Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Trouble with the Poor

The trouble with the poor is that they are messy.

There is a secluded area between the church and our hall, a passage, occasionally we find someone has got a few cardboard boxes together and has slept there and if it has been raining leaves a sodden blanket, cardboard there to be cleaned up, often it also smells of urine and there is often excrement there and sometimes a used needle or two.
There is a man who comes into the church, especially during the trad Mass and during the silence of the Canon will pray aloud, "Jesus, I want you to bless Fr Ray and ...., and God, can you persuade the good people here to give to the poor, I am poor", unchecked he will take his cap off and have a collection. It makes a mess of our prayers, it stops some coming to Mass here.

If they are not doing that they are ringing the door bell at every hour of the day and night, and they tell lies. They tell you their Gran is dying in Southampton and they need the train fare, you give it to them and if you don't find them drunk in the street they are back the next day and the other Gran is dying in Hastings this time.

After delivering the poor, the treasure of the Roman Church, to Valerian's palace Laurence was grilled to death. What I don't believe is, the legend tells us, Laurence said to his executioners when he had been on the griddle sometime, "turn me over, I am done on this side". I don't believe it but there is an important message in these words, even in our pain and suffering we can grow complacent, 'the poor' challenge our complacency. They interrupt our comfort, our prayer, our routine bringing the mess of their lives into our lives.

There is an interesting discussion on sin on Cranmer's blog, sin indeed is a metaphysical reality, the Protestant argument was against the pre-reformation Catholic Pelagian practice of salvation through works, the Catholic conter-reformation argument was against Protestant belief that once you were saved you were saved. Catholic's believe the great danger in Protestantism is complacency, having received 'the blessed assurance' of Salvation one can relax. The Catholic doctrine is that complacency about salvation is dangerous, hence the counter-reformation and biblical teaching of 'faith fruitful in good works', no 'assurance' can guarantee salvation, it is God's free gift, unknown to us until judgement day.
The sin of the Pharisees, of the rich man in the story of Dives and Lazarus is complacence. The rich man didn't even notice the mess that Lazarus created at his front door, he didn't respond to it, he needed someone to bring him out of his complacency.

My big difficulty with confession at the moment is that I have grown complacent in my lifestyle, I don't want it changed, the message of the Gospels seem to be let the poor into it to mess it up a little.


Unknown said...

Father, to compare the ‘poor people’ that turn up at your front door with the genuine poor that St Laurence the deacon brought before the Emperor is utterly tragic, and quite frankly it made feel a little oozy. Please, bare with me

I suspect that your direct dealings with the DHSS, and associated bodies, are somewhat limited. If this was not the case you would know what each person in this country is entitled to, as a statutory right, in regards to money for their upkeep and their rights regarding accommodation?

I believe I referred to this point in an early post, in case it was overlooked I’ll repeat myself here: Every one is entitled to accommodation, even if it is only emergency housing e.g., Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Not ideal, but hardly equivalent to the poor of St Laurence? Financially the government says that a person should receive an income to meet their basic needs if they are unable to care for themselves financially, no less than £70 per week, but there are several other benefits also available. This means that they have £10 per day for food – I, for one, could not afford to spend anywhere near that amount on food for one day. So why are these people turning up at your door?
I think you’ll find that the people that turn up at your door are already receiving several state benefits, and know the system ‘quite well’. If they are living on the street they have made a choice to do so. They will have already been offered accommodation by various statutory and voluntary organisations, I’m sure they will confirm this if you ask them. The problem is that B&B’s, like Hostels, have certain rules. They will not accept people that wilfully abuse drugs and alcohol, for whatever underlying reasons, and are consequently not accepted as residents. Individuals with drug problems tend to steal, including breaking into the rooms of others to steal cash and goods to sell for their next hit. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why chronic alcoholics are refused. In short, the people that turn up at your door are not ‘poor’ in any meaningful sense.

These poor individuals may have desperate problems and be in need of our help and prayers; but they are ‘not materiayl poor’. And they are most certainly not comparable to the poor ‘unaided’ (not like today) widows and orphans of St Laurence’s time.

Whatever these poor souls need it is most certainly not unaudited cash ‘donations’! They do not need well meaning but desperately misguided individuals facilitating their self destructive behaviour -One that also wreaks havoc and acute distress on their own families and the wider society, undermining the common good.

I could go on, but I would like to hear what others think. This is an important issue. It goes to the very heart of the Faith.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I do not make distinctions, Our Lord says simply, 'Give to anyone who asks', 'give without counting the cost'. He does that with me and with you, but possibly you have a different copy of the scripture to me and the rest of God's Church.

Do you think St Laurence had a worthiness test? He didn't, neither does God, neither do I, obviously you do.

That is your problem.
Can you not understand the Christian imperative, are you so bound up in your own political narrative that you are blind and deaf to what the saints have taught down the centuries?
As someone said earlier to you, it is pure whig capiutalism, certainly not Christianity.

Just another mad Catholic said...

May I ask you Father how handing out willy nilly to layabouts aids in the salvation of someone's soul? Surely the person in Africa begging for 100 people to loan them a Dollar as part of a micro-loan in order to help them open up a repair shop deserves our help more than the layabout?.

Jacobi said...

I may be sticking my neck out, but here goes.

If we do not, in our own particular way, feed the hungry and cloth the naked etc., then we are in deep trouble, and will have some hard explaining to do on Judgement Day (Matthew 25 42 : 43)

On the other hand, the poor (not to mention the relative poor) will always be with us. While we have an obligation to assist others in need, a huge subject in itself, the elimination of poverty did not appear to be a high priority with Christ. Perhaps because He knew, as we now do now, that whenever poverty is abolished, it is usually, but not always please note, replaced with self-centred hedonism and unhappiness.

Perhaps Christ was more concerned, not with the standard of living as measured by some UN index, but with the eternal destination of the souls of all Mankind, not just those of the hungry, the naked and the poor, but also of the struggling working classes, the overburdened and over taxed middle classes and even the rich who, after all, through investment of their wealth, can be the means of eliminating poverty. I suspect He is now particularly also concerned with the eternal destination of the newly hedonised ex-poor!

Regarding the nuisances caused by your local “poor” Father, as my mother used to say, you can always offer it up and carry on regardless!

nickbris said...

I'd rather starve than ask the likes of Fred for help.

George said...


Are the poor any less deserving of our material aid than we are deserving of God's forgiveness and grace?

Of course as a Catholic you have to admit that we are not deserving at all of God's forgiveness and grace, yet we are freely given it by a supremely generous and merciful Father.

How then can we turn to the poor - many of whom are wicked men to be sure - and say they are not "deserving" of our aid?

Grace and mercy are priceless gifts -- indeed costing the passion and crucifixion of Our Blessed Lord. What the poor need from us costs much left indeed.

Also, it's very foolish to make judgments on the uniqueness of our times. Who can say that the poor today are more unique than the poor of St. Lawrence's time? I didn't know any, did you?

