called to recognize Christ within. This is profoundly down to earth, this is gritty, this is intimately real. My deep sense of truly remaining on that street with the beggar—as the beggar—is not a mere flight of fancy or pretty response. It’s true.

It’s profoundly, sublimely, impossibly true.

The next time that you see me on the street, or in the subway, or holed up in a little corner somewhere…please be brave, please be kind.

© 2018 Christina Chase

Christina has come back to the point that Saint Thérèse was making in our post of October 1st: that Jesus comes to us as a beggar. Thank you Christina!

Will.

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