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Strength from No Religion

Categories: BLOG | Published: 14/07/2017 | Views: 835

George Allan of The Wayside Club for the vulnerable and homeless in Glasgow writes our new blog.  Described by the late Cardinal Winning as "The Jewel in the crown of the Archdiocese of Glasgow" the Wayside Club epitomises Pope Francis' recent message when announcing the 1st World Day of the Poor on 19th November 2017, "Love not in word but in deed".

The Wayside Club Centre at 32 Midland Street, Glasgow, G1 4PR, has been supporting the homeless and vulnerable in Glasgow for over 70 years. Our ethos has remained constant, maintaining the truths of our Catholic faith, and emphasising that we are in no position to judge anyone or indeed be upset by others who don't always agree with the One from whom we draw strength.
The club opens its doors every evening all year round, and on Saturday afternoons. Our Presidium Group, Our Lady of the Wayside, has 18 regular members who volunteer in turn to work on a particular evening or to do a Saturday afternoon shift, so that the club is consistently open for our patrons (the word we use for club users). We are a very diverse group of lay Catholics of varying ages and backgrounds who unite in supporting patrons in many aspects of their lives.
An average of 60 - 70 patrons come to the club each time we open. Patrons of many faiths and none are given food, access to clean clothing and if needed, haircuts. They can enjoy light entertainment and company and if they wish, can spend some time in our oratory.
On Sunday evenings, clergy always come along to support us. They are so generous with their time and as well as chatting with our patrons, they offer Mass, which gives them the opportunity to share in the Sacraments.
The patrons, many of whom have personal issues or have had difficulties throughout their lives, are often a great source of learning and can be inspirational.
I recall a cold wet dark miserable January evening when the doorbell rang and we opened the door to a patron called Grahame. Grahame doesn’t often come to the club and he was looking rather downtrodden. He asked ‘Do you have anything holy you could give?’ We handed him rosary beads, he thanked us and left, but a few seconds later the bell rang again. It was Grahame again, and he asked ‘Can you say that prayer thing over the rosary?’ We worked out with Grahame that he was referring to blessing of the rosary beads, which can only be done by clergy. As he looked disappointed when we told him this, I asked ‘Would you like to say a prayer together?’
He answered ‘I don't know any prayers and have no religion,’ so I said a simple prayer that my mother used to say each evening before we all went to sleep: ‘God Bless Grahame and keep him safe from all harm.’
It is very easy to forget in this busy confusing world of ours what and who we are. If we take each other and God for granted we are missing great times and opportunities to strengthen the gifts of faith.
On that dreich busy Friday evening, the conditions were challenging. But God's real presence was there, radiating and supporting someone who life had thrown a few curveballs, leaving him homeless and an addict. With no religion and little knowledge of regular prayers, Grahame still had faith in God and he was an inspiration.
Jesus has promised He will return. I often wonder where He will grace with His presence and what will He look like. Will I choose to ignore him if he challenges my prejudices or fears, or will I be like St Thomas who asked for proof before I believe?
Sometimes we need to have thinking time to reflect on the gift of faith that many of us have inherited from each other and from generations of the faithful who have supported the club with their generosity and more importantly, their prayers.
May we be strong in our trust in God during challenging times, just like Grahame, confronting injustices directed at the needy and particularly towards our faith, even if this means being a lone voice in a busy room.
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