Gentle Chastisement from Good Friends
I've removed an earlier blog post regarding my recent sleeping arrangements having received an ear-bashing from some friends. It was a salutary experience. An inordinate desire to serve the poor of Brighton and Hove through becoming voluntarily very poor. Now, I stress that the likelihood of my doing this is not great, but it was an interesting discussion which prompted a few objections. Here is a small list of them:
1. "Get a job and a career you lazy tike."
Ouch! I really felt that one! The gist of this objection is based on the values of the World which sees a person who is not contributing to the economy as being feckless, lazy and of no purpose. This is a Protestant notion which gave rise to hatred of the poor in England whom the Church had once embraced so much, seeing in them, the person of Christ, who said, 'what you have done for the least of these my little ones, you have done to me.' It is Protestant because it falls into the trap of saying it is what we 'do' that matters, instead of what we 'are'.
In the sight of God, a beggar is of more honour than a businessman, because the beggar is dependent on Providence and sees God's hand in all that is given him. He is humble because he is not esteemed by men. For the exact reason that a man is despised for not achieving material success by man and for being viewed as pathetic, he is esteemed higher by God and rises higher in virtue. For a car, a house, a wife, a mortgage and a pet cat are of no worth if a man has not brotherly love and the love of God. St Francis and his brothers literally went from door to door in Assisi begging so as to provide for their necessities and for alms to distribute to all those in dire need.
They were not ashamed to beg because they knew they were beggars before God! Before God, we are all beggars. What is begging in Assisi now? Illegal. I know someone who literally can only stand on one side of a street because to stand on the other side of the street would break his 'asbo'! If he breaks his asbo he will get a jail sentence. In fact there was one street on which we couldn't busk because he saw CCTV cameras in operation. Some freedom he has! When the police state comes it will be no surprise to the very poor and marginalised because they're already living it, its just the Government can get away with it on them because nobody gives two hoots about them.
2. "Don't become homeless too or dependent on Providence as well, otherwise that will not help them."
The Evangelical Counsels of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience are not about helping people. They are about true witness to the Gospel of Christ. St Francis modelled his life on the poverty of Christ who was born, lived and died in total poverty. When our Lord said to the rich man, "Go, sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor and you shall have treasure in Heaven" he was not fibbing for in Him, there were and are no fibs. When a rich man gives alms he stoops down and condescends to the poor man. 'Here you go,' he says. When a poor man gives alms he sits down with the poor man and asks him, 'How are things going, brother?' "How will you help them if you have nothing?" I was asked. The answer is in the question. What can you give a man after you have given him your clothing, food, drink and money. You can give him what he desires most, of course...your love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, hope, faith, peace, need I go on?! Above all, of course, you give them Christ!
3. You will make yourself vulnerable and could die young because Brighton is not safe.
"Greetings, Sister Death, what took you so long to arrive?"
Better to die young serving Christ in the poor, than to die in mortal sin a little older. Anybody who renounces the World in order to serve the poorest constantly, who seeks God's will to be done in their life, who desires to live the Gospel in its fullness, will not be popular in this World and will be at risk. "For whosoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whosoever loses his life for my sake, will save it." Anyone who seeks to imitate the pattern of life of our Blessed Lord and His holy St Francis, and the early Christians, in the modern, secular age, will receive scorn, derision, mockery, possibly jail and possibly an untimely end.
Many people say that if the English Catholic Church is not being persecuted, that it is a cause for concern. Why is the Church not being overtly persecuted in this country? Some say it is because of weak leadership from Bishops not teaching the Magisterium and that must go some way to answering the question. But are we without blame!? It is also because we are lukewarm souls attached to the pleasures of this World! As long as our lives are not a sign of contradiction to the World, the World not only takes little notice of the Church, but is not disturbed by Her message either. The message has to be seen to be believed. On the flip side, why are people not flocking to RCIA meetings either, having seen that the Church offers the fullness of life, a fullness of life which is nothing to do with sex, nothing to do with money, nothing to do with consumerism, but true freedom in God?
4. You're wasting your talents.
The Parable of the Talents is not about physical gifts, but spiritual. First Base has internet, I could blog there. There are lots of gardens in Brighton, the brothers could garden there and give excess money to the building fund, and then of course there is music and of course I'll always be book-keeper of the Church as long as God permits. All of our talents should be employed for the building up of the Church and should be shared with the poor.
I have wasted so much of my life...I worked for Lloyds TSB and the Council for years. Good friendships emerged from these jobs, but the systems in which both work are not really always very moral. Lloyds TSB was dishing out credit cards to the poor and the Council policy often, on a range of services, denies people their rights from anything to accommodation to welfare. I don't want to waste many more years. Will I do it? Doubt it, I'm a weak and feeble man and I doubt I would have the courage. Interesting discussion though!
When my patron was asked to bring to the Emperor Valerian the Treasures of the Church who did he bring with him? That's the problem with Saints you see, they make you think twice about what will make you truly happy.
5. Why not join an established Franciscan Order?
Because none of their rules are as faithful to the original as mine. But then, they all say that!