BROTHER JAMES AND HIS FAMILY
READ: Psalm 10
“Lord, You listen to the cries of the poor, You give them courage, You grant them a hearing, to provide justice for the orphaned and exploited, so that worldly humans may strike terror no more.” – Psalm 10:17-18
Once again, I spent the night on the streets of the nearby city. It is a pilgrimage taken now and then by those able here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, a pilgrimage into poverty and yet also a pilgrimage into the realm of pure providence. On those nights, we Benedictine Brothers and Novices are hosted by the Franciscans of the Streets, a chapter of the Franciscans who literally live among the homeless. And I should add … on those nights, we are also the guests of those men, women and children who sleep in the alleys and shadows of the city.
This last vigil on the streets I shared with Brother James. Brother James was trained as an electrical engineer, a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University. He was prospering in his work, but, for a variety of reasons, never married. One day Brother James received word that his older brother had become homeless, a man broken by alcohol and despair. He traveled across the country to bring him home, but for months his brother could not be found. Finally he found him at a Salvation Army shelter, dying from pneumonia too long neglected. Brother James tried to support him in his recovery, but, in the end, his broken brother returned to the streets. James would visit his brother, trying desperately to help him. One night, the police found the brother dead in a dark alley, along with three men of the streets, brutally murdered. So moved by his brother’s tragic death, James finally responded to a call to monastic devotion and dedicated his life to caring for those broken souls who have no place to go. He became a Franciscan Brother and then, a member of the Franciscans of the Streets. During the day, James drives a Checker Cab as a means to provide for himself and his street family; at night, he dwells with the poor on the streets – guiding them to shelters, and when the shelters are full, bedding them down in warm blankets, keeping watch over them.
Brother James has a certain way about him … it is a certain quality of spirit that embodies humility and holiness … he cares for the street folks, not as if they were needy people but as if they were family. Each evening, he makes a sack lunch for two. Then he finds a hungry soul and dines with him, right there on the street. In other words, he shares a meal with a brother. The other night, I asked him whether he thought his work would help end poverty. He humbly shook his head and said, “Oh, I don’t think so … but it WILL care for one soul tonight who is in need of the care of God. And why do I do it? …Because each of these broken men is probably somebody’s lost brother.”
My Loved Ones, in the Scriptures, God is known as the champion of the poor, the orphaned, the exploited, and the forgotten … and if we are consider ourselves “Godly” people … then ought we not be about God’s work of providing for the needs of the poor … at least, with a blanket; at least, with a meal; at least, provide them a cot in a shelter.
Tonight, Brother James will once again sleep on the streets, there with members of his adopted family who find themselves caught, even trapped, in mighty hard times that never seem to end. And why will he do such a thing? Because Brother James has decided to become a working partner in the Providence of God.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).
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