On my very first mission trip, I spent a good amount of my time working with Saint Mother Teresa's Sisters, The Missionaries of Charity, in the slums of Cite Soleil, Haiti. My days rotated among three of their sites -- a babies' home for dying orphans, an HIV/AIDS hospice, and a wound care clinic for the homeless of Port-au-Prince.
Days began early with a 5:30 a.m. Mass, followed by Morning Prayer in Haitian Creole and English. After a light meal, our assignments began. At the end of long days of ministering to the poor, we would meet back at the Mission House for a community meal and retreat to the roof to escape the heat and reflect on our day.
We would ask ourselves a central question: "Where did you see the face of Christ today?"
Was it in the baby I held who was so malnourished that his skin flaked off on my shirt? Was it in the man whose erupted tumor I cleansed and bandaged at the wound care clinic? Was it in the elderly woman who took turns singing songs with me as I rubbed her back at the hospice center? Of course, the answer was all of them, and so many more.
In this ministry, we see the question asked and answered every day.
In the Philippines, Father Lasantha Fonseca, on mission from the Diocese of Galle, Sri Lanka, says he sees Christ in the poor that he is feeding during the COVID19 pandemic. After blessing a group of volunteers, Father and his helpers head into the slums of Manila to hand out parcels of food to those who otherwise may not eat that day. Father says, "The Philippines is in total lockdown and the government is trying to extend it, especially in crowded Manila. No church services, only online Masses. We are trying to reach out to the poor in any way possible. Many poor people are suffering. Stay safe -- we are praying for all of you."
With his actions, Father Lasantha is showing the evangelizing face of Christ and his Church at its best.
We may not be able to go out into the streets right now, but surely, we are seeing acts of courage, of kindness, of Christ -- all around us, every day.
This one question, I propose to you, is a most valuable reflection for everyday life -- not just peak faith experiences like I had in Haiti or Father is having in the Philippines.
Where did you see the Face of Christ today? The answer is, everywhere.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.