Sunday, October 28, 2007
by Henri Nouwen
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Homelessness is not just a physical state of being lost and lonely under a bridge somewhere. It is a psychological/spiritual emptiness, loneliness and restlessness built inside of each of us by God to inspire us to seek after Him. So what does psychological and spiritual homelessness look like? It begins with the fact that each of us goes through life always experiencing dissatisfaction and being unfulfilled. Think about when you prefer a window over an aisle seat, prefer it to be hotter or cooler in the room or prefer New York over Los Angles. We are always in a state of seeking personal satisfaction and fulfillment. It is at the root of why frequently in our lives we believe, "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence."
Thus, the “homeless” state of mind is expressed in our own personal obsessions, whims, anxieties, compulsions and addictions. Personal homelessness is demonstrated in each in a variety of ways, such as: Being a workaholic, gym addict, packrat, shopaholic, Internet addict, O.C.D., neurotic user of cell phones/email/TM/IM, collector of anything, big talker, recluse, alcoholic, drug user, porn or sex addict - well, the list goes on and on. In this respect we are one big “happy” dysfunctional homeless family and must treat each other with compassion and concern. We must help to bring each other home. Each of us is a direct brother or sister of those who are physically homeless. Like them, each of us is nomadic and seeking rest but wake up each day to discover it is always elusive.
In summary, Rolheiser states, “We are constantly being driven by our loneliness to seek more and more love, more and more knowledge, and more and more beauty. We have an inbuilt loneliness that makes us longing, yearning, grasping, and hungry creatures. Our aspirations for love and knowledge are limitless, yet our capability of fulfilling these aspirations is always limited, no matter how good a situation we are in. For this reason, we are this side of heaven, always lonely.” And, for that matter, we are always homeless. Because, as St. Augustine states and it is worth repeating, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
Friday, October 26, 2007
All the rosaries have been handmade and donated by Our Lady’s Rosary Makers (olrm.org) of South Carolina. OLRM is just one of many branches of The Rosary Club of Louisville, Kentucky founded by Brother Sylvan, C.F.X. In 1949, Brother Sylvan began to teach children how to make rosaries for missionaries. Inspired by Our Lady's words at Fatima, and having received letters of request from missionaries around the world, he knew of the great need for rosaries in the mission fields. By 1954 membership had grown to 2,500 adults and many children in schools across the nation.
Today the club has grown from its humble origins to an international non-profit organization. A new International Rosary Center was built and has more than doubled the organization's original size. A staff of 24 people, working five days a week fill orders and serve over 40,000 members, who annually distribute millions of rosaries to the world's missions.
Many thanks to Our Lady’s Rosary Makers of South Carolina and the Rosary Club of Louisville, Kentucky for generously supplying us hundreds of rosaries. Recently, they just sent another new shipment. Through their efforts, the rosary is now a gift lighting the way for hundreds of poor Angelinos who grasp the Cross of Christ and the intercessions of Mary when they are alone, frightened and struggling for hope.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Also, please pray for the many that we know and actively pray for living under the bridges, in alleys and on the streets of Skid Row: Paul, Maynard, David, Anthony, Kitty, California, Pur, Anthony, Jim, James, Pepper, Pio, William, Terry, Tara and her baby, Shannon (male) and Shannon (female), Elaine, Joyce, Patricia, Gloria, Kevin, James, Tyrone, Victor, Connie, Sheila, Tabatha, Ty, Jo Jo, Anne, Meghan, Seven, Jimmy, Melanie, Tora, Eritleka, Leanord, Gregory, Blackie, Tee, Wayne, Heaven, Michelle, Khalid ...
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Catholic Christians in particular embrace the potent “Mercy Message” in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, however only in so much as mercy is embraced as a two-way-street. We receive mercy in the sacrament, but we must also leave the confessional and then go and do likewise; otherwise just receiving mercy is pointless by Jesus’ standards, (see the parable of the wicked servant). In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the mercy flow floods us to sanctify our lives only when we go out and do the same for others. We must actively be merciful to others according to the mercy God has shown us. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
The call of poverty-stricken Israel (See Poor Israel, Thursday, October 18, 2007) is a microcosm of the mercy message God desires to make known to all of humankind. He wishes to tell us that from birth, "each is a poor nomad" and "each is homeless" until as Augustine once said - "Our souls are restless until they rest in Thee." Our personal poverty, once embraced is the tool that God uses to call us to our homes, peace and rest in Him. In mercy, He rescues each one of us from self-destruction. (If you believe that in and of yourself you are beautiful, successful and not sure why you need a Savior, this will make no sense to you.) Once we accept his mercy for our own personal brokenness and then share it with others, we enter into eternal time and are no longer homeless. Until that happens, each of us is psychologically and in many cases literally nomadic, on the run and destitute.