I do know that your comments mirror the comments of the Whig Capitalists toward the starving Irish men, women, and children. They felt the poor of their time were special too, uniquely undeserving of aid as the English storehouses overflowed with food Irish mothers buried their emaciated dead babied.

Saying the poor are unique in this age is like the habit of middle-aged men to talk about the unique depravity of today's youth. Doesn't every generation do that?

Fr Ray Blake said...

"... the elimination of poverty did not appear to be a high priority with Christ."

Quite right!
It isn't about 'the poor' it is about the disciples of Christ being generous. It isn't economics or politics, it is about teaching people to love, even the least lovable.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Just do it, then tell me what effect it has on your spiritual life.
It should teach you to be less 'mad' and angry a little more loving.

The Bones said...

A small photo montage to illustrate Fr Ray's point.

Hermit Crab said...

What is wrong with the "Fred-bashers" is what is wrong with pacifists.

The Good Samaritan uses force against the wicked. He doen't pass by on the other side.

parepidemos said...

nickbris : 6:16 I fear that Fred may allow you to starve; for your own good, naturally.

Reginald @8:10 Struggling to understand your point. Care to explain? Many thanks

A Catholic Comes Home said...

When you give aid to the poor,no matter how feckless,or underserving you may judge them to be,you are ministering to the hidden Christ within them.All that you "Own"does not truly belong to you,but to the merciful God that made you.So,if a person asks for your aid,be it a vagrant on the pavement ,or your next door neighbour,you give for the sake of the loving Christ.

Patricius said...

Many years ago I was told the story of a man visiting his Parish Priest. They were interrupted by a beggar knocking at the door who treated the priest to his hard luck story and a request for money. The priest went and found some cash and sent the beggar on his way. As he closed the door his parishioner said "I think you were 'taken in' there, Father." "Indeed," replied the priest, "but better to be taken in down here than not taken in up there!"

Jacobi said...

Looking back over the comments, I have certain sympathy with Fred.

As he says, the poor individual (as opposed to families) in the UK, given the quoted figures, is adequately, if not luxuriously, catered for.
Given that a small loaf of bread costs say 70p (I have checked with” She Who Knows”) and thinking back to my scout and hill walking days, I could manage quite easily food-wise on, at present, £10 per day. I could even afford porridge and sausages. In fact that might be an even healthier diet – but I had better not go on too much about that!

So, the problem, in the UK , is not that of starvation or even of poverty, but of drug dependency and other related psychological conditions, which will not be cured and may well be reinforced by hand-outs. This is the problem to be dealt with if we have the good, spiritual as well as physical, of such people at heart. They should be referred to appropriate medical/support agencies. Yes I know these services may not be available, but that is another matter.

Clearly we have a requirement to be generous in a considered way, but not, surely, to give anything that is asked.

I personally would be very reluctant, for instance, to give my remaining 1/3 of a bottle of supermarket Spanish brandy to a drunk alcoholic who knocked at the door and demanded it.

Jean Calvin said...

Dear Fr Ray
Thank you! What you say is challenging and uncomfortable. Complacency is in spiritual terms a danger. What you said reminds of a blessing a Benedictine priest once gave, "May the peace of God unsettle you"

Jean Calvin said...

Dear Fr Ray
Thank you! What you say is challenging and uncomfortable. Complacency is in spiritual terms a danger. What you said reminds of a blessing a Benedictine priest once gave, "May the peace of God unsettle you"

George said...

What is wrong with the "Fred Supporters" is what is wrong with all of us: Pride and Phariseeism.

Can Our Lord be any clearer? But we are so blinded by our pride and Phariseeism that we convince ourselves otherwise.

The wicked servant whose master forgives him an incredible debt but then turns around and cruelly punishes a fellow servant for owing a farthing. We are the wicked servant. We have been forgiven an incredible debt, yet sit in wrathful judgment over the poor slobs beneath us.

We as Catholics can actually now castigate the poor. Call them layabouts. Slobs. Reprobates.

Yes, we have been warped by Liberalism. Yes we have.

Yet we have the gall to march up to the confessional and routinely expect forgiveness for the repeated sins brought about by our spiritual apathy. We are worse than the worst layabouts. We aren't on the public dole, we are on the divine dole.

We routinely show ingratitude for the generosity of our Divine Master, but castigate the poor for not showing more gratitude toward DHSS?

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there are those reading this who aren't filled with pride? Maybe there are those reading this who aren't spiritual layabouts, semi-perpetually living in a state of ingratitude toward God. Maybe I'm wrong. If so, please speak up.

Childermass said...

Yes, give "not counting the cost"----to ourselves. On the other hand, we should count the cost to those receiving our gift. Give food, give housing, give necessary things, but if you give cash, make sure it isn't going to get spent on drugs or alcohol. You don't want to become an unwitting contributor to a person's self-destruction. It's not about pride, but of prudence.

Pétrus said...

Father when a poor person causes harm to others what are we supposed to do?

Don't we have a responsibility to protect those in need of protection?

What if those in need of protection are also poor?

Annie said...

"The trouble with the poor is that they are messy."

Excuse me if I don't buy into that attitude. I used to believe it but then I lived in Japan. For three years I helped distribute fish cakes to homeless people who slept at night in the underground at the Shinjuku train station. Each of these people received a rubber-banned plastic container with two of the cakes inside it. Over the course of 2 hours, 4-6 am, I would distribute them to roughly two hundred people. The homeless would be sleeping on the ground along the many corridors that run throughout the station. They usually slept on newspapers, covered with more newspapers or even underneath small cardboard roofs they had made for themselves. When the meals had all been distributed and I retraced my steps I would see nothing - no homeless, no newspapers, no carboards, no plastic containers or rubber bands, no cigarette buts or scraps of paper: NOTHING. It was as if they had never been there. You see, poor as they were, the homeless Japanese keep to the social contract with their community to maintain their surroundings. Being poor doesn't cut it as an excuse for being a pig. I remember seeing them at the sinks washing their faces and matting down their hair and wiping off their clothes. And then they were gone before the first trains started rolling in. When the early morning commuters started through the turnstiles the corridors were as pristine as if professional cleaners had swept through the stations at night. It taught me to my shock that *mess* is not an inherent condition of the poor: it is a free choice made by individuals who don't give a damn for the rest of the community. The rummiest of rummies can wash their hands and face. The poorest of persons can lean down and pick up the newspapers and trash they have surrounded themselves with the night before. It doesn't take money to sweep the ground but it does take a realization that being poor doesn't exclude you from loving your neighbor. We need to demand more of the poor because it's the necessary first step in restoring to them their self-respect.

Deacon Augustine said...

The rich will always get richer and the poor will always get poorer because the rich will carry on doing what it takes to get rich and the poor will carry on doing what makes them poor.

In the neo-con view of the world, the poor usually deserve their lot in life because they have freely made choices which have reduced them to penury.

But Catholics are not called to see the world through neo-con eyes, or the eyes of any other political system for that matter. We are called to see the world through the eyes of Christ. And for Christ even the most worthless wastrel alcoholic or junky is still somebody He died for because of His infinite love for them.

