Pilgrimages

Who Are the Poor I’m Supposed to Care For?

by Steve Ray on November 24, 2014

As we leave our rented apartment in Rome and walk towards St. Peter’s Square I notice a ragged, filthy woman sitting on a piece of cardboard with a baby laying lethargically in her arms. She looks up with mournful eyes and pathetically mumbles something as she reaches out hoping I’ll put coins in her hand.

A few feet beyond her is a man stooped over his cane so painful-appearing that he is barely able to lift his eyes to make contact with mine. A paper cup is stationed on the sidewalk in front of him; he also reaches out a filthy hand plaintively begging for money.

We stop by a sidewalk café for a quick coffee before entering the Square. We are approached by children with tinny-sounding accordions. They boldly step up playing and singing. When they have finished a few moments of this “performance” they walk among the tables with their hands out.

This weekend at Mass we were exhorted by Our Lord Jesus to feed the poor, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty and other sorts of charitable action to help the poor. But who are the poor Jesus is referring to? Are the people I passed on the street the poor I should help? Are they the one’s that Jesus refers to? Is the man sitting on the corner nursing the last few drops from his whiskey bottle the one I’m supposed to give a drink to? Many people asked these questions today and struggle with the commands to help the poor and the thirsty. They ask the question who are the poor and the thirsty and hungry?

Most of the beggars we encounter in major cities around the world are what we call Romani, or more commonly known as gypsies. I don’t know all of them, of course, but we see everywhere children who do not go to school but are used as beggars and thieves to supply cash for the camp. My heart weeps for these kids as I see a young boy sitting in an underground walkway by himself all day without friends or family looking up to strangers who walk by ignoring him. It rips my guts out.

I’ve often said to my wife, “I’d like to rescue that boy and take him home and raise them properly.” But if I did this, I’d be arrested for kidnapping. I picture my grandchildren and I have a sense of loathing, pity and despair. What can I do when they are part of a family and a clan that treats their children this way and think it is normal. If I give him money it only propagates his abuse. A kind word or bit of food is about all I can do with a clear conscience.

I remember walking through Mumbai India.bin advance I had packed a bunch of sandwiches in a bag to hand out as I walked through the poor parts of the city. I would spot for people sitting on the sidewalk, or children climbing into dumpsters for their breakfast. I handed out the sandwiches with Billy but was stopped by a young boy about 10 years old who said, “You are doing a very bad thing.” I asked, “Why?” he said, “People need to take responsibility for their lives. If you give them things they will never learn to be responsible for themselves.”

Very wise words for a 10-year-old. It’s not that I believe that everyone is able to look out for themselves–there are many who are in desperate need of our help and unable to help themselves, but his point was well taken. I told him his father must be a wise man.

I’ve watched a crippled man leaning on a cane whimpering in pain until 5:00 PM when his shift ended. He looked at his watch, he stood up straight and walked back home. He was there again the next day exploiting the sympathies of naïve, kindly-hearted people.

We’ve had two young girls with babies in their arms standing very close to us on a bus full of smiles. We spoke kind words and paid attention to the babies only to find out a few moments later that our fannypacks, purses, and everything else had been unzipped. The babies are often drugged to make them look lethargic and pathetic. They are used as zombie props in the art of theft. Often the girls are not even their mothers. They can be referred to as “rent-a-babies.”

Once my wife caught a boy with his hand in her pocket. Many of these people beg for a living and when they don’t make enough begging they steal. My wife lost her wallet this way not more than a month ago and tourists often find their passports, credit cards and cash have disappeared. This is why we repeatedly warn our pilgrims to watch out for pickpockets everywhere we go.

Personally, I cannot give money to such folks because to do so propagates their lifestyle, supports their continued child abuse, thievery and despicable lifestyle. We cannot support and condone such conduct. How do I know the real poor and those that are just making a dishonest living, some of them quite a good living? 

Two things I try to do besides pray for folks that I see in need. First, if I see a person who is obviously in distress, missing a leg, blind, or some other obvious disadvantage I will pull money out and share with them along with a kind word. Second, I look for the Missionaries of Charity in their simple white habits striped with blue. It does not have to be their specific order but these I know and have confidence in.

We know where they are housed in Rome. It is an inconspicuous door with a simple doorbells to the right. I push the doorbell, then push it again and sooner or later one of these beautiful sisters will open the door. They all have the same gracious smiles and kindly faces as their founder, Mother Teresa. My wife and I return her smile and hand them a generous donation. We ask them to use it for the poor and to assist in their ministry. I don’t know who really needs the money, but they do.

