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Here’s a cautionary tale for those of us who encounter people with signs begging at traffic lights or on streets of our big cities – or anywhere at all… The lesson is to beware of the poor who might touch your heart and change your life.

A relatively “new saint” in the Christian tradition is Saint Joan of the Cross, who lived in France from 1666 to 1736. Joan worked in her family business in Anjou, taking over the small shop of her parents after their death. She was known as a greedy and insensitive shop owner, especially toward the beggars who often came to her shop seeking help. One day, however, a strange woman who claimed she was “on intimate terms with God” had such an effect on Joan that she became a new person, caring for needy children. Eventually, she closed the family business to dedicate herself to good works and ultimately to found a religious community of women: the Congregation of St. Anne of Providence. By the time of her death she had founded 12 religious houses, hospices and schools. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1982. (franciscanmedia.org)