Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Volunteers, volunteers

We have had no end of people ringing up to volunteer to help feed the poor on Christmas day, including a TV cook. The rest of the year, when the rain is coming in off the English channel and you can barely stand, is a different story.

Is this about a growing solidarity with the poor or just a desire to feel good?
There used to be that TV advert about a dog being not just for Christmas.

21 comments:

Ma Tucker said...

Surely it is only charitable to take a charitable view of their offer?. God sorts the rest.

IanW said...

Don't knock it, Father. One day a year is better than none; and anyway, you can't know what else they do throughout the year, or see into their hearts. Even if the motivation is mixed, that's true of much of our frail, earth-bound charity. Few of us are saints.

ps I hope you feel better soon.

gemoftheocean said...

Well, you have to start somewhere. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say. Perhaps some will be inspired to help the other 364 days of the year.

shadowlands said...

It could be that they have to work and are giving up their own holiday time to volunteer?

Don't let the humbug spirit get at you this Christmas Father!!! Assume the best in people.

nickbris said...

It takes a real Saint to do that job 365 days a year.

Strangers popping down for a couple of days are not exactly made to feel welcome by the desperate recipients who have had to pocket their pride in order to accept handouts.

A more civilised society would look after these desperate people in reception centres

FrBT said...

Father I hope you are recovering fast. Happy Christmas to you and your parishioners.

The Anglican Parish Church in my town has always fed the poor, hungry and homeless for years, on Christmas Day. It is not too far from a pub, in the town centre, and they join forces and feed many people.

I have always tried to support them in the best way I can. For the past several years, I have given a financial contribution towards the Christmas Lunch.
I also take to them a big number of thinsulate hats and gloves. These are distributed on Christmas Day or sometimes before.

My parishioners are very keen to assist in the preparation of the food and distribution.

I find their generous offerings of volunteering their helping hands and effort and time -a great gesture of their love for Our Blessed Lord.

We live very well ecumenically with all the faiths in our town. Long may it continue.

No matter how small or great - the offer to help is always appreciated.

That makes me so proud of my flock. They are very good people.
FrBT

shadowlands said...

Father Ray, I'm sorry, I forgot you were unwell when I typed my last comment. Here's a prayer, written by Our last Pope, inspiring priests to recall the moment of their vocation. I hope it cheers you up. Remember you are loved and prayed for, regularly.

"Recall the circumstances
of this inspiration
how it became more and more insistent,
possibly returning after a time
until you could not fail to recognise in it
the voice of God, the force of love
with which the Lord calls a person
to belong to Him, undividedly.
Recall this to mind, in order to thank God
with a new heart
and proclaim His mighty works
The inspiration of the Spirit cannot die out
It is destined to endure
and together with your religious vocation
to become more mature
throughout your entire life"

Pope John Paul II

tempus putationis said...

Dear Father,

Your frustration is understandable (particularly when you are feeling rotten. Thank you for posting when you would perhaps prefer to cover your head with blankets).

Since my elderly, bedridden mother died I have tried to help out at a Christmas meal for the homeless (full up, thank you); a refuge centre for immigrants (no reply to my application); an ecumenical initiative providing food and other essentials for those in desperate need (have helped one day a month, but would like to do more).

None of these (I do not, sadly, live in Brighton!) were Catholic initiatives.

Perhaps your fellow clergy nationwide are not too good at encouraging such ventures, which leads to lay Catholics being frustrated and priests like you being inundated with offers all at the same time?

Lack of episcopal interest, perhaps? I think Rome would back a more comprehensive attempt to help the needy through our OWN EFFORTS rather than through our cheque books. God did not give us cheque books. We don't necessarily have much in our bank accounts. But God did give us time, and physical strength and love.

Doesn't anyone want these?

Gigi said...

I'm away from Brighton this Christmas, as many of my friends from Brighton, London and elsewhere are: visiting families and inlaws etc. Most of us have decided to help out wherever we're staying this year; it's not just increased sensitivity. I've lost count of the number of people I know who have either lost their jobs or face redundancy next year. I think you will see a change in awareness and willingness once the hustle and perceived traditional demands of "the festive season" are out of the way. Take heart (and maybe a hot toddy with some honey) Father Ray; it may have taken a much more in-your-face downturn of events and fortunes, but I do believe that people are more aware that anyone trying to keep a roof over their heads is a step away from sheltered accommodation, and only few steps more from the street. I think a realisation is dawning that economic fortunes are incredibly fickle and the grace of God evermore palpable.

Dymphna said...

Spending Christmas feeding beggars drunks, drug addicts and the insane is not what 90% of the population wants to do. Why not be grateful that for whatever reason someone volunteered?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Dymphna,
Because "beggars drunks, drug addicts and the insane" deserve people who respect their dignity, who are not their to rob them, give them more drink, sell them more drugs or drive the more insane.

If they are involved in our souprun they must be trustworthy, have some training and at least at first have adequate supervision. I also expect anyone involved not to be antipathetic to the Church.

"[B]eggars drunks, drug addicts and the insane" are vulnerable, they are not a freak show to satisfy the Christmas needs of those who "have better things" to do the rest of the year.

Saint Michael Come To Our Defense said...

I had lunch yesterday with the Executive Director of a Homeless Agency.

In 1990, I helped him establish it.

First thing, I got on my knees and asked God to have mercy on all those we would serve.

It is an Agency with much clout.

He is now worn to a frazzle, and is searching for a replacement.

We can find no man with the machismo it takes, but most importantly, the love of God in his heart to command his position.

Lots of qualified people, no men.

