"We achieve fulfillment when we break down walls and our hearts are filled with faces and names.”
This weekend, Pope Francis tweeted that striking statement and hashtagged the name of his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti.
All of us are seeking fulfillment. As creatures called to love and be loved, our hearts are made to be filled with others — with names and faces, as the pope says.
But these names and faces need not only be those of our friends and family, our closest circles. Indeed it should not be that way. As Francis exhorts us in Fratelli Tutti, we must remember that each and every human being is a brother or sister in God. Thus the names and faces of the poor can and should also fill our hearts.
We aren’t often given the chance of the rich man in the Gospel – to know the names of the Lazaruses who sit (symbolically) outside the gates of our homes.
Many of us live in places where we never see the poor, or if we do, they are at an anonymous distance.
How, then, can we invite them into our hearts, by name?
One organization can really help.
It was founded by a woman just like any of us: a lay Catholic in France who realized that if we all give just a little, the end result is a lot. Her name was Pauline Jaricot, and she learned about the names and faces of the needy of her time by reading letters from her brother and others in the missions.
She gathered her friends and coworkers, and everyone in the group pledged to pray for the Missions daily and to offer the equivalent of a penny each week. Each group member then found ten other friends to do the same. Within a year, she had 500 workers praying daily and offering help each week. She literally turned pennies into sustaining donations.
The organization founded on her legacy is today known as MISSIO, or the Pontifical Mission Societies.
At the beginning, these penny donations sent $7 million to help what was then the young church in the United States. Catholics in the US started contributing in 1833, with a gift of $6. Today, U.S. Catholics provide 25 percent of the support sent to mission territories that cover more than half the globe, with a majority of that help provided to Africa and Asia.
But what makes MISSIO really special is that donors aren’t sending “pennies” to anonymous projects. Instead, MISSIO introduces us to the names and faces of those we are helping — those who we can invite into our hearts.
This week, for example, MISSIO shared a story from Zambia: that of Sister Mary Chilengwe of the Sisters of the Child Jesus in the Archdiocese of Kasama. MISSIO “pennies” enabled the nuns to buy a corn sheller.
“I would like to thank all the people of God who have sacrificed from the little they have to help us buy the corn sheller,” Sister Mary said. “The problem of shelling corn by hand will be over now. The Sisters of the Child Jesus are grateful. May God bless you more.”
A photo album shows the sisters working with their Zambian neighbors harvesting and preparing the corn. It only took $1,000 but it changed their lives.
The face of Sister Mary and her neighbors can be in your heart.
MISSIO will inspire you not only with the beautiful stories and images of our brothers and sisters. Through its daily “Journey with the Pope” email, you can reflect with Francis on how to find fulfillment along the Gospel path. And a Psalm leads you in prayer with God’s Word.
Pope Francis has the heart of a pastor (and long years of experience!) and his words will not only give you insights into the Catholic faith, but also comfort, console, encourage, and motivate you.
The pope offers a way to see our experiences through the light of faith and with the assurance of God’s sustaining love. But if you’ve read or heard much of Pope Francis, you already know that he knows how to put “lofty” teachings and concepts into simple, everyday words … a little like Jesus did with the parables.
MISSIO ends this message to some 200,000 daily. “I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for these beautiful and positive messages that I receive every day,” wrote one recipient to MISSIO. Added another: “I love reading these every day, it lifts my faith.”
The free daily email will put a bit of inspiration in your inbox — and who doesn’t need that in these challenging times?!
Whether you have few or many “pennies” to offer is of no account. The point is to share your gifts and be open to receiving the gifts of these brothers and sisters from around the world.
Last month, the Holy Father offered this insightful reminder about helping the poor. An authentic Christian attitude does not simply provide for needs, he said.
“Indeed it implies walking together, letting ourselves be evangelized by them, who know the suffering Christ well, letting ourselves be ‘infected’ by their experience of salvation, by their wisdom and by their creativity.
“Sharing with the poor means mutual enrichment. And, if there are unhealthy social structures that prevent them from dreaming of the future, we must work together to heal them, to change them.”