The other side of the New Evangelization

While no effort of evangelization can ultimately be successful without a revitalization of our liturgical worship, neither will we succeed in a lasting way without performing spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

This morning I saw a great story about a cop in New York City who bought a pair of boots for a shoeless beggar.

A tourist took a photo of the probably Catholic police officer, Lawrence Diprimo talking to the guy.

Officer Deprimo, patrolling Times Square found the guy on the sidewalk with nothing on his feet.

‘It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,’ the officer told the Times. ‘I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.’

Officer Deprimo said he talked to the homeless man and found out his shoe size: 12.

He watched the man stand up and walk slowly, painfully, down the cold pavement of the sidewalk on the balls of his feet.

The 25-year-old officer went into a nearby Skecher’s store and found a $100 pair of winter boots that he believed would keep the man warm through the winter.

The clerk, moved to the story, gave the officer his employee discount – 25 percent off.

Officer Deprimo said he keeps the $75 receipt as a reminder that ‘sometimes people have it worse.’Deprimo, who lives on Long Island with his parents, joined the force in 2010.

The photo was taken by Jennifer Foster, a 911 dispatcher from from Pinal County, Arizona, who was in New York for Thanksgiving.

When she got home, she emailed the photo to the NYPD, which posted it to the department’s Facebook page.

She said she took the picture because the scene reminded her of her own father, a 32-year veteran of the Phoenix police department. She remembers as a child watching him give food to a homeless man.

‘He squatted down, just like this officer,’ she told the Times.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Just Too Cool, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Year of Faith and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Father K says:

    Maybe if we focussed our attention on the example given by this Christian man and making a sincere effort to do the same, instead of fretting about dire prophecies [as in the St Leonard of Port Maurice article] then the New Evangelization might just, with God’s help, just kick in.

    St Francis de Saless aid we catch more flies with a teaspoon of honey than a barrel full of vinegar.

  2. Clinton says:

    Beautiful, and all the more so because Officer Deprimo would have done this in complete
    anonymity if a tourist hadn’t happened to have taken this photo.

  3. APX says:

    Stories like this aren’t rare, but go unnoticed. My friend was telling me a few years ago when she was driving on the highway from the town she was visiting back to the town (town meaning literally less than 1000 pop.) she lived in, about a little more than 100 kms. She got caught up in a blizzard and the temperatures were down into the -30 degrees celsius excluding the windchill. She couldn’t see the highway anymore so pulled over for the night. An RCMP officer patrolling the highway found her in her car and took her back home to his place and his family put her up for the night rather than leave her to freeze on the highway. I only found out because it was the same RCMP officer I knew who set me straight about driving like a moron rather than give me a litany of tickets and she recognized the name and told me her story. Police get a lot of criticism from the public, but very few get the recognition they deserve. Police officers and their families sacrifice a lot so that we can sleep safely at night. Yes, some slip through the cracks and do horrible things, but the number is quite small in comparison to those who do a lot good and go unrecognized.

  4. jaykay says:

    Yes, heartening. I’ve found that with some of the homeless here in Dublin, if you stop to talk to them, what they’re sometimes glad of is to be asked if they want something to eat, or to smoke – or sometimes they say they’re o.k. for food but then you find they like chatting for a bit. Some, unfortunately, have very deep problems and are “impenetrable”. Someone as seemingly wretched as that poor man would be so easy to pass by with a shudder as almost beyond help, or maybe impossible to talk to, so just give a coin and hurry on (I know it would be easy for me to do that) yet that Officer stopped to talk to him. A small thing, yet who knows what the end result will be?

  5. anna 6 says:

    When I saw that photo this morning the first image that came to mind was of Christ washing the feet of the apostles.
    “Christ has no body on earth but yours.” St. Teresa

  6. SteelBiretta says:

    Fr. Z (et al.),

    I have been struggling recently with the issue of giving money to the homeless. There is a homeless man outside church every Sunday. I usually give my kids some money to give to him. I think it’s important for kids to have this example, and to be concerned about those who need help.

