Robert Kinghorn

Robert Kinghorn

Robert Kinghorn is a deacon of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

You can read his column, "The Church on the Street" in The Catholic Register.

You can contact him at robert.kinghorn@ekinghorn.com

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.

She was only 16, a child by all accounts, and she had been sent to the big city from her home in northern Canada for treatment at a mental health clinic.

It has been a month that has reminded me of how relentlessly unforgiving the street is to its people. Like a scorned lover, it will try to grasp them from the arms of freedom to ensnare them in their old ways.

Warm weather can bring out the best and the worst in the parishioners of the church on the street. It can lull them into a state of lassitude that can only be equalled by a homily that has lost sight of its destination, or else stir them into frenetic anger fuelled by an assortment of illicit stimulants.

There are some days it is harder than others to get up the energy, and indeed the courage to make the trip downtown to the Church on the Street, and this was one of them.

Have you ever had an experience in your life and you are not sure if you dreamt it or lived it? Mine goes back at least 50 years and it is as vivid today as if it happened yesterday.

It was the walk that first attracted my attention. Not so much a walk as a hobble, dragging one leg painfully after the other. Dusk had descended on the streets and the chill of winter had finally given way to the promise of spring, although it was still far too cold for the many people scattered around the neighbouring homeless shelters.

Despite the promise of spring in the air, the day had turned windy and blustery, cutting sharply through the heavy jacket I reserve for evenings such as these on the street.

In many ways, gratitude is the basis of love.

One of my favourite authors is George Mackay Brown, who rarely left his native Orkney, a remote island off the coast of Scotland.

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