If we truly love Him then we will also have compassion on life's failures, and never count the cost of their worthiness for our aid. If He had only died for the worthy, then we would all be lost.

It is true that sometimes gifts of money can do more harm than good. But that does not excuse us from helping in ways that can do good - not least feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty.

Kahu Christian said...

A recent blog post I wrote that goes with what Fr Ray wrote.

gemoftheocean said...

Nickbris, I'm with you on this one.

Jacobi, if I budget very carefully, I can budget £10 pounds for a week of food. In my case, I have somewhere to refrigerate said food and somewhere to cook it. The problem for homeless people is WHERE to cook it, where to refrigerate it. [Hint: they have no facilities for either.]
Which means they have to "eat out." As in McDonaldland. Which isn't cheap.

I have noticed in the UK there seems to be scant idea of actually having DRY clothing come out of a washer/drier. I call them "washer/dampers." To TRULY get clothing dry you need either sunshine, which is often in scant supply OR LOTS and LOTS of change to get things really dry, which for the poor can be a problem. [It's a pain in the rear enough for people with one of these "washer/dampers" in the home. In American, in laundrettes, you can actually get DRY CLOTHING within an hour for not much money. You can easily do 4 loads of wash, get them clean, AND DRY, and folded within an hour and 15 minutes -and this includes heavy jeans - for about the equivalent of 8 pounds. Fat chance of that in England - I tried it in England when the washer/damper is was on the fritz. A hell of a lot more than 8 pounds and the damn clothes weren't close to dry -- had to abandon that project. England is rip off country where this is concerned.[

Now someone who wears damp clothing with little change of changing it is bound to smell. Oddly enough, other people tend not to hire damp, smelly people. Tends not to make the best impression on job interviews.

Damp smelly people tend to get tossed out of places like libraries if they don't look respectable. Which doesn't help them look for jobs online to see what's going - and if they don't have a domicile, good luck getting a library card, which would allow them some free computer time to do said productive things. Which leads to a cycle of them being outdoors more, damp and smelly, and unemployed.

The sane homeless people not on drugs etc. are usually frightened to death of the druggies - and if they have resources to do so, avoid "homeless" shelters like the plague. Some homeless people may even be part-time employed, earning enough for food, a pay as you go phone, transport, or if lucky have a vehicle and couch surf a few days here and there among friends, and manage to keep clean and sanitary. If they are wise they will keep their mouth shut about how poor they are, and give the address of a friend to said employer. And being "entitled" to this/that/the other supposed guaranteed social benefit, sure as hell does not mean they will actually GET it.

nickbris said...

Anybody who has travelled regularly on the London tube will have noticed who actually gives to the beggars; it is not the more affluent looking but the poorest in the carriage.The teachings of Jesus are more followed by non-Christians.

In Islam Jesus is revered as a Holy Prophet and He taught us to feed the poor,some Christians seem to be always looking for excuses not to do their duty.

Begging is a lot harder work than writing out Parking Tickets and it's the Cheapskate Employers we should be ostracizing not the poor sods who have nothing

Hermit Crab said...

parepidemos @10/8/13 9:00 pm

My point is that someone with social responsibility must keep order and punish bad behaviour. Here is a good example from 4 Kings 2:23-24:

And he went up from thence to Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, little boys came out of the city and mocked him, saying: Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And looking back, he saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord: and there came forth two bears out of the forest, and tore of them two and forty boys.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I think there is a lot of truth in what Fred has said - yet he gets to be accused as a Pharisee when all that he has said is that cash hand outs are not necessarily the answer.

The problem is not simple. May I give a concrete example. Homeless people are entitled to housing benefit. They can use this to pay a modest contribution to the cost of being housed in a hostel. The hostel arranges that housing benefit is paid direct to the hostel. Then somebody says that the clients must be empowered and the benefit paid to them directly so it does. Then the clients just go out and spend the lot on drink and drugs that same evening and the hostel gets nothing - possibly resulting in the hostel having to close through lack of funds.

I believe that the problems of those who are down and out with drug and alcohol problems are best served by hostels which take them in and point the clients into getting help and re-establishing them into ordinary life. Very difficult to achieve but it can work. Drugs and alcohol are not always the prime cause of their homelessness. More often it is mental health problems and relationship problems - children leaving home because they cannot get on with mother's latest boyfriend etc. At least that is what people entering hostels say is the cause of their homelessness on being admitted. They turn to drugs and drink to kill the pain, to keep warm etc. Thus giving people cash can just keep them on the streets rather than getting into a hostel and on the road to recovery.

I do think we need to look at these problems intelligently rather than just blithely throwing the odd pound at the problem.

Bernanos warned of the problems we have to-day with the welfare state. The belief that because we pay our taxes and the state provides that that is enough; that giving to a charity that helps the poor is enough. We need to get out there and get stuck in and try and understand the problems. Pope Francis says we need to look into the eyes of the poor - not easy but we might learn something - particularly in Buenos Aires where entering a slum can be taking your life into your hands!

Also I find discussing the relevant merits of Capitalism, Liberalism and Socialism not very helpful. I tend towards distributism myself but there are some basic teachings of the Church to which we need to pay attention e.g. Usury (e.g. payday loans), gambling (e.g. spread betting on the Stock Exchange) and lying (e.g. off balance sheet matters and fake assets). I feel if we concentrated on those sins we might get somewhere!

Unknown said...

Father, you patently failed to engage with any of the points I made, you preferred to proof text in an effort to support your cutting and blatantly unjust comment. Out of respect for your office I will not respond directly. Instead, I’ll try a different tack. I think this is an important issue, one that has ramifications that go beyond you and the boundary of your parish, and is worth working through.

First, poor people do not necessarily have a moral compass that assumes defecating on church property is acceptable behaviour. Yet you specifically correlated such vile behaviour with poverty ‘The trouble with the poor is that they are messy…There is a secluded area between the church and our hall…and there is often excrement there.’ I was outraged when I first read this but I gave you the benefit of the doubt and attempted to subtly enlighten you, thus far to no avail. I was born and raised on council house estate, notorious for its poverty, and I still live in a small council flat. I know what poverty is: Last Monday a young lady I know, a single mother, asked me for 40p because one of her daughters was short for her bus fare, due to the Brew failing to pay her benefit into her bank account on time. That is poverty. It does not get any worse in this country. Yet we do not, as I say, necessarily defecate in public places, especially not in the grounds of Catholic churches. Poverty is not linked to such vile behaviour. It is however associated with people that abuse drugs and alcohol – Just like the individuals that plague your parish and who you seem intent on classifying as poor and needy, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
They have the power to make choices in their live, and they are choosing to be drunkards and junkies. Consequently, they are neither poor nor needy. And not only are you wasting the money put aside for the genuine poor on them, you are facilitating their self-destructive behaviour, one that causes chaos to the wider community. Every meal that you provide is a little less they need spend on food, leaving them more money to squander on booze and drugs. I’m sorry to say this, but it needs to be said: Facilitating such behaviour is not aiding the poor and it is most certainly not ‘’good works’. Furthermore, you misguidance is impinging on the sacred liturgy. The drunk that disrupts Mass picks on your church and acts as he does because he has associated you with giving without question, to him and people like him, a ‘soft touch’ is how he and the drunks et al will describe you…

Unknown said...

