5. Call to the lowest place

Are you really aware that to be a true follower of Brother Charles of Jesus, you must be a living witness of his thought and of his desire to be totally poor, humble and lowly? Like Brother Charles of Jesus, you will have to live as the poor do and among the poor, in line with the Gospel.

Prior Velho, PortugalPrior Velho, Portugal Another reason for staying is that I can increase the feeling of worth that comes through work. Over the days, there are endless opportunities to say how worthwhile our work is, to thank colleagues, to encourage their good initiatives, to admire their skill or to resolve disputes. I seek to get them to formulate their thoughts, requests or proposals as a body, which I can then submit to the workplace committee or to the management. All these are also reflected in my prayers, either as intercessions or in giving thanks to God.

In November I had the satisfying experience of leading a joint initiative by all the production workers (i. e. both manufacture and packaging, about thirty of us). Several of them had asked me to get the working hours changed, so that they could avoid road congestion and pick up the kids from school. We did a first survey and I saw the workshop foreman. As our request was rejected we did a second survey, then I saw the boss, there was a vote and we won. What pleased me was that I was acting for my mates; it was their initiative, and they managed to find a working pattern which everyone could live with – which did not seem a very likely proposition at the start!
Three years ago, we delegates to the central workplace committee agreed to exercise our right to hire a chartered accountant to examine the company accounts with us. But the boss did all that was necessary, including threats and blackmail, to ensure that there was no majority agreement for this. My fellow delegates said to me, "It’s all right for you, you don’t have a family – we don’t want to risk losing our jobs". This was hard to take.

Everything I go through at work makes me rather like the worker priests. When my mates discovered that I was a member of a religious order, the easiest way to explain what I was doing there was to mention the worker priests. And in fact, for the last 26 years I have been attending their regional meetings of the Nord/Pas de Calais region, as well as the national meetings. I find this gives me a good opportunity to deepen what I learn at work, or did previously when I didn’t have a stable job. I do not work because I want to be a worker priest, but because I have chosen to be a Little Brother of Jesus. My vocation is to live fraternally with a small segment of the deprived urban population of the Lille region. That is why I live in a council flat and do a job at the bottom of the heap, so that I can live as the poor live, as far as possible on equal terms with them. So my primary concern at work is to live fraternally with my workmates. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of brothers and sisters.
When I meet the worker priests I am not the only religious, but I am often the only one who is not a priest. So what they say about ministry is of no direct concern to me, and I have no pastoral prob