Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor… This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and come to their aid”. Francis said this in Evangelii gaudium, his first Apostolic Exhortation.
The poor Church and Church for the poor, at the heart of the Pontiff’s thoughts and words, is today above all female. The poorest people are largely women who have decided to devote their lives to those who have little or nothing, to those who are deprived, marginalized and outcast. In following the Gospel women religious, lay women and women missionaries have undertaken the most exhausting of tasks. Written in the feminine is the story of the comedores, the soup kitchens of the people in Villa El Salvador, on the southern outskirts of Lima, recounted in these pages by Silvia Gusmano. The organizer of the Bread and Life Community is Sr Małgorzata Chmielewska, a Polish women whose mission consists “in living with the poor” and who described her experience in an interview with Dorota Swat. The women who dedicate their lives to the lowliest certainly can’t eliminate poverty, Sr Małgorzata said, but can intervene in the unhappiness it produces and even discover a happiness that most of us do not succeed in finding because we are busy seeking it elsewhere. It is the happiness that comes not from wealth or money but from solidarity, from the joy of giving and receiving goodness, from the love of others and of God and from hope. St Clare knew it well. As Mario Sensi recounted, St Clare had a special love for poverty, “and could never be induced to receive possessions, neither for herself nor for the monastery”. It is not surprising that there are women in the front line beside the poor, that it is they, first and foremost, who dispense “God’s caress”. To love the poor, to help them, to draw close to the unhappiness of poverty and to think of turning it upside down in order to defeat wretchedness – which is different from poverty – and to give dignity, it is necessary to know, to possess or recognize that unconditional love which comes from the maternal experience. As mothers love the weakest of their children, so the Church of women seeks and favours the closeness of the poor. (r.a.)
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 20, 2020
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