Once in Mumbai India we were invited to visit one of their compounds. They took us on a tour—room after room of disadvantaged, mentally handicapped, diseased and dying (out of respect we took no pictures except of the sisters you see here). One room contained about 100 cribs in neat rows each with a child unable to care for themselves. Many had diseases, mental handicaps, twisted bodies. Janet and I were in tears having never seen anything like this in our lives. What touched us most was the sisters and volunteers working among these castaways treating them with great love and affection. They bathed them, fed them, changed their diapers, caressed them. 

However, not everyone that comes to their compound are admitted. They are selective who gets admitted to their care.

One little volunteer, a lady no more than 5 feet tall, said proudly, “I come here every day. I love serving Our Lord Jesus this way!” Looking around Janet and I were repulsed by the pain, disease, twisted bodies, staring eyes, gangrene and seeming hopelessness. We were moved tears as we watched the sisters love these disadvantaged people as though they were loving Jesus himself. We hugged them all and with choked voices said, “Sisters, you make me proud to be Catholic. I couldn’t do what you do for even 10 minutes. You make us very proud!”

In Jesus’s time there was no Social Security, unemployment benefits, welfare and other social supports for the underprivileged. Churches had not begun charitable work and few cared for anything but themselves. In ancient Rome life was cheap and cities were full of slaves and the destitute. A drink or offering of food to a slave laboring under the hot sun was a true act of charity because no one paid any mind to the slaves. Jesus stopped to heal and care for the blind, the lame, the hungry of his time.

In the time of Jesus, a woman without a husband or son could be left destitute. Unwanted infants were tossed under bridges only to be eaten by the wild dogs. It is no coincidence that Scripture often uses the care of widows and orphans as a sign of one’s spirituality. Many were unjustly imprisoned and the truly poor were cast aside. Were some poor because they were lazy or because they made poor choices? Of course. The book of Proverbs in the Bible is full of exhortations for hard work and to eschew laziness and sloth. It is the same today. 

But often others are made poor by choices of their parents or others around them. At the same time in America it is hard to think of someone  as poor who has cable television, a cell phone and many other benefits and amenities of our modern welfare society–especially since I’ve seen so much from around the world. Our society has a good number who know how to milk the system, get what is undeserved and avoid the effort and work to care for themselves.

There are still people who truly need our assistance and we should see them as Jesus himself. I am not one for condoning irresponsibility, laziness or habitual bad choices. But, we also want to help those who are truly in need as Jesus requires of us. Now that we are Catholics we make sure our donations are given to legitimate Catholic charities. We also make sure to help our own when they are in need.

When we are in Jerusalem we take up donations and give money to the Patriarch of Jerusalem knowing that such gifts will be given to the truly needy among our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. There are too many charities that use the money improperly and not all of it gets to those who need it. Unhappily there are many of these, even in the Holy Land.

Discernment is important, charity is essential, obedience to Our Lord is crucial and caring for the unfortunate and disadvantaged is not an option. When we were Protestants we used to believe in “faith alone” but that mantra is hard to chant when hearing the gospel last Sunday which said heaven and hell will be the result of our choices—whether we care for others or whether we ignore them. 

Dear Lord, give us wisdom and charity and the means to help and willingness to do so. Mother Theresa, pray for us!

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The Bishop with all our Clergy in Thessaloniki

The ancient Christian writer and theologian Tertullian once asked the Church, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”

He asked the question as Christianity spread from Israel into the Greek world; and as Greek intellectuals looked for deeper insight into the Christian mystery. Tertullian was asking whether pagan Greek culture—philosophy, poetry, the arts, history and literature—had anything of value for those first missionaries proclaiming the Christian gospel.

Two weeks ago, on a plane landing in Athens, I asked myself Tertullian’s question.  I was in Athens to begin a spiritual pilgrimage to Greece and Turkey “in the footsteps of St. Paul.” I was with a group of pilgrims celebrating the 15th anniversary of Spirit Catholic Radio: eight priests from Lincoln and Omaha; three deacons;140 lay Catholics from across Nebraska and beyond. 

We were led by Steve and Janet Ray, expert pilgrim leaders, and Jim and Karol Carroll of Spirit Catholic Radio. It was a joy and a grace for me to walk as a pilgrim in the footsteps of St. Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, with fellow disciples of Jesus Christ from our state.

