“Whiteous” Indignation.

His hands were almost like leather, but they were so big! It actually surprised me. When he shook my hand, it engulfed mine in an instant with more room to spare, but somehow there was a gentleness about him. His eyes met mine instantly and without a moment of hesitation. You could – if you dared set aside your ‘whiteous indignation’, behold the eyes of the God we worship in human form. I handed him a Saint Miriam Blessing Bag and added a single one-dollar bill; you would’ve thought that I had just given him the world!

His eyes darted and lit up, he became emotional and when I asked him his name, he almost stumbled. I doubt many – if any – ever ask him that question much anymore. “My name? My name is Scott Pearson. Mr. Scott Pearson!” He stood straight backed again and proud when he relayed that information to me. He thanked me over and over again, telling me how ‘I blessed his day’. And since I had done such a wonderful thing for him, he would return the favor with the only thing he had to give, a bit of humor. Mr. Pearson told me and Katelyn a joke that evening, as we sat at the traffic light and God blessed us all with a little time together before we traveled to our destination, ironically to meet someone who once was homeless, too, but survived because of the kindness of a few strangers who dared look beyond their own selfishness and prejudice and helped him become human again. There we were, sitting in our vehicle at the traffic light at I-76 and the Girard Avenue Exit, just before the Philadelphia Zoo, and we made a new friend.

I remember glancing back in my rearview mirror at the large Porsche SUV behind me. I was worried they might honk in irritation if I missed the light turning green. As Mr. Pearson’s hand took ahold of mine, I saw it, in that expression of the lady behind me. It was what I fear the most, rejection and repulsion.  

Oh, I know what you are thinking. It is the very same thing I so often thought, too. “Not me!” “I would never…” But, alas, we do. Those of us with privilege of color or education or living or status, we fall complacent to those who struggle and – in our brokenness – we become indignant and uncaring.

This Sunday we honor the life and legacy of St. Benedict Joseph Labre. He is the patron saint of the homeless and his life stretches any scale of success beyond usefulness, even one duly chastened by any gospel expectation or mandate. Benedict was a failure, not only “according to worldly standards,” but also, by any imaginable churchly standard. Before he embarked on his life of vagrancy, he pursued tenaciously a monastic vocation, and failed. By the time he reached his early twenties, he had applied repeatedly to multiple Carthusian and Cistercian communities, and he managed to get rejected or turned away by all of them, some of them more than once; he failed. Benedict was a failure at both ways of living and yet, as Thomas Merton observed, “the only canonized saint, venerated by the whole Church, who has lived either as a Cistercian or a Carthusian since the Middle Ages is St. Benedict Joseph Labre” (Ref: New Seeds of Contemplation). He was a failure by any measure at all, in all things but holiness. On this day, we will gather and honor him, and we remember him and all the ‘Mr. Pearsons’ of the world who fail to live to the standard of the majority, but still are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Yesterday I was indignant, today I am disillusioned…but together, things will change.

I pray you will join me as we take a brief journey to see all this wonderful parish does for the world. We, together, set our eyes not on the things that vanish, but those things of life eternal.

Join me.


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