Prayers of Life: Housing

GothA piece to contemplate upon for action.  Homelessness, squatting and extensively neglected and derelict housing  are just part of the issues that surround the housing problem within large cities.  Many homeless people have serious health issues: mental, physical and emotional; and may also be on drugs.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out the physical ailments that come from sleeping rough on the streets: exposure to the elements alone can cause havoc with your body’s healthy functioning within one night.  Mental anguish, alienation and isolation experienced by those sleeping rough sets the path to deteriorating to more serious, chronic problems. 

Read on, for something to contemplate upon and which will call for your action in a never-ending manner.

Housing Prayer

Prayers of Life, Michel Quoist,
1967 (M. H. Gill and Son Ltd, Dublin)
Translated by Anne Marie de Commaile
and Agnes Mitchell Forsyth

The problem of housing, in the world’s large cities, is appalling. It’s our first duty to realize it. Many of the comfortably-housed have never even been through the slum quarters of their city. We must speak out, for public opinion is a powerful weapon, and each of us helps to create it. There are many organizations that need our active help, or, at the very least, our support. If we love our brothers, we shall always find a way, wherever we are, to do something for them.

Suppose a brother or a sister is in rags with not enough to food for the day, and one of you says, Good luck to you, keep yourselves warm, and have plenty to eat, but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? (James 2, 15-16)

Lord, I can’t sleep; I have got up out of bed to pray.
It is night outside, and the wind blows and the rain falls,
And the lights of the city, signs of the living, pierce the darkness.
They bother me, Lord, these lights – why are you showing them to me?
They beckoned to me, and now they hold me captive, while the woes of the city murmur their muffled lament.
I see them rising before me,
I hear them speaking to me,
I feel them hitting me,
They were bothering me when I was trying to sleep.

I know that in one single room thirteen crowded people are breathing on one another.
I know a mother who hooks the table and the chairs to the ceiling to make room for mattresses.
I know that rats come out to eat the crusts and bite the babies.
I know a father how gets up to stretch oil-cloth above the rain-soaked bed of his four children.
I know a mother who stays up all night since there is room for only one bed, and the two children are sick.
I know a drunken father who vomits on the child sleeping beside him.
I know a big boy who runs away alone into the night because he can’t stand it anymore.
I know that some men fight for the women as there are three couples in the same attic.
I know a wife who avoids her husband as there is no room for another baby at home.
I know a child who is quietly dying, soon to join his four little brothers above.
I know…
I know hundreds of others – yet I was going to sleep peacefully between my clean-white sheets.

I wish I didn’t know, Lord.
I wish it were not true.
I wish I could convince myself that I’m dreaming,
I wish someone could prove that I’m exaggerating,
I wish they’d show me that all these people are to blame, that it’s their fault that they are so miserable.
I’d like to be reassured, Lord, but I can’t, it’s too late.
I’ve seen too much,
I’ve listened too much,
I’ve counted too much, and Lord, these ruthless figures have robbed me forever of my innocent tranquillity.

So much the better, son,
For I, your God, your Father, am angry with you.
I gave you the world at the beginning of time, and I want each of my sons to have a home worthy of their Father, in my vast kingdom.
I trusted you, and your selfishness has spoiled everything.
It’s one of your most serious sins, shared by many of you.
Woe unto you if, through your fault, a single one of my sons dies in body or spirit.

I tell you, I will give to those the finest lodgings in Paradise.
But the thoughtless, the negligent, the selfish, who, well sheltered on earth, have forgotten others, they have had their reward.
There will be no room for them in my Kingdom.

Come, son, ask forgiveness for yourself and for others tonight.
And tomorrow, fight with all your strength, for it hurts your Father to see that once more there is no room for his son at the inn.

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