THE GIFT OF THE POOR

Pedro Arrupe tells of visiting his brother Jesuits who were working in a desperately poor slum in Latin America. During his visit he celebrated Mass for the local people in a small, decrepit building; cats and dogs wandered in and out during the Mass. Afterward,  Arrupe was invited to the house of one of the members of the congregation and received an unexpected gift.

Here’s what happened after Mass, in Arrupe’s own words:

When it was over, a big devil whose hang-dog look made me almost afraid said, “Come to my place. I have something to give you.” I was undecided; I didn’t know whether to accept or not, but the priest who was with me said, “Accept, Father, they are good people.” I went to his place; his house was a hovel nearly on the point of collapsing. He had me sit down on a rickety old chair. From there I could see the sunset. The big man said to me, “Look, sir, how beautiful it is!” We sat in silence for several minutes. The sun disappeared. The man then said, “I didn’t know how to thank you for all you have done for us. I have nothing to give you, but I thought you would like to see this sunset. You liked it, didn’t you? Good evening.” And then he shook my hand.

As I walked away I though, “I have seldom met such a kindhearted person.” I was strolling along that lane when a poorly dressed woman came up to me; she kissed my hand, looked at me, and with a voice filled with emotion said, “Father, pray for me and my children. I was at that beautiful Mass you celebrated. I must hurry home. But I have nothing to give my children. Pray to the Lord for me; he’s the one who must help us.” And she disappeared running in the direction of her home.

Many indeed are the things I learned thanks to that Mass among the poor. What a contrast with the great gatherings of the powerful of this world.

Source | Pedro Arrupe, One Jesuit’s Spiritual Journey: Autobiographical Conversations with Jean-Claude Dietsch SJ
Also told in James Martin, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, pages 211-212
and James Martin, My Life with the Saints, pages 107-108

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • There are those who have everything and daily miss the sunset and the many other blessings that companion us day by day.
  • There are those who have nothing and daily embrace the sunset as a precious gift from above that sustains us.
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