This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31 -- Feast of Saint John Francis Regis

 This post doesn't tell you much about John-Francis himself, except for his style in matching the impoverished with donors.  I will have to revisit him a year from now and talk about other aspects of his ministry. 

What's the sculptor saying about J-F here? 
I am not saying that Saint John-Francis is the patron of the charitable solicitation; Franciscans and Dominicans had been begging for themselves and for those-less-fortunate for centuries before J-F became a Jesuit.  What I am saying is that I admire his style. 

I got a letter thanking me for my donation to the Catholic Relief Services today.  This was a paltry contribution, sent in cash -- no more than I have given to panhandlers on Commercial Street.  Still, their computer wrote to thank me, and the amount they spent on postage and printing for both the initial solicitation and the follow-up made me wonder whether my donation had cost them more than I had given. 

Sister Michaela and the World Villages for Children
John-Francis used a similar approach to the modern appeals, but he was a clearinghouse of information rather than a clearinghouse of money itself.  Today, Sister Michaela sends me the same picture of a child every month, but this is not a different photo than she sends to tens of thousands of other homes around the world.  The child, who could by now be a thirty-year-old ad executive in Manila for all I know, stands in for every hungry Filipino child.  Michaela knows we know that we're not supporting this particular kid -- it's iconography, not deception. 

Not so with Saint J-F.  He would send a list of names to a donor, and the text of his letter was not an appeal.  To quote: 

“Sir, you will provide food for the poor people who names are listed below, and you will give them six sous for their lodging. If you are unable to provide them with food, you will give them a further six sous so that they may buy it themselves.”

Logistically, it is something that would be challenging, even at the Diocesan (or even parish) level.  It is also something that might make us a little squeamish, actually knowing the beneficiaries of our charity.  Certainly, if I were sending the money to an individual rather than a global fund, I'd be a little more reflective about how much I could afford.  Oxfam is one thing; the family down the street is another.  I think there may be a New Year's Resolution in there somewhere -- I've still got a couple hours to nail it down.