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

I always admire people who seem to be able to come up with a Scripture quotation for every occasion. You know, when you are working away quietly at home and your spouse calls out, “As it says in John 16:16, ‘In a short time you will no longer see me, and in a short time you will see me again.’” 

“For crying out loud,” you shout back, “Could you just go out and buy the bread and milk?” 

Anniversaries are for reminiscing, and “The Church on the Street” reached its 18th anniversary this month. 

“Although I am a stranger, please know I hold you in my heart and in my prayers. You are loved regardless of the obstacles that you may face. I hope this letter brightens your day, and this care package helps you along the way. Please stay safe, stay happy and stay blessed. With love, from someone who cares.”

I never knew the lady’s real name. When I met her she said, “Just call me Chilli, that’s my street name.”

Readers of this column will know her as “The woman who lives in a doorway downtown.” It has been 10 months since we first met. At that time, she gave me some money to go and buy clothes for her from a nearby shop. When I returned, we sat on the step together as she poured out her grief for her son who was taken from her at nine years old.

There is a saying that the law of relationships that are unhealthy is, “Don’t trust, Don’t talk, and Don’t feel.” The ministry of the Church on the street, and all ministry in fact, is to reach out with the law of healing relationships, “Show up, Listen, Don’t judge, and Don’t fix.”

In his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis reminds us that as pastoral people we have to accept tension between fullness and limitation, and not be concerned with immediate results.

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.”

It all started with a call from a friend. “Would you be able to meet with a relative of mine who is sleeping rough on the streets and into drugs?” I said that if he was willing, I would meet with him. We arranged to meet at “Ripples of Kindness,” the outreach program run out of Sacre Coeur Parish in downtown Toronto. Little did I know that the meeting would lead me deep into the Rock ’n’ Roll scene of the ’80s and ’90s.

Before I leave the house, I always check outside to see how many layers of clothes I need on the colder evenings. It did not feel too cold, and so I dressed lightly with only three layers, which were topped off with a hoodie and my omnipresent leather jacket. However, as I approached the downtown area the heavens opened, and I found myself driving through a deluge of rain.

Some weeks, violence raises its ugly head to remind us that it is always lurking, shrouded by the darkness of the night.