…Another comment in your post which I found particularly disturbing is the example you gave of a drunk that plagues the sacred liturgies at your church. I suggest that next time he appears (he will, he will not stop his atrocious behaviour until someone stops him) you come down from the sanctuary and lead him to the door by the arm, ‘You will never do that again. Go away and never cross this door again while you are drunk. If you want to talk come back when you are sober, either way this congregation is no longer going to finance your self-destructive and socially disruptive lifestyle’. Do you honestly believe that he does not know what he is doing? He knows exactly what he is doing. He is not a poor person, he is a blackmailer. He is deliberately trying to make you and your congregation feel guilty, playing on your inability to make a distinction between the genuine poor and cunning drunks like him. Your congregation has a right to worship and pray in peace, undisturbed by selfish, manipulative drunks. And as a sacred minister you have a duty to see to it that they can do so, unhindered by the likes of this character and his chums. The fact that he has already been allowed to turn people away from Mass is utterly scandalous. I sincerely hope you at least see the reason in this point and respect his human dignity by acknowledging that he is endowed with sufficient knowledge to know that what he is doing is disgraceful.

As keeper and ultimate distributor of the social fund it is up to you to see that the monies donated for the poor actually reach the poor. To make sure that they do not fall into the hands, directly or indirectly, of those that live unstable life styles because of their on-going life choices i.e., drunkards and drug users. There will be individuals in your parish that cannot sleep at night because of financial problems, problems not of their own making, unlike drunks and drug users that are plaguing your parish because they sense an easy touch. Think of a mother unable to sleep because she wants little Susan to go on that school trip to France with her friends, but mum does not know where she will find the money? Now consider this scenario for a moment in light of the drunken blackmailer that staggers down the isle of your church in the middle of Holy Mass with cap in hand, slurring, ‘Jesus said [hic] give to the poor [hic]. Cough up!’ Yet you are telling us that such characters are ‘poor’ and you ‘’don’t make distinctions’’?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fred I haven't responded to the points you made because I know nothing of politics, beyond my pay grade. I do know about the scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, I know a little theology too. I can only respond on that level. Frankly, I haven't time either.
Also, you too refuse to respond any of your critics, including me.

The man who occasionally interrupts Mass, is not drunk by the way, I hope I didn't suggest that, that would be libelling him, his interruption of the sacred have other causes, me wrestling him to the ground is not the answer and it is certainly not in the rubrics of either form of the Mass, nor presumed anywhere, it is quite unseemly for a priest to do that too. Again it is not my pay grade.

Oona said...

Fr Blake. I have learned a great deal from your teaching on this and I have been challenged by it. I thank you for your courage in sharing it with us. Many others have raised good points too, however, it was your raw openness in response to the poor, that led me,today to invite any in our parish who would like to join us for lunch, to do so. We have had the most blessed and awesome day. I have been truly blessed. Thankyou for your prophetic ministry and keep going. Pope Francis is proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Our Lord says simply, 'Give to anyone who asks', 'give without counting the cost'.

Where is this, the giving to anyone who asks, in the Gospel? I can't place it. But our previous pastor in Chicago preached it, too, and I practiced it, as giving alms is as great a sacrifice as fasting and prayer (he said). Our next pastor, however, said that St. Thomas said that one must NOT give alms if there is liklihood that the funds will be used wrongfully. I don't know which pastor is right, but my family is happier now that I have restricted my almsgiving with some criteria. We have professional beggars here, they were interviewed by a local radio station along with street musicians, to try to find out how much they earned. It was pretty revealing!

May I please add that our economy, which reflects in its particular area the general injustice of a secular state that denies God the worship due Him in justice, churns out poor faster than we can build up soup kitchens, and the most charitable thing we could do is quit horsing around trying to tweak secularism to work, and begin to call here, and everywhere, for the Restoration of the Catholic state. Distributism does not work in secularism, nothing works in secularism. Religious liberty is heresy, and is the unkindest cut to the poor.

Paul Danon said...

How's about setting up state-run food-depots or giving claimants vouchers that can only be spent on proper food? The former would prevent claimants selling the food for drugs and booze.

parepidemos said...

Reginald @12:22 Thank you for the explanation, though your "good example" is rather extreme: Elisha is mocked for being bald and so punishes 42 of the children by having them savaged by bears. I think that even a cursory reading of the Gospel accounts will show that Christ has a very different approach - even as He hung in agony on the cross. As we both know, it is Christ, rather than Elisha, we are called to emulate.

From your words, it seems you would regard the children as being justly punished. Still, I know that when I meet Christ it is not justice I will seek, but mercy. How about you?

Hermit Crab said...

Father, I think Dr Johnson would have approved your position on all this.

Quote: "What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to beggars? they only lay it out in gin or tobacco. "And why should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence (says Johnson)? it is surely very savage to refuse them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, and are not ashamed to shew even visible displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths."

gemoftheocean said...

Fred, seriously, do you really think people enjoy defecating and making a mess. Are there 24 hours places open around the church? I very much doubt it. If this man had shelter, he'd have been in it. People who have to sleep rough are often physically ill and fatigued beyond belief, often out in all kinds of weather because they get chucked out of everywhere. Homeless for generations have sought the shelter of a church porch or the like, thinking it relatively safe ground. If you were cold, wet, lying on the ground with little cover and all of a sudden got the runs from cheap greasy food you are likely to eat, and there is no restroom nearby and it's 3 a.m. unless you have a plastic bag to crap into, and have something to wipe yourself with, that person is going to likely let nature take its course. They're not "happy" to be doing it.

Try this for fun. Let's say you have 70 pounds to your name. You do not have use of a car, but you have a satchel, bag with ALL your worldly possessions in that you have to guard from theft. A few changes of underwear, maybe another pair of jeans and extra sweater, and poncho, and if you're lucky a space blanket It's cold, damp, wet, and so are your clothing and you. You have not been able to bathe in a regular tub.

How are you going to make that 70 pounds last for the whole week, get yourself at least 2 meals a day, get warm dry clothing, afford at least a pay as you go flip phone so a potential employer can call you. And of course keep it charged. Good luck finding "free" places to plug into in England. You also get to pay for public xport so you can see if you can find a job -- mind you'll have to find a place to bathe. The sea perhaps? Hope you have a bathing suit that dries fast in your possession. Oh,'ll need keep track of a damp towel. And also you'll need to find a way to shave regularly using public restrooms. The other patrons will be thrilled. Don't forget the expense of having to store your possessions in a secure place during the day when you are out trying to look for a job, because if you bring "all your stuff" to an interview people may suspect you're homeless and they won't want to hire you. Oh, and that bag you're carrying needs to have a nice unsmelly change of clothing for interviews. With any luck a charity shop might let you try stuff on. What all night cafes are there you can stay in without getting thrown out of -- or other public places. Train station? Library? Where do you go to stay warm and dry and SAFE all day? And I mean 24/7. Remember, where you sleep might be some secluded spot you can't hang out in all day. You may have to go there very late and get up very early so people don't suspect you are there. Oh, and make sure your meals have enough protein and vitamins. Mind, unless you can have a cookout in pubic parks (no where to refrigerate the rest of the 2 pound pork hot dogs, btw that you don't finish) you'll be eating in McD's a lot. Cheapest entre is the £1.49 chicken snack wrap. If you start this little two week project on a Monday -- let us know by Thursday if you are suicidal or not. [Do you read newspapers? I guess you missed the fact that there are long waiting lists in the UK for public housing on the council, even if you are "entitled."

gemoftheocean said...

Deacon, you are NOT allowed to use the word "neo-con." People who use the word "neo-con" seldom know what they are prattling about.

Elaine said...

What a lot of over-thinking, humming and hahing, iffing and butting, should we shouldn't we - just give!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Oona, Well done!

White Lilly, does your bible contain Lk 6.30?

nickbris said...

Oona sounds like a Saint,would that lunch be over the Windmill? Plenty of comedians in there,non-stop laughing all day.

Martina Katholik said...

A Doctor of the Church tells us how the Poor should behave to gain supernatural merits:

First Point. On the great advantages we derive from tribulations.
5. How great is the merit gained by bearing with the inconvenience of poverty. ”My God and my all," says St. Francis of Assisium: in expressing this sentiment, he enjoyed more of true riches than all the princes of the Earth. How truly has St. Teresa said, that ”the less we have here, the more we shall enjoy hereafter." Oh! how happy is the man who can say from his heart: My Jesus, thou alone art sufficient for me!
If, says St. Chrysostom, you esteem yourself unhappy because you are poor, you are indeed miserable and deserving of tears; not because
you are poor, but because, being poor, you do not embrace your poverty, and esteem yourself
happy."“Sane dignus es lachrymis ob hoc, quod miserum te extimas, non ideo quod pauper es." (Serm, ii., Epis. ad Phil.) (…)

Second Point. On the manner in which we should bear tribulations.
15. He who suffers tribulations in this world should, in the first place, abandon sin, and endeavour to recover the grace of God; for as long as he remains in sin, the merit of all his Page 16 of 233 sufferings is lost. ”If," says St. Paul, ”I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Cor. xiii. 3.) If you suffered all the torments of the martyrs; or bore to be burned alive, and were not in the state of grace, it would profit you nothing.
16. But, to those who can suffer with God, and with resignation for God’s sake, all the tribulations shall be a source of comfort and gladness. ”Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." (John xvi. 20.) Hence, after having been insulted and beaten by the Jews, the apostles departed from the council full of joy, because they had been maltreated for the love of Jesus
Christ. ”And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus." (Acts v. 41.) Hence, when God visits us with any tribulations, we must say with Jesus Christ: ”The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it ?" (John xviii. 11.)
It is necessary to know that every tribulation, though it may come from men, is sent to us by God.


parepidemos said...

Elaine @ 7:17pm. Your words challenge me as does Oona's (4:42pm) wonderful response to Fr. Blake's post. Please pray that my rather privileged and comfortable life will be disturbed in a way that may directly benefit the poor.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, imho Father Ray

Just by being poor some people are an affront to political party dogma, as is evident from some commentators on your post, whose political views and actions are formed more by political dogma that by Christian Faith or humanity

I seem to vaguely remember that many years ago a government transferred to local authorities the responsibility to provide a accommodation for the homeless families nightly BUT the OBLIGATION to do so for SINGLE PERSONS ABOVE 18 years was excluded. We were then left with the vicious circle of people who could not get permanent accommodation because they had no benefit, and could not receive any benefit cause they had no permanent accommodation

I do not begrudge civil servants receiving increase in salaeies…..but BONUSES?

Last week we read that Ian Duncan Smith’s staff shared £44 million in bonuses while people with a spare bedroom had benefits cut if they did not take-in a stranger. Shades of “an Englishman’s home being his castle” comes to mind, but probably no longer obtains

Hermit Crab said...

parepidemos@11/8/13 5:37 pm

When Elias cursed the boys in the name of the Lord, it is OLJC Who was, as ever, the Lord. Therefore your statement, that OLJC on the Cross would have refused Elias, must be false.

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. When we meet OLJC, we hope through our Faith to be given Mercy. We will also receive Justice. Most of us will be in Purgatory for a very long time.

mark said...

To Martina Katholik:
You have quoted some words which, so you think, explain 'how the poor should behave to gain supernatural merits'. But I rather think these words are advice, directed to all of us (not just the materially poor), as to how we are to bear the sufferings of life (that is, we are to bear them with fortitude and Christian hope).
So much for how 'the poor should behave'. But how should the rest of us behave towards the poor?
Scripture (both Old and New Testament) instructs us to help the poor and needy at every opportunity. The key text is in Matthew 25: 31-46. Jesus said that those who obey those words are the virtuous who will have eternal life.

GOR said...

Much that is good and much that is predictable in the comments. I suspect that few of us are doing enough for our less fortunate brothers and sisters – and we’re all very good at finding excuses for this.

What stands out is that Fr. Blake practices what he preaches – day in and day out – and God bless him for it!

It “pricks our consciences” to see that – and it should.

Each of us can and should do more - according to his/her means – and without fanfare. God sees into our hearts.

Mhairi said...

Reginald. You cite a solitary piece of Scripture and apply it in a general sense and in a fashion reminiscent of Protestant fundamentalists. In doing so, you have utterly missed the point made by parepidemos.

Angele Dei said...

Instead of giving beggars money I often go and buy them a meal and a drink.

It's often just what they need and you avoid all hand-wringing about whether the money you gave them was spent on what they actually needed or on a cheap bottle of plonk.

People may disagree, but it's a practical suggestion that can minimise the risks raised by some contributors above.

Hermit Crab said...

Mhairi@12/8/13 3:33 pm

I cannot make sense of your post. Please explain how I failed to answer parepidemos.

parepidemos said...

Mhairi @ 3:33pm Thank you and I agree with what you say. The use of single pieces of sacred Scripture in this way is not a Catholic practice.

Reginald @ 5:37pm. It is clear that you and I have rather different approaches to Scripture, so any discussion in that area will probably be fruitless. However, I would ask that you reconsider your theology as it is very faulty.

You write that "When Elias cursed the boys in the name of the Lord, it is OLJC Who was, as ever, the Lord." The prophet could not have been talking to Jesus as this would imply a recognition of the Trinity; any such concept would have been anathema to any Jew and certainly the prophets mentioned in the Old Testament.

Cosmos said...

I really am not sure their is much justification in Christian history for saying that we should make no distinctions between the various people who ask us for money. We may chose to make no distinctions as a prophetic withness, but we are not asked to do so. Such distinctions were made from the begining by even the most penitent. As St. Paul says, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work."

