Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

M. Regina Cram

To Cathy Treacy, who inspires with joy.

There’s a passage in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah that bugged me for a long time. God was rebuking his people because he didn’t like their fasting. Sure, they were skipping meat on Fridays, or whatever they did back in ancient Israel, but they were living terrible lives. So God commanded, "This is the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free . . . to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him . . . "

I understand feeding the hungry, freeing the oppressed and providing for the homeless. The part that always baffled me, however, is that "covering the naked" thing. Cover the naked when I see them? I don’t know about you, but there just aren’t many naked people who wander the streets of Glastonbury. How am I supposed to obey God’s edict if the problem doesn’t present itself?

Never underestimate the power of God.

It happened on a chilly Wednesday morning. I was running late as I headed out the door to weekday Mass. I grabbed my husband’s fleece jacket and hastily slipped it over my head, climbed into the car and sped off.

The suburban neighborhoods gradually gave way to more rural roads. I was hurrying down the long, quiet lane to the church when I noticed a police cruiser driving toward me, lights flashing. The police officer was slowly panning house numbers, evidently searching for the origin of a 911 call. Just as the officer passed me and disappeared up what turned out to be the wrong driveway, a frantic woman ran into the road, her face contorted as she shrieked in terror. Her feet and legs were bare, and she was wrapped in a quilt. There was an angry-looking man in the driveway behind her, alternately screaming and begging her to return.

I did not want to leave the scene until the officer reappeared so I pulled over and beckoned the woman into the relative safety of my car.

She quickly climbed in. The woman appeared young and pretty and completely disheveled. She tried to explain what was happening, but she was hysterical and her words did not make sense. It was clear, however, that the man had beaten her and that she was terrified. It sounded as if he may have beaten her on previous occasions as well, although it was difficult to understand much of what she was saying. As she spoke, I realized that she had wrapped herself in a bedspread because she was not yet dressed. In other words, she was naked.

I peeled off Peter’s fleece jacket and helped the woman pull it over her head. She was freezing. And I wondered, what kind of fear would induce a woman to run out into the road wearing only a bedspread?

I drove toward the driveway where the officer had disappeared, intercepting him as he reemerged. With kindness, he helped the young woman into the cruiser. Two additional police cars arrived to deal with the angry-looking man, who was still begging the woman to return. I gave what little information I could, wished the woman well, and continued on my way to Mass, shaken.

About a week later, I saw a moving truck emptying the contents of the small house. I never learned what happened. I hope the woman is safe.

When I returned home after Mass that day, I explained to my husband that I’d given away his favorite fleece jacket. Only then did I realize what God had done. He had demonstrated that even here, in a sleepy Connecticut town, people can be hungry and naked and oppressed. And if we wish to please God, we must care for them with generosity and love, as God, in his tenderness, cares for us.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.