Doesn't a Little Brother do anything? -Vienna

The Vienna Fraternity has been in existence for the last thirty years. During its first years, we had a lot of young people around us, but for some time now things have become more calm.
It still surprises me when someone says that the Little Brothers of Jesus do nothing. Working for thirty years without a break is not exactly nothing, is it? I think I have lived a contemplative life, which has been forged by ten years work in a factory, six of which were in the steel foundry, and then shaped by twenty years caring for elderly people. Steel foundry in ViennaSteel foundry in Vienna
It is not nothing to have to get up and go to work every day, whether you want to or not. It is not nothing to have to obey the orders of a foreman or charge nurse constantly, to take your holiday only when it suits the boss, or to be afraid that if you are away ill for too long you will lose your job. It is not nothing to have to put up with the dirt, the noise, the cold and the heat of the factory! And never mind unemployment – that is just one of the humiliations you have to put up with. In our society, it reduces a person's feeling of worth, and if it continues for a long time it exiles him to the margins of society. After 'our' factory closed, I happened to meet someone living on the street who not long previously had been a workmate.
As for working in a centre for elderly people, I have already commented on that. Many of you now know what it is like from being on the other side of the fence – and you probably realise how good-humoured and patient you have to be! There is a lady of 95 who is constantly looking for her mother, another one who is waiting for her children to come home from school, and a gentleman in a wheelchair who needs to catch the tram to go to his soccer training. In succession, I have to be a husband, an uncle, a waiter, a teacher or a doctor. All right, it is true that all this is our 'Nazareth', but it is also a Nazareth with a cheerful face, with confiding friends, supportive colleagues, parties with the elderly when they dance and sing, and the beautiful faces of my colleagues from Bulgaria, Bosnia, Poland, China, Nigeria, Philippines, India, Tunisia, Turkey, Albania and Austria.
Over the twenty years that I have been working in the Centre, the care of elderly people has become more and more person-centred. They don't build homes like ours for 300 people any more. Over the last few years, the norm is to create a family atmosphere as far as possible. There has also been a major shift in attitudes towards religious needs. Everyone is allowed to have religious symbols around them, and participate in religious ceremonies. Formerly, having a religious service inside the home was not allowed. And the attitude towards death has also changed. I have often noticed how tactful my colleagues are when dealing with the dying.
Yes, it has happened over the last few years that I have pushed myself to the limit. It was hard for me on the days when my back started to play up, or when a lady called me a bastard without provocation. At times like that it is good to have supportive colleagues, even if they do no more than offer a smile or a kind word.
I had a party with my colleagues to mark my departure. Herbert with some work colleaguesHerbert with some work colleagues They sang a song with twenty verses which they had written themselves. One or two of them had written a verse each. I was deeply moved. I showed them to a friend, and he said, "You see, it was all worth it!" We also had a party with the brothers, to which Wolfgang came, to mark the start of this new stage in my life.
'Nazareth' can be little more than a slogan if it is not filled with love and joy, and inspired by a friendship with the One, who chose of his free will to live in his own Nazareth. His love for his Father and for us was concealed by his human existence, in which he shared the life of the humble and the poor as they earn their daily bread.

In the past I used to go off to do "battle" with “Saviours with Jesus” under my arm, which is a chapter from Seeds of the Desert, and this made me feel strongly supported by a mysterious apostolic fruitfulness. Today, in principle at least, I am still persuaded that it is in this kind of way that God wants his mission of salvation to be achieved in the time in which we live, and that there are some people in particular through whom he transmits his saving love. It is just that my vision of this has now been somewhat turned on its head as I also see how much goodness, respect for others and self-giving is practised by people all around me – and they do it without rallying under the Nazareth banner. Some are Christians, some describe themselves as agnostics and others are Muslim. God can give anyone the means to perform real acts of charity, even those whose faith remains undiscovered. All right, I am not a fool – there are also other people who sow discord and hatred. And what I say about our small local community applies equally well to the global village. But if evil is on the increase, so is goodness. Here is a passage from Scripture itself, which gives rise to hope when it says that "He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new'." Indeed, it is he alone who can make things new. Human beings can change existing things for better or worse, but only God can create new things.
This is my perspective, as I begin what will be the last stage of my life, one that will lead me I know not where.
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