What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. (Saint Augustine)

Before the summer break we had begun to see some of the responses of Bishop Eugene to the new faces of the poor in his Marseilles diocese. Ten years after his appointment he looked back in a Pastoral Letter to his diocese about the works of mercy that were active in his diocese. It shows an amazing grasp of the human needs of the second largest city of France, and of this Missionary Oblate’s response:

Marvel at how these good works are multiplying. So many new institutions with a previously unknown objectives! Childhood, old age, sickness, poverty, the worker who toils all day long, innocence in danger, the repugnant vice that inspires remorse, the imprisoned youth already initiated in the habits that make criminals, the great culprit seasoned in crime, even the rich man often so destitute before God on his deathbed.

Charity embraces everything; and for new needs, it invents, when necessary, new means: spiritual help, bodily help, bread for the soul, bread for the body; instruction for ignorance; advice, guidance, support for weakness; asylum for virtue or for penance; pious sentiments, sweet consolations, supernatural strength for the dying; All kinds of good works are being generated in the name of Jesus Christ.

Without speaking of the zeal and generosity of those pious associations of ladies who support our charitable establishments in our city of Marseilles, where they are distinguished by such a perfect spirit and by all the virtues of the Christian woman…

Bishop Eugene de Mazenod, Pastoral Letter of 7 February 1847, Marseilles

Do I recognize the face of Jesus Christ crying out in the many faces of the poor I encounter?

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate says:

    Augustine asks: What does love look like? And then he describes encounters of compassion. And for a moment I am reminded of Eugene’s Lenten homily and how he spoke of how the world sees the poor and then how they appear when seen through the eyes of God.

    Love embraces everything he writes and then goes on to list many of the ways we can not only encounter the new faces of poverty, but also how we must embrace them. He notes that love is an asylum for both light and darkness.

    Do I recognize the face of Jesus Christ crying out in the many faces of the poor I encounter?

    And as I sit here this morning I realise and admit that quite often I recognise my own self in the other and I cannot help but love them. And I do love them. It is because the Jesus I see in them, is the same Jesus that lives in me. Even as these words tumble onto the page I also recognise something else that comes from Eugene, the motto of the congregation, of the entire Oblate family: “we are sent to evangelize the poor; the poor are evangelized.”

    This morning as I have sat here I think of those I love, those I have been sent to share my experience of God with – and yes some of them are evangelized, and in that group I also find myself.

    Last night a small group that I have brought together met for the 2nd time. As a group we will walk not only with each other, but then with others who will visit and perhaps even join us. I am reminded of Eugene and his founding community, and while I am not founding any kind of a religious group, we have already begun to come together as a family. Like-minded men and women whose sole purpose and aim is to walk with each other, sharing that deepest part of ourselves which God has created us to be. We are building our foundations based on our shared poverty and spirituality. Soon we will go out to others and be there for/with them.

    We each carry our poverty of being human. This is what accompaniment looks like when we walk in the footsteps of the One who first walked/s with us.

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