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Friday, November 30, 2007

"If you are Homeless, I am Praying for you"

In regards to A Thanksgiving Table Prayer (see, Wedensday, November 21, 2007) it resonated with some and even passed along and shared with others...

IB said... "What a beautiful prayer! I love the part about being troubled by those who have more instead of those who have less. It quickly puts things in perspective and really resonated with me."

C.B. said... "Thank you for sharing! God bless us all!" Anonymous writes... "Thank you for the beautiful prayer!"

M.P. said... "And to all those [homeless at library computers] reading this: if you are homeless, I am praying for you ..I hope and I pray that you will be blessed today and always...and perhaps we'll meet soon."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

O Come, Emmanuel

Isaiah 57:15
"Thus says He who is high and exalted, living eternally, whose name is the Holy One: On high I dwell, and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed."

Jesus Christ the Word of God, Emmanuel, "God is with us." He was coming, He is coming, and Maranatha! He will come again. Whenever he comes, He comes to dwell among the poor, the lowly, the broken-hearted, and the crushed in spirit, bringing peace and healing to all the wounded.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Garden Roots

Could it be that the Genesis account of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve being driven from it (because of sin) is actually a parable of everyone’s perpetual homelessness? At one time these two characters in the story had a home. It was a nice home at that. However, being home was less about the beautiful Garden than it was about the sense of fulfillment, being at peace with the "family" they were experiencing as they lived in harmony with God as their Creator. The beautiful surroundings they enjoyed were simply sumptuous exterior signs of a lavish and peaceful interior reality they were experiencing every moment of every day. They were living the magical film about being home, “White Christmas” but actually relishing the real version of being home – not the Hollywood version.

Consider the fact that each of us is at the very least is psychologically “homeless.” Each of us lives with unanswered questions, a restlessness, an unfulfilled longing that translates into insatiable obsessions, compulsions and searches that leave us unfulfilled. Each of us is definitely psychologically homeless (damaged) and many of us are physically homeless too. No matter, all of us are homeless one way or another – all are related – brothers and sisters – hobos together. That is until like Augustine we say, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

Possibly then, this ancient story of being disbarred from Garden paradise is telling us that because of disobedience we have been ousted from our homeland – our heritage, our true roots, our big family and our home. As a result, we will always be pilgrims, always nomads – vagabonds until each makes the journey back to God – back to obedience with His will.

The Garden Eden of account in this disbarring “home-to-homeless” light begins to explain our Holy Longing as Ronald Rolheiser explains it in his book by the same name. In fact, all through history we are aware of people after people, nation after nation repeating this very same story. Once they were no people – then they became a people. Peoples were lost, found and then became sojourners once again – especially when a nation sinned in grave ways. So sin seems to be the deciding factor that helps keep us as individuals and nations on the run. Like in the Garden, it gets us easily kicked out from what we thought was home.

This is the very same story of the Jews in the desert. They lose their home in 70 A.D and never get it back. It is also the story of the Persians, Greeks, the Romans, the American Indian. Will it eventually be the story of America too?

Getting kicked out does not just happen to peoples and nations. It is also the story of every human being. Our story begins with birth in a home. Later, we leave home, go to college, etc. and become homeless. At this point in our your lives we begin to always search for our roots – lonely and restless – even to the point of depression, compulsion, ADD, ADHD, etc.

Homelessness is at the heart of the human condition and it can never be fixed until each turns their heart, their focus and wills back to God. When that is done, each is flooded with feelings of peace, solitude and rest. Then we are inundated with a sense that we belong – we have arrived. Each enters into the communion of the saints – our true family heritage. We begin to live with all those who have gone before us and who ever will – all those who also have turned to God and found home. It is in this light that each finds our family, our roots, our homeland. We find eternal rest.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"God has Sent us the Spirit of Adoption ... whereas we cry, 'Abba Father'"

Today’s blog comes with news about Elijah and Jen, a missionary couple all the way down south in Antarctica. This past week they obediently answered a call to rescue a family of seven children from the threat of homelessness when their parents were tragically lost in a car accident. They work in Christian ministry near the South Pole Station of McMurdo (photo). Daily, the couple risks their lives while visiting community members in sub zero conditions (50 below +). They bring Christ and pastoral ministry to scientific team members and support staff working in this isolated and desolate part of the world.

