Thursday, December 22, 2011

Room At Your Inn?

I first started thinking about this issue a few weeks ago, when a friend involved in her parish’s evangelization team asked my thoughts about parishes, or groups of parishes, adopting homeless families. She had felt a call to do something, and was struggling with how to make it happen. After some discussion we agreed that perhaps one of the more difficult things would be to get parish members, especially people we know, to come forth seeking help ---- we had confidence in the generosity of our community members, but thought that some people would be reluctant to admit they were in need. (In my own parish, “Benevolent Funds” are distributed discretely by the pastor.) We settled on an idea that the outreach might be offered as a form of family caring, like grandparents always loving and being available for the grandchildren. Gifts could be offered not in charity, but in family love. My friend went off to pursue this and other ideas at her church.

Then a couple of weeks ago there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about young adults moving back with their parents. Times are difficult for many young people, even college graduates. The article pointed out that living at home helped justify them being on their parent’s insurance policy (until they turn 26), along with other cost savings associated with going back home. The article, however, implied that all this was a bad thing --- and I spoke aloud after reading it: “Nonsense!” (I may have used some other word, I don’t remember.) I described the article to those around me and voiced my opinion that “this is EXACTLY what should be happening. If our children are in need, one of the first places they should turn to is the family --- and they should be welcomed. This is the Catholic Church’s principle of subsidiarity --- needed help should come from the lowest levels of society, not the highest.” But the article implied that it was a sad thing that families had to help. This author was wrong.

Last week I had someone confide in me, in the adoration chapel, that they had lost their job. While I offered her some leads and places where she might start looking, even if for only temporary work, she told me that she was okay --- for now. She only asked for my prayers, and then kindly asked how things were going for me of late. Even in her trials, looking out for her neighbor. Of course, I prayed for her.

This last Sunday the Detroit Free Press began a series of articles on homeless children in the state of Michigan. The paper noted that, through the school system, there were identified 31,000 children whose parents were in a nomadic or homeless state – or they were living on the street. Under various programs this entitled those children to special considerations, like free meals and school supplies. Special school transportation needs were also addressed to the homeless children, some costing hundreds per day --- per child! The articles noted many specific examples of nomadic parents, living with friends and relatives, until their welcome wore out. They mentioned Covenant House, which picks up homeless kids off the street, and even has started a high school just for them! While I was at mass on Sunday my United Way director called me and left me a message saying (after reading the first article) she wanted to begin a program to help with the situation.

Well, considering all of this, do you think God is knocking, or what?

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. … Truly, I say to you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Mt 25 34-40)

Some of you are aware that I am trying to pull together a book of people who answered God’s call and helped their neighbor, and their efforts grew and many were helped. They practiced the rule of subsidiarity; they did not go out and seek help for their neighbor in need, they GAVE help. If I can get the book completed and published, I hope they can be inspirations to others. We can all help our neighbor and answer the call to help God’s children, and in loving them show our love to Him. Do you have an empty bedroom or basement, a room at your inn? Perhaps you might be able to use that vacant space to welcome a child who calls in need. Or would you instead say to him: “Go find a stable outside there somewhere; this place is full?” Won’t we hear that question asked this Sunday, Christmas Day?

I’ve written in this blog how for the past couple of years I have tried to help my neighbor, hiring the unemployed to do work in and around my house, paying them a generous wage so that they might accept my charity with dignity. I encouraged you and others to do the same, but I was aware of no one taking up the banner, although I also asked churches and charities. A little can make a difference. Recently I received a Christmas card from the first man I hired. He ultimately lost his home to foreclosure, but now has found a job and is in a new home in another city. My little effort at helping him yielded results --- in the card he reminded me that I am his friend for life. Perhaps these latest events are a call for me to provide a physical sharing of my home, also. It seems just a natural growth of what I have been doing. But I can’t help but use this blog (and you few who might read it), to issue a challenge again: Is there room at your inn? I will develop a program for my local United Way to subsidize those who would offer “room at their inn,” but I think, especially at this time in our country, that we all need to consider it.

Every time we go to mass and walk up to the front of the church, the priest holds up a small white host in front of us and says: “The Body of Christ.” And we respond: “Amen!” Our amen is not just an assent to our belief that this host is actually the Body of Christ, but it is also an assent that we, together, are part of the Body of Christ, His Church. We are saying “Amen,” I am one with you, and we are one together, in the Body of Christ. If you sit up near the front of the Church you can hear the words said to each communicant, over and over again: “The Body of Christ! The Body of Christ! The Body of Christ!”

When will we REALLY answer: Amen!!? Yes Lord, You are here! Yes Lord, I am here with You! And I will love You and serve You and care for You wherever and whenever I may see you, even in the least of my brothers and sisters.

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