What would you do?


Last night, I went to an evening daily Mass at the Cathedral. As I was sitting and reading my missal for the day's readings, a somewhat elderly man came in and out of the chapel.

After coming and going a few times, he sat down next to me, started making small talk and asked me what I was doing that evening. Eventually he asked him if I would give him a ride home. I told him that I couldn't because I didn't drive, even though I do.

What would you have done in a similar situation? I don't think I would feel comfortable tracing around Milwaukee with a guy whom I don't know.


Well, I think it's quite understandable that you didn't give him a ride.


I’d move to another pew far away from him. If he persisted, I’d go tell an usher to get him to stop. If he still persisted, I’d call the police.


[quote="uwwhitewater84, post:1, topic:183366"]
LastWhat would you have done in a similar situation? I don't think I would feel comfortable tracing around Milwaukee with a guy whom I don't know.


no way would I drive somebody I don't know around any city. take him to the usher so they can call a cab


[quote="puzzleannie, post:4, topic:183366"]
no way would I drive somebody I don't know around any city. take him to the usher so they can call a cab


I think that this is perhaps the best answer.

Christ wants us to give to those who ask so I'm not comfortable with the "get away as fast as you can" attitude, but on the other hand, some caution is certainly not a bad thing.

The answer above seems to provide an appropriate response that covers both aspects.

Besides, in talking to an usher, you might even find out that the person was well known, well liked and harmless. In which case you might have decided to give him the ride after all and aquired a new friend. - - Not likely perhaps but you never know.:shrug:

Oh yea and one question - Did he stay of mass??



[quote="JRKH, post:5, topic:183366"]

Oh yea and one question - Did he stay of mass??


No, he didn't stay for Mass. I know this because the chairs are set up around the perimiter of the room with the altar in the middle, so one can basically see everyone.



Well that being the case, I’d suggest keeping an eye out to see if he shows up agian like that. If so I’d suggest pointing him out to an usher or deacon. It’s hard to say what is going on. If he’s OK then you’ll feel better knowing and if not, then it’s better that others know.



Just say “NO.”


[quote="uwwhitewater84, post:1, topic:183366"]
Last night, I went to an evening daily Mass at the Cathedral. As I was sitting and reading my missal for the day's readings, a somewhat elderly man came in and out of the chapel.

After coming and going a few times, he sat down next to me, started making small talk and asked me what I was doing that evening. Eventually he asked him if I would give him a ride home. I told him that I couldn't because I didn't drive, even though I do.

What would you have done in a similar situation? I don't think I would feel comfortable tracing around Milwaukee with a guy whom I don't know.


Laudetur Iesus Christus.

Is there more to this story? Is there some particular reason that you did not think well of this man? It is profane to make, "small talk," in a house of prayer, but (since lying there is worse, being directly blasphemous) this is not much to go on. Without more details, my observation would be:

Cowardice is not a virtue and lying is a sin.

I am often surprised that people are willing to substitute alternative advice, based on fear or hate or greed, for direct instructions from the very mouth of the Lord. Consider, “Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you,” (Matthew (RSV) 5:39), among other mandates.

There is merit in giving the man cab fare, if a ride is really what he needs. However, another possibility is that he is lonely and looking for friendship in a city so desolate that even those in a Catholic church are so hard-hearted that they shun a stranger merely for not being already known to them.

The Church, in the person of an usher or even a committee or program, is not a bureaucratic excuse, relieving one from the actual demands of love. “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? (James (RSV) 2:15f.)

In answer to the specific question, “What would you have done in a similar situation,” I must say that the degree of similarity matters. Lacking any further specification, I would not be at Mass alone. My custom is to attend Holy Mass with at least five others, members of my family and two or three friends. If an elderly man had approached me in this manner, I would have presented a polite but reserved demeanor, to try and dissuade him from chatting inside the church. If it seemed that he was in need or even pressingly interested in conversation, I would have suggested that we go to the vestibule to talk. (Or, if time was short before the Sacrament, I might suggest that we talk in the vestibule after Mass.)