The Lord recently brought to Elijah and Jennifer Maxwell an unexpected twist into their lives. Elijah writes, “Many of the supplies here at McMurdo are flown in from Argentina and Jennifer and I have been keeping in contact with a church there in Buenos Aires, the capital city. This past month we received sad news about one of the families in the church. The mother and father were tragically killed in an automobile accident, leaving behind seven children. After much prayer, Jennifer and I felt the Lord wanted us to adopt them and we finally completed all of the paperwork. We are flying out to Buenos Aires this next weekend to bring the kids back to McMurdo.” The new additions to their family are Stephen (13), Matt (12), Jessica (10), Franklin (9), Kitty (7), Ben (5), and Tommy (3).

Thinking about their heroic decision, it is remarkable as to how Elijah and Jennifer are doing the same for Stephen, Matt, Jessica, Franklin, Kitty, Ben, and Tommy as God the Father has done for us. Out of nowhere – when all of us were “homeless” while we were orphans he made us His adopted children through, by and in Christ. They are beautiful models of showing mercy to the children as we have been shown mercy by God the Father. (Romans 8:14-17, Ephesians 1:5-10, Galatians 4:4-7) The real tears in their story are not from recounting the death of the parents (they are in heaven and so we rejoice) but tears of joy that out of nowhere Elijah and Jennifer stepped up to the sacrifice – to the commitment of adopting all seven children. The children are now one family again with roots – a mother, a father and a home. A beautiful model of God’s mercy to all of humankind they have become. Please pray for wisdom and strength as the couple transitions into parenthood. We take this opportunity to celebrate with them all of our adoptions by the Father who has rescued us from eternal homelessness.


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Monday, November 26, 2007

Malibu Burning

Homelessness does not show Favoritism
Losing one's home is an unexpected plight of both the poor and rich alike. Take the picturesque seaside village of Malibu, California, for instance. Although home to the rich and famous, it is receiving yet another round of wildfires, instantly forcing many who normally live in paradise into desolate conditions. It has been a weekend of calamity! Hot, powerful winds fanned blazes across 4,720 acres starting early Saturday morning. Fifty homes and two buildings were destroyed on Saturday. Twenty-seven other homes were damaged and 10,000 to 14,000 people were evacuated. All of this in the wake of last month's 4,565-acre Canyon Fire that destroyed six homes, two businesses and a church, (see More than 500,000 found Homeless or Worse, Tuesday October 23, 2007). Malibu is prone to Santa Ana-driven wildfires. In 1993, a blaze destroyed 388 structures, including 268 homes, and killed three people.

Since homelessness does not show favoritism, shouldn’t our mercy and compassion reach out to all those who are homeless – regardless of their income bracket? The Malibu fires have become a reminder - “blessed are the merciful”, when they need mercy it will be shown to them as well. Possibly those of us who are wealthy can take a moment in times like this to reassess our response to the homeless around us and consider helping them in more aggressive and tangible ways. As discovered in Malibu this past weekend, we never know when we ourselves may be in a position in life to need the mercy of others to work through our own homeless conditions.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Bing Crosby Holiday

Bing Crosby sang hope-filled songs about home and even grew the nostalgia into a hit film, White Christmas. But, anthropologists tell us that home is not only place, but it is also about kinship. It is about having both a place in time as well as enjoying a psychological bonding in familial relationships. Unfortunately, since the 1960s - the dawn of the commercial jet age, Americans have progressively lost a personal sense of their family’s homestead, kinship and homeland. The Boeing 747, then later the computer, Internet and digital ages jettisoned us into a world of transience and future shock. Jobs, careers, people, places, houses, apartments, knowledge and things now move through our lives at an alarming rate. Sinking roots into one place is no accident that many find difficult to achieve.

More and more, Americans are suffering from emotional homelessness and in some cases physical as well. Fr. Rolheiser in his book, Against an Infinite Horizon states, “When we have no place to identify with, no roots to drink from, no tree trunk to give us clear direction, it is no accident that on any given day we can sincerely wonder who we really are, what our values are … and which of our seeming multiple personalities is our true one. From lack of home we suffer schizophrenia, dislocation, and much loneliness, both psychologically and morally. “

In the 21st century, still many long for the fulfillment of Bing Crosby’s song “I’ll be home for Christmas” because it speaks to their roots. The reality is that most will never be mentally home for the Holidays (because of arguments and discord) – and others still will never be really home because of actual physical homelessness. In either case, mental or physical, the end result is the same – loneliness, depression, anxiety and restlessness.

