Shave and a haircut as a work of mercy

Shave and a haircut as a work of mercy


When not tending to his duties as director of the Hospital Chaplaincy Program for the Diocese of Camden, Father Sanjai Devis resides at Collingswood’s Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish. As the canonization of his parish’s namesake takes place this weekend, he recalled when he embraced the nun’s call to help those on the margins of society — with only clippers, a straight razor, and shaving cream — and how the men he touched embraced him back.

From 1990-96, while in formation to become a Vincentian priest, Father Devis would ride his bicycle every Thursday afternoon to a place run by Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, in Pune, India.

“This home had orphans, people with disabilities and emotional challenges,” he remembered.

“I gave a shave to men who were picked up from the streets and train stations” who “could not communicate.”

Instead, they would show their gratitude by giving the then-seminarian a hug, taking his hand and rubbing it on their freshly-shorn face or hold his hand.

For some, a shave and haircut can seem routine, even mundane. In the eyes of these men, though, coming off the streets, who hadn’t experienced these things in months or even years, it became more meaningful, and Father Devis recognized it.

“They taught me humility, and helped me to see God’s image and reflection, in them,” he said.

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