He was raised by Traditional Catholic Nuns in the 1950's.

That says it all.

The 'Cotton Candy' limp wristed boys of today are pathetic.

The True Mass makes Catholics.

Please continue saying the Mass of All Time, that we may one day have some real Catholic men, and women.

We will pray the Holy Mother send you a Catholic man to help you.

You will know who he is because everyone will hate him, and he will shine your shoes.


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Pablo the Mexican said...

"...Most of us have decided to help out wherever we're staying this year;..."

Spoken like a true Roman Catholic girl.

God bless her.

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Pablo the Mexican said...

Saint Michael Come To Our Defense is no longer my handle.

It is pablo the mexican, to accommodate the SSPXers.

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gemoftheocean said...

SM: You speak of the 'machismo' it takes, and lots of qualified people, but 'no men.' So the qualified people presumably are female? unless there is some alien race of neutered people dropped in from outer space, but 'obviously' not the 'right sex' to run the mission in question? Did the nuns in North America, Europe, AFrica, etc. who established countless hospitals, orphanages, schools, colleges and other such institutions have the requisite 'machismo?' Or were they taking steroids or what?

It isn't false Latin chest beating 'machismo' I think that is required for such things. One takes confidence in the Lord that HE will provide the necessarily abilities in both men and women...'machismo' or not. So if there don't happen to be any 'macho, macho men' around because they're too busy finger snapping doing the 'YMCA' perhaps you ought to look at the women with talent, because sometimes they're the ones to come along on the big white horse. Isn't the object to 'git 'er done?' And I don't mean in an impregnating way.

By 'some man to help Father Blake' I could understand. Presumably you mean another priest, eventually. Well, I wish that someone may someday fill his shoes too -- thought I rather suspect Fr. Blake will be a hard act to follow. But hopefully some young seminarian(s) (or older, to be sure!) can be shown the ropes by this remarkable man.

shadowlands said...

"Spending Christmas feeding beggars drunks, drug addicts and the insane is not what 90% of the population wants to do. Why not be grateful that for whatever reason someone volunteered?"

What about homeless families, for example a couple pregnant, ready to give birth, to a King. The King. but nowhere to stay, would you let them in?

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.

I assume that includes attitudes Dymphna.

By the way, here's the prayer, to your namesake:

Prayer: Hear us, O God, Our Savior, as we honor St. Dymphna, patroness of those afflicted with mental and emotional illness. Help us to be inspired by her example and comforted by her merciful help. Amen.

God bless you and your family, this Christmas.

gemoftheocean said...

Technical point, Shadowlands: Mary and Joseph weren't 'homeless' -- they were in Bethlehem to pay TAXES. Like going to Atlantic City and finding all the hotel rooms were booked up.

Pablo the Mexican said...

"...The King. but nowhere to stay, would you let them in?..."

Your doggone right we would.

We are Mexicans; haven't you seen about forty of us riding down the street in a pick-up truck?

The birth of Christ also demonstrates where our priorities are.

Had the Holy Family been 'Important', someone would have been booted out of their accommodations to make room.

Where do you place your priorities?

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Gigi said...

" "Beggars drunks, drug addicts and the insane" are vulnerable, they are not a freak show to satisfy the Christmas needs of those who "have better things" to do the rest of the year".
I think you have such a valid point there Father Ray: the poor aren't just poor at Christmas. I'm sure when I was in full employment and with what I dismissively called "spare cash", I also focused on Christmas, Children in Need, Sports Aid etc as almost handy ways to offload my conscience. I can see now that I could have done so much more. At least losing my job and seeing fairweather moneyed friends drift away has enlightened me to real values and what I am actually capable of doing.
It's harsh to see words like "Beggars, drunks, drug addicts and the insane" on these pages isn't it? But most of us use them at some point without thinking and without apology, to illustrate someone's vulnerable state. But we're also illustrating that we see ourselves as something other than that. You only have to spend a short while in Brighton to see people who beg. people who are drunk, people who are addicted to drugs, people who are clearly not in their right minds. The bottom line is they are all people; once babies and children. Their paths have taken various turns as all paths do. They've eithered stumbled, as we all do, or have been pushed or pulled. They find themselves tagged by the media and by those who have other tags: the middle classes, tax payers, social services, even do-gooders. I assume mostly they care little for the tag and more about not having a hot meal, a job, a home, or even another drink.
I found Dymphna's words really sharp until I realised that she is right: a lot of folk, even those who are good Christians and undoubtedly kind, will still attach some kind of handle to those they believe they should help. Charity is not always unconditional giving. We're all just people; our tags and handles change throughout our lives and we may have little or no say in that.
I was a bit sniffy about the Occupy Brighton camp when it appeared on the Old Steine, because I was being judgemental of course. I was bothered that a tented village was being set up in the name of protest when they were folks sleeping in shop doorways across the road all year round. Now, I'm sorry to see that a rogue fire has led to the camp being dismantled just days before Christmas. I was really touched by the report on The Bones' Blog and enchanted by the idea of a Nativity scene being set up there for Christmas. And of course, I did nothing about that idea.

shadowlands said...

Gem said, "Technical point, Shadowlands: Mary and Joseph weren't 'homeless'"

Correct Gem. Sorry for my mistake. I was referring to the author and finisher of the universe and the fact that He had nowhere to lay His head when He was born.

Pablo the Mexican said...

"...I was referring to the author and finisher of the universe and the fact that He had nowhere to lay His head when He was born...'

There is a whole lot of theology in that statement.

On the sixth day, everything was done.

Out of ingratitude, man gave God no place to rest.

He was homeless in His own home.

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