    One weekday morning on my way into work, the same homeless man approached me, reeking of alcohol and asking for money because he was hungry. I gave him some money, but felt guilty about it afterwards. I’m not so naive as to believe that many homeless people don’t have alcohol problems, but if I have specific knowledge of this particular homeless man’s problem, is it proper to give him money? I don’t want to be responsible for killing this man, however slowly it might come about.

    Is giving money to people with substance abuse problems the best thing to do?

  7. David in T.O. says:

    Dear Father K, Does it need to be an either, or; or can it be both? St. Leonard of Port Maurice and this. Are they not related? The picture reminds me of those of St. Martin of Tours cutting off his cloak for the naked man. He would have agree with this officer and St. Leonard.

  8. jaykay says:

    SteelBiretta: that’s one I constantly ask myself, particularly when there’s a strong smell of drink or an appearance of being stoned. Often it’s a split-second decision when you’re “tapped”- not easy to form a prudential judgement in those circs! However one good friend, who has worked in shelters and hostels, said to me: “best to give something small – you just never know when the need might be genuine”.

    On the other hand we have a well-known problem here with organised gangs of beggars from a certain background, and I do not give anything to those people, as my judgement is that in all probability the need is not genuine.

  9. keithp says:

    I have been keeping bottled water and protein bars in my truck and giving them away rather than money to people asking for handouts. In the three years that I have been doing that, I have only been turned down once by someone who had previously asked for money.
    I want to share this quote from St John Vianney because it layed to rest any hesitancy I had about giving to panhandlers.
    “There are those who say to the poor that they seem to look to be in such good health: “You are so lazy! You could work. You are young. You have strong arms.”
    You don’t know that it is God’s pleasure for this poor person to go to you and ask for a handout. You show yourself as speaking against the will of God.
    There are some who say: “Oh, how badly he uses it!” May he do whatever he wants with it! The poor will be judged on the use they have made of their alms, and you will be judged on the very alms that you could have given but haven’t.”
    St. John Vianney

    What is shown in photo’s is simple acts of charity that we can perform ourselves. We just have to remain mindful.

  10. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I know churches that give out coupons to fast food places in the neighborhood.

    It is true, in my experience most street people who approach you want to talk, they want to be validated as human beings.

    I go to an inner city parish which is struggling with being across the street from a big mission operation. I can’t believe the stuff I hear about “those people,” why they might “even come into our building.” Well, God forbid they should come into our squeaky clean upper middle class parish looking for Christ or something. We will just shoo them away to the Lutherans across the street.

  11. SteelBiretta says:

    jaykay: I think your friend has it right. Thanks for the reply.

    keithp: Thanks for pointing me to that quote. That’s one I will be sharing. I will worry less about where the money is going.

    Banjo pickin girl: Thanks for reminding me that people who approach often want to talk, and to be validated as human beings. Too often I have just given money and walked away without much more of an acknowledgment.

  12. TomG says:

    This sort of thing isn’t taught; it’s modeled. As much as I would want to shake this young man’s hand, I think I’d just as much like to meet his mother and father.

  13. Father K says:

    David in T.O.

    I am not criticizing St Leonard of Port Maurice, just some of the opinions in the comments for that article. My point is what St Francis de Sales said. I for one, by and large, believe in ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’ as being a better expression of the Catholic faith.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    There are many ways to be homeless. There are many ways to be poor.

    When I was in graduate school I saw many homeless walking the streets around campus, sleeping on the grass, asking for money. It made me very angry when my city passed a law making it a crime to approach someone aggressively (to be judged by someone else, of course) begging for money. I think the stupid law-makers should spend a week having to beg for food and money. They would repent in tears.

    College students are often poor, but I spent some of my time in school homeless, begging for money (long story). Now, I am wedded to poverty as a vocation, but there is a difference about talking about poverty in the abstract and actually experiencing it. Some people will always be personal saints to me, like the man I asked for some spare change in a 7/11 store. He was handsomely dressed, tall, in a light brown cashmere coat. I was starving, but he said, “no.” I said nothing and let him go on his way, trying to decide what I was going to do when he walked back into the store, put money in my hand and said, “here.” He left the store and I saw God speaking to the heart of a stranger in visible form.

