Pastor Disguises Himself

I’m curious about how you were turned away from the Church. Were you and your son asked to leave Mass?

I live in a city with a lot of homeless people. I’ve never seen them mistreated in any way in any of the parishes. In fact, several parishes have food pantries, soup kitchens, and other outreaches for the needy.

A story doesn’t have to have actually happened to be a relevant truth. Jesus did this quite often actually. We call His stories parables.

A few times we were asked to leave. My son, thankfully, has no memories of those days. He was only 3-4 yrs at the time. What happened more often than being asked to leave was people, including priests, moving away from us, telling us that we needed to sit elsewhere, turning their noses up at us, and just generally being rude and cold to us. I did eventually end up finding a Catholic Church that was warm and welcoming toward us in a different part of the city, but until I did we frequently went to a Greek Orthodox Church. The Orthodox priest there was so warm and helpful. His family took us around the city (we were in a different state from our home state and knew no one at the time) to find jobs and child care. He also was the one who initially took me to the Catholic Church that was welcoming. Now, we were not living on the streets. We were in a shelter. NY husband was on the streets because the shelter was for women and children only. We never asked for hand outs from the churches we visited because our needs were met at the shelter. All we wanted was to attend Mass as a family.

To this day I have a deep affection for the Orthodox Church

Thank you for sharing this. Your painful memories are a reminder for us to see Jesus in everyone that crosses our path.

And what, exactly, is the point of this “story?” If the pastor read the gospel warning about saving up riches, would everyone be expected to empty their savings and investment accounts?

If this is even true, I think it is more of a stunt than anything else. If a dirty, dangerous-looking person came to the door of a woman with infant children in her care asking for a meal, would anyone expect her to open the door and let him in?

This is my instinct, as well. The deacon who runs my parish’s RCIA class shared a story once about how, returning from a long retreat and appearing particularly dirty, unshaven, unkempt, etc., he went into a gas station, purchased one of those Campbell’s soup-in-a-cup things you heat up in the microwave, and sat on the curb outside eating it. The owner asked him to please go and eat elsewhere, whereupon the deacon promptly berated him for his lack of charity.

There’s a risk of pride when we lecture people in this way, especially when we fail to take into account the circumstances of the people being lectured. In our zeal to humanize the homeless we often wind up dehumanizing the people who may have good reasons for not wanting to deal with them. I mean does it really represent Christ to loiter on someone else’s property and then berate them for their lack of charity when they ask you to leave? Did the store owner hang his head in shame and repent, or did he simply think “Gosh, Catholic clergy are jerks”?

One of the things we have to keep in mind is that “the poor” today are qualitatively different from “the poor” in Jesus’ day. Then, extreme poverty was something closer to the norm for a lot of people, meaning people could work hard in good faith and still be destitute. Today, at least in the West, it’s a lot closer to the exception. A lot of times homelessness (particularly among men) is the product of pretty serious problems, particularly mental illness, which leads to secondary problems like substance abuse. Interfacing with homeless people on your own can be dangerous. Do people not get that?

Yes, I know, not all homeless people are like that. In many cases homelessness is temporary (and in those cases it is a lot less likely to be obvious that a particular person is homeless). Sometimes people just fall on hard times. But how is the average person supposed to tell?

Yes, it really pains me to be so suspicious in this regard. But there was a guy in my city not too long ago who cheerfully agreed to give a stranger a ride home only to be rewarded by being stabbed to death by the guy once he reached his destination. It’s hard not to let things like that make one very hesitant about offering help.

Regardless of whether or not the story is an urban legend, I think it is a very good story and illustrates the fact that in many churches there are hypocrites. There are many people who claim to be disciples of Christ but yet do not practice what Christ commanded us to practice. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not innocent. I have sinned in the past just as much (or more) than/as anyone else. However, I think it is quite true that there are a lot of people out there who truly do not practice what Christ commanded us to do.

