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Our First Steps in Spain: Barcelona, 1986

During one of our first missions, we saw a homeless woman, all huddled up, sitting on the steps of a square. We tried to come nearer. With one hand, that woman was hiding her face, with the other, she motioned us away.

Getting used to each other lasted a few days, then she allowed us to sit down near her, and showed her face: it was swollen, ravaged by illness; cancer was at a very advanced stage. Our friend then gave her name: Maria.

We would have to see each other again. But what was the name of that small square where we met?

“Veronica” Square!

Saint Veronica, you who wiped Jesus’ face on the way of the cross, pray for us, that we may share this grace for our brothers, and not turn our backs on the one who is our own flesh.

“I am black but lovely.” (Song of Solomon 1:5)

After being away for a few weeks during the summer, Maria was awaiting our return. As we arrived at Veronica Square, Maria stood up, coming up to us and stretching out her arms, forgetting in a surge of friendship the ugliness of her face, and she kissed us!

Then another disease appeared, and Maria became contagious. So she could no longer be taken care of in any center. There only remained isolation in hospital where she did not want to go. So of course, it was with Maria that we shared the bread on Christmas Day, because there was no place in the inn, today like yesterday. She spent quite a while in our fraternity, and then left again.

Since then, Maria went to meet the Lord. She died alone, in a garden. But we knew: “In the cool of the day, the Lord God was walking in the garden.” (Genesis 3:8) He was still there on the evening of the Agony, at Gethsemane, and on the morning of the Resurrection.

We know that He had leaned toward her, and she heard herself being called by her name “Maria!”, and recognized Him:

“Rabboni!”, which means “Teacher”.

And the fraternity of Barcelona received the name, no doubt engraved in Heaven, of “Fraternity of the Holy Face”.

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