Open sandals on their feet, a white sari edged by a blue hem and the quick stride as of anyone who has haste in meeting someone . They are to be found in the streets of all the big cities, from Rome to New York, from New Dehli to Paris, they are the missionaries of charity, men and women who, on the example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, hurry to meet the lowliest, their daily appointmet is with the needy, the forgotten of the big metropolis, immigrants who have not been accepted by society, and with those, who following a personal failure have seen thier lives distraught ending up in complete poverty.
The experience with the sisters and brothers shook me, I was profoundly intrigued by something. I was experiencing with them the simplicity of prayers the community and the servie to the poor and I wondered: How are they able to be so happy without possessing anything? What is their secret?”. Father Peter, born in Slovacchia and missionary of the Charity association in Rome today, after 25 years he questioned himself on the happiness of those poor people who, despite having nothing were nevertheless happy. Little by litte, he too, supported by this continual testimony, decided t ogive up everything he had to devote himself totally to the needy.
“The most terrible disease today is not leprosy or T.B., but rather feeling to be unwanted, neglected and ungare for by everyone” Mother Teresa used to say interpreting the sufferance of the poor that she so much had loved. “Our service- continues the priest –is complements that of the sisters, it is the same charisma, it springs forth from the words of Jesus on the cross when He said ‘I am thirsty’. It is a cry of love, of a God. For this reason we go to the poor, to announce to them the good news, that God loves the mas they are”. A slap in the face to that narrow-minded mentality so widespread according to which, these people are to be helped only for their material precariousness rather than for the need to discover being “desired and loved”.
Her voice says much more than her words, one can sense the tenderness of the father who finds his lost child every day and at the same time one can breathe that ‘healthy’ concern of those who know that there are still many people to reach out for. The urgency today, in an era of science and technology, is still that of having to bring something to eat to many “poverty-stricken ” people who crowd the streets and to contribute to them feeling loved . “Our service consists in the apostolate, in other words, we go to look for the poor because it is not so easy for them to come to us-this is not to be taken for granted”. Each day nuns and priests of the congregation offer them food, medicine, clothes that can protect them during the colder months and the opportunity to wash. Not only, should the necessity arise, they arrange for them toh ave medical check-ups and provide them with what they need to cure themselves. A complete service which also includes a Christian education through Catechesis and prayer.
I was struck by the fact that one day in the capital, the Rome of Christianity, at a few metres away from St Peter’s I happened to see a well-dressed and healthy man taking his dog for a walk. I was shocked to see how he was more concerned about his poodle than he was about a poor man who was just a few metres away from him”.
In their by now solid experience with the “poverty-stricken” of the third millenium, never stop being marvelled at the daily meeting with the ‘lowliest’: “What continually marvels me is the potentiality that they have of being loved, they wear no masks because their poverty is open to everyone and this consents them to be more open to receive the announcement of love. This for usi s a wealth that always makes us grow, we, should learn from them”.
During his years of service with the missionaries, Peter has had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa when he was in Mexico for a training period. It was then, that once again his life had been deeply marked by a meeting. “We were in the street, amongst the crows and the cars but her look for a moment had made everything around us stop, for a few seconds I could not hear anything anymore, as though ?I’ only existed. God’s love is like this: it is unique”.And this is the most important message which the congregation still today manages to bring to the missionari areas, in the suburbs, in the households, in the streets, i the hospitals and in prisons, a demonstration of how charity is able to rid the oppressed of their chains giving them back their lost-found dignity.
Translation provided by Marina Stronati