When I was a Dominican novice, ever so briefly, my weekly ministry was to work in the food pantry at St John’s Social Service Center in Cincinnatti, OH. (I “thought” the prison would be much “cooler”, but this was a blessed lesson in obedience to my novice master, Fr. Ambrose Eckinger, OP, a barber in secular life and a talented musician.) I learned many real lessons about real poverty and dismissed many misconceptions and biases I possessed.
Within the same block was a beautiful salon and haven for the homeless. They could take a shower, something I think we all take too much for granted. What joy. What pleasure. What heaven. Table stakes for social interaction. Have their hair cut. Have their clothes washed. Receive mail. Make and receive phone calls. Find that job, the quick unthinking, unfeeling, dismissive retort of many. “There, but for the grace of God…” Ps 103:2.
On the glass front door was an etching of just a foot (Jesus) and the head of a woman bathing the foot with her tears and drying them with her long tresses.(Luke 7:36-50) This Lent, let’s all bathe His feet and dry them with our hair. To borrow, I know they won’t mind, a Jesuit prayer practice, let’s all, especially me, REALLY PRAY THAT, imagine actually doing that, being the penitent woman, man, husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, etc. this Lent.
A view of the public restrooms just off St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. Rome’s homeless are about to get some TLC. The Vatican is finishing renovations on public restrooms just off St. Peter’s Square that will include three showers and a barber shop for the homeless. Each “homeless pilgrim” as Vatican Radio called the clients Friday, will receive a kit including a towel, change of underwear, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, razor and shaving cream. The showers will be open every day but Wednesday, when the piazza is full for the pope’s general audience. Haircuts are available Mondays.
“Vatican prepares to open showers, barber shop for homeless
-by Nicole Winfield, AP News
Feb 6, 2015
VATICAN CITY (AP) – Rome’s homeless are about to get some TLC.
The Vatican said Friday it had finished renovations on public restrooms just off St. Peter’s Square that will include three showers and a free barber shop for the city’s neediest.
Each “homeless pilgrim,” as the Vatican called the clients, will receive a kit including a towel, change of underwear, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, razor and shaving cream. The showers will be open every day but Wednesday, when the piazza is full for the pope’s general audience. Haircuts will be available Mondays.
Barbers volunteering on their days off – Rome’s barber shops are closed Mondays – as well as students from a local beauty school will be donating their time, as well as some sisters from religious orders and other volunteers.
The bathrooms were made with high-tech, easy-to-clean materials to ensure proper hygiene, the Vatican said in a statement. The walls are grey, with white washbasins and a high-tech looking barber chair.
Francis’ chief alms-giver, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, has said the project is needed since homeless people are often shunned for their appearance and smell. The initiative is being funded by donations and sales of papal parchments sold by Krajewski’s office.
Francis has stepped up the role of the Vatican “elmosiniere” as part of his insistence that the church look out for the poorest. In addition to small acts of charity, Krajewski’s office handed out 400 sleeping bags to the homeless over Christmas, distributed 1,600 phone cards to new migrants on the island of Lampedusa, and this past week gave away some 300 umbrellas that had been left behind at the Vatican Museums to help the homeless cope with days of heavy rain in the capital.”
“I told him, ‘Eminence, this isn’t being an almoner. You might be able to sleep at night, but being an almoner has to cost you. Two euros is nothing for you. Take this poor person, bring him to your big apartment1 that has three bathrooms, let him take a shower – and your bathroom will stink for three days – and while he’s showering make him a coffee and serve it to him, and maybe give him your sweater…”
(1I always urge caution & prudence when dealing with those whose needs exceed our abilities, which is frequent. The heart of charity is a beautiful thing; however, I strongly believe making professional services aware of the person’s plight and location is a far more loving and prudent thing than acting naively out of love. I lost a dear friend, Lynn, in a tragic crime, where all she tried to do was help. These are issues/circumstances beyond the layperson’s ability/competence and often result in the gravest of dangers. Mt 10:16)
(Giving an Apostolic Blessing, from the papal almoner, for very special occasions, a wedding, an anniversary, etc. was always par for the course for McCormicks. It was completely usual to go into a McCormick home and see the Apostolic Blessing hanging on the wall, framed, in a place of honor, as it would be in any Catholic home, along with a framed picture of the Kennedy brothers, Jack & Bobby, (more highly regarded than actual saints) and the Holy Father. Par for the course. Par.)