What is the good news in all this? Is there any? Most definitely, yes! It is our very homeless condition that God uses to call us to Himself. Our roots, our homeland and the rest that we seek in our agitated aloneness are ultimately found when in our desolation we are filled by being in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” Twelve distinct times our Lord Jesus said, "I Am," with reference to Himself. He said, “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life, I am the resurrection, Before Abraham I am, I am the bread of life, I am the light, I am from above …” How much more do we need to hear? Jesus is clearly telling each of us, "Come to me" (to no one else and nothing else) because, “I am your home.”

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HIA is on Holidays and returns to publishing on Monday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Table Prayer

A Thanksgiving Table Prayer

Let us pray ... O God, Source of all that makes life possible, Giver of all that makes life good: We pray now to give thanks, yet we confess that we have often failed to live our thankfulness. What we have, we take for granted, and we grumble about what we lack. We have squandered your bounty, with little thought for those who will come after us. We are troubled by the few who have more than by the many who have less. Forgive us, O God. In this moment of prayer, accept our thanksgiving; and teach us to make gratitude and sharing our way of life. Amen

In this Season of Thanksgiving, some have asked, "How can I help?"
It is estimated that there are 74,000 homeless children, teens, women and men living on the streets of Los Angeles. You can help provide approximately 5,000 meals a month to our brothers and sisters in need. Your help also supports a special team reaching out to 500 homeless people living under bridges and in alleys - providing food, socks, jackets, blankets, jeans, t-shirts, water, soap, prayer cards and rosaries. Every donation helps - however great or small. Thank you for your compassion.

St. Peter's Church
1039 North Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Attn: Homeless in America - GJG

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Food Pantries Stuggle with Shortages

Associated Press writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Doug Whiteman in Columbus, Ohio, reported yesterday that free food banks say they are seeing more working people needing assistance. The increased demand is outstripping supplies and forcing many pantries and food banks to cut portions. "I've been doing this for 20 years, and I can't believe how much worse it gets month after month," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

People are working full-time, that's not the problem - they just can't afford to live. One customer, Diana Blasingame has lately found herself having to go to a free food pantry once a month to feed herself and her teenage daughter. "I'm pretty good at making things stretch as far as I can, but food is so high now and I have to have gas in my car to do my job," said Blasingame, 46, who earns $9 an hour as a home health aide. "I work full time, but I don't have health insurance and sometimes there just isn't enough to pay bills and buy food."

"We have food banks in virtually every city in the country, and what we are hearing is that they are all facing severe shortages with demand so high," Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America's Second Harvest — The Nation's Food Bank Network, the nation's largest hunger relief group, said Friday. "One of our food banks in Florida said demand is up 35 percent over this time last year."

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Come, Clothe Yourself with Compassion

"Compassion is something other than pity. Pity suggests distance, even a certain condesendence. [When] I give some money to a beggar on the streets of Toronto or New York City, but I do not look at him in the eyes, sit down with him or talk with him, I am really too busy to really pay attention to the man who reaches out to me. My money replaces my personal attention.

"Compassion means to become close to the one who suffers. But we can come close to another person only when we are willing to become vulnerable ourselves [and to admit to failures, brokenness and shortcomings]. This is perhaps, the main reason that we sometimes find it easier to show pity than compassion. The suffering person calls us to become aware of our own suffering. How can I respond to someone's loneliness unless I am in touch with my own experience of loneliness? How can I be close to handicapped people when I refuse to acknowledge my own handicaps? How can I be with the poor [and homeless] when I am unwilling to confess my own poverty?" by Henri Nouwen

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More than 15 days of Homeless Woes for California – 30 Days of Woes Worldwide

Apocalyptic-style fires, floods and winds have recently left millions of global village citizens homeless. In an eerie wave of natural disasters, homelessness unexpectedly came knocking, striking nearly 3 million people worldwide in the past 30 days. From raging wildfires to churning floods and hurricane force winds - natural phenomena left few options for everyone caught in its path but to pray and to mourn their loss. From the very rich to the very poor, few could escape.

Here is a recap as to how homelessness suddenly overcame so many - so unexpectedly and in a very short amount of time:

On October 20, 2007, more than 15 days of woes were unleashed upon residents of Southern California. Nearly 1 million people experienced homeless conditions when wildfires swept through affluent real estate developments from Malibu to San Diego. The last fire was reportedly contained by November 9, 2007.

