The dead are the poorest of the poor because “you can’t take it with you.” In the end, we all die naked and alone, as we see in Christ on the Cross. How not to dread death, then? St. Vincent de Paul, the great apostle to the poor, said that he who serves the poor in this life will not fear death when it comes for him. That’s been my experience too. So yesterday, to prepare for my mother’s death anniversary, I joined the holy women (and one man) of our parish who prepare 300 sandwiches every Sunday. At 3pm we took these sandwiches, along with large tubs of hot chocolate, lemonade, water, as well as shirts, coats, socks, shoes, and gloves to those living on the streets of America’s wealthiest city. Every time I spend some time with these people, I lose my fear of death. I am filled with human warmth and joy. The poor are marvelous people, brilliant in their simplicity. Most of them speak Spanish, and of our group I’m the only Spanish speaker, so I had an immediate connection with them. Most are also Catholic, and they were delighted to find a priest who could hear their confession and give them a blessing.
When I was nine, my mother would take me on visits to the poor of our small town. We didn’t have homeless living in the streets those days, but there were many elderly shut-ins. I began to visit these elderly poor myself, listening to their stories, and that was the beginning of my priestly vocation. If you feel depressed or isolated or stressed out or angry, go to the poor. God will heal you through them. Find Jesus by serving the poor, by talking with them, by touching the Body of Christ in them. “The poor are marvelous people,” Mother Teresa would say. The poor will heal your soul and bring you much joy, if only you can find the time to serve them.