Monday, November 23, 2009

Whoever Receives One Such Child . . .

Dear Parish Faithful,

The forty-day Nativity Fast began last Sunday, November 15. This is the Season of preparation for the Lord's Nativity on December 25 through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

My purpose here is to propose a parish-wide or parish family project that would allow us to fulfill the Lord's command to practice charity/almsgiving. When I returned from Guatemala, I immediately wrote a meditation in which I shared the hard and troubling truth that a little girl that we met in June had been sexually violated previous to her entrance into the Hogar. (I have appended the relevant paragraph from that meditation below in case you have not read it or would like to re-read it). The Hogar has a program that allows for sponsorship of individual children. This is of tremendous benefit to the Hogar because it provides essential financial support for its strained budget. And it allows for others to participate in the Christian ministry to these "abandoned, abused, and orphaned children." The Hogar encourages parish sponsorship of a given child, since individual sponsorship can prove to be financially challenging; and because it is a communal project that brings a parish together through a common purpose. The cost of sponsoring a child for an entire year is as follows:

$10 per day
$300 per month
$3,600 per year

Having "done the math," I believe that a one-year sponsorship of this little girl is quite realistic and "do-able" for our parish. Otherwise, I would not support this collection. We have 85 households listed in our new parish directory. If 72 of those households make the relatively modest donation of $50, then the entire sum of $3,600 would be covered! That means that each household would support this little girl for five days out of the year. That is $50 for the entire year. Our goal would then be to send in our financial support at the beginning of the New Year. Of course, I encourage anyone to donate more than the $50 if you are so moved. That would greatly assist us in getting that much closer to our goal.

"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me" (MATT. 18:5).

We will use the St. Nicholas Day Charity Dinner on December 6, as a "kick-off" for this parish-wide project, since our teens have agreed to donate the proceeds of that dinner to support our drive. That will prove to be an excellent beginning, considering the popularity of that dinner and the parish-wide participation that we always experience. Perhaps most importantly, if you reflect upon the ministry of St. Nicholas and his love, defense and support for children in need, the timing is perfect. We will then be acting in honor and reverence of this great and beloved saint. I included the following short paragraph in my earlier meditation that I am hoping will move you to respond affirmatively to this charity proposal:

When you support the Hogar it is a child like this that you are supporting! You are helping to feed, clothe, and educate her. And protect her from the outside world that has betrayed her. You are helping to maintain her in a Christ-filled environment. It is a noble and worthy cause. May it be blessed.


We have a parish history of responding with great generosity to such community-based charity collections. When participation is parish-wide, the over-all collection "adds up" real quickly. I am hoping and praying that you will find some room in your hearts for this little girl that we have providentially met through our parish ministry to the Hogar.

Please consider a $50 donation for this long-suffering child as a Christmas gift in the name of the newborn Christ child.

In Christ,

Fr. Steven


Excerpt from previous meditation:

There is a lovely young girl of about ten that presvytera Deborah and I met in June and spent some time with on an outing to a plant and garden nursery. We made friends that day and enjoyed her company for the rest of the week there. On my recent visit I was speaking to Madre Ivonne about her, and discovered the shocking fact that she had been raped while living in a tenement building. She was then eventually brought to the Hogar and taken in. This is the part that truly breaks your heart, especially when you see this child up close, call her by name, hold her hand, hug her, and spend some time with her. To be perfectly honest, it also boils your blood. The tragic character of the fallen world is no more fully manifested then in the destruction of the purity and innocence of a child. The consequences are severe. The words of Christ make this clear: "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones" (LK. 17:2). This also makes many of the children very susceptible to mood swings that will include a kind of depression. And yet this young girl has been baptized and now participates in the sacramental life of the Church on a daily basis. So, I am not ashamed to say that when she came to Communion on Sunday while I was serving, tears came to my eyes as I gave her the Body and Blood of Christ "unto life everlasting." This little child is truly on a journey from hell to heaven! She has been in the "dark pit" described by the psalmist, and has now returned to the light of day. This is the part that is inspiring. Or that uplifts your troubled heart.

A full and revised form of this reflection is now available at OrthodoxyToday.org, and may also be found on our Orthodox Meditations Blog here.

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