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)

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  1. John Mouck says:

    ‘Descending into dark places’
    Two things occupy my mind:

    I know, whether sitting in a jail cell or on my comfy couch or in a church pew, or locked in the prison of addiction, my wants and needs are the same. Blessed are those who reach out.

    Secondly, without permission from our teacher/mentor, Frank –
    Let us all ring the temple bell and observe a moment of silence in remembrance of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. We are all children of The Creator. Our differences are a joy and beautiful; not a breeding ground for fear, prejudice, greed.

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    “Who is most in need of my reaching out to?” “Whose prison cell am I called to visit?” And perhaps ‘how shall I be a living witness to the love of God today?’ Today is a day of arriving at airports, changing planes and sitting in confined small seats for many hours. Today any witness that I give, any reaching out will be pretty basic and ordinary. It might take the form of simply giving way to those who seem to be in a far greater rush than I. Or talking with the person(s) next to me who seem to be uncomfortable with all of the travel, or those who just want to tal when my choice would be to opt for the book I’ve been waiting to read. Perhaps it wll just be a smile and a thank you. I don’t know what another’s prison cell shall look like.

    I think that I am filled with a small joy to be going home and gratitude for the wonderful visit with my family. Strangely it has filled me with ‘enough’ to hold me until the next time. I am excited at what will greet me a work tomorrow and continue to move forward.

    No “great things” for me to offer today – just the ordinariness of the day. I thank God for it all.

  3. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Frank asked ““Who is most in need of my reaching out to?” Whose prison cell am I called to visit?” John Mouck wrote about his own needs and wants, his own prison cells. Richard Rohr today wrote about the ego and it’s never-ending search for the false self. It is not just another’s prison cell that I must go down into, but also my own.

    I went recently to ‘study’ (for want of a better word) a sculpture by Raymond Mason. I began by looking at the people and relating it to ‘others’, those outside of myself. But each time I returned I began to see myself in there, those times of darkness in my own life, some of them masked and some of them naked for the world to see. I all but spoke to those statues, each person in that ‘crowd’ admitting that I was one or all of them, whether in thought or in action, recently or years past. I found in them my family, my friends and myself. Our connectedness, so strong. After taking pictures and writing my thoughts I would move away for a few hours, feed myself, walk around, rest (finding a church to enter and just sit with God in silence and peace is a most wonderful way to recoup). I descended into my own dark cell, a strengthening that will allow my to enter into another’s.

    Yesterday I ran into an old friend who is struggling. As we embraced I could feel his struggle and pain and wanted to be able to take it from him. I could not. All that I could do was to hold him and share it with him somehow. I wonder today if he knows how greatly he is loved? I wonder this morning if he realises that he is not alone down there in his dark cell?

    I think of Eugene, walking with the prisoners, sitting with the sick, sharing with the suffering and allowing the event to become a sacrament. O my God, you have given me a way to live, a saint to follow, an invitation to walk with you. I begin to see how it is that I be a very little light to my brother’s and sister’s feet as we walk together in the darkness of our prison’s cells.

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