On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014, I had to do something I never imagined I’d have to do: kick beggars off of church property.
A Hispanic woman and her two children were standing at the exit of our parking lot on the driveway median, mooching from the parishioners as they were driving out. Our pastor, Fr. George, is a lovely man, very good-humored and self-effacing. But you don’t want to be within fifty feet of him when he needs to delegate something, because he’s likely to grab the first unwitting soul available. He was discussing the issue with Bret, the Grand Knight of our Knights of Columbus council, when I stepped out of the church and went over to greet them.
“Ah, hello, Tony!” Fr. George exclaimed. As he reached out to give me a perfunctory handshake, he continued to speak to Bret: “Here we are, then; Tony can do this!” Herding me away from Bret and the building, he pointed out the beggars to me. “Go over there and tell them they cannot stand there; it’s illegal and dangerous. Make sure they leave.”
Moving the family on was fairly simple: I simply put my most pleasant face on and requested that they leave. And as I was walking back, one of the children, who unseen by me before had gone up to the church and was now walking back to the family, asked me, “Sir, do you think we’d be able to talk to someone at the church tomorrow at nine o’clock?” Yes, I agreed, someone should certainly be there.
Nevertheless, the irony of bustling poor people away from Christ’s church rather than bringing them in was too obvious. I can hear Jesus say, “I was hungry, and you gave me the bum’s rush” (cf. Matthew 25:42).