Many years ago, in conversation with others involved in ministry, someone said: “Be careful and prudent. Don’t let the poor get too close. They can mess everything up.” Those words have accompanied me throughout all these years like uninvited and unwanted company. But, how right he was! The poor indeed mess everything up.
They mess up our idea of the Kingdom of God, if we have kept to those safe reflections that have come down through centuries of safe theological complacency. They mess up our idea of Jesus’ preference, if you have spiritualized his message beyond recognition. They mess with our perspectives about the poor, the unrecognizable, the hidden, the unwanted, the discarded, the used and abused, and the begging immigrant. But, man, they really mess with our consideration of the wealthy, the system, the structures of power, the hierarchy, capitalism, sexism, patriarchy, and everything in between. The poor mess with our view and consideration of Jesus, religion, and the church. Yes, they even mess with our relationship with the poor themselves. You have to be very careful, because they can mess up everything.
They can really mess you up if you’ve turned your theories, opinions, interpretations, and conclusions into idols of worship. The poor, well…they’ll just come into those temples and tear them apart! Where would we worship then? What would we worship?
~ Friar Julio
Fr. Julio Martinez, OFM Conv. [pictured at left during the Eucharistic Procession for the parish’s Celebración a Nuestra Señora del Carmen – The Festival for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, aka Stella Maris, or The Star of the Seas] wrote the above reflection a while ago, in preparation for Palm Sunday. In his current ministry, Friar Julio serves as pastor of St. Julia Catholic Church, in Siler City, NC, alongside Fr. Luis Palacios Rodríguez, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar), who began serving the Siler City community in the Fall of 2022. On the parish website, part of the Parish History states: “On July 1, 1999, St. Julia became a parish and one year later a groundbreaking ceremony took place to begin the construction phase of the new St. Julia Parish church. Parishioners wanted the new church to convey the diversity of the parish and to welcome newcomers who might, for the first time, recognize the Catholic Church presence in the county…Today’s St. Julia Parish Church can seat 450 people. Currently, more than 2,000 parishioners call St. Julia home, and 85% of them are Spanish speaking. St Julia now has the largest weekly attendance of any church in Siler City. It is often said that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. However, a visitor to St. Julia’s will see evidence to the contrary. The parish community celebrates diversity and the richness of the cultural backgrounds that bring us together as a Catholic community in the 21st Century.”
Friar Julio’s charism fit the parish environment like a glove, when he began serving as pastor five years ago. The parish community’s ministries also include Social Services and Food Pantry Distribution, Justice & Peace and a Sister Mission. Learn more about this vibrant parish on the St. Julia Catholic Community website.