Monday, December 29, 2014
Victor Martell - St. Vincent de Paul Society
A very clean tablecloth, the family sitting at the table, the steaming bowls of food and the TV with its counterpoint of light and sound: It’s a very frequent image in many homes. Suddenly, "those children staring at us." The sensitivity of our consciences brings a hint of acidity to the meal, a tingling in our spirit.
It is difficult to disengage this great tragedy
from our imagination. Hunger is depicted through anguish in the eyes of many
children such as those who appear on the TV screen, the children of misery. Each
year, hunger kills 14 million of those children who watch us from the blind
alley of underdevelopment. It strikes more than 800 million of our brothers and
sisters who live and die in subhuman conditions. Some of them are just around
the corner from our home and our own oblivion.
Given the magnitude of the problem, we feel powerless, small. A physician from Doctors Without Borders who came from Rwanda told me: "They live as they live because we live as we live."
It's true, because although we can help a little, we do nothing. We are insensitive. Given our lack of sensitivity, we believe that our contribution will be just a drop in the ocean. But Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that if that drop were not there, it would be missed.
If the Vincentian spirit motivated us, we would know that we do not have to be rich in order to give. A beautiful Indian proverb states: "If you have two pieces of bread, give one to the poor. Sell the other one and buy roses for your soul."
I had the privilege of spending a day with two Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. They are missionaries, something so ingrained among the followers of St. Vincent. I met Sagrario, who spent long years in the Colombian jungle, and Teresa, committed herself totally to our African brothers and sisters in Guinea. There are many more in the wide missionary world, unknown but linked to us by the Vincentian spirit.
All have understood St. Vincent's message of love and charity and taken it to those lands and unknown people. They shared with me the stories and pictures they had brought for the families of four sisters, Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul, who were murdered in Zaire. They knew the danger, but they remained steadfast and never gave up.
The Jesuit priest Pedro Miguel Lamet tells a story about William Holman Hunt, painter of "The Light of the World." Christ, in a garden at midnight, holds a lamp with his left hand, while he knocks on a heavy door with his right hand. Apparently, the day the picture was unveiled, a critic asked, "Mr. Hunt, why did you leave it unfinished?"
"It is finished," he answered.
"But there is no knob on that door!"
"That is the door of the human heart," the painter replied. "It can only be opened from the inside."
Sagrario, Teresa, our missionary sisters, opened their doors from inside, and Jesus sneaked in. The four Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul killed in Zaire also opened that door. They left their plows in the furrows of poverty, but they are a new treasure in the Church. In the old African hills, beyond fear, our missionary sisters make it possible for each night to bring us a beautiful sunrise.
These examples should inspire us, stir our consciences. Do we give all we can?
Not long ago I read in a magazine that Anselmo, a Brazilian boy of four, had died of hunger in his mother's arms, while asking her: "Mom, is there bread in heaven?" Anselmo dreamed his heaven as a piece of soft bread, and he passed away while dreaming. Anselmo was one of those 14 million children who die from hunger every year.
From our comfort, we find it difficult to imagine a crowd torn by hunger. Some recent statistics noted that if all the who are hungry of the world could stand in line, it would circle the Earth 20 times.
I hope this reflection serves as our road to Damascus, leading us to solidarity.
- The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is seeking donations of toys for needy children.
- The toys will be given out Jan. 3 at the studios of Radio Paz, 1779 N.W. 28 St., Miami, and Jan. 4 at St. Martin de Porres Church, 14881 S.W. 288 St., Homestead.
- Toys can be dropped off at specially marked boxes in all Navarro Pharmacies in Miami. For more information call 305-474-9010.