Love of the PoorLove of the Poor
This is Sister Althea Jonis. I took this picture in February of 2003. She died in September of 2003 in Haiti at the age of 58. She didn’t tell anyone that she had Malaria and a heart condition. She is a saint. She inspires this priest to love the poor fearlessly and passionately. I have been to her convent and mission three times with the last time occurring a week after I returned from serving on Active duty in Fallujah Iraq in April, 2005. Sister Althea had died and wasn’t there…or was she?
Her parents were friends of mine at St. Catherine’s. They are now deceased. Vincent, her father, called me the day she died to tell me . I was in New Hampshire going for a hike, and I had to pull off to the side of the road. I love Althea (Terri). On February 4, 2002,when I was giving her a gift of $500 from my inner city parish, I cried, with sadness or joy, I am not sure. She celebrated Eucharist with us at St. Patrick’s a couple of times. She knew there were parishioners angry with our parish’s solidarity with the poor. She stood with me as I anointed her mother, Helen, in the hospital…and she was miraculously healed.
Sister Althea was a missionary in Haiti. I believe she asked Our Beloved Mother to call me to Haiti to a town called Aquin (named after St. Thomas Aquinas). In addition to restoring a school, a clinic, reforestation projects and small businesses for women, Sister Althea had started a clinic for malnourished children called “Happy Children”. It was a place more beautiful than heaven itself. Her place was different than Mother Teresa’s in that she required a family member to stay with the sick child. The children recover from malnutrition in half the time and rarely return because she teaches the family especially the mothers about better nutrition and love. In 2003, I spent a couple hours with a little malnourished girl named Leslie. Close to the time we were about to leave, she fell asleep in my arms as I stroked her back. I laid her down on the mat; not even knowing her mother was watching me intently for the past two hours. As I was stroking her as I too lay on the mat, Leslie’s mother lied on the other side of her toddler and stroked her back in the same rhythm as me. Not a beat was missed as I passed on the chore of spiritual CPR to the mother. When I stood up because we were called to leave, I wept. It is there that I probably fell in love with the Way God was going to call the people of Haiti out of their brutal poverty.
Haiti died this week in the earthquake. “Jesus, if you would have been here, the earthquake would not have killed the last sliver of hope for your poor people of Haiti.”
And Jesus wept.
18 March 1999
How blessed I feel.
How full of gratitude
in the center of me,
there is hope, joy, peace, love
overflowing and welling up in the chorus and symphony of eternal life.
Life is not a dream for later.
It is somewhat that, but also now, today
I breathe in deeply and slowly and methodically
and rejoice in this body given to use…to experience…life…God!
God is Life and Love
Light and Longing
How ingenious, how delectable, how stunning is God
to create and enjoy breeze and buzz, Jesus and me
Jesus is the Word that says, “I am” and so it is
Jesus says I am with you and so I am
Burning and chilling in and amidst the heart
Whistling and chirping
Crashing and flying
How exceptionally exquisite is the hustle of life,
the vulnerability and even poverty of it all
For we are truly empty and poor and lifeless without
breath and blood pumped and moved throughout and within
Love between two
Love encountered in flesh and spirit
that hints of death and life again
Dreams and depression
Life-giving Love from the Lord of the Dance of Life!
Day between St. Patrick & St. Joseph
Nothing to be afraid of
Jesus walks with them
Jesus will show us the Way,
if we let him.
And believe it or not, smile
And hope, maybe a little more than we do, we who have so much more
What does Jesus hope for in our relationships and encounters with the poor?
Is a very general term.
We speak of poor in spirit…could that be depression?
And poor of character…how is this fed?
And the real poor…
those that physically hunger and shiver for lack of cover, shelter, home
The real poor don’t know where or what they will eat next Sunday…
except the Body and drop of Blood
Although many have not been told the “Good News”
“The spirit is upon me because he has anointed me to bring Glad Tidings to the poor!”
Really not to be afraid of
as long as we don’t lord our position over them…
…and love them
Sounds so easy, but why so rarely done
Have you loved someone poor today?
Will we love someone poor tomorrow?
If we love the poor…
Then they won’t be poor
because Love is God
and Love is Word
and word is Food
and Food is fulfilling
and removes the emptiness and agony of being poor
If we are truly loved, we cannot be poor…it is impossible!
Pour in Love
Poor in Love
Pour in Love
And we will be healed with Poured in Love
Poor in Love.