Thursday, October 18, 2012
What is needed?
As part of my own Year of Faith efforts, to boost my faith as much anyone else's, I have decided to go down to our soup run a bit more often this year.
We had about forty there there the other night, practically all men. We try not to be like Evangelical Christians and although the food is made with a great deal of prayer and devotion, we don't attach any "devotional element" to giving out food. We work on to simple premise: Christ tells us to feed the hungry, we feed. It is simple obedience to Jesus' words. Many of those who come do not know who we are or why my parishioners do it.
When I am there many of the men k/now me from the Church door, or having come to my house, so it is quite easy to talk a bit about God to individuals, but more especially because living on the streets brings them into direct contact with Divine Providence. They want to talk for many prayer is pretty constant, even if it is: God keep me from being knifed tonight or don't let me be lonely or don't let starve or freeze to death. Their own hunger witnesses to all kinds of other hungers: for God ultimately, but also for affection, kindness, for a warm dry place to spend the night and for drink and drugs and for sex too.
From time to time someone wants to be baptised. There is no way most could come along to an RCIA course or even for regular instruction, even the retention of much catechesis is rather difficult. For many it would be possible to communicate the doctrine of the Trinity pretty easily in terms of relationship because that is what they are really hungering for; ultimately to know God as loving Father. Forgiveness too they understand, being "sorry" is very much part of their lives, as is forgiving those who abuse, and dehumanise them. "Sin" is a bit difficult, extremes of poverty, like extremes of wealth give its own gloss to understanding Jesus' teaching and brings with it its own invincible ignorance.
The big problem is practice, and having regularity in lives that are often disordered by low level crime, psychiatric illness and social problems which are rooted, often, in dysfunctional childhoods. As far as desire for union with God in is concerned it is there but my difficulty is their ability to fit into the Church and its sacramental structures.
What does the Church do for the man who kneels and prays in the gutter, who wants what the sacraments can give but are always going to be out of step with the Church?
It is that old Catholic thing of what is the minimum of Christian practice, knowledge and behaviour necessary to receive be part of the Church's sacramental life. In many RCIA groups it is often just a matter of turning-up for the course, and being able to fill-in the forms, rather than anyone making a judgement about the particular candidate having a deep desire for Christ..
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