Thursday, November 12, 2020 –
WOW! We are flying through these. YAY! On to number four (or five, depending on how you order them) of our seven Corporal Works of Mercy: to harbor the harborless (AKA shelter the homeless).
Did you notice that there were two names? I promise that I am not covering two different ones. This is one of those times where the Church had more eloquent language (“harbor the harborlesss”) and felt compelled to start using a phrase more “modern” for our less-read minds (“shelter the homeless”). They honestly mean the same thing.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, everyone pull out their copy of Bishop Morrow and open to page 181. Now, we are on number four, but Bishop Morrow orders these a little different, so skip down to number five.
Which are the chief corporal works of mercy? – The chief corporal works of mercy are seven:…
5. To shelter the homeless – Those who do this work of mercy are like the Good Samaritan. Those who provide clean and comfortable homes for the poor at low rates of rent practice this work of mercy.
St. Paul said, “Hospitality do not forget; for by this some, not being aware of it, have entertained angels” (Heb. 13:2). In olden times travelers stopped for the night of for food in the monasteries. In the Alps, the monks of St. Bernard perform this work of mercy when they rescue, with the aid of their famous breed of dogs, travelers who have met with accidents. (Bishop Morrow, My Catholic Faith, p. 181)
Here we see that Bishop Morrow mentions a couple of things: 1) the parable of the Good Samaritan (which I have included below); 2) providing “clean and comfortable homes” (also addressed below); and 3) the monks of Saint Bernard with their dogs in the Alps.
Let’s first look at the parable of the Good Samaritan:
25 And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting him, and saying, Master, what must I do to possess eternal life? 26 But he said to him: What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 He answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said to him: Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he willing to justify himself, said to Jesus: And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering, said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who also stripped him, and having wounded him went away, leaving him half dead. 31 And it chanced, that a certain priest went down the same way: and seeing him, passed by. 32 In like manner also a Levite, when he was near the place and saw him, passed by. 33 But a certain Samaritan being on his journey, came near him; and seeing him, was moved with compassion. 34 And going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine: and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two pence, and gave to the host, and said: Take care of him; and whatsoever thou shalt spend over and above, I, at my return, will repay thee. 36 Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbour to him that fell among the robbers? 37 But he said: He that shewed mercy to him. And Jesus said to him: Go, and do thou in like manner. (Luke 10:25-37, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
This is usually everyone’s favorite parable, probably because it is one of the easier to understand on its face. However, most people somehow overlook the fact that the Good Samaritan actually left. Yes, he absolutely cared for the man in the road and used his means to provide for the man’s needs, BBUUUTTT he also went about his business. Christ is not telling you to drop everything, ignore your duties, and tend only to one person. NO! He is imploring us to care for those less fortunate in accordance with our means AND do so WHILE tending to our regularly scheduled duties and needs. Your family also has to eat…and live…and have shelter.
So, what does that mean? Well, Bishop Morrow goes into that by adding, “Those who provide clean and comfortable homes for the poor at low rates of rent practice this work of mercy.” Well, there you have it! Use your means to provide homes.
But wait, there’s more! Let’s define “clean and comfortable.” This does not mean we are obligated to provide the most comfortable or a McMansion or the “Hollywood lifestyle.” Barring a long-winded, face-palming discussion about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—or as I like to call it, Maslow’s Pyramid Scheme of Self-Actualization—providing “clean and comfortable” really means meeting basic human needs, and I mean BASIC.
And what are those basic human needs?
- Air – humans require a fairly set mixture of air to continue functioning. As such, we cannot survive in space or in an asbestos lab.
- Food – our bodies require a certain level of calories to continue living.
- Water – yes, you actually need water to live. Some of us need a stiff coffee in the morning to continue functioning, but it is actually not a bodily requirement.
- Shelter – the human body is fairly fragile. We need basic shelter and clothes to protect us from extreme elements.
- Safety – we also require rest, and as such we require a nominally safe place to lay our little heads down without fear of being murdered in our sleep.
Umm, Mrs. Flusche…you did not list “health.” Yes, because ALL five of those contribute to our basic health needs. It is a bit redundant to list it again.
By “clean and comfortable” we are implored to ensure that the person in need is safe and their basic needs are met. Notice that these basic needs are fairly bare-bones. They don’t cover “achieving one’s goals” or “feeling a sense of accomplishment.” Both of which, I kid you not, are part of Maslow’s (ahem…the modern) “basic needs” list.
Look, this is going to sound harsh, but we are NOT required to furnish friends and self-esteem. We are called in mercy to help with the basic needs of our fellow man in accordance with our ability.
Sancte Abraham, ora pro nobis!