So, rather than despising the homeless and poor, we are to actively embrace them. They, by God’s design are a sign, image and symbol of the poverty in each one of us waiting to embrace God’s message of mercy. Despise the poor loser and Christ is despised. Embrace the poor and mercifully God sanctifies our wretched lives and shows the way home. Heaven is found. Welcome to THE paradox of the Kingdom of God!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Today, by late afternoon, an AP update regarding SoCal's apparently unstoppable wildfires reports that more than 500,000 people are temporarily homeless or worse from north of Los Angeles, through San Diego to the Mexican border. They have been ordered to immediately evacuate by authorities. It is the biggest evacuation in California history. Today is the third day of wildfires raging across the state that firefighters concede there is no end in sight short of stopping at the ocean. More than 1,800 homes have been destroyed. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the flames were threatening 68,000 more homes. In San Diego, evacuees are at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers. At the moment, nearly 20,000 displaced homeowners are huddled inside the stadium, according to reports. The fires are the worst in California since 2003, when 22 people were killed and 3,000 homes were destroyed. One evacuee sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot with her 10 year old daughter said, "No one ever expects something like this to happen to them."
We feel the truth of these words as we gather now together to serve the homeless.
Monday, October 22, 2007
It is 10:00 am; we meet at the Casa Juan Diego house, a home for homeless young men personally started by Mother Theresa. Today, our hosts are Jack, Blanca, Letti, Josie and Ines. For the last three years, they have gone out every Wednesday underneath the bridges, behind the industrial buildings and into the lives of the homeless people on Skid Row. Earlier in the week, Jack made the rounds to Vons and gathered day old bread, pastries and candies. Letti made sandwiches – over a 100.
Now it is 11:30 am; we venture out into the streets. Jack explains it is not always safe to get out and we should stay in our cars. Jack has seen it all. In between cutting hair for a living, he’s been a military chaplain and a prison counselor. We see all types of homeless. The most common thread among them is substance abuse and mental illness.
What am I observing as I move about in places that most in Los Angeles would dare to go? Despite the filth, drugs, prostitution and violence, many homeless wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else. Entrance into a shelter means exposure to more predators than in living under a bridge. A job may mean the crushing pressure of responsibility that those who are mentally ill cannot handle. The rickety, leaky plastic tents, worn clothes three sizes too large or small, the public outhouses that double as a red light district are as home to them as a picket fence is to the rest of us.
It is 3:00pm; five hours later what did I learn? I learned that preconceived notions and prejudices fade like a sunset as you get to know someone else and their situation. We can move them, we can dump them and we can try to “societize” them, but in this one morning and afternoon it began to emerge that we probably can’t cure most. This is a part of life that will always be with us. Sharing even a tiny bit with the poor and vulnerable is a great blessing we both give and receive when we care for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. J.F.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says ... “Our God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7
Saturday, October 20, 2007
“Every society has its cultural norms for ritual purity, i.e., explicit or implicit rules governing what is acceptable and unacceptable. Such cultural norms were quite elaborate and rigid in 1st Century Judea and Palestine: Certain foods, Non-Jews, lepers, menstruating women, tax collectors, prostitutes, were all ritually impure, and no pillar of the community would partake of or associate with them.
The most ritually impure object for that society was an impaled corpse; it was to be taken down before sunset or avoided at all costs. In his crucifixion, Jesus the Christ became the most ritually impure object that his society could imagine. But, God's justice and sanctifying power were greater than the worst ritual impurity - God's righteousness and holiness would not allow God's most faithful servant to see corruption.
