The Prayer of the Poor

Flaubert at work; (Cameroon)Flaubert at work; (Cameroon)

They who loose their life...for the sake of the Gospel. ..will save it. (Mark 8:35)

Having returned from a visit to the Holy Sepulchre, and while waiting to find out whether I am to get my permit to enter Israel tomorrow, I have come down here to pray in the dark, deserted silence of the sanctuary of Gethsemane. Each time I find myself either at the Holy Sepulchre or here in the Garden of Olives, I feel actually obsessed by the mission of prayer which is that of our fraternities, its importance for each Little Brother and Sister.

In my letter from Mar-Elias I have already commented on how our prayer, must be the prayer of the poor, of those who strain and suffer. Yet, I cannot refrain from returning to the subject: I have something more to say to you tonight.

I have just seen the Little Brothers in Lebanon. I left two of them in the small, poor village of Hmoud, on the outskirts of El-Kerak, the capital of the southern part of Trans-Jordan. There they are starting out, empty-handed, to give themselves to the rough, semi-nomadic peasants of the land of Moab. In Beirut, some Little Sisters are settling in two miserable little rooms with corrugated sheet-iron roofs, inside a courtyard inhabited by poor Arab families whose houses are no better than theirs. The members of the nomad fraternity in the Sahara are not having an easy time either, watching their flocks and having no place to take refuge from the broiling summer sun than the smothering black wool tent they live in. I am also constantly thinking of the sailor Little Brothers during their long days of fishing and the nights when the sea rolls high; of those of you whom the Lord has led to the people of sub-Saharan Africa, or to the "callampa" on the outskirts of Santiago in Chile.

I feel certain Jesus means to conduct his Little Brothers more and more into the very heart of the most forsaken and despised masses of humankind. You are already feeling the reality of it. And you will carry more of their burdens, their ups and downs, each day, while even now persons in distress,who can find no meaning in their lives, no way out of their misery, come seeking you, both yourselves personally and the warmth and cheer of your communities.

Here in Jerusalem, where the Savior died for having loved humankind to the end, I have received letters from several of you. You tell me again of the recurring, seemingly insoluble difficulties the sincerity of your charity keeps getting you into. I understand just what you mean. Remember how I already warned you that you would have to rise to the level of heroism sometimes in the exercise of charity. But you must also be able to maintain those conditions necessary for that deeper life you wish to live together, including those which allow a minimum of intimacy among yourselves so that you can be united in heart and spirit, so as to better help each other serve your Master. There are also conditions which must exist for you to be faithful to your mission as "standing delegates to prayer." This evening it is more especially this, your prayer life, that I feel impelled to speak to you about again, so important does it seem to me at the point we have now reached.

A few moments ago, as I came up the path leading to the top of the Mount of Olives, I was thinking how the Apostles questioned the Master on prayer. And now it is almost as if I were feeling all your difficulties myself. It is as if I could hear your voices as you confess your troubles and your fears, both for the present and for the future, owing to the circumstances and conditions you have to pray under.