Dealing with religious homelessness


A homeless feeling of not belonging can be brought about by tragedy and neglect, narrow-mindedness and personality, addictions and trauma, or misunderstanding and fantasy. 

The numbers of actual out on the street homeless folks, going up or down depending on your statistics, has reached over 1/2 a million in the US. Likewise, a great number of Catholics are also homeless from their Church, adrift from Christian community. Polling calculates Catholics in the U.S. at over 70 million people, the largest religious group of Christian believers. Another 40 million are former Catholics. Among them both are a lot of people who have fallen into Catholic homelessness. 

Authority itself, though, often sits as the key issue for homeless Catholics. Our failure to trust that that God will bring us into community, and our distaste with where God lands us represents most of our homeless difficulties.

Our willingness to set aside the issues that create a distance between us and our brothers and sisters in Christ, and perhaps from a relationship to God altogether, may or may not be overcome by our own efforts. 

Jesus leads us all, in a most personal way with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Each of us, as anointed followers from our Baptism, is called to live within a community that shares authority. Authority itself, though, often sits as the key issue for homeless Catholics. Our failure to trust that that God will bring us into community, and our distaste with where God lands us represents most of our homeless difficulties.

The homeless Catholic is someone who struggles over his or her expectations of the Church community, and their personal role in it. Expectations include both our roles as a leader and a follower.

My own outlook on the appropriate manner of participation, however, may differ from that of the person who is satisfied by joining. I may see the proper place of my church membership as having leadership to some meaningful degree. If we don’t trust the Holy Spirit to lead us to what we should be doing, we’re in for homelessness. 

In fact, our role in Church depends upon everything combined, in concert with a mature relationship to the Holy Spirit. We must have a prompting from the Holy Spirit, an urging from our brothers and sisters also led by the Holy Spirit, and an affirmation from the appointed leadership, anointed by the Holy Spirit. That’s how Church belonging actually works.

Noting Avery Cardinal Dulles and his five different models of the church — Institution, Servant, Herald, Sacramental, and community—which are all populated by a faithful community of aspiring disciples, who do not fully understand discipleship, we get a whole lot of homeless opportunities.

First, are you already at home in your faith?

There are those Homeless who stay away because they don't see everything lining up, don't experience like-minded folks in their Church. Maybe the Church changed, and they did not. There are others who have "fallen away," because they can't imagine or accept an eternity anymore that is worth seeking. Their homelessness centers on a misunderstanding, perhaps, but they just don't understand how God plays a role in their life journey, and their death. This may not be your set of issues.

For some others, they live as if God only speaks to them, and for them, which justifies a singular non-community lifestyle. God is OK, but religion stinks, is stupid and irrelevant, and appears unnecessary. There are Christians like that, and consequently they are significantly homeless, though they would never identify themselves that way. These are the homeless that sit under a bridge warming themselves from a fire built with refuse, waving off friendship. 

And, of course, there are probably many more who have had a falling out due to a disagreement, argument, or moral conflict with the Catholic Church. Consider the big four:

  • marriage/divorce/remarriage 
  • abortion/contraception
  • an active homosexual lifestyle
  • pedophilia and the priesthood 

When these conflicts produce an exit from the Catholic Church other Christian communities have seen their ranks grow, with folks searching for a home in the Body of Christ someplace else. Unfortunately, the conflicts, if not resolved in the new faith expression, linger and may eventually trigger another exit and new search for a faith home. Exits are usually just homelessness on the move.

Unfortunately, moral conflicts in one faith community, if not resolved in a new faith expression, will linger and may eventually trigger another exit and yet another search for a faith home. Exits are usually just homelessness on the move.

Finally, there is the issue of giving our money to Church as a control of God's community. Oh my goodness. Holding back our giving to the Church, wherever we are planted, signifies a deep divide in our hearts over what role God plays in the Church. If we seriously believe that God is not in charge, it comes out in our holding back on giving. This self-chosen form of homelessness misunderstands the dynamic of the Holy Spirit's attention to the details, the Father's unlimited resources, and Jesus Christ's example.

This website is for such as these. We are the religiously affiliated, religiously formed, and religiously worried. Those three things offer hope, though, a signaling that familiarity exists within the language of "Body of Christ."  Our choices, though haphazard, probably still reflect our desire to follow the urgings of the Holy Spirit. 

Church affiliations come with both baggage and inspiration. Religious formation allows us to reason properly, but doesn't always line up with the world's logic. Religious worry identifies our innate and indispensable desire to share a common faith with others, even if we doubt the proposition has a future.

Jesus Christ did not just establish the community of faith, he still nourishes it. All of it. The homeless, generally, forget (or never knew) the trust relationship that Jesus offers us.

Reviewing our place in the Church as either homeless or at home, whether we are or are not currently in a church community, positions our life here in this time, specifically framed toward how we view our eternity. God, though, is always the focus for the homeless. We don't want to give up. We're just damaged goods. A "Nullifidian" has given up. Our prayers are that the homeless religious do not despair, and do not give up on God's reaching out.

Most of dealing with homelessness is understanding God's presence as merciful. God loves us. When we intentionally focus on God's messaging and not ours, we can plant our roots. Religion is the gathering place for the focused. For the unfocused, religion is a painful place, like Thanksgiving for the estranged relative, family reunions for the black sheep, or military duty when the uniform doesn't fit. We don't feel loved. We don't salute at the right times, say the wrong things, or owe our siblings money that we can't pay back. Our interpretation is two fold -- we are broken, and God's connection to us is hindered by that brokenness.  

For most Catholics, the burdens, joys, traditions, guilt, ecstasy and camaraderie of Christianity captures our affinity for being together. This series of relationship opportunities in holidays and lifestyle are present in any Christian group or denomination. 

More to come


            What is Body of Christ?

            What is Institution?

            How are the two related?


            Within the Institution

            Within the Body of Christ


            Within the Institution

                        Comes from the structure

            Within the Body of Christ

                        Comes from Baptism

Requirements for the exercise of Authority

            Within the Institution

                        Acceptance by hierarchy

            Within the Body of Christ

                        Relationship with Jesus


Redefining Being “at Home”

            Within the Institution

            Within the Body of Christ

Using Format