Attending mass one Sunday at Holy Rosary I witnessed something that may seem small to some but to me, was anything but ordinary. When we were in the middle of the mass, intensely listening to Father’s homily, there was a slight commotion in the back of the Church. I was back in the crying room with Judah and one other mother with children. I noticed that Father was looking towards the back as well as many of the parishioners. As I moved up to look through the glass to get a better look I witnessed the love of Christ in such a profound way.
A man had fallen down on the floor in the back of the Church and multiple people rushed to help him. The man appeared to be homeless, with tattered clothes and a weary look in his eyes. He was an older man and appeared to be confused and possibly intoxicated. One of the people who rushed to help him up was a young man who I had not seen before. He helped the homeless man up, put his arm around his shoulder and helped him sit down in the last pew. Then, the young man affectionately sat down next to him, putting his arm around him as though he was a dear old friend that he had known all his life. The way that he sat down next to this man, who I’m sure he had never met before, and put his arm around him and his filthy clothes, touched my heart to the deepest degree. In that moment, I could see Christ. I could see Our Lord in this young man, reaching out and touching the leaper without any hesitation.
Society would see a man like this and recoil in disgust. The smell coming off a body that hasn’t had the opportunity to shower for some time and had to constantly keep in movement surely is something to suffer the nose not accustomed to it. I know, that when I was homeless, and had no access to a shower for months, I had to have offended more than one delicate nostril. My clothes, like the clothes of this man, were so dirty and worn, they seemed to adhere to my skin. With so many other things on my mind, my focus quickly turned from thoughts about my clothes to other more pressing issues. It is not that Our Lord did not notice the smell of the leaper, or the state of their physical body. What He saw was the soul of the person, something that cannot be covered up by foul odors or filthy clothing. Something, that if it is humble and contrite, shines through with a radiance that no amount of physical deformity or filth could cover. We have all witnessed this in a person, maybe homeless, maybe not. Where you can see the soul of the person, and it shines like the sun. It’s almost as though you can see the humility in the soul, the deep sense of one’s nothingness and it is a beautiful sight to behold. In moments like this, we are reminded why Our Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
This is what I saw in this man when he was brought back into the crying room where we were. He allowed the people who came to his aid to help him, with a sense of gratitude that you could see. They sat him down and began to ask him questions about his health as Divine Providence would have it two of them were nurses. I was so struck by the intentionality and professionalism of these people that I assumed that they were with some type of homeless outreach group that maybe had been called to the parish earlier. As I asked them later, I was made aware that they were from no such group. They had just come to our mass here as Holy Rosary was not their home parish.
As the mass continued, I felt compelled to briefly speak to this man and offer him a Miraculous Medal. He gratefully took it from me, allowing me to put it around his neck. He admitted to us that he was confused and that he had a history of seizures along with other health problems. I leaned over, noticing that he was intently staring up toward our preist as he offered the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. I asked him, “Do you believe in Jesus?” He answered, “Oh yes, I was raised Lutheran.” I said to him, “You know that Jesus loves you very much.” He said, “Yes, I know He does…” His voice trailed off as he intensely stared at our priest at the altar. After watching the mass for a few moments, he very clearly said, “Something serious is going on up there….” I nodded my head in agreement as I gazed upon the sacrifice being offered to the Father happening right in front of us.
This man intuitively knew that something very serious was indeed happening on the altar. What a simple and yet profound statement he made. One I am sure that will stay with me for years to come.
As I said my goodbyes after mass, leaving this man in the care of three loving fellow Catholics, I was filled with a real sense of sorrow for his pain. It had just started to snow, and the frigid wind blew into my face, stinging my eyes. I hurried Judah into his car seat and after I closed the door to my car I allowed the weeping to come. I cried for this man, thinking about the possibility of him sleeping outside, with no blanket or proper jacket. I prayed for him, begging Our Blessed Lord to make something happen for him on that icy, lonely night. I begged pardon for all the times I complained to Him about my own life. I was ashamed at how often I found myself ungrateful for all the gifts He has bestowed upon me. I thanked Him for allowing me to meet this humble, soft-spoken homeless man at mass. I was reminded of the words of Saint Paul, “God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
I was grateful for the reminder. Our Lord is always reminding me of where I came from, always lovingly bringing to my awareness my tendency to be ungrateful. What a gift He gives me when I have encounters like this one.
I pray that I always remain grateful to Him for I know that everything I have is a gift.
God bless you.