    On the other hand, I once spent hours on a Sunday trying to get a quarter to make a phone call. It is hard to see the lack of charity minute after minute.

    Getting kicked out of a store is an experience I would not wish on anyone. What can one say to the storekeeper?

    Sleeping on the streets is a dangerous proposition. One must always look out for muggers and the police. It is a wonder that one gets sleep at all. The vacant stares in the faces of many homeless would be gone in two nights of sleep.

    Still, as painful as those experiences were, the worst one I had happened in a “Church” (the campus ministry). I used to have a longish beard and, being poor, shopping for a winter coat meant looking at a Salvation Army Thrift store. I found a large blue wool Salvation Army jacket, which I thought was a nice find for a few dollars. I was sitting in my chair (no pews) after Sunday Mass a few weeks after (I was back in graduate school and not homeless) with my eyes closed, praying, when someone threw something at me and walked on. When I opened my eyes, I saw a ten dollar bill and a man walking away. He had jumped to the conclusion that I must be homeless simply because of how I looked. That was humiliating, especially since I was a lector at the Newman Center!

    As for giving to the homeless, there is much I could say. If you are near your Church, follow the direction of your pastor, if he gives directions, as he will stand before God for whatever those directions lead to. If you are by yourself, you have to be as cunning as a serpent and innocent as a dove. The best thing to do is to try and meet a direct need. If the man is hungry, buy him some food. If he needs bus money, buy him a bus pass or get on the bus and pay for him.

    If he just wants money, that can be problematic. Once, I was standing on the steps of a Church (a very orthodox one), near where I work, talking to a friend, when a well-dressed man approached asking for money for gasoline (usually, I make them take me to their car and prove they can unlock it with a key – stopped many cons, that way). He pointed to a car and I told him he shouldn’t try to lie on the steps of a Church. He kept begging, pointing out that he was well-dressed (he had on a tie), so I finally said, “Look, I’m going to give you this money and we will pray for you, but if you are lying about this in the presence of God, you will be sorry.”

    He was arrested soon after.

    As I say, there is more than one way to be homeless, more than one way to be poor. There are too many painful stories of which I must not speak of the poverty of loneliness I have seen in the faces of others, the lack of someone to trust, the need of a simple smile. We pass our lives so oblivious to the harm we may be doing to another simply because we never take the time to notice them or we dismiss them with a glance. I, myself, spent this very afternoon near tears for this very reason.

    We take so many things for granted, but part of my difficulties in life can sometimes make even the simple act of walking through a door a life and death proposition (too long to explain why, very non-standard). My friends know about the condition and are kind to help when needed, but some days there is no time to explain or people don’t believe you or they don’t care. Once, at a court house where I was suing a landlord for a non-paid return of a security deposit, because of someone who should have known better would not listen to me about the condition, but forced me to do things their way, I had a stroke. I told him it might happen. I looked so normal in my sports jacket and tie. He had no time for sympathy (did he think I would joke about that?). My inter-cranial blood pressure spiked because of the situation and I had a (fortunately) mild stroke (at least it seemed like it – lost muscle strength on the opposite side of the brain where I have weakened blood vessels, intense burning, limping, could not hold arm up) – all because he (a sheriff) was too intent on being in charge that he could not hear a need. Of course, what could I do? Even today, because of this, sometimes my hand goes limp while trying to write on the blackboard during a lecture. I’m not really talking about the neurological condition, here, but pointing out that, at that moment, in that court house, I was the poorest, neediest person in the building, but he could not see that.

    Sometimes, it takes being poor to see the poor, at least being poor in spirit.

    On the other side of the coin, those who are poor, who allow us to do them a kindness, do they not, by that act of accepting our charity, evangelize us as to the limits of love?

    Bravo for the officer. Until poverty is personal, until that man’s need is my need, we will never understand why Christ died on the Cross for us.

    The Chicken

  15. jaykay says:

    Steel Biretta: he’s an atheist! I’m going to have fun telling him he’s repeating the words of St. Jean Vianney – for which thanks to keithp above :) He’ll be tickled… very respectful towards the Church as he sees the work they do on the ground. Unsung work, largely.

