Dear Friends and Family,
Two weeks ago, I walked into the bank to find only $350 in our account. In one hand I had bills totaling over $350 and, in my other hand, I had a stack of donations. God has never fallen short on providing although sometimes He is just in time. It is our goal to continue living on God’s Providence in an obvious way and never hoard the gifts He gives us. This philosophy keeps us praying and ensures that your generosity is always used to its full potential.
For over a year, your generosity has made possible our work with Ms. Wilson and her four children. When we met Ms. Wilson, she lived in an apartment without heat and was on her way to being evicted. Due to mixed up paperwork, she was not receiving her medication. She had lost over a hundred pounds, her glands and eyes were swollen, and with some excuse, she was continually in a sour mood. On the day of her eviction, she called A Simple House to ask for help saving her most important possessions. In the next few months, we helped Ms. Wilson move between the homes of relatives and various shelters, and did many small things to help her obtain health care and stay encouraged. During those trying months, Ms. Wilson’s daughter became pregnant and her son was wounded in a drive-by shooting. In a bible study with the family, we read the story of Jesus’ birth. We chose the reading as a scriptural platform to introduce the faith without realizing that Ms. Wilson’s daughter was sixteen, homeless, unmarried, and due on Christmas day. The Holy Spirit enjoys coincidences, and He speaks to the poor in powerful ways.
Today, Ms. Wilson is staying in a nice temporary apartment, her health is much better, and she is preparing to become a grandmother. She is even getting glasses to help with her eyesight. Last week, Ms. Wilson gave us a gift and a letter that read, ‘My family is very grateful to have you as a friend. You have been with me and my family through thick and thin and I want you to know that we all love you.’
The hardest part of sharing our faith is presenting morality in an attractive way. Paul states, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23) We must speak of morality in the light of these fruits without characterizing it as the ‘bad news’ of Christ. As John Paul II put it, "God, who alone is good, knows perfectly what is good for man, and by virtue of his very love proposes this good to man in the commandments." Morality is part of the Good News, and by teaching morality we teach the path to our greatest happiness.
God’s will can be summed up as ‘be good,’ and translated into human terms this means ‘be supernaturally good and holy.’ Christianity is not about being mostly good and at least respectable. Christians are called to imitate Christ, and this involves offering our entire life as a gift. This gift is to the poor, our families, our church, our neighbors, our spouses, and to God. F.R. Maltby said, "Jesus promised His disciples three things – that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble." If twice the number of people woke up every morning and tried with their whole being to live Christ, the world would be a radically different place. This may sound like a utopian dream, but what God wills he also provides the grace to accomplish.
We need to be careful of an attitude that can creep into our thinking and masquerade as love. The attitude is a tendency to degrade someone with pity and low expectations. This attitude is in our religion when we meet a sinner who seems too far gone to convert or be reborn in Christ, and it is in our politics as a strange racism which is not hate but patronizing kindness.
Many people (especially inner-city adults) are being written off as incapable of reform and conversion, and society tries to placate the problems of the inner-city with expensive social programs. As a dogma, we believe that the grace is available to everyone for conversion, and we also know that God is never cheap with His gifts. We need to address these problems with Christian charity, prayer, and evangelization.
True Christian charity (which includes respect) is the best way to spread the love of God. ‘Men take glory in resisting those who try to impose anything on them by force; they make it a point of honor to raise countless objections against the wisdom that aims at arguing everybody, all the time, around to its own point of view. But because there is no humiliation involved in allowing oneself to be disarmed by kindness, men are quite willing to yield to the attraction of its advances.’ Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.
During the summer, A Simple House gave out copies of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to encourage reading. If a neighborhood child finished the book and passed a quiz, they won Wonka candy, tickets, and a ride to the movie for themselves and their mother. We hope to do something similar for C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In addition, Visitation High School assisted in preparing school supply bags for 115 children of the families we serve.
Three good friends of A Simple House are moving on. This September, our great co-worker, Katherine Hamm, joins the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in the Bronx. Katherine and the Christian Service Club of Visitation High School have helped with our food pantry, Christmas outreach, and home visits. In October, board member Glynnis LaGarde will enter a Dominican convent in Lufkin, TX. Glynnis has been with A Simple House since its inception, and has participated in many home visits, bible studies, and general outreaches (she even helped renovate the house). In addition, our first chairman of the board, Laura Cartagena, has moved abroad. Please pray for their continuing work for Christ.
This November, we will enter a new neighborhood with a Thanksgiving outreach while continuing to serve our old neighborhood. Please pray that we will develop many sincere friendships and raise adequate funds for the outreach. Br. Peter, a Carmelite seminarian from Vietnam, Br. Francis, a Redemptorist seminarian from New York City, and Kathleen Looney, the new Christian service coordinator of Visitation High School, will be working with us this year and assisting in these enterprises. In addition, we look forward to the fresh input of Luis and Margarita Cartagena (parents of Laura Cartagena) at our board meetings. Luis Cartagena will take over as our new chairman.
May God’s Peace be with you.
Clark Massey with board members: Luis Cartagena, Kristina Massey, Michael Ortner, Richard Realbuto, and Fr. Adam Ryan OSB, and full-time volunteer Jim Hardcastle.