Observing a homeless man at mass

I realize I am risking being labelled uncaring and politically incorrect if I complain about one of God’s homeless men…so please forgive me.
Yesterday I attended Sunday mass in a beautiful cathedral in a medium sized city. It is not unusual to see the homeless hanging around asking for hand-outs before or after mass. Yesterday I observed one of the homeless coming into church through the side door up front. I was probably 20 feet away but could smell the stench strongly. He was carrying a backpack and a big grocery bag which he plunked on his pew. I said a silent prayer to God to give me the strength and patience to offer up the uncomfortable smell and then tried to concentrate on the mass. After a few minutes he pulled out a big bag of crunchies and a bottle of cola. Throughout the entire mass he was crunching away. Again, I said a silent prayer for the poor starving man who didn’t know proper church deportment. My patience ended when I saw him jump out of his pew at communion time and push his way to the front of the line to receive communion and drink from the chalice! After he drank (not sipped) from the chalice he gathered up his bags and exited.
Here’s my question:
Should I have notified the usher that this man was eating in church? He obviously was not a Catholic if he did not know we are required to fast for one hour before communion. What do you think the ushers could or would have done? Should I just forget about it and accept the fact that this man is probably mentally disturbed? Is it uncharitable to assume he is diseased and may be spreading disease on the chalice!

It sounds like he’s an alcoholic…and NO you don’t need to put up with his behavior.he just wanted a “free drink” and he will go to any means to get one. He is poorer than you can imagine…and I’m not talking about material things either. You should tell the priest “everything” what this ‘Poor homeless man is doing is very wrong…he would also probably appreciate a cot & 3 hots for awhile.’

Yeah, tell the priest so he could provide some assistance to the man.

Lord, when did we see you homeless, hungry, outcast, in need of help?
What ever you do to least of these you did for me.


A person’s disability and/or economic status does not excuse them from behaving in at least a near-civil manner in a public place. If they cannot do so, they should be asked to leave (yes, even from church). Whoever was distributing communion should have refused to give it to him. This is yet another reason I think the chalice should not be given at Mass. You should have informed whoever needed to know that the man was eating in church. It is not uncharitable to assume he is diseased and may be spreading disease on the chalice. Sorry to sound mean, but bad hygeine is a major risk factor for disease- and the homeless aren’t exactly known for cleanliness.

Having read your story only reminded me of the poorest of the poor who come to Mass in my own parish church disheveled and often with smelly clothes. It’s not that I am insensitive to your story. And you did rightfully to pray for him as I would do the same.
No doubt it would be difficult to refrain from judging a situation like this. I’m sure if the ushers had spotted him they would have tactfully escorted out of the church.
I think it’s important not to marginalize people we see like this because I really couldn’t imagine what it would be like for me myself to be placed in this person’s situation. Did this man know completely in his heart the Holy Presence of Christ’s Precious Blood under the appearance of wine in the Chalice ? Not likely or he would not have done what he did.
I’m sure Jesus Himself did not judge or look at him with contempt. All I can really offer to say is that hopefully the blood of Christ moved his heart even if the man might have partaken of it unworthily.

You know, I’ll preface with I’m a HUGE germaphobe. HUGE. But…I have a special place in my heart for homeless people. Imagine you were him. Lost. Disheveled. Beaten down. So much so, that you had no idea what to do at a Catholic church as mass. Imagine that. Imagine being that mentally ill, that alone…that downtrodden…that you were oblivious to what was going on. But, somewhere in his heart, he sought out communion. I’m sure that all kinds listened to Jesus’ sermons, when He began His ministry. I know that it’s easy to be turned off by someone’s odor…and again, I’m a huge germaphobe, but just place yourself in this man’s shoes for just a moment. Pray for him, not you to tolerate him, or whatever…but pray for him. That he somehow finds his way back to God…and cleans up his life…and if you see him again, I would try to help him…in some way. You might not get through, he might buy booze or drugs with the money you give to him, but God sees our efforts, and He will be pleased that you helped the helpless.:o

God bless.

St Franicis kissed the leper, because he could see Christ in the man. Are we called to do the same, to look beyond the cloths and the smell and requiring him to act in a “civil mannor” and see the child of God and our brother.


I am so sad to hear about this poor homeless man. I am also sad for the OP and so many others who post on these forums.