On November 2, 2007, similar woes were unleashed upon residents of Southern Mexico; but this time it was not by fire, but by water. Nearly 1 million people are still homeless from the worst floods ever in the state of Tabasco.

On November 17, 2007, Bangladesh experienced its worst cyclone since 1991. Winds, clocked at more than 150 mph shredded millions of tin homes and shacks in to rubble. 1 million are presently left homeless and destitute with no immediate housing solution available. More than three-thousand residents of this already impoverished country are dead.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gay Teens - 42% of Homeless Teenagers

Between 1.3 and 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the streets of America each year. A disturbing fact about this group is that at least 42% of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), a disproportionately high number when one considers that only 3 to 5% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT. How is that possible? Unfortunately, most of these teens report a higher incident rate of having had experienced child molestation as well as adults and peers around them who have been abusive and unaccepting.

At school, kids with any hint of gay characteristics (straight or gay) get harassed and bullied by their peers, and even by teachers and other staff members. 50% of kids who speak openly with their parents are met with alienation and negative consequences, such as being punished, ignored, mourned, insulted or physically abused. One homeless girl reported being threatened with a gun by her father to change, and another girl was raped by a family "friend" who wanted to "straighten” her out.

But out on the streets, things are not much better. Many kids report that, when bullied by other kids in teen shelters - staff members just looked away. Unfortunately even some faith-based shelters flee from Christ’s message of mercy and compassion by unabashedly not admitting kids that are gay. It is safe to say that these kids are both rejected and despised. Who does that sound like?

As Christians we have a responsibility to caringly protect and support all young people. It is never considered merciful to turn one's head when a child or teenager is being bullied or harassed by peers. It is never compassionate to force a child or teen to leave their school, youth group, church, or especially their own home, because of their sexual orientation. Regardless of how an individual feels about the issue of homosexuality, every kid... and every person, for that matter... should be treated empathetically with Christ’s compassion.


More on the Internet:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Saint Margaret of Scotland - The “Messy Way” to Serve the Poor

Saint Margaret of Scotland was actually born in Hungary. King Malcolm befriended her family in 1070 and was captivated by her beauty. Margaret married the King of Scotland in that same year at a fairytale wedding in the castle of Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland. Margaret’s claim to beauty was not her title as Queen of Scotland or even her personal elegance. Margaret clothed herself with royal compassion for the poor. Her life testified to the fact that personal wealth and power is actually a call to serve.

Although having access to all material goods, Margaret remained detached from the world. Her private life was austere. She had certain times for prayer and reading Scripture. She ate sparingly and slept little in order to have time for devotions. She and Malcolm kept two Lents, one before Easter and one before Christmas. During these times she always rose at midnight for Mass. On the way home she would wash the feet of six poor persons and give them alms. She was always surrounded by beggars in public and never refused them help. It is recorded that she never sat down to eat without first feeding nine orphans and 24 adults in her household.

One blogger said this about Margaret … “There are two ways to be charitable: the ‘clean way’ and the ‘messy way.’ The ‘clean way’ is to give money or clothing to organizations that serve the poor. The ‘messy way’ is dirtying your own hands in personal service to the poor. Margaret's outstanding virtue was her love of the poor. Although very generous with material gifts, Margaret also visited the sick and nursed them with her own hands. She and her husband served orphans and the poor on their knees during Advent and Lent. Like Christ, she was charitable the ‘messy way.’”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Anonymous Chatter in the Mourning

M.F. set off some anonymous responses (see Rejoice in the Mourning, Friday, November 9, 2007) with the post, "Sometimes, it doesn't feel like God is with you. When things are going wrong, it feels like He abandoned us. I truly wish I could be rejoicing now in my mourning for myself...

Anonymous said...
"M.F. it seems as though the American value "God shed His grace on thee ... From sea to shining sea..." has set up false expectations in U.S. Christians. The reality is that Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." Jesus is in the night. Our wills are crushed in the mourning and we are sanctified in it to see God."

Anonymous said...
"I don't think I really understand this concept of mourning for choices (Good choices in some cases) that I might have made. Can you explain? Why should I mourn that I cannot marry a million others? It's a decision I made knowingly and I don't feel the need to examine. And frankly, I don't want to marry anyone else. I am missing something here, can you explain?"