If he asked for a ride home, I would have asked where he lived. If he seemed in earnest of needing a ride, I would have offered either to give him the ride he sought, or offered cab or bus fare, if it was inconvenient to make the trip myself.

However, if it seemed that what he really needed was companionship, I would have introduced myself and my friends and invited him to come to a diner with us after Mass, since it is our custom to have brunch or dinner after Mass, to discuss the readings and the homily. If he accepted, after the meal, I would have given him a ride where he wanted to go.

Now, admittedly, I am a 51-year-old man, who would be in the company of several other people, the youngest of whom is usually 22 years old, and one of whom is my son, a 22-year-old man, about 6 feet 2 inches in height. So, my willingness to die in serving the Lord with regard to this hypothetical would not be greatly tested in these circumstances, even in my imagination. (Though automobiles are dangerous and any drive might be one’s death.) However, one has to wonder where one’s fear of the Lord is, when one is willing to disobey His clear commands, for fear of men who can kill only the body. "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Luke (RSV) 12:4f.)

There is no need to go it alone in these instances. Getting a friend or two to go along would make the party merrier and would avoid any ambiguity about what was intended in the friendship. However, one must love one’s neighbor as oneself and one must die sometime, better to do it while doing the Lord’s will than in fretting in fear of imagined ills which cannot touch one’s soul.

I have some experience in helping people who make similar or much more sordid presentations of themselves. Often once assistance and friendship is openly offered, they will decline and leave, one suspects because they are in the grip of some fear that is the cause of their lonesomeness in the first place. However, on the occasions when the offer is accepted, I have heard some interesting stories, learned surprising things about people’s way of understanding the world, and been told some, “whoppers.” Generally, my life is richer for such encounters.

Pax Christi semper nobiscum.

John Hiner


No, there is not really more to this story. I’m not a regular attendee of any sort of Mass at the Cathedral, daily or otherwise. Sometimes I’ll go every once in awhile because its a nice, quiet, place to be.

I had no idea who this man was. Though the day chapel is rather small and I did notice that he was talking to other people while we were waiting for Mass to start. He did walk in and out a few times. Though the last time he walked out, he didn’t come back.

I don’t know why I felt uncomfortable around him. When he asked me if I drove, I just said the first thing that came out. I’m not a tall or built guy, but rather short and un-assuming, but driving through some parts of town, I do fear for saftey. There are just some places that I won’t go. I don’t know whether or not this guy was safe or unsafe, but I generally do rely on my gut reaction and from past experiences, I’m thankful that I have.

Generally speaking though, I do attend Mass alone. Very seldom will I attend Mass with friends or people I know. I don’t have many Catholic friends, let alone those who will go to a daily Mass. I think I go alone because I don’t see Mass as a social event. I’m definetly not knocking those who do go with friends, but I find the more people that are around me, the less I’m concentrating on what happens at the altar.

In retrospect, I do believe that I did forgo an act of charity and I will admit that. I’m not making excuses for what I have failed to do, but I do believe that selfishly (perhaps) I have to watch out for my safety.


There’s charity, and then there’s prudence.

This person made the poster “feel uncomfortable” for no identifiable reason – ie, at the level of instinct. That’s a big flashing warning sign. It wasn’t broad daylight, either.

It sounds like he wasn’t acting like someone who truly needed help, but rather like someone experienced, who wanted to make it hard for the poster to say no to his request. That is manipulation and intrusion, at the very best – intimidation, at the worst.

This person may have been just a persistent panhandler; but frankly, any man trying to get a ride with any woman, with no previous acquaintance, instead of asking for cab fare or bus fare… I’m thinking worse than a panhandler.

God gave us the ability to sense something hinky, so that we wouldn’t get ourselves killed.

As for “lying is a sin” – well, certainly it’s unfortunate that she didn’t blurt out something else. But frankly, this stranger had no business asking her personal questions. He had no right.