  16. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Chicken, your story brings tears to my eyes. May you be awarded The Gold Star of Heaven.

  17. StWinefride says:

    Thank you dear Chicken, and God Bless.

    “In a word, God at the Final Judgment will ask us if we have loved not in an abstract way, but with concrete acts. At the end of life, as St. John of the Cross liked to repeat, we will be judged on love.”

    Pope Benedict XVI, 10 Feb 2007

  18. LisaP. says:

    I’ve rarely in my life read anything more moving — literally moving, because I’m getting up and living my life differently after reading that. Thanks many tons for that. Chickens, who knew? ;)

  19. ejcmartin says:

    I have been reading a book about the life of Dorothy Day and I came across her statement that “we start loving the poor for Jesus, but soon we love them for themselves and see each one to be special.” Having been moved to help out at a local soup kitchen “for Jesus” a couple of years ago, now I look forward to my time there each week and have a chat with my friends.

  20. James Joseph says:

    When I first saw the picture I was assuming the police were ticketing the man.

    Can you blame me?

    I am from Massachusetts. The police here are part of the established state church.

  21. Son of Trypho says:

    Perhaps instead of tripping on the bus or swanning with politicians, the good sisters could perhaps open hostels to feed, clothe and shelter the most vulnerable and demonstrate some social justice in action?

  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    I don’t know if I was a lector, yet, at the Newman Center when the incident, above, occurred, just to set the record straight.

    Actually, what has my day been like, today? There is a series in the Peanuts comic strip starring the intrepid theologian/blanket-holder, Linus, that pretty much summarizes things. Let the writer of The Archetypal Archive (Dec. 7, 2007) explain:

    Here’s the story:

    STRIP ONE: Linus & Charlie Brown stand in an open field while rain starts coming down: CB is wearing a baseball hat & glove. CB walks away, complaining that the rain interrupts every time you want to do something. Alone, Linus recites the well-known “Rain rain go away” chant. The rain stops. Shocked, Linus runs home and tells Lucy, “Hide me” in the last panel.

    STRIP TWO: It’s raining again as Linus leads Lucy outside to show her what he can do. He chants the words again, and even Lucy is startled by the rain coming to a halt. [Linus: Frightening, isn’t it? Lucy: I don’t know whether I should call a doctor or a booking agent]. Linus gets hysterical: “Do you think I’m a demon? Do you think they’ll stone me? I DON’T WANNA BE STONED!” Lucy calms him down and asserts that they have to wait for it to rain one more time, to be sure that the rain-stopping isn’t just coincidence. (Apparently she’s a believer in “the third time’s the charm!”) The strip ends with another gag.

    STRIP THREE: While they wait, Linus continues to worry about being thought a demon, and Lucy assures him that science will find some use for him. Charlie Brown wanders up, giving Lucy the chance to explain to him (and any readers coming in late) what’s going on. The rain starts. Lucy urges Linus to “say the words,” and then yells at him, flustering him. Linus utters a mangled-up version of “Rain rain go away,” and the strip ends with the three kids being drenched in a torrent of rain, as Lucy calls Linus a “blockhead.”

    After my little incidents earlier, today, when everything was not working out, I thought I would hide out and pray a rosary. Then, strengthened, I got on the bus to go home and there was an T-bone accident, literally, right in front of the bus when we stopped to pick up a passenger (who narrowly escaped being hit). There are some days when I know how Jonah felt. “Toss me over the side of the bus,” I felt like yelling. Alas, maybe I said something wrong in the St. Leonard post and God was letting me know I was getting a little prideful. Don’t know. If so, I apologize.

    In any event, as Charlie Brown told Linus (?), “The meaning of life is to go back to sleep and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.”

    Take it away, Night Crew.

    The Chicken

  23. Catholictothecore says:

    Thank you, dear Chicken. I was truly moved by your story. You write from the heart. It shows. Not only in this post but the St Leonard of Port Maurice one as well. God Bless you.

    Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

  24. Panterina says:

    SteelBiretta: It’s a legitimate question. The way I go about it is that you can fool me, but you cannot fool God. Plus, I shouldn’t be judging people anyway. If the homeless person is truly hungry and I didn’t help, I’ll be in sea of trouble on my Judgment Day. If this person was lying to me to get money for a booze, well, then it’s between them and God.

    Sometimes I ask if I could buy them a sandwich instead of money–they might decline the offer if they weren’t truly honest.

  25. Mariana says:

    Poor Chicken! And thank you!

  26. StWinefride says:

    Dear Chicken, night crew checking in!

    You say: Alas, maybe I said something wrong in the St. Leonard post and God was letting me know I was getting a little prideful. Don’t know. If so, I apologize.

    In my humble opinion – and of course not wishing to give “them” too much credit either – more likely the “other side”. They can’t stand the Truth, and in addition it must torture them no end that, although they can use the internet for their own evil purposes, Our Lord and Saviour, through His faithful servants, can use it for Good.
    Oh! how they must hate that.

    And anyway, on the whole, does God not speak to us in whispers? “…learn from Me, I am meek and humble of heart…” Matthew 11:29

    Of course, it could also have just been a bad day!

    Don’t stop speaking from the heart Chicken – or anyone else – and even if you were to be a little bit prideful, it would be a fault and not a sin because of intention. You love God and the poor, that’s evident, so God bless you!

    Just to add, not being a Priest, I could be wrong about the fault/sin thing, so I am very happy to be stood corrected!

  27. The Masked Chicken says:

    There is one more thing I would like to say about this topic. There are nine ways to be an accomplice to another’s sin:

    I. By counsel
    II. By command
    III. By consent
    IV. By provocation
    V. By praise or flattery
    VI. By concealment
    VII. By partaking
    VIII. By silence
    IX. By defense of the ill done

    If you have certain knowledge of what a poor person will do with the money you give them, then you are morally bound not to give them the money, if their known intent is to sin. Simply suspecting that someone will use the money, badly, is not enough to stop you from giving them the money (see St. Thomas on suspicions). Thus, smelling alcohol on someone’s breath does not, ordinarily, make you an accomplice to their death should they use the money to drink to the point of alcohol poisoning. If you ask the what they intend to do with the money and they say they are gong to use it to buy a razor to kill themselves, then you have certain knowledge of their intentions. Whether or not they actually go through with the act, you must take the person at their word, unless you can ascertain, to a moral certainty, that they are either joking or delusional to the point that they could not even find a drugstore to buy a razor (in which case, there would be other concerns). If you ask them what they intent to do with the money and they lie, you may still give them the money, even if you suspect them of lying, because, certeris paribus, a man should be taken at his word.

    The Chicken

  28. Kypapist says:

    I am blessed to be able to attend 6:00 a.m. Mass at an inner city parish and over the past 30+ years have been panhandled many times by many different people. The ones I seldom give to are those who use a set routine, “My car broke down over on the highway and we got kids in the car…” But many are mentally ill. We had a woman who came almost every day for years. She was very eratic in her behavior. But over a couple of years by talking to her and buying her something to eat, she eventually quieted down and would even sit still during the Mass. Now we have a man who stands outside every morning with his cup. Everyone calls him by name and most give to him.
    Panhandlers often appeal to pro-lifers praying outside of abortion mills. One woman offered to share her “gift” with me when I told her I was broke (which was true).

    Sometimes I remember to bring plastic baggies with bead/cord rosaries I make, packed with $2 and a “How to Pray…” booklet: I give them to the “healthy” guys who stand on the busy corners with their signs.

    People have told me I shouldn’t do this, although I don’t think “discernment of spirits” means smelling Black Jack on someone’s breath. I appreciate the quote from St. John Vianney. He manages to give the impression of being a fire-and-brimstone preacher, but actually his sermons were full of the tender love of God for His weak children. I would rather give and be mistaken, than not give and be uncharitable. Besides, isn’t it being “judgemental” to assume a stranger is a drunk/druggie/liar/lazybones?

Comments are closed.