Diary of a ghetto priest | The forgotten brotherhood
It was close to 7 p.m., and there was slight drizzle that was consistent for about two hours. It was getting dark driving home from our homeless residence, The Lord's Place at 3 Law Street. On the way back, the streets were lonely and shadowy. One of our brothers named Jesu saw a figure rolling in the gutter with one hand gesticulating in the air for help.
Brother Jesu stopped the car. He and another brother, Michael, went up to this desperate figure.
"What happened, Sir? What's your name?" asked Brother Jesu.
The response was just a groan, but he clung to the brother's hand.
"Help me, Brother! Help! Help!"
Our homes were full.
"He will die in the streets," said Brother Jesu.
"Let's take him to Good Shepherd," said Brother Michael.
Charlie, as his name was later revealed, said, "Bredda, me no have no place to live."
WHAT DO WE DO?
The brothers knew that Good Shepherd was full. But what do you do even when there is no space? Do you leave the homeless laying under the determined rain, or, on the next day under the merciless sun on the road with cars driving by and people walking by without help? Or do the brothers place the homeless Charlie between beds on the floor, on a mattress, and pack him in?
The brothers decided on the latter. Brother Jesu and Brother Michael lifted Charlie, who groaned terribly in the back of our car.
The smell was strong. Charlie had messed himself and urinated many times.
"Well, we can always clean out the car later on," said Brother Michael to Jesu. "We better get out of the rain."
Good Shepherd, on Hanover Street, was the most flexible at that moment. So the Brothers honked the horn. They got some help from our neighbours to lift Charlie. By then, it was dark. The other homeless residents came and gathered around Charlie.
Brother Jesu heated some water in a pot, and poured it into a bucket of cold water. Then brothers Michael and Jesu began the ritual of purifying his body. They took off his old clothes. It was all rags and dirt, both the shirt and trousers. The torn clothes revealed sores on Charlie's feet.
He wept in sadness and loneliness.
But he became subdued, "Thank you, bredda! Thank you, bredda!"
Brother Michael got a half-sized mattress and some clean white bed sheets and laid Charlie between the beds.
Then Brother Jesu got some hot soup and a few slices of bread with margarine.
Slowly, Charlie took in the little spoons of soup and pieces of broken bread.
NO LONGER ALONE
"Bredda, bredda, you is me own bredda. I have no bredda, no sister, no modda, no fadda."
"Now you have us as brothers," said Brother Michael. "Every day, we will be with you. You will have a bed, food, even friends. Look at all your friends at Good Shepherd."
The residents all smiled, clapped, and prayed.
They gathered around Charlie.
Charlie grabbed on to Brother Jesu's hand. "Now me have a bredda."
"And you are our brother!" responded Brother Jesu.
Charlie survived. The residents fed him by a spoon and by hand at every meal for about a month. Now he can take small steps and go to the toilet. Now he can feed himself. Today, he helps the brothers care for the other poor.
Charlie sings hymns and prays with our residents. Seventy homeless residents of Good Shepherd - totally forgotten, neglected and abandoned - live together in brotherhood. Charlie has added to the number. So now there is 71. With the brothers, they form an unlikely band of happy men who care for themselves and for one another.
"We can't take in anymore" said Brother Jesu.
Brother Michael laughed.
The brothers pray for the homeless and destitute and work with them each day. They want visitors, they need help. They really are a community of gentle but forgotten men, but are full of love and full of hope.
I think of the Master's words:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
It's Christ and the good people of Jamaica who support us and encourage us in living out the Beatitudes.
For those of you who want to participate in our works, call us at 948-6173.
- Father Ho Lung is founder of Missionaries of the Poor.