I am alone at home. Silence and calmness all around me. I must prepare programmes and I am unable to think. I must reflect on recent happenings, really emotional ones! Let me write about some of my most rich experiences.
Last Sunday I celebrated Mass in an outstation. After it the Church Catechist came along with a sad and gloomy two-year old girl. “This is Maria”, he says. “She was found alone and crying at the local dump.” He explained to me that her parents had separated and their relationship was so poisoned that neither was willing to take care of her and had abandoned her to the streets. Maria pays the price for their broken relationship.
One morning, listening to Radio Ecclesia, I am surprised to hear about Lampedusa [a Mediterranean island] and the desperate situations of African emigrants. Thousands dying as they try to build a better life in Europe.
At 4pm one afternoon a 10 year old boy calls to the Mission. He is sad, telling me that he is tired of feeling rejected by everybody. They beat him, they bully him. He wishes to remain among his friends, the children here. I try to reassure him and I promised to talk to his family about how he feels.
Two days ago while the primary school pupils were on break I watched a very moving scene. Three young girls had a big loaf of bread and were slowly eating it. A fourth girl came along and begged for a bit of bread. Two of the girls moved away, whilst the third invited the newcomer to eat with her.
Mary and Luke, an elderly married couple, wish to receive the Sacrament of the Sick. But their son, a Jehovah’s Witness, is against it. With the support of the Catechist they are given the Sacrament. Another son, living far from here, learnt of what happened and decided to take them into his home so that they could spend the last years of their lives free from worries and full of satisfaction.
Thinking of Maria, the little boy and the elderly couple I think about the phrase in the Gospel of St Luke: ‘there was no room for them at the Inn.’ Even today there are open and closed doors! I am revolted by these incidents and the other unjust ways children and poor people are mistreated. But I must also examine myself. Is there any lack of space in my heart for somebody? Do I exclude some people, in my thoughts, my way of living?
Do I reject the elderly, the refugee, those who don’t agree with my way of thinking?
If I think that I am excluded, misunderstood, feeling unloved, that I am a burden to others… then Jesus, May, Joseph are present to me: they too suffered rejection.
And so I come to realise that I must be open to others. Yes, come in, there is room for you, tell me, can I do anything for you?
If such attitudes prevail, somebody somewhere will find a friendly welcome thanks to me, to you, to all other generous people.
Fr Giuseppe Brusegan, SMA
Fr Giuseppe, an Italian SMA priest, has worked in several African countries as well as in Argentina and Italy. He has many years experience training SMA seminarians in Calavi, Benin Republic as well as parish ministry. This article, edited from the Italian original, was written in the SMA parish in Kikolo, on the outskirts of Luanda, Angola.