Our Ship Docked on Island of Patmos

By cruise ship on the Aegean Sea, we visited and celebrated Holy Mass in Thessoloniki, Philippi, Istanbul, Pergamon, Ephesus, Patmos, Athens and Corinth. We heard talks at these holy sites, given by Steve Ray, Catholic convert, author and film maker, who leads Catholic pilgrimages all over the world.  We heard inspiring homilies by holy priests. We prayed together for all the special prayer intentions we brought with us from home.

Everywhere I traveled, I asked myself “what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” In Athens itself I learned the answer: Athens has everything to do with Jerusalem.  The Gospel can only really be understood in the midst of understanding culture; to understand Christianity as Western Catholics, we need to understand the fundamental history of western civilization.

The Bishop and Steve on Mars Hill in Athens where St. Paul Taught

When St. Paul arrived in Athens, he preached the gospel at the famous Areopagus, a gathering place just beneath the Parthenon. He was able to speak to the Greeks in their own language. He was able to quote Greek poets and philosophers. He appealed to Greeks in their own cultural language because he was schooled in Tarsus, the successor to the school of Athens as the center of learning and education in Asia Minor.

Paul was run out of town after his first visit to Athens.  But he was able to plant the Lord’s seeds of conversion in the hearts and minds of the Athenians—the movers and shakers of the ancient world. He would eventually come back to cultivate those seeds that were planted.

Paul was able to use his fluency with the language, culture and customs of the Greek world in order to present the compelling message of Jesus Christ in a way that was attractive and persuasive. To be sure, St. Paul suffered a great deal during his missionary journeys to the Greek world. The Greeks were highly educated and influential. They were also utterly pagan. They worshiped false gods, they were self-indulgent and decadent, and they were infatuated with progress, technology, and the latest new fad. Paul preached to a world not much different than ours today….

The whole article is excellent and you can read the rest of it HERE. Also on Zenit.org.

You will find out why the picture below was the highlight of Bishop Conley’s trip.

Iraqi's in Athens

 

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Written today from a pilgrim who has traveled to the Holy Land with us numerable times:

“For those committed or considering, don’t let anyone keep you away. Steve and Janet would never put you in danger, and the experience is a once in a lifetime event. I would go back for a fourth time with no fear. This land is where our religion was founded, we cannot let events keep us away. You are much safer in Jerusalem than in Detroit.”

And do we have the trips for you!

Click here to see the full brochure

Work and school schedules a problem — no problem! We have a convenient pilgrimage planned over the Christmas break — from the day after Christmas until before work and school start after New Year’s.

Join our Holy Land Christmas-Break Pilgrimage from December 26 – January 4. We have special events arranged for kids. We also have a great pilgrimage going February 11-20, 2015 and another May 11-20.

For all of our upcoming trips to Israel, Italy, Lourdes, Avila and Fatima, the Shroud of Turin and more visit www.FootprintsOfGod.com

FOR THOSE CONCERNED ABOUT SAFETY IN THE HOLY LAND 

Janet and I just returned from the Holy Land with 55 excited and grateful pilgrims. The comment we received the most from these pilgrims was, “This was a very safe and quiet trip. Thank you SO much for not canceling like so many other groups did.” 

Christmas shopping in Bethlehem

Many groups canceled precipitously because of the fighting with Gaza (a cyclical event that happens every few years). We understood the situation and knew, 1) it would not effect our travel route, and 2) it would be over before our groups arrived.

 And we were right. With fewer tourists it seemed we had the whole country to ourselves— NO LINES! Easy access to the holy sites and it will be like that for much of our October trip as well. 

Everyone loves the camel rides

 


Is it safe in Israel? Watch this 2 minute film from our trip in September 2014 showing daily life in Jerusalem and comments from some of our 55 pilgrims.

 Please feel free to contact Suzanne or Elizabeth at Corporate Travel if you would like to ask questions or discuss the trip further at 800-727-1999, extension 121 or 150. Also sparran@ctscentral.net.

You can email me too at sray@me.com. This will be an exciting boutique pilgrimage and trip with a one-bus group. We look forward to showing you our favorite places in the world, following the footprints of our Lord and Lady (we’ve been to Israel over 130 times :-)

Our hotel in Jerusalem

 

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Did Solomon’s Mother Bathsheba Demonstrate Mary is NOT a Good Intercessor?