The Supreme Being, the fountain of all holiness, resurrected Jesus from a most ignominious death as a sign of God's own life-giving and sanctifying power in the world, as well as a final seal of approval on all of Jesus' words and deeds. Now, that same sanctifying power that proceeds from the throne of God is offered to all of mankind through his anointed one, his Christ. So, now, we too can realize, as Peter later did, that it is not for us to ‘call unclean, what God has declared clean,’ Acts 10:15.”
Friday, October 19, 2007
Like Ben Affleck (photo) in the movie Paycheck, (2003, Paramount Pictures) many Americans struggle to find clues as to why they are having real life career woes. Many are filing for bankruptcy in record numbers and as credit card debts explode, more and more Americans are a just a paycheck or two away from being homeless. Families who once owned homes now sleep on mats and cots in homeless shelters. Former managers and supervisors are now stopping by soup kitchens before heading out for interviews. With no place to live, some homeless are camping out in their cars (See Friday, September 28, 2007 - Rad Guide to Living your of your Porsche) until work comes along. Families with children are among the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.
So, scroll down and participate in the poll - “How many family members or friends do you know that in your opinion may be 1-2 paychecks away from being homeless if their income suddenly stopped?” Your opinion counts!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The Lord God could have chosen the Egyptians to be his people. He’s God, he could have chosen whomever he wanted. In fact, he could have chosen a rich and powerful army of people such as the these very organized Egyptians. But he didn’t. Why not? They were the perfect choice! They were smart, clean and powerful by earthly standards. Unfortunately, strong, arrogant, abusive, smart, wise, proud and controlling beautiful people do not make for good residents in the Kingdom of God. Possibly these types of people are good picks for business ventures, but not for the city of God.
In Deuteronomy we read, “The Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; and He has brought us to this land flowing with milk and honey.” Deuteronomy 26:5-9
Okay, so in the end, God made this poor homeless band of the first Jews rich. The first tribesmen of the new nation remembered their poverty and were grateful for their new home. The lost and the homeless always make for more thankful and grateful citizens. God knows that. That is why in his wisdom he calls the poor, the lost, the homeless, prisoner, the neglected, the despised and the abandoned to preferential treatment in the Kingdom of God. Wouldn’t it be wise to get to know the poor and to serve them now? Soon they will be the saints and leaders in the new heaven and new earth. “The first will be last, and the last will be first.” Basically that means the homeless man or woman on your street corner may soon be your next boss in heaven. Welcome to the Kingdom of God!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
When one really thinks about it, each and every one of us is "unclean." Each of us in our own special way is broken and damaged. We know this to be so when we call to mind our excesses, addictions, anxieties, compulsions, failures and broken relationships. And so this unfortunate reality poses many questions for those of us who knowingly or unknowingly hold to a "clean" and "unclean" mentality. How long will it be before we stop running from ourselves and befriend God’s mercy for our own “uncleanliness?” How long will it be before we befriend the “loser” inside of us? How long will it be before we befriend those parts of our lives that we are most ashamed?
When we finally slow down enough inside and allow the personal embrace of brokenness to happen, then we are ready both to receive and to give the mercy of God. Now we are ready to shed false images of ourselves; the ones where we see ourselves as smart and rad or powerful, rich and having it all together. Let us exchange the false notions of ourselves for the authenticity of accepting personal brokenness. In this reality we are ready to discover a Savior who provides all the grace we need to become “clean.” We are now empowered to believe and to know that others can become "clean" too as we see our own busted lives transformed.
Ultimately we pass from the judges of others to their mediators when we embrace the personal reality of the “poverty” within each of us. We wholeheartedly accept that we too are “unclean” and in need of a Savior. It is in embracing this reality and knowledge about ourselves that we are propelled to become servants and mediators of mercy to the poor, homeless, prisoner and all others who are broken and discarded.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
He lived nearby on a steep barren embankment that descends to some railroad tracks. For the past two and one half years workers recall how he arrived disheveled, soiled and cold when breaking bread in the morning food line. The chefs said that he enjoyed a hot coffee with warm milk, a café con leche that they compassionately prepared especially for him. In the evening hours, he was often caught like a deer in headlights tearing apart the dumpsters scrounging for grub. He was then given a fresh plate of food direct from the kitchen.
One volunteer recalls that Mountain Man once said that he was an actor in Hollywood decades ago. He was also an artist. Apparently he had been alone and homeless, possibly for 10-20 years or more. Before taking leave for his final ride, just as the medics arrived he was anointed with oil and given last rites. He is no longer a pilgrim but someone who has completed his purgatory. And so today we remember a life that is as priceless as the blood that was shed for him and all the poor for heaven's sake. We remember and we pray.
