28 January 2013
Third Week of Ordinary Time
St. Thomas Aquinas
A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, in Camden, NJ,
DeSales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join
in service, prayer, and learning in our struggling neighborhood.
- Service Word
- Last Week in Camden
- Upcoming Events
1. Service Word 1 Corinthians 13
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
Walking from DSW in North Camden back to the Cathedral at the end of a work day recently, a young guy asked if he could use my phone. That is a request that is easy to hear—simpler than requests for money or for a job.
Walking along, he called his mom to get a ride out of Camden before nightfall. “Yea, I worked for several hours,” he told her. She told him to call a brother or friend already on the road who might be able to swing over to get him. We continued toward downtown as he used the phone.
He made the arrangements and thanked me for the phone use. “Glad to help,” I said. We were both headed in the same direction; “Are you going to the bus?” he asked. I explained that I live downtown, at the big, old church at the corner of Market and Broadway. He seemed puzzled about living at a church. A layer of winter clothes covered my collar: so I told him that I’m one of the priests, and we have a house attached to the church building.
I asked if he lived here, “sometimes,” he said. “Are you homeless?” “I stay with my mom; sometimes she’s in Camden and other times out of the city,” he explained. We approached the Cathedral, things became more clear to him. He asked about when it is open, “Unfortunately only around the times of Mass, at noontime each day, and then on Sundays,” I said. But I explained that anyone could also go to the office and someone would let them in for prayer. He wanted to see the inside.
We went in the front door of the building, dark at this point except for the red tabernacle lamp and street lamps filtering through the windows. I warned him that the figures in the back are just statues, life sized. I sprinted to the sacristy to turn on lights and came back ready to give a tour. Instead he was knelling in the front pew, head in his hands.
After a time he got up and thanked me for showing him the church, commenting on its beauty and the calm inside. “I look for that even though, I’m not doing the right thing. I make money to support my family. I come and sell poison to people.”
His description sounded like a confession, as well as stating of the obvious. He continued, “When I was incarcerated, people would tell me all you have to do is have faith. I do; I try to. But I have to make money, need to support my family.”
I tried to say that religion, faith, doesn’t work like magic—as he knows— but simply is right and the good way to be. I searched for something more to offer, “Can you work—what kind of training do you have?” He responded, “I have a prison record, no one is going to hire me.”
The reading from Corinthians is St. Paul’s inspiring description of Christian love that is so true. The passage also offers a portrait of Jesus the Lord. How does this translate to a job? To the ability to make a living? Love will not let us rest while neighbors are in distress. Perhaps our patience and kindness, in Camden, and in anywhere we find ourselves, will point to the power of this way of the God who is Love.
He asked three times for the Mass times. I hope he comes, gets insired, gets community, gets a true sense of his worth and call.
-What would you have said to this young man?
-What do you bring from your faith and image of God to your work life? -Can you see Jesus described in St. Paul’s famous passage?
2. Last Week in Camden
January 24th was the feast of St. Francis de Sales. I joined Salesianum and Ireton for their celebrations bringing Camden insights to the occasions. Saturday Cristo Rey was back on a cold snowy January service day; we worked inside beautifying Holy Name School’s chapel.
3. Upcoming Events
Salesianum will be here Wednesday and Cristo Rey on Saturday.
Read past reflections at the archives of Service Matters and on DSW’s Facebook page.
God bless you,
Mike McCue, OSFS firstname.lastname@example.org