Unlike the Local Authority, At St Mary Magdalen's We Treasure and Love Our Irritating Little B******
It wasn't the Church or Fr Ray Blake that ordered a stringent ASBO on this man, banning him from central Brighton and anywhere he may 'upset the tourists' or the shoppers and consumers of this 'diverse' city, where all but the poor are welcomed with open arms. This man is so irritating, so drunk, so regularly off his nut and so very intrusive in his beggging techniques, that he is not allowed in vast areas of Brighton itself. At St Mary Magdalen's Church, however, he is welcomed, often against our own interests and the safeguarding of the dignity of the Sacred Liturgy,
It wasn't the Church or Fr Ray Blake that evicts him, regularly, from homeless hostels. It wasn't the Church or Fr Ray Blake that hounds him from pillar to post, who sees him as a 'problem to be solved' by punishment or draconian action, monitoring him, inhibiting his movement, freedom, rights and dignity. No. That will be the local authorities - that will be the Council, the Probation service, the Social Services, Alcohol and Substance Misuse Services and Mental Health Services (exactly where are they when you actually need them!?) and all those charged with a statutory duty of care for someone classed as a 'vulnerable person'! Does Fr Ray ban him from his parish Church? No. Who bans him from the streets of inner Brighton? The loving arms of the State, at a local level, of course! Who wants him out of Brighton? The Council, the rich, the powerful!
Bill Gardner, sir, and all you lousy daily national journalists, who thought it might be fun to bring down the reputation of a good and holy priest by taking out of context his thoughts on the duties Christians have to the poor, I challenge you to spend ten minutes with this man and not feel in any way 'irritated' and to think or say anything that does not offend holy charity. I've tried it a million times. I am convinced it is impossible to all but God. I challenge you to get the real story here - how one man survives each winter - against all the odds, when the local authority abandons him to the rain, cold, sleet and snow. How one man keeps going despite his many setbacks in life, despite his horrific childhood, despite his addictions to drugs and alcohol, despite being beaten up regularly on the streets by other homeless people. There's a story. The man is a living story, an embodiment of the Gospel message to us, and a challenge to all of us, Christian or not, to respond with love, 'tough love' perhaps, but love nonetheless, to a poor man rejected by nearly all in society but the Catholic Church (He's not allowed in CCK you know - those 'welcoming' Protestant evangelicals) and those who adhere to Her teachings on the love of Christ served in the poor.
After this interview, I asked this man whether he thought that, at times, he could be described as 'irritating'.
Pray for the public vindication of Fr Ray Blake against the malicious slander that has been sent in his direction, not merely in the local pathetic excuse for a newspaper, but now in the national daily press as well. Of course, just because this man is, as virtually all of Brighton knows, an irritating little ******d, does not mean we do not care for him, treasure him, love him, cloth him, feed him and give him some loose change when we have it because these are actions of love. This is what Jesus tells us to do.
Pray too for Jason. He says that he is only evicted for a night or two. Of course, the Council's hostel have said that before...