Poland, December 2003
There we were, three little brothers begging for something to eat on the outskirts of a city in Poland, on the western side of that broad country; and none of us spoke Polish. We could hardly even pronounce the few words we knew to ask for something to eat. We had travelled from Vienna to Wroclaw; there the little sisters of the fraternity of Czestochowa were waiting for us. Some friends had invited us to go on mission in one of the parishes of the city.
I remember experiencing that day, as never before, a feeling of great inner fatigue. We were walking up and down the streets, the weather was dreary, cold, and a saddening weight seemed to hang over the city. A door opened, we kind-of half-smiled. We were somewhat awkward, almost ashamed, and as we were saying the words and making clumsy gestures to make ourselves better understood, we slowly began to look down; an irrepressible urge to run away was taking hold of us. But isn’t the Lord our God the God who works wonders with poor schmoes? On that day, this woman welcomed us into her house as though we were sent from Heaven!
Later, we received a letter she had written to the priest of her parish, telling how that “visit” had been a bright ray of sunshine in the otherwise dreary dullness of her daily life.
During our meeting, throughout those few hours spent talking together, thanks to the Bible or using signs to communicate, looking through the family album, praying, and singing, she heard the Voice speak to her heart; and the Voice, like a light breath, had rekindled the flame of hope that had been dying out. God was near, God was there, God was keeping watch, as only Begging Love can keep watch, at the gate of the heart. His Voice was whispering: I give you My joy and no one shall take it from you (cf. Jn 16:22).
Wroclaw, December 11, 2003
There were three friars… or little brothers of the Lamb.
At the window, everything was gray and sad. And my heart too. I prayed inwardly not to sink into depression. I was fifty-two and I had just lost my job. All my efforts to find work again were in vain… “Unfortunately, we are not in a position to give a favorable reply to your application.” Over and over again the same response. Doom and gloom was overwhelming me. Feast-days? In a way, I couldn’t picture myself celebrating. Deep down, I was in despair, and I was becoming lax in prayer more and more each day.
I was looking through the window; I could see three people in blue habits. They were crossing the little courtyard. I wondered where they were going. Much to my surprise, I could see that they… Could it be… ? They were coming straight to my door!
I live on the first floor, and the brothers stopped in front of my window. They were smiling at me. So then they were coming to my home. Intentionally? My home?
“ Cos do jedzenia? Something to eat? Bread and water? ” They asked in broken Polish.
I invited them into my apartment. Though I had only a little bit of bread and pasta, my heart was filled with indescribable joy through that visit. They were French, Italian, and Swiss. They spoke German. I couldn’t speak with them. Fortunately, there was a friend of my daughter’s who spoke a little German. She helped us understand one another, and shared with us some things that she had bought: some bread, sausage and fruit. I was surprised and moved by her. I knew she was jobless like my daughter and I.
We talked a little with the brothers in German, in English and with signs. They had hitchhiked from Vienna. One of them wrote in Polish “little brothers of the Lamb”. They had been welcomed in our parish and were visiting homes. Each of us received a word from the brothers. I received the Beatitudes in Saint Luke: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” and “do not be anxious… Look at the birds… you are of more value than the birds”3. I had often heard those words in church, but this time they were directly addressed to me. Words from Jesus. Isn’t it marvelous ?
We hugged each other goodbye. Before going away, they sang again. It was truly wonderful!
The brothers left. From behind the window, it was the same gray day. But in my heart joy had remained. I understood: we cannot let our worries and problems smother within us the voice of God, what God wants to tell us. He is present in each moment of our lives. Let us not forget about Him, and let us keep our eyes and ears open.
Three years went by. And we came back to Wroclaw at the invitation of the Capuchin friars who had asked us to lead a retreat for students. On the last day of the retreat, in the evening, just before leaving – the car was ready and they were already waiting for us – someone, from behind, pulled at a little brother’s sleeve.
“Do you recognize me? I’m Ewa! I didn’t want to let you leave without saying something to you. A little after we met, on the day when you came to my home… I found a job, a job I still have today!”
2 Cf. John 16:22.
3 Matthew 6:26.