Anonymous said...
"Possibly Fr. Rolheiser is referring to loss rather than choices. In this life we 'count everything as loss' as Paul says in order to gain Christ. The Apostle may be telling us that when we take the interior journey to the Infinite God it appears as though we are driven to mourn or “count as loss” everything in this life. We read in Scripture: 'Blessed are they that mourn, they shall be comforted.' Also, 'He has turned my mourning into dancing.'"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Marlboro Marine" Model of the Modern Veteran

Times photographer Luis Sinco made James Blake Miller, a.k.a. Marlboro Marine an emblem of the war. The shot (right) was taken during a formidable battle sustaining major loss of life. His face, smeared with war paint, blood trickled from his right ear and the bridge of his nose. Deafened by canon blasts, Miller was not aware that the shooting had stopped. Sinco said, “His expression caught my eye. To me it said: terrified, exhausted and glad just to be alive. I recognized that look because that’s how I felt too.” Sinco sent the photo back to the U.S. as the last photo of many in his daily report. Almost instantly, the photo was emailed around the world and was published in more than 100 newspapers. Miller became an icon overnight.

“Miller, get your ass up here,” a first sergeant reportedly remarked a few days after the photo was taken. Maj. Gen. Natonski was waiting to see him. The Major barked, “America has connected with this photo. Nobody wants to see you dead or wounded. We can have you home tomorrow.” Meanwhile his company continued a major assault in Fallujah leaving nearly 100 Americans dead, 450 wounded and 1,200 bodies of insurgents lying on the streets.

One year and half later, Sinco, for the first time since the photo was taken met up with Miller in the U.S. Instead of discovering just a model of heroism, he also found a model of the broken soldier. Miller was haunted by the brutality of the fighting. Realizing that relationships and even general stability in life were problematic, he had agreed to check into a veterans mental health program. Miller would have to cover the cost of housing - $300 a month for room and board. But soon he dropped out of the program and believed that he would be happier in the West Virgina mountains where had always found solace.

After a wedding and honeymoon, Miller was having difficulties. In November 2006, it was now one year and half since Miller had left the Marines. He lived in an empty apartment where a wedding picture was replaced by a Meritorious Mast. So much for happy endings. And so we pray for the priceless life that Miller gave, but also prayers that he and his comrades will recover their on-going lives too. We pray for the many veterans (approximately one third of all homeless) who continuously struggle to live in their brokenness and poverty - some now for decades.

More on the Internet:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Making of an American Saint - Frail, Feeble & Powerful

Frail but empowered by the Spirit, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is celebrated today as both an immigrant and the first U.S. citizen to be canonized a saint. Feeble in health all her life, she was denied admittance into religious life. However, that did not stop Frances. Sent by a local bishop to reform House of Providence orphanage, she went on to start one of the first orders of women missionaries with just seven orphans. She founded Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. For the next 28 years she took the Americas by storm establishing schools, hospitals and orphanages from the U.S. to Argentina, Brazil and Nicaragua. She also founded houses in England, France and Spain. Her love for Christ was expressed in a visible compassion for the poor, homeless-migrant, the sick and the uneducated.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 comes to mind when reflecting upon the life of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini: “The Lord, your God is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the migrant, feeding and clothing him. So you too must befriend the migrant, for you were once aliens yourselves in the Land of Egypt.”

We are inspired to pray …

May we see and serve you Lord, in the sick, the suffering and the sorrowful.

May we know you in the poor, the uneducated and the unloved.

May we love you in the unwanted, the bereaved, the homeless, the migrant and the refugee.

May we be thankful for the basics of food, water clothing and shelter.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A few Photos from what is now Dubbed, “We See You Saturday”

On Saturday morning, while delivering clothing, rosaries, prayer cards and 575 sack lunches made by St. Paul the Apostle “Sandwich Builders” (see Sunday, November 11, 2007) the thought occurred that taking time to deliver supplies to the forgotten homeless is about “seeing” people. In much the same way that Jesus takes the time to see the short guy Zacchaeus up in the tree (see Sunday, November 4, 2007) and blesses him, we do the same when we take time to encounter and “see” the normally unseen. As Christ’s followers, each time we take the time to see “short” people (those who are unseen because they are inadequate, despised and rejected), we bless them as Jesus blessed Zacchaeus. Jesus came to stay under his roof! He came into his house – his very soul and that was the blessing. This past Saturday morning, the delivery team brought Christ under the roofs – into the very souls of people who are misunderstood, despised, rejected and never seen. (Who does that sound like?) By showing up – team members said to these people, “I see you. Come down from that tree! Jesus wants to dwell in your house today – the home of your soul.” Who will you see today that is “short” and inadequate? Who can you bless so that the healing Christ can come to stay in their house? While contemplating those questions, view a few photos above from what is now dubbed, “We See You Saturday.”

