Each year as Christmas approaches it seems that one becomes more and more sensitised to the contrast between the ‘commercial frenzy on the streets and in the shops’ and the seemingly ever growing numbers of people who are challenged by life circumstances to the extent that their problems seem insurmountable, and the only way is ‘downwards’. They become part of that constituency of humanity ‘of those kept poor’.
It is also almost impossible to approach this ‘festive season’ without recalling Nano Nagle (Woman of Welcoming Heart) as a woman of practicality and heart who did not hesitate in the face of adversity, to understand what was hers to do for those ‘kept poor’ immediately on her doorstep.
Once you have heard the story of the first Christmas as Nano and her Sisters (just moved into a barely ready convent house and invited 50 poor people from around the city to join them at their table on Christmas Day) you cannot forget it.
The door is open 24/7
A dream of Pope Francis has just come true at the start of this week (9th December 2019) with the inauguration of a church open 24/7 for the poor in the centre of Rome. From Monday, in that church, the Eternal City’s most vulnerable and marginalised are now able to relax, shower, receive clothes and blankets or wash their own, get food and medical/psychological/spiritual attention and even connect to the internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For the opening ceremony, Pope Francis himself sent a letter in which he praised the “precious” project of the 24/7 church:
“as a common home to build together”, and as “a haven in which to find a welcome and from which to return to face the wonderful adventure of [the] Christian vocation”.
“I wish that the doors to the House of God are always open because it is there among the peoples, in the history of men and women”, Francis wrote in his letter to Padre Ángel.
“Otherwise, churches with closed doors should be called museums”, the Pope observed.
The pontiff also prayed that Mensajeros’ new Church for the poor in Rome may be “an oasis of peace of the love of God, a place of welcome, reconciliation and forgiveness”.
One of the pontiff’s favourite metaphors for the Church is that of the “field hospital” called “to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful” with “nearness” and “proximity”, “from the ground up”.
The spiralling energies of God
defy containment. The Spirit sweeps aside
our fragile windbreaks, and with a shout
summons us beyond where untouched ground
waits bare for planting.
Like water freed from patient holding rock
our God’s newness floods across the land
till every arid place will say green-gold.
Not yet … not yet … it is only seedtime yet.
Then let us seize the time and run with it,
sow broadcast now what other hands will reap,
become the seed that in its death gives life.
O who would hold back now when all’s to give
and every fibre yearns to be drawn deep
into the holy purposes of God!
For there will be a harvest and a feast
where all the hungry ones will have their fill
and all the broken leap with joyous life.
See? Already springs this newness from the void.
See! Already now the Centrepoint draws all,
Already dawns the seventh day.
~ Raphael Consedine, pbvm, Songs for the Journey , page 56
Note: Mensajeros’ 24/7 church for the poor in Rome is hardly a first for the Spanish NGO. Since opening its first ‘franchise’ in Madrid in 2015, the initiative has spread to other places around the world, with poor-friendly churches also being opened in Barcelona, Mexico City and Amman, Jordan.
See link to Pope’s dream comes true
To find out more about Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Congregation see: The courage for encounter