Young Adults Gathering Testimony #1
“When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.” – St. Basil the Great
One of the talks at the national young adult gathering last weekend mentioned this, that our extra coat belongs to the poor. The speaker highlighted how little we modern Americans even think about our possessions and the demands of the Gospel. I have many coats. Should I give them away? The place I live is cold. There may be some who have no warm coat. Surely, yes, they have a claim on my closet.
More to the point, though: Upon reflection, I’ve come to see that others have a claim on me. At the local St. Vincent de Paul store, one can buy a nice wool coat for the price of a cheeseburger. The poor who need a coat can easily get one, it seems.
But what is not so easy to come by is a person who sees – who truly sees – the need of another. The poor tragically lack coats, but the more profound poverty is the lack of another person who sees this need and wishes to give their extra coat.
How many of us have such a person? A person who sees us in our poverty, who sees our human needs, and who loves us so much that they act to meet our needs. In this age of materialism, coats are plentiful, but a person who sees and responds to each one’s need is not. Our extra coat, yes, but even more so than this, we must be persons who see the needs of others and, in love, give from our plenty to meet these needs. How many there are who need us to see them with love.
Once, Servant of God Pierre Goursat, while fairly weak and bedridden, participated in a community governance meeting aboard Le Peniche, the old barge on the Seine River that housed his apartment and still serves as a community meeting space. A young man arrived distraught, needing to speak with Pierre right away. Pierre paused the community meeting, received the young man, and patiently listened for first 5, then 10, then 20 minutes. The fellow had some burning matters he really needed to get off his chest. After listening this whole while, Pierre patiently told him he was welcome to stay while the council – which sat quietly waiting as Pierre listened to the man – finished discussing a few items of business. The young man sat quietly at Pierre’s side. When the group concluded its agenda, Pierre turned his full attention back to his visitor, who continued to pour out his troubles.
The young adult gathering offered so much, but this one reflection on my “extra coat” was especially provoking. I adore, I strive to evangelize, but do I see the deep needs of others, whether it’s a coat or a listening ear? Do I even see others as I hurry past, en route to the next engagement in my well-organized calendar? Do I gaze upon the other as Christ gazes upon me? This is the example Pierre offers in his patient listening to the young man’s burdens.
So many people today are lonely and have no one who sees them in their need. Just as the Lord so tenderly sees me and meets my deep needs for affection and love, so must I do for others. Especially for those who have no one to see that they need a coat.
This reflection on the North American Young Adult Gathering was written by Chris Motz, a member of the community who lives in South Dakota with his wife, Hannah and four children.