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thankful for Volunteers - St. Paul's Friday Night "Sandwich Builders" in Pictures

From a circle of prayer to hand drawing "we love you and think of you" prayer cards - more than 200 parishioners gathered to build sandwiches and stuff bags with fruits, treats and water. More than 40 hygiene kits were donated as well as socks, t-shirts and underwear. What's coming in Monday's blog? Pictures of Saturday's delivery team and their encounters under-the-bridges. It's dubbed, "We see you Saturday!"

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tsunami Hits Home

Tsunami Effect (see November 8, 2007) hits home. Anonymous said ... "We've felt these issues first hand in our family. My nephew had 3 tours of duty and came back a broken man. He has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress disorder and had been medicated but his violence has ruined a marriage and prevents him from being a real father. Right now he is living on someone's couch, his soon to be ex wife is equally poor and has had to move into temporary housing. There are so many victims of war!"

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rejoice in the Mourning

At the core of each person’s “homelessness” is an insatiable longing for the Infinite that is built inside each one of us from birth (see Built to Wander, Saturday, October 27, 2007). Fr. Ronald Rolheiser builds and expands this thesis in three works, Against an Infinite Horizon, The Restless Heart and Holy Longing. In a snapshot, because we are built to experience the infinite God, we will always remain restless, lonely and in poverty on our earthly pilgrimage until we come to know the eternal God.

Modern life provides each of us with more insatiable earthly longings than ever before. Americans in particular have more food options, more beverages, more shopping, more sex options than ever before. We digress from our single "Holy Longing" that will fulfill all other longings and bring us home. As a result of these excessive modern choices, more and more people experience broken homes, broken marriages, broken careers, broken commitments and everyone experiences “homelessness” in some shape or form.

In fact, at the core of everyone’s poverty also appears to be the ever escalating fear of commitment. People today have a major resistance to permanent commitment. We are always leaving ourselves open to other possibilities. Why? We inherently know that every choice is a renunciation of thousands of other options. We confuse our being built for the infinite God with always wanting to remain open to infinite earthly options; if I marry this person than I cannot marry a million others; if I commit to being a world-class athlete than I can not be a rock star or a millionaire stock broker; if I have this then I cannot have that.

The path to ending everyone’s “homelessness” according to Rolheiser is to take the inward journey to the infinite God while rejecting all temporal infinite possibilities. In order to do this, one must mourn; if married, then mourn that I cannot marry a million others; if celibate, then mourn that I will leave this life never enjoying sex; if living in Los Angeles then mourn that I will never live in New York, Paris or Jackson Hole, Wyoming. All choices in this life must lead to mourning all the others left behind. Rolheiser says we are to “mourn the fact that we will die unfulfilled, incomplete.” Ultimately, when we fail to mourn in this way, our lives yield to daunting depression, incompleteness and a restlessness that robs us of life itself.

In summary, Rolheiser states, “In this life there is no finished symphony. We are built for the Infinite. Our hearts, our minds, and souls are abysses, canyons without a bottom.” That is why for centuries we pray a great daily prayer at the conclusion of each rosary said; “To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” Some with more modern spirituality would discard the prayer as depressing. Is it really? More realistically it is a great summary of our loneliness and our “homelessness.” Perhaps, once we mourn with Mary her loss and now our loss, we too will rejoice with her in giving birth to the Infinite Lord within our lives. We can know firsthand the angel’s words, “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you!”
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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tsunami Effect

Kimberly Hefling and Kathy Matheson, Associated Press Writers report that veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a VA homeless report to be released today. Homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are now found in shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job. The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night in the U.S. were veterans.

There are now concerns for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. "We're going to be having a tsunami [effect] … because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa. The Iraq vets seeking help with homelessness are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness — mostly related to post-traumatic stress, said Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at the VA.

More on the Internet:

National Alliance to End Homelessness:

County of Lancaster:

Veterans Affairs: Department:

U.S. Vets:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Community of Poverty Stricken and not-so-poverty Stricken Psycho-spiritual Blogger Babblers, Scribes, Mystics and Prophets trying to find the way Home

The Blogger stats department tells us a great story of many visitors dropping in here for a daily dose of online community and faith sharing. Some have emailed and said they are having difficulty with posting a thought and using the COMMENT feature at the end of each story. For you more experienced bloggers, your forgiveness please! Here is a short step-by-step guide as to why and how to blog at HIA.