The OP would have had every right to scream, when he got to this point. Just because it’s church doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Don’t tell the OP to ignore her instincts in future, unless you want her dead. There are a million horrible true crime stories that start, “I got the feeling that something was wrong, but I ignored it, because I thought it was silly to be scared of nothing.” There are a lot of other stories that can’t be told, because corpses don’t talk.


If it makes any difference, I’m a guy.

I guess thinking back, what I should have done probably is take the man to see the priest. Common sense would certainly dictate however, that no matter if one is male or female; you don’t let someone you don’t know into your car. Moreover, Milwaukee does have laws against pan-handling like many other cities in the country. Furthermore, there are many places in the downtown area where this man could visit if he was hungry or needed bus fair. I believe in giving my time and money to charity, but only reputable Catholic charities where I can be assured that what I can give will be put to good use.

Basically, the situation is about charity. I guess I was caught off guard and thus didn’t show true Christian charity like I should have. In the end, whether I did or didn’t is debatable. What is one to do when someone asks for your help, but you’re not necessarily in a position to give it to them? The only money I had left on me was what was left over for parking and a few votive candles. I talked to this man, shook his hand, offered him a kind word, and offered last night’s rosary for him.

I asked a lot of people about this situation and all of them reacted the same way I would have. The fact that this gentleman didn’t stay for Mass would suggest that he’s just looking for money. What would have happened if I pulled my wallet out and he took it? Would the situation be any different if I was in front of the church instead of in it? Who knows whether he would have used it for food, for the bus, for the taxi, or something else entirely?

I do agree lying is a sin, no doubt. The way this man was questioning me would lead me to believe that he wasn’t going to stop until he knew he was hitting a dead end. Again, whether that is uncharitable is up for debate…you decide. I had to follow my gut reaction, but still a part of me says I was right, and a part of me says I was wrong. I guess that’s the price one pays for confronting issues such as these.


Laudetur Iesus Christus.

At any moment the body might die. For most, the choice is not whether or when, but how and in whose service. The argument that, “corpses don’t talk,” disowns the Holy Martyrs. “Martyr,” means, “witness,” or, “one who testifies.” They do this specifically by dying.

St. Paul writes: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship.” (Romans (RSV) 8:15.)

Where in the Faith is the basis for this council of fear?

The spirit of fear is the spirit of the world. It is false and a work of the Father of Lies.

If one is too timid to help the poor, because one fears them – their violence, their disease, their ingratitude – then one should travel with friends, drawing strength from the help of other members of the Body of Christ, so that one is strong enough to do what the Lord has commanded. One is put in mind of the hymn from the Liturgy of the Hours:

Rise up, O men of God!
The Church for you does wait:
Sent forth to serve the needs of men,
In Christ our strength is great!

(Liturgy of the Hours, Common of Holy Men, Morning Prayer Hymn, verse 3.)

The failure of charity is not, “debatable,” except in the most mincing sense. The sin of a blasphemous lie is not in doubt. Forgiveness is available, but not if we convince ourselves that it is un-needed, because we will not recognize our shortfalls.

Fear and lack of preparation may mitigate the, “culpability,” of the sinner, but they do not change the fact that the Church’s work remains undone, because one of her sons failed to act as her Head has commanded. If we are more concerned with our freedom from blame than with the doing of the work, then we have missed the, “spirit of sonship,” to which we have been called.

We help the poor for love of God the Father. We know this is so precisely when the poor whom we help cannot give us any return, not even by doing the right thing with the gifts that we give them. It is not because they are good that we love the poor. “**e sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. . . You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew (RSV) 5:45 and 48.)

Don’t be afraid to die bodily in the service of Christ. He really will preserve your life, even when it looks like death has won. He really will, so act like it.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews (RSV) 10:23ff.)

Pax Christi semper nobiscum.

John Hiner**


John Hiner,
I agree with what you say about how we should live our faith but, of course, we are all different in our spiritual maturity and in our temporal courage.

I believe that the OP and others have learned much from this thread.