That said, I think that the Protestant “doctrine” (more like false doctrine) of “salvation by faith alone” or “sola fide” contributes to this. They believe that all they have to do is believe and they can get to Heaven. They believe that good works are nice and all but that they are not necessary. To them, I have these passages of Scripture for them:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.
(James 2:14-26 RSV-CE)

And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
(1 John 2:3-6 RSV-CE)

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you. "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. "Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
(Matthew 7:1-29 RSV-CE)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
(Luke 6:46-49 RSV-CE)

I hope this is NOT urban legend, I hope there is such a Priest among us; in fact, I know there must be.

My experience with the homeless goes back as far as the 1970s when I was quite young (I grew up in NYC). And it has continued, although sparingly, to the present day. I have, literally, seen things in the eyes of these people that are other worldly and I don’t mean they were psychotic, I mean I wondered if they were truly “human”, or just wearing “human” forms.

The story isn’t about a priest but some type of Protestant pastor. All signs point to the story being fictitious. The picture has been confirmed to be that of an actual homeless person. The only identifying information in the story is the pastor’s name (no date for when this occurred, no name for the church, no name for the city, etc.). And if you Google that one piece of identifying information (the pastor’s name), the only hits you will get are to this story. If he was leading a 10,000 member congregation (as the story claims), one would expect to find his congregation’s website and other such hits at the top of a Google search.

But there are plenty of priests out there who do so much work with and for the poor – even if they don’t pull stunts like this.

Newsflash; we are all hypocrites in one way or another. If we weren’t, we would never need to go to confession again.

I do not think that Christ commanded us to suspend our sense of good judgement and place ourselves in what can be dangerous and even life-threatening situations.

When we are moved spiritually to assist someone it is not always the Holy Spirit that is moving us. That is why The Lord has imbedded in us common sense.

A woman here in CA was on her way home from church. She felt moved to pick up a hitchhiker and his two young sons. She was found in a ditch brutally raped and stabbed, she lived long enough to relate what had happened.

I still think WWJD, remembering that I am not to put myself in a possibly dangerous situation, as we are not to put The Lord, our God, to the test.

No one is saying it is a good idea or necessary to pick up hitch hikers or allow strangers into your home. What harm comes from sitting next to someone at Mass? Very few people are going to violently erupt when sitting in a church service.

Perhaps, but necessity often dictates that we must be ever vigilant. If you see a person that instinct suggests you should steer clear of in a public place (especially if children are present), then the same can apply at Mass, too. It only takes one to “violently erupt” and cause a tragedy.

Regardless whether the story is true or not, I’m more interested in whether there is any actual morality being depicted here.

Why is it that the congregation feels bad about not helping the homeless man only when they find out he’s not homeless? Why aren’t they relieved that this “homeless” man actually has a good job and can support himself. Why aren’t they angry that he tried to deceive them into believing he was homeless.

It seems that the congregation only feels guilt because they offended a person in power. As I see it, the plight of the homeless are still of no concern to the congregation. If they go out and help the poor, they are only doing it because they remember the one time where they missed out on getting a reward of praise from an authority.

I guess my main question is: Did the congregation actually learn a moral lesson? If you do something good solely because you expect a reward, are you being moral?

Would then it be called a perversion ? Or a deviation from the norm ? Or odd? Gets more difficult all the time.

Who said this person was or even appeared to be dangerous? The story says he was dressed as a homeless man. I didn’t read that he was talking to himself or shouting nonsense or brandishing a weapon of any sort. He was in a public church walking around the crowd before the service. And almost NO-ONE even smiled at him. I have to say, I am living downtown now with my husband and kids and we walk by homeless people every day, and I ALWAYS smile at them. I don’t feel that it’s a dangerous or risky thing to do. Nobody was suggesting that anyone go with him down a dark alley at midnight for a chat, just maybe treat him like any other human being. :rolleyes:

I think the lesson is that just as a pastor can have the appearance of a homeless man, so can Jesus. Hence, the bible passage reminding them that Christ resides in everyone. Hopefully, they were also shamed into realizing that at church, when their eyes and hearts should be focused MOST on Christ and His kingdom, they were behaving in a most uncharitable and worldly fashion. I hope they took it to heart.

Sorry, this was posted on the wrong thread. Do think I can remove, so please disregard it. Thank You

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit