Prayer and Reflection
“Do not turn your face away from anyone
who is poor” (Tb 4:7)
With this invitation, Pope Francis invites us to live the World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on 19 November. We propose the same passage from the Old Testament to live our monthly meditation in the month of November and remain in tune with the thought of the Universal Church.
It is an evocative and strong invitation, taken from the book of Tobit. But lived firsthand by Jesus as the evangelists bear witness in the New Testament. There we find numerous accounts of Jesus surrounded by the poor, the sick, the needy of all kinds. It would be good in our meditation to close our eyes and imagine Jesus in precisely these situations; touching lepers, stooping down to the sick, consoling those who weep, listening to those who stop him, looking at the person, etc..... Jesus teaches us to look at such people with caring attention, with attention that recognizes human dignity despite everything, to recognize each person as having a name. Remember that the poor in Jesus’ episodes in the Gospels have names: a poor man named Lazarus stood at his door, covered with sores, eager to eat what fell from the rich man's table (... Lk 16:19-31); Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper (... Mk 14:3-9).
In our sharing in the community, we sometimes talk about the poor that we know, that we meet every day around the Vatican. Many of us know them by name, because we stop with them to talk, to listen to them. We can agree that sometimes it is easier to give a euro in alms, to pay for a sandwich, a cappuccino, than to stop and give them some of your time to talk or listen.
It is touching when these poor young people ask you: Sister, aren't you ashamed to talk to me? Listening to their life story, you realize that maybe you could end up like them or you were lucky not to be there; they can teach you what they want most, what help they are waiting for. It is obvious that they normally want to eat but above all to be recognized as human beings, worthy of respect. Sometimes they point out that we who stop with them to talk, who give them a handshake, who bring them a sandwich and look them in the eye treat them as human beings and not as rejects of humanity. What is important - 'Do not look away from the poor' - see in the poor a friend of God.
For us Christians, it is important to continue to pray for them and motivate them to change their lives with new choices. It is certainly an action that requires gentleness and courage. We think of one homeless man who was sleeping on the Vatican grounds until a saintly woman spoke to him, prayed for him, and then we can say a miracle happened. This man asked himself - what do I do with my life? To be brief, he rediscovered his faith and the desire to change his life drove him to eventually get a role in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, in which he plays a Roman soldier in the scene of the scourging. His life was completely changed. We think of another poor man, an acquaintance, a talented painter but addicted to alcohol who ended up on the streets. One of our nuns gave so much time, showed so much patience, accompanied him for so many hours to help him change his life. He now lives in a community and also continues to paint, and has even done several portraits of St Vincent Pallotti.
We, the Pallottine Missionary Sisters who live in Rome, can touch various forms of poverty at close quarters in our guest house: poor people without food or drink who come almost every day to ask for a hot meal or a sandwich; people abandoned by relatives, or without any relatives at all - so much loneliness that hurts and needs to be filled with human warmth even for a short time. That is why people return to us because they feel at home.
Certainly physical poverty is more visible, closer to our everyday life. But we know that there are many other poverty's, existential peripheries that cry out for our help. We often share in the community among ourselves how much spiritual poverty and suffering we can experience here. Often having as guests the families of sick children, admitted to the Bambino Gesù Hospital, we spend a lot of time listening to their parents torn apart by pain, anguish and worries. Listening and
consoling, crying together with them and giving them the courage to endure by entrusting them to God's love - this is a great mission and challenge for all of us every day. "Do not look away from the poor" (Tob 4:7).
We desire that this biblical recommendation always echo in our ears and hearts.
"Haste, by now the daily companion of our lives, prevents us from stopping to help care for others ", Pope Francis writes in his letter this year. Let us keep this in mind but not allow it to influence our choices.
St Vincent Pallotti always had a special concern for the poor and the weak. We already know by heart his desire to become food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothing to cover the naked, etc. This desire of his never ceases to be to us, the members of his Pallottine Family, a strong examination of conscience, never leaving us in peace but calling us to continuously live the creative sharing of our material and spiritual resources, our time and talents.
Fr. Francesco Amoroso SAC wrote: The sick gave him no respite; in order to be able to answer everyone, he placed a box at the door of the rectory, where those who knocked, if there was no one there, would give their address and, as soon as they returned, he, or a priest of the Society, would rush to the call. He brought food and medicine to the sick and served them; he also organized a daily distribution of soup, for the poor, in the courtyard of the building next to the rectory. It seemed as if he would succumb, that he had contracted the disease; someone said to him: "Father, you are tired, rest!", he replied: "We will rest in Paradise!"
In this meditation we ask for the help and intercession of dear Saint Vincent to have eyes that are always open, a sensitive heart that never stops loving, the courage to respond and the readiness to share. The saints teach us to always see in others the face of God, and especially in the poor and suffering the face of the suffering Jesus. This good practice does not allow us to remain indifferent to any face of poverty.
Only in this way can we become more and more the joy of our Lord, the joy of those we have helped, and fill our lives with joy and meaning. We all need this.
Community of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters House of Procura - Rome