And here we are calling Fred and others "Pharisees" when Jesus' teaching on Pharisees specifically includes the admonition "call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven." (Math. 23.6). Yet we are all rightfully addressing Father Blake as "Father." We certainly act like there are distinctions to be made in that case!

And who claims "turn the other cheek" applies to women who are abused by their husband? Who is willing to stick with the "no distinctions" rule in that case and counsel a woman to overcome the abuse with charity? "Relationships are messy, stick with it!" If not, why the clarity with regard to "give to anyone" despite the analysis of Thomas Aquians, St. Paul, and countless others.

The Gospel calls men to do things even in the face of evil, to trust in God een when we are being taken advantage of. It also tells us to recognize that we ourselves are capable of great evil. The problem with this conversation is some are trying to shift the focus from Jesus calling good men to suffer at the hands of unjust men, and warping into Jesus condemning good men for identifying the injustice. Rather than a call to radical self-sacrifice, Jesus teachings become condemnations of those who don't want to pay for drugs, or serve an opressor, or be beaten by an agressor. This is not what was intended.

A good man might be willing to suffer if he knows that God sees him and will remmber his act of charity. He might also remember that he has committed great sins and needs God's mercy. But I don't think the modern approach of insisting that a good man's hesitance to hand his money over to a con man is the real injustice. It all sounds like a bunch of nonsense. Jesus acknowledged that we have enemies who do evil things and hate us, his call to pray for them and submit to them loses power when it is separated from that truth.

Hermit Crab said...

parepidemos@12/8/13 5:32 pm

On a point of detail: I incorrectly referred to the prophet's name as 'Elias' instead of 'Eliseus'.

You say my theology is "very faulty". That's exactly how I would describe yours.

You call yourself "parepidemos", which means a stranger, and you consider further discussion with me as probably "fruitless". But here are two points anyway:

To describe the Holy Trinity as a concept is blasphemy.

You are wrong to say that the Holy Trinity would have been regarded as anathema by the great prophets of the Old Testament.

Jacobi said...


It never ceases to amaze me how many different views there can be on what is after all a relatively simple subject.

Poverty, here, has been widely confused with a variety of psychiatric, dependency and personality disabilities and deficiencies. This is unfair and wrong. They are quite separate issues.

Current government allowances for accommodation and food, while not generous, are sufficient to allow people to establish themselves and find a job. Possibly more than enough! As discussed only yesterday on TV, the apparent ease with which East European immigrants can obtain jobs while our long term institutionalised unemployed linger in front of their TVs, illustrates this.

On the question of food in particular, £70/week, I am assured by two experts on this subject I know, is adequate. True, as has been said, cooking facilities are necessary, but that is included in the rest of the allowance.

Therefore, we are talking not about the poor, but rather about a section of society who, because of their psychiatric and/or personality deficiencies, fail to cope. Family breakdown and the general Secularisation of society are factors. And yes, they are likely to be, incidentally, poor.

Traditionally such people were looked after in institutions, now mainly closed, and by the many orders of Sisters who sadly, mostly disappeared in the post–Vatican II shambles, although one such order, near to where I live, still does sterling work.

Christ, through his use of parables, and more directly, as in questions such as “and who do you say I am”, tries to get us to think, to use the brains He has given us.

We must be prepared therefore, to think and analyse, and not just react, in dealing with such important issues.

Unknown said...

I would like to genuinely thank you Father, and especially the individuals that commented on your post. You have opened my eyes. I mean this sincerely, without this interaction I would still be blind, struggling to understand certain things. Now I understand.

As for your post itself, perhaps it would have been easier to ask a question…

‘Did our Lord and St Paul make a distinction between drunkards and the poor?’

The answer to this question is the point I was endeavoring to make.

Sincerely, thank you all.

God Bless

Damask Rose said...

These two articles are "kind of" to do with the poverty thread.

I say give the righteous King, born in a poor stable, through no fault of his parents (remember, I think St Joseph had money for an Inn), a gold chalice.

And not even a word evangelising the migrants about the King of Kings.

I agree with you Fred Brown. Well said Nicolas Bellord, Paul Danon and Martina Katholik.

Yep, Pope Francis said "the globalisation of indifference", "those, whose decisions at a global level have created the conditions which have led us to this drama". Do you think the Pope remembered the £millions spent and assets sold, old churches and schools, convents, Church properties, diocesan savings collected from parents through to great-grandparents to pay for the recompense of the fall-out of the sex-lives of priests, bishops and cardinals. Yes, the Roman Catholic Church sure is one giant transnational corporation, again, "those, whose decisions at a global level have created the conditions which have led us to this drama". Yes, money put into the collection plate hasn't been worked for by the clergy. Like benefit scrounging, money-wise, it's easy come, easy go. I guess, once the money's been put on the plate, I shouldn't whinge about how it's used (like wanting to take a present back), but if I knew my parish priest was giving money to perpetual drunks, I'd think twice about giving money my husband has worked for, sometimes, for exceptionally long hours.

Please, Fr Ray, can you not use the phrase "it's not my pay grade". Sounds far too Obama-like.

I really think that when Jesus said "feed the hungry", "clothe the naked" he really meant these genuinely poor people. There has got to be a better way to help people who have formed habits where they would rather starve or even kill to feed their habits, than just throw money at them.

Surely it's better to give a poor African village a pump and some bricks so they can build an irrigation channel and grow food than get them used to handouts and also prevent corrupt individuals from stealing food from the supply lorry.

Wouldn't it be better to get unemployed people working at centres, even if for a very small wage to subisdise their benefit, making something that could be used by others, or landscaping an area to make a community garden? Didn't war veterans used to make baskets? Wouldn't it better if prisoners worked at something?

I wouldn't want to see a return to the Poor Laws and those awful Workhouses, nor having read lately in the Press, I wouldn't want to see those genuinely unable to work through ill-health committing suicide because some doctor from a French company deems him fit to work, stops his disability and he's left with nothing to live on. Neither would I want to see a single mother with kiddies left to starve, but, yes, I would like to see her keep her legs closed.

maureen said...

St. John Chrysostom (4th century Church Father) had much to say about almsgiving. Sadly I no longer have the book that I first read these quotes in , but I found some of his letter on the website; "de Pauperibus" from 2009.
" One Church Father was particularly eloquent on this point. His eloquence should not come as a surprise considering he is known as Saint John Chrysostom (the “Golden Mouth”.) Saint John Chrysostom lived about 350 to 407 A.D. in what is present day Turkey, mostly in Antioch. Throughout his life as a deacon, priest, and bishop, Saint John preached about the needs of the poor and the obligation of everyone to fill those needs. As bishop, his denunciations of the lifestyles of the rich eventually drew the wrath of the Empress. She arranged to have him exiled, where he died of exhaustion after soldiers forced him to march in oppressive heat.

While a priest in Antioch, Saint John gave a series of homilies on the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. In one of these homilies, Saint John urged his parishioners to give to those in need without judging a person's worthiness, citing Abraham, Paul, and Christ himself. Chrysostom's words are worth quoting.