After reading the daily post, take a short moment and reflect on your reaction to it. How did it make you feel - happy, sad, angry, energized, empathetic, sympathetic, frustrated?

  • Next, be firmly aware of your feelings and reaction. They will help you with "blogger therapy." Now you are ready to benefit psychologically and spiritually by writing a sentence or two in order to express interior strengths or struggles and to promote inner growth. It's sort of a catharsis (no sure what that means but it sounded good).

  • Bless yourself and pray a Glory be... (important step 'cause its not about you) Click on COMMENTS (bottom right of each daily story) and begin to type your thoughts in the big white box in the upper right corner. If you don't trust your spelling, first jot ideas down in MS Word. Use spellcheck and then copy/paste what you wrote into the big white box.

  • Lastly, the fastest way to send your thoughts into cyber space is to click inside the dot next to "Anonymous" underneath where it says, "Choose an identity." Ignore the section below that asks for USERNAME/PASSWORD. That is not for you. If you go by "Anonymous" do put your initials at the end of your story. This way others can communicate with you and run with a thread or idea.

  • Okay, you're almost done. Just go to "Word Verification" and type in the wavy letters you see in the small white box below. This step is good for everyone because it protects the blog from spam. The letters are cAsE sensitive. (Over time you will discover which-is-which more easily) Don't worry if you do not key in the word properly the first time. If it is incorrect it will generate a new word and you get to start over and feel really stupid. It is a great way to gain humility!

With all that said - please relax (possibly go fix yourself a nice cup of tea - but come back). Then, enjoy blogging with our little community of poverty stricken and not-so-poverty stricken psycho-spiritual blogger babblers, scribes, mystics and prophets trying to find the way home. Who knows, possibly you will be the one to find your dream House or point someone else to theirs. Welcome to Homeless In America!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Readers' Thoughts - From Summary to Action and then Reaction

Summarizing Built to Wander, (see Saturday, October 27, 2007) Anonymous said... "Rolheiser's thesis appears to function as the backdrop of Biblical History. The archetypal man and woman of Genesis, Adam and Eve, are driven from their original home - made homeless wanderers. Abraham the father of faith is a wandering Aramean, looking for the Promised Land. The Israelites, freed from Egyptian bondage, are nonetheless homeless wanderers for forty years, again looking forward to their final destination. Jesus and his disciples have "no place to rest [their] head[s]." St. Paul, the Apostle, wanders around the Mediterranean, announcing the both present and coming Kingdom."

In the blog, From City Dump to Saint, (see Saturday, November 3, 2007) one reader finds a call to action. R.S. said ... "It's comforting and scary to even contemplate such spirituality. It's comforting from the standpoint that even I, in my poverty, can get closer to Jesus Christ. It's scary in that--does this mean I'm accountable? It sure does."

Lastly, Gufbal1981's reaction to Homeless Child, (see Monday, November 5, 2007). "This is a deep poem. It's an unfortunate truth that this person sees exactly how the majority of society views him/her. It's a shame that society won't even try to imagine what it's like to be in that persons shoes! What it's like to not have food every single feel what it's like to have your body go into starvation just be outside on a cold night with no shelter or blanket, and relying on body heat for warmth. It's unimaginable for most that have all the comforts of life. If this person could only see the few that have mercy and compassion for those less fortunate, maybe he/she would be able to rise from the ashes and know that there will be help."
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Monday, November 5, 2007

Homeless Child

I sit, cold and alone on the street …
Eyeing a piece of dog chewed meat.
Five days I haven't had a bit to eat ...
And my stomach aches, my body is weak.
The wind that rustles through the trees …
Pierces my skin, and all warmth flees.
I find shelter with my brother …
Lying in a doorway next to each other.
The world has said it cares …
But in reality no one dares.
The site of me makes them sick.
It’s an appearance I do not pick.
Please, give me aid …
Or from this life I soon will fade.

by an Anonymous Homeless Person, October 10, 2006

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Come Down from that Tree!

