Posted by: mmreflections | October 25, 2010

Too Many Orphans! October, 2010

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.  (John 14:18-21)

Each day I pray for our brothers and sisters in the world who are suffering and are in need of God’s mercy:  the homeless, the refugees, the immigrants, the strangers, the orphans, the hungry, the poor, the starving, the sick and dying, those in prison (prisons of their own making and prisons made by man), the marginalized and rejected ones.  Lately, however, my thoughts keep turning to the orphans I seem to be meeting or hearing about.  It seems rather strange to be writing today about orphans.  The question of orphans is quickly dismissed by many with the notion that foster homes are taking good care of them while they await adoption.  This is often the way our society treats many persons who have particular needs or are caught up into difficult situations.  “As long as the problem does not affect me or my family, I need not be concerned,” seems to be the prevalent and general attitude.

This morning I took a walk along the ocean.  A gentle breeze was blowing, bringing with it some mist and the wonderful fragrance of the sea.  I found myself rejoicing in the beauty of God’s creation while memories of my boyhood began to surface.  I remembered hikes I had taken as a boy along the local  hillsides and streams of water.  Walking alone this morning I could not help but think about those youthful walks also taken alone.  A great difference was that as a child those wonderful hikes were made with a sense of loneliness.  It was difficult for me to understand and embrace being an orphan.  Even though my mother was still living, I was referred to as an orphan since my father had died when I was only two years old.  (Perhaps I was only half-orphan!)  Now as an older man, there was no such feeling of loneliness only a great sense of being alive and still able to walk and enjoy this beautiful aspect of creation.

On one of those childhood walks I happened to meet another young boy who was my age and was also hiking alone.  We decided to hike together!  I learned he was living in an orphanage near my home.  It was the very orphanage in which my mom promised to place me if I misbehaved.  The orphanage was a very large red brick building with many windows, surrounded by many trees and a tall metal fence.  Whenever I had occasion to walk near the sinister looking grounds, I was afraid to look at the building and would usually hurry by with the awful thought I could be sent there.  He told me he was an orphan without a mother or father and had to live in this institution.  I never asked nor did he ever tell me how he got off the property but I had a suspicion that he had violated some rules and found a way to get out for a short while.  We became friends and he told me some stories about his life.  In my childlike view of life at the time, I found myself being really grateful for being only half- orphan.  I always looked forward to our meetings because we seemed to understand each other. We enjoyed these times together but one day when we were planning our usual hike he didn’t show up.  I never saw him again nor did I ever know what happened to him.  Maybe he had been adopted by some family.  I was too afraid to approach the orphanage to learn his whereabouts.  I missed him!

There are now foster homes where children are placed who have no parents or who have suffered physical or emotional abuse in their homes, or who may have been abandoned or neglected by their parents.  I often wondered whose situation was worse.  Was it more painful to not have a father of mother at all, because they died or were unable to care for them?  Or was it even more painful to have a mother and father who harmed them, neglected them, abandoned them or simply did not want them?

As I mused over these thoughts, I found myself struggling with the idea that in a sense we are all  orphans or soon will be.  It is a part of our life’s journey.  The day comes when our parents are gone; we no longer have a father or mother.  We are truly blessed if we have beautiful memories of their time with us but the fact they are no longer with us will remain.  In many cases we will end up being alone.  Perhaps when I visit nursing homes and experience a painful twinge of sadness I am feeling once again that same sadness I knew as a child alone walking along the hillsides.  My heart aches as I see older parents in a nursing home and have them grab my hand and tell me they are alone and no one comes to see them.  The pain they experience at having a son or daughter who never comes to visit is heartbreaking.  One mother told me only I came to see her.  She would ask, “Why?”

I keep discovering more and more brothers and sisters who are alone.  They are today’s orphans but there is no orphanage for them; they live alone, waiting for a note in the mail or a phone call.  Not many of them have computers or are on the internet to check emails to see who might be thinking of them.  What has caused us to turn away and fear to look into their faces? Our Lord reminds us he will not leave us orphans but will come to us.  How does he come to us today?  While traveling in Germany years ago I visited a church that was still in ruins after the bombing of World War II.  A statue of Jesus was still standing in the midst of the ruins.  The arms of the statue had been blown away.  Someone had made a sign and placed it in front of the statue, “I have no hands but yours!.”  I believe this is what the Lord is telling us today.  The distractions and problems in our society today may seem overwhelming.  Many are struggling with unemployment, loss of homes, financial concerns, wars, conflicts of many kinds. We realize there is little we can do to solve these major societal problems but we can still do our part in making this world a better and happier place.  Many of the problems are the result of people on all levels forgetting their true purpose for being on this earth.  We need to be reminded our purpose is not to accumulate great treasures, huge bank accounts, great reputations, endless pleasures and powers but rather to fulfill the greatest commandment, to love one another.

Many orphans, young and old, who surround us are longing to know love; they wonder if God has abandoned them because their nearest and dearest have abandoned them.  If we are a people of faith, if we truly believe in God, we need to take a look at our lives and ask ourselves if our lives reflect what we believe.  Let us look around!  We will not have to look far if our hearts are open.  If we are sincere the Lord will  put on our hearts people (our brothers and sisters all around us) who hunger for a kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a hug, a note, any crumb that will help them realize there is someone who cares.  Let us do something!  Any kindness will brighten another person’s life and make our world a little bit better, a little happier.  In so doing we help the Lord to fulfill his promise that he will  not leave us orphans.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me……..I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brother or sisters of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:35-36 & 25:40)

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Responses

  1. This reflection brought back many beautiful memories of my own dear depaarted parents.
    Some time we loose sight of why we are here. I JUST CELEBREATED my 75th birthday and thank God every day for all my blessings. Keep up the good work, Fr. Mike!

  2. Hi Father Mike,
    Another beautiful writing! I love your stories of your childhood. You just gave me a reminder that we need to call my husband’s 92 year old aunt. She still lives alone, but with family nearby. But… she still gets lonely and so looks forward to our calls. I think we enjoy hearing her voice when we call, just to think we made her happy. Thanks for the lovely words, we so appreciate them.

  3. Great blog entry and wonderful homily today Father!

  4. Dear Fr. Mike,
    This one makes me remember that sometimes in our lonliness or problems we all feel like orphans at sometime or another. You make me more aware of Jesus in my life because He will never leave us. Just 2 wks ago I was wondering where one girl I went to HS with ended up. She was from the orphanage near Wellsville and I always saw lonliness and grief in her face. We now learned that those orphans were not treated the best. How I wish I could take back anyday that I may not have answered her smile because I was in a hurry for class. I knew what feeling like an orphan was when my mother died….

  5. Dear Father Michael,
    I enjoyed your homily this past Sunday, where one of your themes was to not be afraid to ask for help. As I read your posting about “Too Many Orphans, I was thinking about Saint Nicholas of Myra. St. Nicholas is famous for his many good deeds and, among other things, is the patron saint of orphans. Let us ask him for his help in spreading the joy of our Savior to those in need.
    Thank you for a great message – Michael, Lisa, and I appreciate your wonderful reflections!

  6. When growing up I also lived near an orphanage and always wondered in my youthful ignorance why they were there, and who was taking care of them?
    As I have grown and occasionaly experienced my own personal loneliness i have frequently felt alone, and then remember that I have Our lord walking with me.
    Your homilies and Reflections are inspiring and thought provoking.
    Thank you for your thoughts and work.
    AJ


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