Fr Kevin Hegarty
The 16th-century Spanish mystic St John of the Cross once said that in the evening of our lives we will be judged on love alone. The 20th-century English poet Philip Larkin echoed these words when he wrote, ‘What will survive of us is love’.
What love entails for the Christian is outlined in the challenging excerpt from Matthew’s Gospel that was proclaimed in churches last Sunday. “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”
It is an imperative of Christian faith that belief is actualised in active concern for the impoverished, oppressed and marginalised. There needs to be a connection between liturgy and life. Christians are challenged to discern God’s presence in those whom society rejects.
Daniel Berrigan SJ, the American priest and poet, captured this insight in ‘The Face of Christ’:
“The tragic beauty of the face of Christ shines in our faces; / the abandoned old live on / in shabby rooms far from comfort / Outside, / din and purpose, the world, a fiery animal /reined in by youth. Within / a pallid tiring heart / shuffles about its dwelling.
“Nothing, so little, comes of life’s promise / Of broken, despised minds / what does one make – / a roadside show, a graveyard of the heart?
“Christ, fowler of the street and hedgerow / cripples, the distempered old / -eyes blind as woodknots / tongues tight as immigrants’ – / all taken in His gospel net, / the hue and cry of existence.”
Behind the glitter of modern Ireland, there is much poverty and pain. We have a homeless crisis.
According to the Peter McVerry Trust, 8,374 people are homeless in Ireland. Almost half of these are 24 years of age or younger.
There is an epidemic of addiction. Immigrants, fleeing war and poverty, seeking asylum in ‘Ireland of the welcomes’ languish for lengthy periods in detention centres, awaiting a verdict on whether they will be allowed permanent residency.
Brother Kevin Crowley is one who is passionately committed to social justice in Ireland. Now 82 years of age, he has devoted his life to the care of people in need in Dublin.
Originally from West Cork, after school worked for CIE. An advertisement for recruits to the Capuchin Order caught his eye and changed the course of his life.
The Capuchins were founded in the 16th century, inspired by St Francis of Assisi, who had a special charism for those haunted by poverty. Almost a century later, they established a foundation in Ireland.
Capuchin priests were praised for their spiritual ministrations to the dying and wounded during the Easter rising of 1916.
Brother Kevin established a day shelter in Dublin in 1969. At the start, the centre fed 50 people a day. By 2014, in the midst of the recession, almost 1,000 people came every day for food. Once a day before Christmas last year, more than 3,000 food parcels were distributed.
The cost of running the centre is well over €3 million. Though the Government provides some funding, the main source of income is voluntary donations. Brother Kevin does not employ professional fundraisers, as he believes every cent collected should go to those in need.
Let us put him on our Christmas list.