Monday, October 15, 2007
R.S. comments regarding Homeless Victims of “Sport Killings,” (see Sunday, October 14, 2007), “Check it out: I'll betcha the parents have rotten attitudes about people without homes (homeless) and they may unknowingly be passing on their attitudes to their kids. When my brothers were teenagers they had compassion for all people less fortunate than we were. Guess who they got that attitude from?”
J.F. "charmed by the sentiment," writes up a personal story in reaction to the blog, Clean and Unclean, (see Tuesday, October 9, 2007). He said … “I passed by a spot where I would frequently see a homeless man. Today, the man was different, dirty, having a hard time walking, had straggly brown hair and a matted beard. He was wearing a hand made sign that said something like: "I will take whatever you can give me, even if all you do is say Hello." Charmed by the sentiment, I rolled down my window and simply said "Hello" and he turns to me says: ‘See, how can you know if God exits, if you can't even stop to say Hello!?’ Wow! That couldn't have come at a better time. I tried to give him money or food and he wouldn't take it, he said the hello was enough for him today. He gave me a gift that was much greater than anything I could have given him. Jesus exists in all of us and, sometimes, especially in the homeless sleeping on our streets.”
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Across the nation, America's homeless are under attack - literally. They are hunted down during youthful rites of passage by roving packs of males armed with prejudice and tools of torture. Criminologists call these wilding sprees "sport killing," -- largely middle-class teens, with no criminal records, assaulting the homeless with bats, golf clubs, paintball guns. The attackers are almost always boys, peer pressure and mob mentality sweep away caution, and parents don't suspect their children could be capable of such actions. For more see http://www.cnn.com/
Friday, October 12, 2007
Each year, 3.5 million individuals are homeless in America. Children and teens total 1.3 million. All homeless youth combined make up the 6th largest city in America, a metropolis about the size of Phoenix, AZ. Becoming more aware, understanding the facts and the demographics of the homeless can motivate even the most hard-hearted to open their pockets and their hearts to this group of forgotten Americans. Consider the following:
- This year, 1 in 8 American youth under the age of 18 will leave home and become homeless in need of charity and social services.
- 12-17 year olds are at more risk of homelessness than are adults.
- In 2004, child protective services agencies reported an estimated 872,000 children to be victims of child abuse or neglect.
- 43% of homeless youth report being beaten by a caretaker.
- 40% report being gay and abused in their schools and homes for their orientation.
- 44% of homeless youth report that one or both of their parents had at some point received treatment for alcohol, drug, or psychological problems.
- Almost half of homeless youth have witnessed domestic violence.
- Nearly 93,000 people are estimated to be homeless each night in Los Angeles County - the largest homeless population in the nation for any major metropolitan area.
- In a city with high poverty districts such as Los Angeles, one in three youth reside in a household that is below the poverty level.
- By the time homeless children are eight years old one in three has a major mental disorder.
- The prevalence rate for substance use disorders among homeless youth is 85%.
- 1/3 of homeless teens have witnessed a stabbing, shooting, rape or murder.
- Youth Homelessness Begins a Cycle of Chronic Homelessness.
- 25% of the adult homeless population report having experienced physical and/or sexual abuse as a child from someone with whom they lived.
More at www.myfriendsplace.org
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
HIA invites the nation’s wealth management firms to consider augmenting their psychological counseling services with our “free” formula for mental health, (see Saturday, September 29, 2007 - Proverbs 14:21 Unplugged & Updated). When we ignore the poor, it is by God’s standards a sin of omission – not that we have done something wrong – we have failed to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the result of all sin is unhappiness. But happy is the person who shares his wealth with the poor and has mercy on the needy. He will not experience the psychological and eternal penalties of sin. Happy is the one that regards the poor in their low estate by personally helping them, giving them financial aid, having conversation with them and blessing them. Happy is this person. He will not have need to pay expensive fees to a wealth psychologist!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
So who are the “clean” and the “unclean” in American society today? The “clean” are easily identifiable. We see them everywhere. These are the people with homes, cars, the latest electronic devices, and jobs. They are the Hollywood stars, sports stars, the politicians, the clergy and the beautiful – they are the lovable and easily accepted ones. Who are the “unclean?” In short, these are the scapegoats in our society that make the rest of us feel thankful that “we are not like them.” The “unclean” are the people who are homeless, prisoners, suicidal, mentally ill, handicapped, transgender, gay, grossly overweight, bankrupt, physically deformed, HIV+, in hospice or are on the brink of decay in our nursing homes – they are the forgotten and the abandoned ones.