We have all seen the raging debates on the errors and abuses of the NO Mass. How horrible that people are receiving the Holy Eucharist in the hand. Those who are so pained by any deviation from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. How is it that we can be so totally focused on HOW to worship that we have lost sight of WHY we worship.

In all the teachings of Christ found in the Gospels where did he put such an emphasis on the mechanics of how to worship? Rather, he spent a great deal of time condemning those who worshiped and followed the religious rules of the time with great solemnity but had no love and charity in their hearts for those in need.

Christ taught us to love our fellow man. He reached out to those on the margins of society and embraced them (this man had body order that was offensive…Christ hugged lepers).

I humbly suggest that the proper emotional response in this situation should have been one of charity and concern for this poor man. Let us all pray that this man gets the help that he needs; a warm safe place to sleep, a place to bathe, food to eat, and a good Christian who will spend some time with him as a fellow son of God.

We all should probably spend more time praying for and doing something to help others less fortunate than ourselves than worrying about who is violating the Eucharistic Fast, needs a bath, is eating in church, and (gasp) taking a drink vice a sip from the chalice.

I agree with you FAB. It isn’t always convenient, but sometimes God asks us to do the inconvenient. :o

But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Matt 22

A single line of scripture (or several like this one) usually cannot provide an answer to a complicated question. This isn’t simply about taking care of the needs of the poor. There’s much more to this than that.

That’s why we’re not sola scriptura. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, but I believe the real issue at hand is the descration of the Blessed Sacrament and the peril that a person who receives in an unworthy manner places him/herself in.

If the man didn’t fulfill the conditions for a mortal sin, then his soul is not in danger. If he’s a Protestant, he probably thinks its a normal communion service without any Real Presence. If he’s a Catholic, there’s no reason for him to be barred from the Sacrament if he’s in good conscience. If he’s an atheist, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

There is a some discussion of what this passage means. Is the garment a metifor for sin, or how we should all come humbly before God? It seems to me that my single line of scripture was the great command from Jesus. And yes, it is as simple as taking care of the needs of the poor.


He was rude, and the fact that he was dirty and apparently homeless does not excuse his rudeness. I have close contact with homeless people from time to time, and they are perfectly capable of behaving in a civilized manner, even at times when it’s difficult for them to get cleaned up properly.

I don’t fault him for not being cleaned up, since he may not have access to decent shower facilities, or to a place to wash his clothes - these things don’t cost much, but they do cost something, and if he is flat broke, that would certainly put it out of his reach. But it doesn’t cost anything to behave oneself in Church. He could have eaten his lunch in the Parish Hall; in my experience, that works out acceptably well, as long as they don’t hang around for too long afterwards.

I would alert the head usher to be on the watch for him in case he returns, and to have someone say a word or two to him about proper deportment in Church.

I would tell Father so that he could inform the ushers to be on the look out in the future, this whole thing just makes me sad. I agree that he is probably mentally unstable, I sometimes wonder if we all wouldn’t be if we lived on the streets for any amount of time without proper nutrition.

I agree with oldredleg, FAB, whatevergirl, and others that our concern for him ought to be to help him too, it just makes me want to cry. Blessed Mother Teresa said that sometimes Jesus comes to us in the most distressing of disguises.

However, that man does need to be tended to in the proper manner, because he ought not to be doing what he is doing at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I think it would help to look at the situation more objectively rather than through the subjective eye of “homelessness”…remember, while we should not hate the sinner, we should hate the sin. If this person had been a rich person sitting in the back of the Church, eating chips and drinking soda…and rushed up to receive Holy Communion…what would your reaction be? If a friend of yours was in serious public sin, would you talk to them about the proper disposition for receiving communion? In any of these situations, we don’t deny that we are all sinners, but if the person were NOT CATHOLIC…would you want the Blessed Sacrament to be profaned and desecrated?

I know I would tell the priest about my concerns. Correct, we never know the disposition of someone’s heart…but personally, I would rather error on the side of caution, and tell the priest.

The traditional teaching of the Church is that it’s the spotless white garment of baptism. :slight_smile:

And yes, it is as simple as taking care of the needs of the poor.

I am not aware of the poor (or anyone) having a “need” to behave rudely in Church.

That’s different. A homeless person probably has no place to eat. At least he decided to have his meal in his Father’s house. :smiley:

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