I have written before of my respect for folk singers who look at the world and give voice to truths that are often hidden from our view. Many years ago, I heard such a phrase that has haunted me, and in some ways has shaped the ministry of the Church on the Street: “Truth is a story scribbled in chalk, an hour before the flood.”

Published in Register Columnists

“Don’t forget the poor; be generous to them.”With those words, Canossian Sister Elisa Grignoli called about 30 Catholic Street Missionaries to reflect on their mission to the poor and homeless before heading out to the streets of Vancouver.

I was born and raised in Glasgow and it does not take long for those who hear my Scottish accent to know I am not a native-born Canadian. However, it does cause confusion at times, as I found out when I came upon a man standing outside a downtown shelter. The shelter is in the heart of the drug area, and so I am always prepared for many and varied conversations.  

Published in Register Columnists

It’s hard to get rid of labels. I don’t mean from jam jars before we throw them in the garbage, but from people. Labels such as, “addict,” “homeless” or “dangerous offender” stick as if permanently attached to the forehead, and often they tempt others to mentally throw the person into the garbage of life. Even worse, the person may become the label, and at that point it requires extraordinary acts of love to call them back to who they really are. 

Published in Register Columnists

The weather had suddenly turned cold. What had promised to be a pleasant walk on the street had slowly but consistently chilled throughout the day until several layers of clothing were required to repel the harsh winter wind. It was certainly no evening for a man to be shuffling along George Street agonizingly slowly. 

Published in Register Columnists

There are times in our lives when we feel sorry for ourselves and we cry out, “Why me?” Unfortunately for many it is followed by imagining that they hear God saying, “Why you? It’s because I don’t like you, that’s why.” They feel that if they had not sinned or made bad choices, then God would have loved them more and it would have all turned out differently.

Published in Register Columnists

I have often prayed for others to join the ministry of “The Church on the Street.” However, even though many have come to look and see, none has chosen to follow. My offer of “franchises available” has failed to convince. Unfortunately, the front-page news this week of two murders in the area dampened any enthusiasm there might have been.

Published in Register Columnists

At lunchtime on a beautiful summer’s day many years ago, I walked downtown in the heart of Toronto. A makeshift stage had been set up, and a woman was singing one of my favourite songs from the world of musicals, “On My Own” from Les Miserables, about romantic rejection and hopelessness. But there was something wrong. It took me a little while to figure out what the problem was, but gradually it dawned on me. She had no passion! Technically, she hit every note perfectly, yet it was as though she had never felt the pain of loneliness. There was no conviction that she had ever in her lifetime experienced being on her own, deserted, and heartbroken.

Published in Register Columnists

I teach it and I preach it, but every so often I am reminded how difficult it is to live it. I am talking about laying our expectations on others.

Published in Register Columnists

The grip of a long, cold winter had finally been broken when I walked downtown on a warm St. Patrick’s night in Toronto. It was not long until I came across my first party. Some men were standing outside a shelter drinking and joking. I stopped and wished them a happy St. Patrick’s Day and asked if they lived in the shelter. Ray, standing next to me, said he used to live there but had moved up a step and now had his own apartment.

Published in Robert Kinghorn

There is an old saying, “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” The truth is that we are all a complex blend of saint and sinner whose scales of sanctity teeter on a delicate balance throughout life.

Published in Robert Kinghorn

I am often asked to speak to groups about my experiences on the streets of the city, and what it means for each of us to be the Church on the Street. Recently at the end of one of these talks I was asked, “What do those on the street need the most?” I could do no better than to quote one of my heroes, Fr. Greg Boyle who works with the gang members in Los Angeles and who said, “Gang members need hope. They live with a lethal absence of hope.”

Published in Robert Kinghorn

It was one of these soft evenings when a gentle snowfall enveloped the drabness of the streets, and with no breeze to speak of, the chill had been taken from the air. As I walked the downtown streets the ancient hymn came to my mind, “See Amid the Winter’s Snow.”

Published in Register Columnists

There is a freedom in walking the streets, following my instincts and seeing where the Spirit will lead. On this particular evening I was unexpectedly led back 14 years to a cold evening on Jan. 11, 2007, but I was taken there by a circuitous route.

Published in Robert Kinghorn

Catholic young adults gathered one last time, virtually, Oct. 25 to bid farewell to the Faith Connections program operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.

Published in Youth Speak News
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