November 9, 2014

I put up a post a few days ago with a video of my talk in Ephesus about Mary being Queen of Heaven and an Intercessor for the people of God’s kingdom. Someone wrote to object saying, It is interesting Steve, as to what you left out in your reference to 1 Kings 2:19 , Solomon’s Mother [...]

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What Did People Say? Comments and Farewells from Athens

November 8, 2014

It is always hard to say goodbye after spending two weeks together visiting all the biblical sites in the footprints of St. Paul, St. John and Mary. It was a wonderful trip and here are a lot of comments and thoughts of the people who joined this pilgrimage including Bishop Conley of Lincoln Nebraska and [...]

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Corinth, Erastus’ Name; Bishop Conley Explains Our Gift

November 8, 2014

Thunderstorms were forecast but the rain stopped when we arrived in Ancient Corinth. Blue sky broke thru and we had a moving Mass on a rock outdoors in front of the Judgment Seat where Paul was brought. After a tour of the ancient city where St. Paul lived for 18 months we went to a [...]

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Highlights of Athens; Story of St. Paul Here

November 7, 2014

Off the ship and in to tour Athens. First we had Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Dionysius the Areopagite who was Paul’s convert in Athens who later became Athen’s first bishop. Our favorite stop was Mars Hill, the Areopagus, where St. Paul explained the truth of Jesus Christ. To the judges of Athens. [...]

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Glorious Ephesus: Mass at House of Mary, Bishop Conley’s Homily and more

November 5, 2014

Great day in the city of St. Paul, St. John and where Mary lived. Also the 3rd Ecumenical Council where bishops declared Mary the Mother of God. Also Bishop Conley’s excellent homily during Mass at Mary’s House at Ephesus. Enjoy! Bishop Conley’s Homily at Mary’s House in Ephesus Turkey

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The Throne of Satan and Steve’s Message to the Churches, Day 10 in Pergamum

November 4, 2014

What a day! We had a wonderful Mass on the ship with Bishop Conley presiding. Then we took off in our buses to go to Pergamum the biblical city mentioned in Revelation 2:12-17. While on the Acropolis of Pergamum I played the part of the messenger bringing the word from St. John the bishop of [...]

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Largest and most magnificent church for 1000 years before the Muslims took it over, Day 9

November 3, 2014

Istanbul, or rather for Christians – Constantinople is where we toured today. We started at the gym of the city called Hagia Sophia. This magnificent edifice was the most beautiful and largest church in the world for 1000 years before St. Peter’s was built in Rome. The Muslims took it over and defaced all the [...]

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To Philippi with St. Paul, Day 8

November 3, 2014

Today was a blockbuster day following St. Paul as he entered Europe for the first time. Kavala, the city on the coast of the Aegean Sea used to be called Neapolis during Paul’s time. We arrived and boarded our buses and drove through Kavala seeing the mosaic of Paul receiving a vision from the Macedonian [...]

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Robin’s Conversion Story in Prep for St. Paul Cruise

November 1, 2014

Robin writes: St Paul Pilgrimage – preface I wanted to begin this blog with my conversion story. For some of you, you may stop reading here but I encourage you to continue. This is my second pilgrimage with Steve Ray and his wife Janet. I choose to travel with him because I would not be [...]

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From Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano to Ferry across Adriatic Sea

October 30, 2014

Today we started early in the morning at Lanciano Italy at the stupendous Eucharistic miracle which took place in the 700s. A priest was doubting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and God gave him a miracle which carries down to this day. When he held the host in his hand it turned [...]

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Pope Up Close, Face of God Up Close: Pilgrimage Cruise Day 4

October 29, 2014

What an amazing day! Starting with a 5:00 AM wake up call so we could be the first ones in line to enter St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience with Pope Francis. And boy, did that pay off! All of our people got to see the Pope up close. It was a marvelous morning [...]

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Rome Day 2: Hiking Tour thru Rome

October 27, 2014

Day Tour: we started with the drive through Rome to the Pantheon where we left everybody to scatter for lunch at all the excellent and delicious cafés in the area. After a tour of the Pantheon we visited the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which houses the remains of St. Catherine of Siena and [...]

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Arrival Day in Rome for Spirit Catholic Radio

October 26, 2014

About 70 folks arrived today and about ten more tomorrow morning. We’re off to a great start with Sunday Mass at a Carmelite Monastery with the cloistered sisters. But tomorrow the real excitement begins when we start our tours and begin exploring the Eternal City.

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