With a predilection for those whom the structures of the Church were not touching, the Missionaries reached out to various groups who needed a special focus or a particular message.
As we reflect on this today, perhaps we could ask ourselves “Who is most in need of my reaching out to?” Whose prison cell am I called to visit?
A group of persons who fitted the category of “most abandoned” were the prisoners. Mariusz Suzanne described this ministry during the Aix mission:
They were not afraid to descend into dark cells, to console the unhappy persons that the inflexible justice of men punished with rigorous but necessary severity, and to whom the joys of the holy religion of Jesus Christ are almost unknown. The most successful consolations have crowned their difficult work: the day after the Ascension, forty of them had the happiness of receiving Communion, some even for the first time. An Ethiopian had been baptized, and a Calvinist, after having abjured the errors of his sect, was blessed with the same grace. I do not know what it was, but I was deeply happy to see our Divine Saviour, hasten to relieve the oppressing pains of those unfortunate prisoners by associating Himself with their misery, and giving their poor souls the sweet consolations of love and tender compassion.
These sentiments were reinforced in the evening of the same day when, in the presence of a large crowd, I saw these unhappy prisoners respectfully approach the holy altar and raise a trembling hand to swear inviolable fidelity to God!
A poor convict, who dragged a heavy chain with difficulty, especially excited my compassion. His downcast face, the rags that covered him, the tears he shed in abundance, and the evils he had to suffer showed the stark contrast between religion, which touches the heart and forgives, and the law, which punishes and leads to despair.
M. SUZANNE, “Quelques lettres sur la mission d’Aix”, p. 41-43.
The “least of my brethren” are the hungry and the lonely, not only for food, but for the Word of God; the thirsty and the ignorant not only for water, but also for knowledge, peace, truth, justice and love; the naked and the unloved, not only for clothes but also for human dignity; the unwanted; the unborn child; the racially discriminated against; the homeless and abandoned, not only for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands, that covers, that loves; the sick, the dying destitutes, and the captives, not only in body, but also in mind and spirit; all those who have lost all hope and faith in life; the alcoholics and dying addicts and all those who have lost God (for them God was, but God is) and who have lost all hope in the power of the Spirit. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
(Note that part of this entry was published in a different context above on February 23, 2011)