A wealthy man in Jericho had heard the news. A poor homeless Messiah by the name of Jesus was at that very moment getting ready to pass through Jericho. The rich guy's name is Zacchaeus. He's an effective tax collector in Jericho and a powerful man. Quickly he runs to the outskirts of town to see Jesus. He had heard that he was a Prophet mesmerizing crowds everywhere. But why seek after a dusty and dirty poor Jew like Jesus when he was rich, clean and living in luxury? Obviously his wealth was not satisfying him. He chose to brave Times-Square-like crowds that were gathering on the countryside.

Okay, he may be wealthy but genetics were not on his side. He's short. He reminds us of that one relative that some have – the one lovingly nicknamed aunt or uncle "shortie." Clearly, he has learned how to compensate for being short by buying big houses, owning big chariots and powerful horses. Today, he compensates once again. Ahead of Jesus, Zacchaeus climbs up a tree that overhangs onto the highway. Finally they make eye contact. He sees Jesus - Wow! He has the beatific vision that we all hope for and it happens to this sinner. Jesus shouts, "Zacchaeus, come down." In essence Jesus says, "I see you. I love you. I want to come into your house. I want to dwell in the house of your very soul."

What happens next is both dramatic and powerful for a wealthy short guy that when he woke up was expecting a normal day like any other day. But this day became radically different. Because he has had the beatific vision of seeing God, he discovers there is only one response to make: Zacchaeus says, "Behold, half of my possessions, [mucho dinero] Lord, I will give to the poor and if I have extorted from anyone I shall repay it four times over."

So in a nutshell, Zacchaeus demonstrates what really happens when each of us truly encounters Jesus. Not just intellectually reading or hearing about Jesus, but when we really see him. Our immediate response should be to give to the poor and to the homeless. Some Christians believe serving the poor is a charism or apostolate reserved for Franciscans or for workers at a rescue mission on Skid Row. In reality, Zacchaeus tells us that it is the mission of each Christian to give to the poor. Like Zacchaeus, we are to turn our wills to God by "climbing the tree" to see Jesus. For most, "climbing the tree" is getting out of bed and driving our cars to Sunday service. The tree itself is our Sunday gathering. It is where we look out and see Jesus in each other, in the liturgy of the Word and in the breaking of the bread. How many will respond like Zacchaeus?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

From City Dump to Saint

What’s up with Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, France making it to the front page of an American blog magazine about homelessness? Aren’t the saints super stars who never had bad days? Au contraire! Saints inspire us because of their unique poverty-driven relationship with God. In our admiration of them we usually focus on their holiness and their extraordinary charity towards other people. But digging deeper you'll discover that most saints share experiences that are common to our lives such as extreme loss, pain, suffering, ignorance and homelessness. St. Bernadette was one of these saints.

About 150 years ago St. Bernadette lived in a small French village by the name of Lourdes. Her family had just lost a milling business and their home. They had nowhere to go, so this family of eight occupied a small jail that had been abandoned due to pitiable sanitary conditions. Bernadette's family was very poor as the father tried to get a job as a day laborer. The family was on the brink of starvation to the point that one of her brothers was caught eating candle wax in church. One day in February of 1858 Bernadette went to the city dump looking for free firewood to heat the home. She saw a woman she called a “creature” who beckoned to her. Bernadette prayed the rosary with this woman, who asked her to come back and see her again. Bernadette was illiterate and only knew three prayers - the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Glory Be …

Bernadette continued visiting this woman but she did not understand that she was Our Blessed Mother. She was completely ignorant, she did not speak French, she only knew the prayers of the rosary and was deemed too illiterate to learn her catechism and receive communion. Yet Mary picked her in her ignorance and in her poverty!

Crowds began to gather around Bernadette during the 18 visitations of the Blessed Mother. Many tried to give her or her family money and in spite of her poverty she grew angry and refused. Once during her visit with Our Lady, Mary asked Bernadette to eat grass and clean her face. The locals thought she was crazy as they saw her digging through the mud and wiping it on her face; a village woman slapped her face. But Bernadette persevered and clear water appeared and she was able to clean her face.

From this site came a miraculous spring that has cured many people. Today over 6 million people come to Lourdes for healing. The real miracle is witnessing the conversion of people's hearts and souls.

And all this happened because a simple, little 14 year old girl heard the call of Mary and responded to it. As for Bernadette, the Sisters of Charity in Nevers took her in and taught her to read and write. Her writings remain to this day a source of inspiration for all of us. When you read about St. Bernadette, contrast her physical poverty against her spiritual richness. She found her home in Jesus' heart.
Written by L.S.