Encountering Christ In The Streets

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Poor in the eyes of men but rich in the eyes of God

By John Ortega, C'20

This line concludes the prayer to St. Benedict Joseph Labre, patron saint of the homeless, and I think that there is no other phrase that greater describes those people who find themselves without a home.

Last weekend, I, along with a few other students, met William. He was sitting on a chair at the corner of Arch and 8th Street. His cane rested against his seat while, in his hands, he held a cardboard sign. On which, he had written a message asking those who passed by him for food. We offered to treat William to a nearby Subway, and he graciously accepted. From thereon, we learned his story.

William is an optimist. Despite having hip and knee disabilities, he opened the door to Subway for our young and bubbly group and insisted that we enter the building before him. He described his outlook on life, noting that he does not take each day for granted. He feels that life can only get better for him, and he tries to reflect that belief in his personality and actions.

William is a sports fan. He wore his Philadelphia Eagles cap with pride and offered our group his analysis of the upcoming football season. He described his love of watching athletes who are passionate about their profession. He even boldly predicted that the Eagles will improve upon their record from last year.

William is homeless. He is physically seen on the streets but soon afterwards ignored. His present situation overshadows his past. He is the invisible person sitting at Arch and 8th Street.

We, as a society, have let this happen.

We have let the label of poverty define the individuality of each homeless person. We have neglected to learn their names. We have forgotten to recognize their God-given dignity.

Christ in the City hopes to change that. To subvert the stigma surrounding the homeless. To grow in relationship with the homeless. To help men and women see the richness of the poor like God does.

Until that happens, though, we pray on behalf of homeless individuals like William.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, poor in the eyes of men but rich in the eyes of God, pray for us.