As I was walking down the aisle toward the exit door after mass, a man sitting in the pew asked me for change. For some reason I ignored him and kept walking, I don’t know why I did that. After I left the church I really regretted it! I thought wasn’t that Jesus asking for change (“what you did to the least of my brethren you did it to me”)?
Now I ask myself is it inappropriate for someone to ask for change in church straight after mass? If I gave that man change I could have demonstrated to him how a Christian ought to have love for the poor…
No idea if its appropriate or not, but showing charity and love is always a good thing (and always appropriate, whatever people try to tell you.). “They will know you by your love for one another” and all that.
I wouldn’t get bogged down in your lack of action. If you feel that you sinned in not giving this man change, then confess it and strive to do better. The fact that you are thinking about it is a very good sign in my opinion.
A brief tangent, if I may, not targeted at you, but Christendom as a whole. I think one of the largest failures of the modern Christian is the lack of love for the poor. I think Catholics are better at this than us Protestants as a whole. I recently went to the website of my local catholic church (as I want to attend my first mass soon) and very prominently on the page was “Social Justice” with a bunch of links of ways to help the poor through soup kitchens and the like, as well as encouraging people to write their elected officials to effect social good. I know many generous protestants, but we just don’t have the same structure that promotes good works as you guys do. (My suspicion is that it has to do with our emphasis on faith over works, but I digress…)
End of tangent. Do what you feel is right the next time the situation arises. If you see the man again, I’d encourage you to not only give him money, but to interact with him. Find out his story and listen with compassion. I think acknowledging the poor as equally valuable through the giving of our time is almost more important than the giving of our money.
I usually ask people who want money if they are hungry and I will then buy them some food, either at a supermarket or a restaurant. I do not wish to subsidize their bad habits like drugs or drinking.
One time I was at Mass during Lent and there was a man sitting in the pew in front of me. You could just tell (by his smell) that he was a homeless person, who nonetheless wanted to attend Mass for the spiritual benefit. He got up to receive Holy Communion and it was at that point that I took a 20 dollar bill and placed it in the pocket of the threadbare coat he was wearing. Lent is really the only time I will give cash with no questions asked.
I would have loved to see the look on his face when he found it as I am sure he probably did not have that much, or any money at all. He never asked anyone for money either, he just left the church after Mass and that was that.
What people seem to be missing is that he asked for change, not money. He had money. The OP didn’t mention a thing about him being or looking poor or homeless. I guess I would have given him change if I had it because who knows what he needed it for? Perhaps he didn’t have change for the collection (which has happened to me) and wanted to put it in after Mass (which I have done). Plus he was still sitting in church with a lot of people around, not likely she was being robbed.
I don’t think the OP should feel bad, though, she was probably taken by surprise as this usually doesn’t happen, and she wasn’t denying him money, only change for what he had.
There is a homeless man always hanging around the parking lot after mass and asking for money.
A woman who was a little frightened told the pastor, and he told the guy to go to a homeless shelter and stop bothering the people, around the church.
There are plenty of food programs & shelters for them.
In my opinion the OP should not have given the man anything. Our parish has been targeted by gangs of beggars and we have been asked not to give to people begging in the parking lot. It would be better for the church staff to deal with those who are actually poor and need help.
As a truck driver I run into this kind of thing constantly, especially at the truck stops as there is a lot of scamming going on. I have seen people begging for money and then get into a nice car and drive away. Or, I have offered to buy them food and I am turned down flat because all they really want is the cash for drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. One has to carefully balance what we ought to be doing as Christians with the obvious scammers.
Sure, no issue with that. And rightly too, if you know he is a scammer.
On the other hand, we are Christians. People beg because they want assistance to whatever their situation is. Nobody wants to beg if they can help it. It is humiliating and undignified.
Giving a few cents or a dollar will not cost us much but it can make a different to the one who needs it at that particular moment. It is also not for us to tell him to clean the mess in his life. Giving is a virtue and it has to start somewhere.
I used to refuse to give, not because I was not generous but because I thought beggars were lazy and did not want to help themselves. And yes, sometimes, they were not genuine.
One day I was sitting at a cafeteria eating with my daughter. Then came this woman with a child in her arm, obviously asking for sympathy, approached our table and asked for money. I looked at her in disgust and confidently shook my head. She quickly made a beeline out of the cafeteria and disappeared, out of sight.
