It seems taboo to think about, much less discuss, any religion that is not our own.
Protestants don't read Thomas Merton.
Catholics don't read Rick Warren.
Atheists refuse to explore any God-based religion at all.
I can almost guarantee this post will be met with comments on Facebook that I am not accurately understanding God, Jesus or Christianity as a whole.
If we are ever to evolve as a species we simply must get good at holding two (or more) contradicting thoughts in our mind at the same time.
We have to hold John 3:16 in our heart and mind (For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.) while simultaneously finding salvation through participating in the Church while simultaneously not having to think about God or the Church at all to find salvation.
In our universe there is a real thing called superposition. Superposition is the ability of a quantum system to be in multiple states at the same time until it is measured.
If our actual universe can be multiple things at once then we as humans must learn to be multiple things at once.
There are many gods. There is one god. There is no god. All states are true.
We can't possibly get any closer to God until we plow head first into this mind-bending reality.
I mean God created superposition. How are you ever going to get closer to God unless you struggle with the the fundamental principle of how God created the universe? It simply doesn't make rational sense that God can't be multiple things at once but the universe can.
I set this stage to try to help you expand your mind to be open to a Catholic Saint: Benedict Joseph Labre, if you don't happen to be a Catholic. We will never grow as humans if we close off learnings taught by people that are not us. That's a recipe for permanent ignorance.
This guy tried to become a Carthusian and a Trappist. Both orders turned him away for being unsuitable.
So he decided to lead a life of poverty and pilgrimage. He visited most major shrines in Europe several times each. During these trips he would always travel on foot, sleeping in the open or in a corner of a room, with his clothes muddy and ragged. He was abused along the way.
He died of malnutrition on some random street in Rome at the age of 35.
A cult following grew up quickly after his death. He was declared Blessed by Blessed Pius IX in 1860, and later canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881.
What are we to make of this?
Basically, all this guy did was travel around and beg.
Doesn't that sound like your run of the mill homeless person?
I suppose the difference is that he came from a prosperous shopkeeper family. I guess we might say he chose to be homeless. But did he?
He tried twice to become a monk. Both times he was denied. He quit studying. He has all the signs of a societal failure.
He is more similar to an average homeless person than we might like to admit.
If you ask me, the difference between him and many of the people at our homeless village seems to be that he had a better publicist.
Labre's confessor, Marconi, wrote his biography and attributed 136 separate cures to his intercession within three months of his death.
Do you know how many homeless people greet me after a cold night sleeping in a tent by replying "I am blessed," when asked the question "How are you today?" More than I can count.
How would we treat Labre if he were to come to Akron today, which incidentally is run by a Catholic mayor?
My guess is that the mayor would force me to stop sheltering him in my backyard. He would be forced into exile in the woods, residents would report him for his dirty appearance and the police would continually find him and make him pack up his camp and move on over and over and over again.
Would we recognize Labre if we saw him in the street? Would we recognize Jesus?
What if God is coming to us through the homeless? What if God is panhandling on that corner you drove by yesterday? What if God was just waiting for you to come show love and compassion?
"It couldn't be!" you'd exclaim. Those people are no good, lazy drug addicts that are gaming the system.
How do you know that? Have you ever stopped to talk to any of these people? Have you ever thought that maybe these people might actually be suffering? That these people might actually just want to be shown a small amount of compassion?
"It couldn't be," you continue to insist. These are garbage people.
I'm here to tell you: if you believe the panhandler on the corner, the couple living in my backyard are garbage people, then Joseph Labre is a garbage person. Jesus is a garbage person. There is absolutely no difference between any of them.