This is the eighth Pray as you go reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of St Alberto Hurtado.
Joanne Boyce sings You are my Hands. As I listen to this music can I put myself entirely at Gods’ mercy?
This month we are reflecting on the life of St Alberto Hurtado. Born in 1901, Alberto was a Chilean priest, lawyer and social worker, who in 1944 became the founder of the ground breaking charitable organization ‘Hogar de Cristo’, which aimed to provide homes and shelter to assist poor and abandoned young people in Chile. He was dedicated to making Catholic Social Teaching more widely known and understood. He published a number of important books and founded the journal ‘Mensaje’ and in 1947 he helped establish the Chilean Trade Union Association. He was much sought-after as an inspirational preacher and retreat director for young people. He died of cancer aged 51 and was widely revered throughout Chile for his saintliness. He was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves. If we were to start a campaign of love for the poor and homeless, we would, in a short time, do away with depressing scenes of begging, children sleeping in doorways and women with babies in their arms fainting in our streets.
There are many sufferings to heal. Christ stumbles through our streets in the person of so many poor who are hungry, thrown out of their miserable lodgings because of sickness and destitution. Christ has no home! And we who have the good fortune to have one and have food to satisfy our hunger, what are we doing about it?
St Alberto has in mind real faces he has actually seen with his own eyes around the city he lives in, the faces of the poor, the hungry and the destitute. For sure, the faces you know will be different ones. See if you can bring to mind the times and places when you have encountered the homeless where you live. Can you picture their faces?
And now, notice how you reacted to the people you saw. Did you turn away from them or move towards them? Did you feel disgust, or fear, or tenderness, sympathy…? Don’t judge yourself: just take a moment to remember and to deepen your awareness.
How would you like to react the next time? Put aside your hesitations and inhibitions… if St Alberto is right, if people in need are nothing less than Christ in our midst, how do you want to respond to Him, standing in front of you, needing your help?
Finding Christ in the poor is not as easy as it sounds. We need the help of deep prayer and we can count on the support of our friends in the communion of saints. Let’s listen once again to the words of St Alberto Hurtado to see if his vision and his passion are infectious.
Finally, ask the Lord to help you to go deeper. He is always happy to receive the doubts and dreams of his followers. When we talk freely and openly to him about our lives, He offers us His healing, his insight and his power. Take a moment to open your heart to Him now; sharing with Him anything you need to say and asking Him to help you respond lovingly and generously to the needs of the poor.