I thought this was a very beautiful meditation by the Holy Father on the wounds of Christ in the poor and marginalised.
A friend of mine has been released from prison. He had written to me about looking forward to his 'new life' on the outside. He attended Mass while on the inside and I am told read the Psalm at Mass very beautifully as a reader.
I believe he was imprisoned for breaching his 'ASBO' a behaviour order that restricts his movement in Brighton and means that he is banned from most streets in the city of Brighton and Hove. If he is seen wandering in a street he is not allowed on, or even for walking on the wrong side of the road, he is found in breach of his ASBO and is placed back in the slammer.
A brother Catholic from St Mary Magdalen's and I spent some time with him yesterday. He had been reassured in prison that a hostel place would be available for him, but as per usual, from prison he has been dumped back on the street. In fact, Sussex Pathways, the organisation that supports offenders in greeting their 'new life' on the outside simply brought him round to my flat and left him with me.
Quite how someone is meant to be able to embrace a 'new life' on the outside of prison with an ASBO still in full operation and with no home escapes me. I understand he is probably banned from many hostels in Brighton simply for his erratic behaviour. He can be something of a 'social menace' with street-drinking and begging, but ultimately the Lord teaches us that God takes the weak things of this world and makes them holy and strong. We seem to tolerate so much in this town - tolerance is etched into the ideology of liberalism, but it all goes out of the window when it comes to him.
In many ways I find him an unusual blessing from God and tolerate his bad behaviour because he is a very 'wounded' person. He is, of course, a much 'nicer' person when he is sober but all of his friends and people he hands around with are street drinkers and beggars, his movements are restricted more or less to London Road, so quite how someone is meant to be supported to embrace a 'new life' carrying a Cross as heavy as his is beyond me. I'd like to support him in embracing a 'new life' that he desperately wants but there is only so much someone can do. Like the Holy Father says, foundations and projects are always doomed to fail. One gets the impression His Holiness wants the Church to be known as a Church of love and compassion to the outcasts.
Apparently yesterday some Police saw him near St Peter's Anglican Church in London Road and pinned him down on the ground because they thought he was injecting heroin in a public place, when, in fact he was doing no such thing. The police are always on his back and are always on the lookout for an excuse to put him back inside - I guess the authorities find him embarrassing, loud, threatening and do not know what to do with him. After a disagreement with another homeless man, he was struck over the head several times on his first day on the outside and has a gash in the back of his head that he kept asking me and my friend to touch and feel. He regularly gets beaten by others because he winds people up the wrong way. Given the Holy Father's homily, I found this all a bit mysterious.