Fr Fenlon and Homelessness Sunday
Blogged by James Preece on 1st February 2011
I must say, I always feel a bit uncomfortable when people refer to Fr Dermot Fenlon as "homeless". I cringed a little when I saw that the Free the B3 blog had ran a blog entry to mark Homelessness Sunday.
My feeling was, I'm not sure it's entirely appropriate to hijack Homelessness Sunday for the cause of Fr Fenlon. I mean, so far as I know, Fr Fenlon has a roof over his head when he goes to bed at night. He doesn't spend his days on the icy streets of Hull, London, Birmingham or Brighton. We risk trivialising a vital issue if we call a man "homeless" when he has (so far as I can ascertain) somewhere to go.
But then I thought again.
Because we also risk trivialising the issue of homelessness if we act as though the homeless are like stray animals that simply need rounding up and putting in kennels with a bit of food, shelter and warmth. The homeless are not animals, they are people. They are people with hopes and fears, hungers and dreams. They are human beings made in the image and likeness of God, they need our time, they need our attention, they need our love. Of course, we should also feed them!
The people on the streets of Hull and Brighton are there, more often than not, because somebody couldn't or wouldn't love. Maybe they had a drink or drug problem, an anger problem, a mental health problem... or their parents did. Maybe they were abused, maybe they were in the way of a second marriage and a new partner who didn't want them around, maybe they made a lifestyle choice that their parents couldn't accept, maybe they just couldn't stop leaving the toilet seat up.
Whatever the reason, and there are many (that's the thing about people - they are all different) it often comes down to this: somebody who should have loved unconditionally, didn't. We are not only dealing with a lack of food and shelter (though of course, we must meet those needs as well), we are dealing with a lack of love.
In this way, Fr Dermot Fenlon is not so very different to the homeless. Fr Fenlon had a home, but somebody found him difficult to live with, somebody couldn't or wouldn't love. Somebody thought that it would be better for everyone if he left. Maybe they had the legal "right" to send him away (maybe) - but as Chesterton reminds us, to have the right to do something is not the same as to be right in doing it.
It's really just a matter of happy circumstance that Fr Fenlon's exile does not mean putting him on the streets of Birmingham. The Oratory would have thrown him out even if it did mean putting him on the streets of Birmingham... Is that an outrageous thing to say?
You mean to say that if Fr Fenlon were sleeping in Cofton Park on a bench in the snow that Fr Duffield would invite him in?
That's good... so it is possible for him to return home?
Say a prayer for Fr Fenlon and everybody who for whatever reason is unable to go home. Some of them are lucky enough to "couch surf" while others find themselves in hostels and the less fortunate find themselves in doorways and prisons. Say a prayer also for those they are unable to go home to - they may need God's mercy even more.
"If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20