The World Day of the Poor is on Sunday 17th November 2019. Such days offer an opportunity for collective focus, concern and commitment to being that living community of consolation, hope and solidarity for those kept poor. They help us to ‘be’ that shelter.
As part of his message for the Third World Day of the Poor issued on 13th June 2019, Pope Francis said:
“In closeness to the poor, the Church comes to realise that she is one people, spread throughout many nations and called to ensure that no one feels a stranger or outcast, for she includes everyone in a shared journey of salvation. The situation of the poor obliges us not to keep our distance from the body of the Lord, who suffers in them. Instead, we are called to touch his flesh and to be personally committed in offering a service that is an authentic form of evangelisation. Commitment to the promotion of the poor, including their social promotion, is not foreign to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the contrary, it manifests the realism of Christian faith and its historical validity”. (6)
“If the disciples of the Lord Jesus wish to be genuine evangelisers, they must sow tangible seeds of hope. I ask all Christian communities, and all those who feel impelled to offer hope and consolation to the poor, to help ensure that this World Day of the Poor will encourage more and more people to cooperate effectively so that no one will feel deprived of closeness and solidarity. May you always treasure the words of the prophet who proclaims a different future: “For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Mal 3:20 [4:2]). (10)
We know that during penal times in Ireland, Nano Nagle’s concern was not just for the provision of food for the hungry and addressing the day to day needs of those made poor (exemplified by her feeding fifty poor people on Christmas Day) but also for the provision of food for hungry ‘souls’. The Presentation Congregation was born from the:
“… free gift of one women of herself, to God and to people enslaved not only economically, but also socially, culturally and politically, came a family of women called to be freed by the Gospel to freedom for the gospel, not only in principle but in practice, throughout the five continents”. (p.172 – Nano Nagle and an Evolving Charism)*
The life of Nano Nagle and her creative and practical interventions continue to inform and evolve through lives of Presentation people everywhere who daily address the challenges faced by those kept poor in our time.
I received this rather special blessing shared with me in recent days, written by Glynn Cardy, Minster of Religion at the Community of St. Luke, Auckland, New Zealand. We are never far away from being ‘in the shoes’ of this experience ourselves.
May the blessing of a shelter be ours,
a place that finds us when the turbulence of loss
seeks to throw us, tip us, tumble us,
and leave us laid low, forlorn and alone.
May the blessing of a grace inhabit that shelter,
someone who will offer us timely comfort,
a touch of kindness, a cup of calm,
and be there as our soul’s fractures mend.
May the blessing of serenity when life is askew
spinning, wobbling, collapsing… find us too;
a word, a look, a smile that reaches into our misery
and offers us a staff to hold; your hand maybe.
May the blessing of the litter of hope be blown
into that shelter, detritus of long-ago memories
when that exuberant pup called optimism
demanded our participation; and we played.
May the blessing of a soft light find us,
offering, in our frightened and insecure moments
(moments we hide well), a home to head towards
where we can lay down pretence and be loved.
And may shelter, grace, serenity, hope, and soft light
surround us and scatter the chilling darkness
of the long and lonely night.
Nano, help us to ‘be’ that shelter.
Note: This is the link to the full text of the Message by Pope Francis for Third World Day of the Poor 2019
For further information on Nano Nagle see: The gospel of giving
*See also: The evolution of a charism