About a month ago, Fr. Ray Blake, a Catholic parish priest in the UK, posted some candid reflections on the difficulties of helping the poor — the truly poor. Far from being saints-in-the-making or happy-go-lucky Dickensian tramps, the truly poor are often as much a wretched bunch of sinners as anyone else. In working with them, one must often deal with lies (endless, shameless, obviously implausible lies), mess, disruption, crudity, theft, and other evils. I can attest to this personally, having occasionally found myself in the situation of trying to give money freely to someone who was trying to cheat me out of that same money. Fr. Blake notes especially the disruption caused to the Mass by one notorious local homeless man who, according to one of Father’s parishioners, was banned from another church after setting himself on fire there.
As Fr. Blake goes on to note, helping the poor is nevertheless obligatory, and we cannot explain our own lack of generosity at Judgment by claiming that the poor were not worthy of our help. Giving, he explains, enlarges our understanding of our own dependence on divine generosity, a dependence which continues to furnish gifts and blessings for us who are no worthier of them. Helping the poor serves also to confound our pride, jar us from our spiritual complacency, and remind us of the poverty of our own spiritual state.
All pretty mundanely Christian things. In response, of course, Fr. Blake got the usual treatment from the British media (e.g., here and here) who portrayed him simply as pointlessly libeling the poor rather than advancing an actual, spiritually relevant point, and who no doubt do in a year what Fr. Blake does in a week for the benefit of the poor. Fr. Blake responded here, for whatever good it’s done; the poor man has since had some Church of England schmuck piling on (see the tail end of the first article), supposedly his bishop has taken to publicly apologizing for his pastoral insensitivity (or whatever), and he is now considering abandoning blogging altogether. Take a moment, if you would, to pray for him, and for all those who have committed themselves to service of the poor at the price of extraordinary personal stress, with no help from armchair socialists whose much-vaunted compassion finds its only expression in their decision to spite God by sleeping in on Sunday.