I came to my senses that whatever her trick was, the child she was carrying was a real child, not any doll or a cat or a dog. I quickly got up from my table to look for her wanting to give her money but she was nowhere to be seen.
Today I lived to regret my action.
I have nothing to lose with a few dollars if the beggar is not bona fide but if he is, I would have missed that chance to be generous to follow what my Lord wants me to do. I remember that what I have is also God’s providence and rightly to be shared, and I can play my part. I don’t have to be Mother Teresa, but in my own small world, there are still many good things that I can do.
Sometimes that cannot wait for me to make that evaluation whether the person who asks for my money is genuine or not. Like that woman, apparently it was quite difficult for her to do it but which she had to do. If I hesitate, I may not get a second chance, as she would be gone.
I think refusing to give a man who comes to our sanctuary, sitting in the pew of our church, asking for a few loose changes, would be quite uncharitable, to say the least. And that is my context in saying this.
…there are several takes on this… it could actually be Christ Himself asking you to change… though only you and God are privy to your life’s circumstances.
…it could simply be an opportunity for you to share in on someone else’s misfortunes–God’s demonstration that you are not the only person suffering/having a hard time.
…it could be an opportunity to assist someone in need–if your parish has a food pantry or employment assistance, rental assistance or any other financial, spiritual or health assistance…
…it could be a ploy–many that I’ve encounter simply want to feed their vices (cigarettes, alcohol, other drugs, gambling…); it’s hard to say.
Still, it could very well be a teaching moment–perhaps that person has never been approached with the Gospel; getting some other members of your parish to greet and meet with him while he is there (or the next person, if this experience repeats itself) offering a light intro to Catholicism, Salvation, God’s Grace and Mercy–even a moment of prayer for his wellbeing…
I caution you on several grounds:
Always keep a few coins ready (never look into your purse/wallet for money while almsgiving) in case you encounter the needy
Never follow or allow someone (male/female/children) to follow you around (even in Church); direct them to the vestibule and ask that they wait for you there; immediately make the issue known to others, procure what you can, and as a group present the offerings–you could always make an appointment for them to meet you (the group) at the parish on the next possible day so that you can bring them (not money) things that they might need
Do not allow your experience to cloud your judgment–true an opportunity may have passed, but this could be the catalyst for: a) greater personal involvement in your parish, b) organizing an emergency assistance (provisions) for the needy around your parish, c) opening a soup kitchen/pantry if your parish does not have one. d) organizing a community outreach service (perhaps something like St. Joseph’s workshop–I imagine there were many times when people could not afford his services yet still needed work or furniture which he provided).
I fully concur with your final statement–as difficult as life can get, it is more difficult for those on the fringes of society, specially those without family/friends… compassion and candor are more precious than gold and diamonds!
…don’t know if you are aware that your screen name is quite similar to one of God’s names (Adonai)…
I commend you for your practice (food for the needy); I think that if more of us were to do this Christ’s Love would truly be reflected in Christianity–though I would rather see more of a hand’s on approach: when a man is taught to fish…
I concur with you on the caution with offering money–too many times children go hungry while being used (even by their parents) to beg for money.
…he would invite him to stay, go out and beg for food and give it to him… no doubt there would be a moment for prayers and thanksgiving.
Sadly, in today’s world we are not only faced with the poor but also the players–I’ve, on occasion, have encounter the latter who, while “begging” for money, refuse food (even from store/fast food restaurant); life is difficult, on many levels!
This has been going on at my parish too, but not just one person, usually its numerous people, sometimes 10-15, they wait for the priest to get finished saying mass, and then once he goes to the rectory, they hit him up for money. This has been going on for awhile now and has caused a lot of debate among parish members, some dont think its right and the other half think its OK.
He is not really giving them much anyway, what I heard its around $20-40. per person, and this does not happen at every mass.
I dont really have a problem with it, I give money to beggars when I have extra, and I know they may not always be planning to use it for good things, but I dont think its right to refrain from giving based on what they might do.
Ive also seen a few people stop at one of my stores, asking where the nearest church is, so I think the word is out, that priests will give money out to those who ask, but even so, I still dont disagree, its natural some will try to take advantage of this, cant really do anything about that without hurting the ones who do truly need it.