I originally heard this joke in early 2008, so I’m changing the names.
Nancy Pelosi and Ron Paul are walking down the streets of DC. They see a homeless man. Ron Paul walks over, hands the guy $20, and says, “I’m Representative Ron Paul, MD. Here’s my card. Meet me in my office tomorrow at 2 PM, and I’ll help you find a job.”
Pelosi says, “That’s a great idea!”
So, a little while later, they pass another homeless man, and Pelosi walks up and says, “Hi! I’m Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi! Here’s a brochure about welfare!” Then she pulls $20 out of Ron Paul’s pocket and gives it to the homeless man.
Last week, our parish had a mission given by a Fransican priest, Fr. Roderic Petri, and I bought one of his books, a meditation on the Gospel of Matthew. In the passage on “Build up your treasure in Heaven,” he told the following story:
A woman came to Heaven. St. Peter said, “Let me show you to your house.” They walked all through Heaven and passed many glorious mansions and palaces. At the end of Heaven, they came to a small hovel. “Here you go!” Said St. Peter.
“This is it?” The woman asked.
“That’s all we can do with the money you gave us over the years.”
True story I read somewhere told by Douglas Gresham:
C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein were walking through the streets of Oxford. They passed a beggar. Lewis pulled all the cash he had out of his pocket and gave it to the beggar.
“Why’d you do that?” Tolkein asked. “The man is just going to spend it on drink!”
Lewis shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s all I was going to spend it on!”
“I sometimes get tired of answering the door, knowing that the they’re just going to take the money and spend it on booze. But I know the one day I don’t answer the door, it’s going to be Jesus.”
–Rev. Fr. Gregory Kirsch, JCL, VF, in the 1980s.
Scott Hahn once told a story on _Mother Angelica Live_ that a priest friend told him. This priest had visited Rome, and had a “private” dinner with John Paul II. Between visits to St. Peter’s Basilica, he passed a beggar who looked familiar. So he approached the beggar. They got to talking, and it turned out they had gone to seminary together. This beggar had fallen away from the Church.
So the priest said, “Come with me. You’re going with me to see the Pope.”
The beggar protested. The priest said, “I’m not going to dinner with the Pope without you.”
They went to the priest’s hotel room, where the beggar showered, and his former classmate gave him some fresh clothes.
They went to dinner with the Pope. The priest explained his friend’s story. The Pope asked for privacy [the cable fizzled out when he said whether they left the room or sent everyone else out]. John Paul II fell down on his knees before the beggar and said, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. . . . . ”
The beggar said, “Holy Father, I am no longer a priest! And you would have me hear your confession?”
“‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek!'”
“But I’m not in good standing with the Church!”
“I’m the Pope! If I say you’re in good standing, you’re in good standing!”
So this beggar heard the confession of the Pope. Then the Pope heard *his* confession. Then they returned to the dinner party.
“Father,” said JPII. “Tomorrow I want you to report to Fr. X at St. Y parish, and start a ministry to your fellow beggars.”
Mary just read a similar story tonight in abook regarding a man who helped a beggar who turned out to be a Johns Hopkins surgeon who had fallen on hard times. The man not only helped him materially, but shared God’s love with the man. He said it was the first time in years anyone had shown him human affection. The narrator even checked up with Hopkins to see if this fellow was a real doctor. Sometime later, he got a message from the former beggar, who had been able to get his life in order and return to his medical practice.
One Saturday morning, my dad came home from morning Mass with a couple he had met in the parking lot. They lived in North Carolina and had run out of money. They’d come to the parish for help.
My parents welcomed them in, served them breakfast, conversed with them, and then paid for their gas back to North Carolina and helped them find their way to the highway. Several months later, they received a Christmas card from this couple.
Another time, we were having a party, and a fellow came to the gate, asking for help. He had a very unlikely story, but my dad helped him. Everyone said Dad was being foolish, that the guy was probably a con artist.
“So what?” Dad said. “Why should that destroy my act of charity?”
Later that evening, the guy came *back*. Dad said, “Listen, this is all the cash I have in the house, so please don’t come back again . I don’t know if you’re lying to me or not, but I’m a Christian, and I’m doing this for Christ.”
A few days later, that very guy was arrested for grift, and his picture was in the paper. The police offered to give back money to the guy’s victims. People asked dad if he was going to claim his money.
“Why would I cancel out my act of charity?”
Victor Hugo wrote _Les Miserables_ because he was inspired by a true story he read in the paper: how the Bishop of Digne had entertained a known thief in his home, and, when the thief robbed him, the bishop came to the thief’s defense and said he had given the silver as a gift.
“I have bought your soul for God,” says the bishop in Hugo’s fictionalized account of the event.
I take very seriously Jesus’ words about almsgiving, both about doing it and about keeping it secret, unless we need to pay by card or check. Even If I won the lottery, I’d still put my $1000 in the collection basket as cash, with no enveloped. I don’t like the idea of saying you’re a “Catholic in good standing” if the Church can keep track of your donations in an envelope. That just doesn’t seem right to me.
So I don’t like talking or writing about the charity I do, except to say that I always find that, a) if I pray for a chance to help someone (e.g., it’s a Friday, and I want to eat meat), God grants the opportunity; or b) if I happen to see someone in need at the time I’m praying for some particular intention, I usually get the prayer answered.
The most blatant example was when I’d been waiting to hear about getting my first and only full time job, as an admissions officer at Strayer University online. I was supposed to start on Monday, and it was Friday, and I knew this was my last chance. We passed a beggar on the road, and bought him lunch. No sooner had we handed the guy the bag, than the phone rang, and I got the job.
So, this evening, we had a profound opportunity to help some people. These people were either totally sincere, or else they were the best con artists in the world and deserve the money for their fine performance.
I mean, we’ve been where they were-not quite as bad, but we have had to seek help from people plenty of times in our lives. And where would we be if they thought we were just con artists telling an elaborate made-up story?
Indeed, to make a political point and round out a bit, we’ve received a great deal of help from friends who are Ron Paul supporters.
So we helped these folks, but we did more than that. I took time to tell them *our* story, to tell them we were helping from our own limited resources, and that we were performing an act of self-sacrificing love. And I told them some of the stories I’ve recounted in this post, and I told them my beliefs about prayer and providence, and about the powerful miracles I’ve experienced in my life.
Then, as we were parting, I took of the San Damiano crucifix I was wearing (We have a bunch of them–Mary bought them for her first Catholic school class and never passed them out), and gave it to the guy. I pulled out the copy of Hide Me In Your Wounds I keep in the van to pray to, and handed it to him.
I said, “Don’t worry about paying me back. Here’s what I want you to do. Wear this crucifix. Do you have a CD player?” He said they did. I said, “Listen to this CD *every day* for a year.”
“I will,” he said.
“And lastly, over the next few days, please pray very intensely for me to get get a good full time job.”