“For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person's life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need.”

“The poor man has one plea, his want and his standing in need: do not require anything else from him; but even if he is the most wicked of all men and is at a loss for his necessary sustenance, let us free him from hunger.”

“When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.”

“Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.”

“Need alone is the poor man's worthiness . . .”

“We do not provide for the manners, but for the man.”

“We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy . . .”

Saint John Chrysostom emphasized that helping the needy is not just about the needy. It is also – if not mostly – about our relationship with God. God calls us to serve, not judge worthiness. “God has excused you from all officiousness and meddlesomeness,” said the Saint. Saint John also hints that, in the end, none of us are truly worthy.

Asking why a person is homeless, poor, addicted, sick, or otherwise in need has its value, but not for the purpose of determining whether the person deserves help. The person deserves help because he or she needs it. Instead of using the information to determine worthiness, discovering why a person is homeless helps us to address the systemic problems that might have contributed to the person's plight. Addressing those problems is a matter of achieving justice, which, like charity, is also a Christian obligation. "

Maureen Decaire

maureen said...

St. John Chrysostom (4th century Church Father) had much to say about almsgiving. Sadly I no longer have the book that I first read these quotes in , but I found some of his letter on the website; "de Pauperibus" from 2009.
" One Church Father was particularly eloquent on this point. His eloquence should not come as a surprise considering he is known as Saint John Chrysostom (the “Golden Mouth”.) Saint John Chrysostom lived about 350 to 407 A.D. in what is present day Turkey, mostly in Antioch. Throughout his life as a deacon, priest, and bishop, Saint John preached about the needs of the poor and the obligation of everyone to fill those needs. As bishop, his denunciations of the lifestyles of the rich eventually drew the wrath of the Empress. She arranged to have him exiled, where he died of exhaustion after soldiers forced him to march in oppressive heat.

While a priest in Antioch, Saint John gave a series of homilies on the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. In one of these homilies, Saint John urged his parishioners to give to those in need without judging a person's worthiness, citing Abraham, Paul, and Christ himself. Chrysostom's words are worth quoting.

“For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person's life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need.”

“The poor man has one plea, his want and his standing in need: do not require anything else from him; but even if he is the most wicked of all men and is at a loss for his necessary sustenance, let us free him from hunger.”

“When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.”

“Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.”

“Need alone is the poor man's worthiness . . .”

“We do not provide for the manners, but for the man.”

“We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy . . .”

Saint John Chrysostom emphasized that helping the needy is not just about the needy. It is also – if not mostly – about our relationship with God. God calls us to serve, not judge worthiness. “God has excused you from all officiousness and meddlesomeness,” said the Saint. Saint John also hints that, in the end, none of us are truly worthy.

Asking why a person is homeless, poor, addicted, sick, or otherwise in need has its value, but not for the purpose of determining whether the person deserves help. The person deserves help because he or she needs it. Instead of using the information to determine worthiness, discovering why a person is homeless helps us to address the systemic problems that might have contributed to the person's plight. Addressing those problems is a matter of achieving justice, which, like charity, is also a Christian obligation. "

Maureen Decaire

Terry Nelson said...

Father Blake - you bring tears to my eyes. You are so charitable. You are a good priest. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I used to fill in for the church secretary in an urban cathedral parish. We gave out sandwiches to anyone who knocked at the rectory door, but never money. We heard many sad stories, and we did try to help however we could by connecting the needy person with Catholic Charities or other agency.

The pastor told me, "If you feel you are being manipulated, you probably are. He made a distinction between an honest request for help and the sort of "gaming" that often means a cynical acquisitiveness, even in the poor.

I know that those who run shelters and other ministries for the poor plead with us *not* to give cash to the professional beggars that inhabit so many public places. They are more interested in getting treatment for addicts and alcoholics and giving them hope for a reclaimed life.

I guess I am more likely to trust the advice of those who deal daily with those in extreme poverty, economic or spiritual. In that same urban parish, we sometimes had mentally ill homeless people who disrupted daily Mass. The ushers firmly but gently escorted them out of the nave. I see no benefit in allowing anyone to profane the Liturgy. At the same time, the parish hall was opened each winter as a shelter for those who were homeless, and the men were given breakfast in the mornings before they left. It seems that a wise balance of charity and common sense is needed to serve the poor well.

Gungarius said...

Blessed are those who are attacked by the Daily Hate.

Anonymous said...

Hello Father Blake,

I'd love to contact you with regards to an article for Huffington Post Religion. Have you felt that the publicity surrounding this blog post in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph has missed the original point that you were making?

Please reach out to me at Thank you!


Toxic Drums said...

Whew! It's nice to see so much interest and thought. I was going to comment but enough's probably been said. :) (The yellow text on a black background works wonders for my migraine.) And keep up the good work. ;)

Unknown said...

Great article. Pity about the hash the press has made of it!

As a Protestant, just wanted to disagree with the last bit. Assurance of salvation doesn't mean that you're complacent, it means that you're blessed and grateful that you've been released from the awful debt of your sins.

A slave who's been let out of chains doesn't want to go back to them again. A person who's been set free from sin does not want to go back to sin again. If he prefers slavery, then in what sense is he free?

'It was for freedom that Christ has set us free'.

I mean this in a friendly way. I don't imagine we're going to solve a 500 year old disagreement in a blog post!

Tom Everette said...

As a formerly homeless individual, there are often times I am still amazed at the ignorance surrounding the social ill.
People are often way too lazy themselves by only focusing on the "outside" issues an individual shows and not taking the time to find out the real history or basis for the problems. Evidntly Mr Blake doesn't even know if these citizens without homes served in the military or were abused or even abondoned as Mr. Blake just did here. It it's so easy to dool out a few pounds here and there and then complain and whine. But becoming truly invested in the lives of ones flock takes hard work and sacrafice. I was homeless as stated. Didn't drink or do drugs but I faced this ignorance everyday and truly predjudice. A person gave me a chance and because of God and that opportunity, the city gained over 130 million dollars and the other homeless started to get proper treatment and homes. If there is just one message for Mr. Blake it would be this. I was never closer to God than when I was homeless. I didn't have a lock on the door to protect me at night, didn't know where my next meal was nor even if I would have a drop of water to drink. My everyday was and is in God's hands and the same goes for every homeless person in the world today. You want to help the "poor" Mr. Blake, then stop giving pompous handouts and start giving sacraficial handups and I would be more than happy to help in any manner.
James K Waghorne

Fr Ray Blake said...

A lot of Brighton rough sleeper did serve in the military, far too many were in care, practically all have had 'issues' with family, and yes drink and drugs and sex are also issues, as well as mental health which is both causal and a result.
People are all individuals and milti-layered, there are no simple answers, every one's life is messy.

Sean Baggaley said...

Addiction is not "poverty". It is an illness.

That addiction—the illness—is the root cause of the homeless person's problems. Their homelessness and poverty is symptoms—often inevitable due to what their addiction drives them to do.

