If you aren’t a Catholic you probably have a belief about Catholics and, chances are, it’s not good.
- Withholding abortions to women that die because they were forced to give birth.
- Not giving out condoms in HIV ravaged Africa.
- Vehemently denouncing gay rights.
- And of course… child molestation.
Granted, these are self-inflicted wounds. Some are old beliefs that haven’t kept up with the times. Others are just straight up tragedies.
But there is a quiet power of Catholics that I had never known before working with the homeless.
Catholics are profoundly giving.
Catholic groups are among the biggest providers of social-service charity in the United States.
“Catholic charity seems to account for 17 percent to 34 percent of all nonprofit social-service charity”
Catholic Charities USA, has more than 2,500 local agencies that serve 10 million people annually.
This is as clear as the big nose on my face at Second Chance Village.
Catholics pour into our facility to help the homeless.
Hoban and Walsh high school students come every single week to bring us food.
Within our first year St. Vincent De Paul has given our group $3000 to spend on tents, sleeping bags, thermal underwear and tarps. They give similar amounts to several other local groups in Akron for the same things.
Wealthy Catholic individuals bring the power of their corporations to help build out our facility.
Peter Maurin Center, a Catholic Workers organization, was one of our first supporters. They pay for porta potties and trash service. They are critical to our operation.
And here’s the thing: They slip in and they slip out.
There is no prayer circle. There is no picture taking. There is no obligation put upon the homeless.
You would think it strange that people require things of those in need. But I see it happen all the time.
Shelters very often require a mandatory church service before you can go to bed and a mandatory prayer before every meal.
I always find this very odd.
How could you think forcing people to pray and go to church services helps your cause?
Time and time again people tell me they would rather live in the woods or their car or go to jail than be forced to pray for shelter and food. It’s condescending, dehumanizing and garishly egotistical and selfish.
How low does a person have to get before they get help with no strings attached?
Catholics let their actions speak for themselves.
It is an elegantly powerful strategy.
The students from Hoban and Walsh need no introduction. They are just our friends. And we all have so much love for them.
The people that stand in the middle of our day center yelling out prayers just have a different aura about them. It is very clear they want something in return for their generosity.
All of us are controlled by both good and bad forces. We all have two masters. None of us are purely good or purely bad.
As a community we help each other move one direction or the other. When we focus on the bad of others it becomes more likely they will become bad.
But when we focus on the good of others it is more likely they will become good.
The Pope, considered the infallible leader of the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics, refused to sit in judgement of gay priests.
“Who am I to judge?”
That is the lesson we all need to learn. Who am I to judge? If the Pope can publicly utter those words how is it that lack of judgement is so difficult for the rest of us?
The only path to salvation is love, understanding, forgiveness and compassion. This is the message Catholics bring to our facility. Their presence makes me stronger. They remind me that this work is work that needs to be done and is the work God wants us to do.
This is the message we all need to bring to each other. Our judgement of others does nothing other than make society worse.
You are not the police. You are not the judge. You are not God.
Forgiveness and love lifts society up.
Focus on the good in all of us. Because we all have goodness within us.
Let the rest go.