Source: Jesuit Communications
This powerful sculpture by Timothy Schmalz depicts Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. His face and hands are obscured by a blanket, but crucifixion wounds on his feet reveal his identity. The statue, which has been described as a visual translation of Jesus' admonition "as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, so you did it to me," can now be found in Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair, central London.
The statue is located inside the church before the altar in the side chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Dolours. Parish priest Fr Dominic Robinson SJ said, "It is fitting to place the Son under the protection of His mother depicted in grief where the crucifixion wounds and Mary's pierced heart are so close together. The permanent home here for Homeless Jesus allows its message to ring true and reflect the core beliefs of the congregation and may inspire all those who see it to thoughtful consideration and action in the community."
Farm Street Church is the perfect location in the centre of London for Homeless Jesus because the parish has ministered to homeless people in a very practical way for the last four years as an active member of a consortium of faith organisations who provide food and accommodation to street homeless people for eight months of the year. Parish administrator and project co-ordinator Scott McCombe explains: "Here at Farm Street we host fifteen homeless people on Monday nights during four months of the year. Volunteers from the parish have organised a rota for setting up the church hall, welcoming the guests, eating a hot meal with them, tidying up and setting up the hall as a dormitory."
The guests are referred by the West London Day Centre, a charity which supports homeless people from a base in Marble Arch; and food is donated by a range of Mayfair businesses.
"Most of the businesses we ask respond positively and are very generous," Scott commented, "and we are lucky in our very enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. We all get great satisfaction, not just from putting our faith into action in this practical way, but also when we hear about how people have managed to turn around their lives, secure permanent accommodation and find work."
Fr Dominic added: "Jesuit commitment to faith and justice in action finds expression here as a sign of welcome to all, a challenge to a culture of exclusion and judgement."
The church has a footfall of between 2000 and 3000 per week, representing a very broad and transient mix of people with a stable and lively faith community at its heart. People come for private prayer, public worship and also for its beautiful art and architecture. It is one of the few central London churches which stays open all day. It is accessible and welcome to all who treat it with quiet respect.
The Homeless Jesus project originated with the Jesuits in Canada: the first cast of the statue is located at Regis College in Toronto. The most famous is outside the Vatican's charity offices in Rome, blessed by Pope Francis on its installation in 2016.
There are now at least a dozen casts in the United States, as well as in Dublin, Glasgow and Manchester. Westminster City Council turned down an application to install a cast outside Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.
This central London base aims to challenge perceptions and spur people to put faith into action for the most vulnerable.
The statue of the Homeless Jesus will be blessed by Archibishop Edward Adams, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, at a solemn Mass on the 15th January 2019, at 6pm. The service will be followed by a presentation in the Hall by the sculptor Timothy Schmalz and by partners working with homeless Jesuit Refugee Service and the Cardinal Hume Centre.
Watch a short Youtube video of the artist speaking about Homeless Jesus here:
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