So let us imagine. If Jesus were here walking among us today, would we even recognize him? We must honestly accept the fact that he certainly would not come to us with pure white skin, a Midwest accent, the latest Dell laptop, a Ford Taurus and a WAMU free-checking account. Given the fact that he was poor and despised then and is now - would we even care about him? Would we welcome him? Across America, those among us who think ourselves “religious,” would we too despise him as “unclean?” Jesus in Matthew 25:40 states, “Whatever you have done to the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me”.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy - Francis was brought up in luxury, considerable wealth and extravagant pleasures. He was well-off in other ways too; he was very good-looking, had many friends and all the noble men's sons were his companions. One day Francis was joking and laughing with his friends. A homeless guy came along crying for spare change. Francis, who was soft-hearted, gave him whatever he had. His friends mocked him for his charity. The sight of the beggar set him thinking about the poverty and misery of the mundane life he had been living. Immediately, he became inspired to give money to the poor. This did not go over very well at home. His father thought that Francis was wasting the family’s money and tried to stop his random acts of philanthropy.
Francis fell seriously ill and was bedridden for many months. He was just about to die when the Lord extended his hand of mercy and revived him. After receiving a new lease on life, Francis changed completely. He began to pray often and soon had a vision and supernatural encounter with the Lord. After the vision, almost instantly Francis gave up his old ways by distributing all of his clothes, goods and money to the poor. He informed his parents of his new life in Christ and his call to serve the poor. His father became progressively angry, upset and once said, "Is this the gratitude you show to me? I labored hard and achieved all this wealth. Now you are lavishly wasting it on these miserable wretches". Even Francis' long-time friends mocked him. They pelted him with stones and mud whenever they ran into him on the streets. But Francis bore all the rejection and disdain with patience.
In serving the poor, Francis became known all around the region as a humble man that loved and freely gave to all of God's creatures. He cherished birds and beasts. He loved the homeless, depressed and the outcasts. Soon others were following with him in his footsteps. Bernard, a very rich man of Assisi joined with him. Together the two brothers placed all their wealth at the altar of God. Others also joined. They distributed all their wealth to the poor. The news of the brothers and their gospel of kindness and love for the poor soon spread all over Europe and earned for him the name of “Saint” Francis. People also called him “the little poor man of Assisi”. For centuries now, the lavish wealth of Francis’ poverty continues to forever endure in the hearts and minds of the rich and poor alike.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
O Francis, how you guide our way!
Your virtues and example pure
Show us the path to heaven's day.
Amidst the graces of your life
Your charity sheds brightest fire:
How many of the poor it fed,
Filled many hearts with Christ's desire.
Urged on by zeal and charity,
You preached in town and countryside,
Proclaiming all God's mysteries
To poor and rich. both far and wide.
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go sell all what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Yesterday, the girls of Notre Dame Academy spread the gift of giving. They delivered 100s of PBJ sandwiches for homeless women, children and men living under bridges and alleys in the heart of Los Angeles. Sr. Jolisa, campus ministry director said about their outreach - “We teach the students that we are to open our hearts and give of ourselves to those in need.” The students get it. Each sandwich came lovingly wrapped, sealed and stapled with a "Share a Sandwich Prayer" card. They sweetened the delivery with 100s of creative personalized craft notes that were handed to each diner. Flowered with lots of hearts and compassion the cards read like a Hallmark factory, “Have a great day – Enjoy your PBJ!” and “You are special – Enjoy your sandwich!” HIA is thankful for the poor because as we bless them, they in turn bless us. Otherwise, how would we who are wealthy learn important eternal lessons of love and compassion? As we enjoy yesterday’s photos filled with grateful tears and smiles we contemplate, “Who is teaching who?” “Thank you” to Sr. Jolisa and the students of Notre Dame Academy! The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
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