Monday, February 16, 2009

Father Thomas: Quotation

Father Richard Thomas was the biggest Jesuit influence on my life. To go along with the prior post on conversion to the poor, a letter was recently sent to me that was found among his effects. He wrote it from El Paso and the ministry that he ran there, a ministry that my parents continue to operate along with others. This man will be a saint someday; of that I have no doubt. There is much I could write on him. I'll wait to his anniversary to give a more detailed biography here. But he was a man of profound poverty, and for him, the poverty of the Society of Jesus was often a scandal. As for many saints, the status quo is hard to abide. And as with many saints, they receive a grace to live differently. He lived differently. He first moved out of the Jesuit parish in El Paso when he found children living in the dumpster outside of Our Lady's Youth Center. He and another Jesuit allowed them to sleep in a Jesuit car over night. The car stank so much in the morning, they had to tell what happened. But he was so convicted by this event, that he obtained permission to move to OLYC so as to give these kids a place to stay.

That is all a story for another day. Here is a letter he sent home to his province, a letter we as Jesuits can all read as from a saint and use for reflection on our styles of living:



Executive Director
515 S. Kansas
P. O. Box 1422
EI Paso, Texas 79948
Phone: 533-9122

Dear fellow Jesuit:

Enclosed is a copy of our October letter to the Anything A Month friends of Our Lady's Youth Center in EI Paso. It is their donations that keep us going. I felt you would want to read this letter.

Right now we are all concerned with Province planning. The Church is being criticized for not being, and not giving the appearance of being, poor-in-spirit. We who have taken a vow of poverty should especially be beyond giving cause for such criticism. So it would be appropriate to include in our planning an objective consideration of our very mode of living.

The needs of the poor are not so obvious because few of us ever really meet the poor. Our work in the Southern Province has kept us primarily with the middle class and the wealthy. This October letter tells about a tragedy that occurred just a block away from our residence.' Sadly, one of our priests knew of Carlos and knew the conditions of his destitution. Similar incidents are happening constantly all over the Province. Every city has its slums, but we are not always serving its people. Yet we must admit that if Christ were visible today, that is where He would be found serving.

May I recommend multiple, prolonged visits to your city's slums. I say multiple and prolonged because until one gets on a first name basis with more than one family, he won't begin to absorb their attitudes and comprehend their true needs.

The poor and the middle class or rich have a mutual need for each other. The poor need the rich: their money, their initiative, their education. The rich need the poor because there is no other way for them to go to heaven.

In the monthly letters to our Anything A Month friends I thank them for their help to the needy of this border city. I know they would approve my expenditures for this mailing, pleading for the poor of the whole Province.


Richard M. Thomas, SJ

I have not included the newsletter to which he is referring, but it is one of many moving stories that occur daily at The Lord's Ranch and with Our Lady's Youth Center. Let us all resolve to have regular contact with the poor of our cities. In this way we are assured that we are in contact with Christ.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

1 comment:

Jimmy Gonzalez said...

Hi. I remember Father Thomas well from my days working at Bowie High School. He would often come by with Oso on Friday pep rallies and shortly before the games to say a prayer for the band while U taight there. I have to agree whole-heartedly with you in him becoming a saint one of these days. I remember him fondly and was deeply touched by the love he exuded for the people in this community. Thank you for positng this blog.