To the OP,
Giving a ride to a stranger is taking a big chance. I don't think you did the wrong thing there. As far as lying, well, you were caught off guard. I would just accept that I was caught off-guard for an opportunity to help him by perhaps by offering cab fare, or talking to some other parishioner who may know him, etc.

I've been caught off-guard myself a few times. I have a feeling it's God's way of preparing me for a future event where I won't be.


Visiting a church in downtown Indianapolis a couple of times I’ve had a lady come up and ask me the same question. Now the day that this happened it was raining hard, but I had to get home to take my mother to the store (she does not drive either) and we needed to get food in the house. Luckly by the time this lady had ask me the rain had slowed down a bit so I gave her some money for the bus. Now it seemed to me that this lady knew the people of the church (I was attending the evening prayer service), but would I have given her a ride home even if I did not have to take my mother to the store? So perhaps if this happens again you should give the person some money for the bus. If memory serves me right I only had to give the lady 2 dollars for the bus. She was grateful and at least I knew that she could get home. Just some thoughts.


personally, I think this is a case of prudence and safety.

It makes a difference whether you are teenager, a woman, or a big strong guy. Imho, I wouldn't have a woman or teenager be driving an older guy anywhere alone. A adult man? more likely.

I have NOTHING against helping people out. Unfortunately, these days, you just can't trust the motives of any person off the street. Especially in a bigger city like Milwaukee (sp?). Sad to say, I have heard several stories on the news of people asking women or other vulnerable people for rides and turning out to be kidnappers, rapists, etc. (notably the kidnapper of Jaycee Duggard--asked a woman for a "ride" then kidnapped her.)

It's your deal. Personally, I would have said no, and not felt guilty. I would've suggested that there's a phone in the church for calling for someone, etc. But I would NEVER have let an adult stranger in my car, in the same way I wouldn't let an adult stranger into my house if I was home by myself. I just know that I'm not strong enough to defend myself if I needed to.

I'm not Henny Penny. I probably take more risks than I should. But in my opinion, this is just a BIG no-no.


Laudetur Iesus Christus.

Even setting aside all possible doubts about, “risk assessments,” that have been offered, one is put in mind of the passage which says: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher.” (Luke (RSV) 6:40.); and again, “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher.” (Matthew (RSV) 23:8.)

The question is: where does this counsel of fear and caution come from in the Scripture or other teachings of the Church? I have already quoted both Christ and St. Paul as saying not to fear physical injury or be fearful.

Christ does say to be wise, “"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men;” (Matthew (RSV) 10:16f.) So, He knew that His followers would be in physical and even mortal danger. But even this passage does not counsel avoiding the danger, but preparing for it as a test, since the passage continues, “for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew (RSV) 10:17ff.)

So the question is, as spokesmen for the Spirit of your Father, are these councils of caution and fear what one has been commanded to say to the world?

Please provide some basis for this advice which comes from the one Teacher, rather than from human or personal experience.

Isn’t this necessary if this discussion is to deepen our understanding of the faith? Or if it is to further the Savior’s solutions to the real problems of a society paralyzed by distrust and fear of one’s neighbor?

Spiritus Sapientiae semper nobiscum.

John Hiner


Laudetur Iesus Christus.

This seems right. One should learn from mistakes. However, the Lord might be more sever in His view of this problem:

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke (RSV) 6:46.)

If when one speaks without reflection, “the first thing that came out,” is a lie, then one is presented with important work to do. One needs to repent and cleanse one’s heart. It is not only the fact of the bad act, but the clue that it provides to the state of one’s heart.

Though one must love the sinner while hating the sin, the Savior’s view about the source of sin in the, “abundance of the heart,” clearly indicates that He has no illusion about the fact that the one who sins *is a sinner *and needs to change. “[F]irst take the log out of your own eye,” (Matthew (RSV) 7:5), don’t let it blind you to your situation.

Prepare to do better next time, by all means. However, do not neglect to confess and repent having sinned. It is a serious matter, and you must be a spotless offering, if you are to offer yourself to the Father in the Holy Mass.

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner


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