Throw money at an addict and all you do is feed his addiction. You do nothing to solve the cause, so his symptom will persist. What they need is help, not hard cash.

You are prolonging their illness. Prolonging their pain and suffering.

I may be an atheist, but even I'm pretty sure that was never Jesus' intent.

gemoftheocean said...

James, if you want respect, I'd suggest you offer some. FATHER Blake (according to the Apostle Paul our clergy are our "fathers in faith") hasn't been called "Mister" since he was ordained. If your own upbringing is not comfortable with callng him Father the LEAST you can do is call him "Reverend" which he most certainly is.

Bill said...

"Whatever these poor souls need it is most certainly not unaudited cash ‘donations’!" This, from Fred's first comment that started all this, is the crux of the matter and I believe the operative word here is 'unaudited'. Everything else seems like people arguing past each other. I don't think anyone here, least of all Fred, is suggesting that we are not to render aid to the poor. We should. We must. But there are real consequences to our actions. If a beggar asked you for money for beer would you give it to him? If he asks you for money to visit his sick grandmother and you have every reason to expect that he's going to spend it on beer as he has done repeatedly and you still give it to him you may finally prick his conscience one day but you are also enabling him to perpetuate his destructive lifestyle. We must weigh these things against each other.

If we means test every act of charity we'll be paralyzed into inaction. But if we don't means test any act of charity we become blind to the unintended consequences of our actions.

J said...

Thank you, Father. Only someone that REALLY works to help the poor, the sick, the old, knows how it is and may put it in so straightforward, clear, words.
Charity is not for make us feel good, but to help the other. That is why modern mind loves philantropy and hates charity.
thanks again.

From Argentina,

black michael said...

This has made Yahoo News. 'The poor are lying, drug-abusing illegitimates': Catholic priest's astonishing attack on homeless
Father Ray Blake wrote a furious blog denouncing the homeless, in an online post titled, 'The Trouble With The Poor'
I suspect that whoever wrote that did not read it properly. Probably he just read the first paragraph and jumped to a wrong conclusion.

Liz said...

God bless you, Fr. Blake. I will add you intentions to a novena my family is currently saying for priests. Thank you for your priesthood.

J. Hazelip said...

Matthew 25:35-40.

Gail Finke said...

Father: I came here from Fr. Z's blog to read what you have to say. So true! We can't stand to have our lives messed up by the messy lives of the poor. I've always thought that was the point of the Good Samaritan story. It doesn' matter why the people who didn't help him didn't help him -- maybe they were on their way to do something wonderful and charitable. But he was messing up their schedules and the things they CHOSE to do.

When I was a little girl I loved all the books I could find by American Protestant author Louisa May Alcott, who wrote famous "Little Women" books. Many, many of them had episodes in which the young women would do something to help the poor, only to find that the poor would often take whatever they gave without being at all grateful and without observably changing their lives. The young women in the stories had to learn that they were supposed to help anyway. I've found this to be a valuable life lesson!

Jake Freivald said...

Thank you for your post, Father. I heard about your situation from the Orthosphere, here:

I think what you're describing is clear and obvious. I think the "journalists" who call your post "scathing" or talk about how you "condemned" the poor have things exactly backwards: It's because you love the poor that you have to accept behaviors in them that you wouldn't accept from anyone else, even though it's difficult for you to tolerate them. I'm not sure why it's so hard for people to see that.

This came at a good time for me. I'll be praying for you.

Peter James-Smith said...

How interesting reading all of this!

Our Lord enjoins us to give not to make any judgement relating to whom we give. To put it rather harshly, that is the recipient's problem not the givers! I live in Johannesburg with massive unemployment and beggars and street children at every intersection and yet most people would consider them the 'undeserving poor' do they know! All power to Fr Ray Blake and his truly Christian approach. Yes, the poor are messy and resort to drink and other substances to alleviate their misery but it is not for us to pass judgement on what they do with what they are given.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Blake,
I was provoked to thought by your post. It is true that complacency is something which too easily plagues us all. In my work, I have noticed that the poor tend come in a few generalized groups. There are the working poor who do everything they can but are barely making it, the mentally ill who have no place to go because it is no longer possible for their family members to care for them (if they even have one)and we have long since changed the rules and shut down the institutions that would have cared for them, the drug addicts & alcoholics, and the lazy conniving ones. When I have spent a few days with them I can tell you which is which, but initially? Not so much. The poor do make me uncomfortable, perhaps because I used to be one of them and the memory is very painful to me.


ElizabethK said...

Father, I read the Mail piece savaging your post here, and am writing in support of you (I would dfo it there, but comments are closed). As an English professor, that "article" made me want to weep--how on earth did the writer get to be a journalist without knowing how to read? Alternatively, how does he continue as a journalist when he's so purposely malicious? I do not know; I do know that this was a wonderful post. Bless you.

Sam said...

Unknown said...

We were shown this today in my RE lesson, I found it really interesting and would just like to thank you for taking the time to do this blog and for spreading the Catholic word

Anonymous said...

Father , have you tried talking to the guy who interrupts Mass? I believe Jesus said the poor will always be with us and therefore relieving his poverty may not be the answer that God intends.

Joshua said...

My,my,it appears to this Lutheran, Fr. Ray, that the Holy Father has been reading your blog :-). Most of the comments on this blog deal only with the question of how we should or should not engage our homeless, impoverished, addicted and mentally ill sisters and brothers. That each of us finds his or her own way to give of ourselves to these children of God is one critical aspect of our call as baptized people. But there is another aspect of the Gospel I believe we all need to pay attention to and that is the question of engaging and challenging those political and economic institutions where the decisions have been and continue to be made that have rendered millions of our fellow human beings homeless, jobless, unfed and untreated.

Jesus proclaimed at the beginning of his ministry "the acceptable year of the Lord," i.e. the Jubilee Year (see Leviticus 25) That is to say in a world like ours where a few possessed much while most possessed little, he called for a redistribution of wealth. In an domestic and world economy so unjust as ours, must not we the Church do the same? If this interpretation of Scripture strikes some the readers of this blog as un-Catholic, may I commend to your reading the statement of US Conference of Catholic Bishops: Reading Pope Francis's "Joy of the Gospel" which not only calls us to engage with poor much in the manner that Fr. Ray has done in this blog but also calls upon us to challenge the unjust economic systems that now dominate our world will, I trust, also help us all to recover more fully the social dimensions of the Gospel in our mission as the Body of Christ.

Unknown said...

When Jesus talked about the poor, he was talking about genuine poverty when the victims had no recourse to improving their lives.

He certainly had no notion of welfare benefits.

God helps those who help themselves. Who said that?

We live in a victim culture. There is no genuine poverty in the UK today, except among those who cannot help themselves because of mental illness or physical incapacity.

Drug addicts and alcoholics are self-destructive, and then wreak destruction all around - including disturbing people at prayer. They certainly test the limits of our tolerance. I know this from long and wide personal experience.

What is the answer? There is none, until we bring back that other tenet of Christian belief, responsibility for oneself.

Rights without responsibility is the scourge of a moral life.

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