“When You Meet the Needy, Your Heart Grows Bigger” St. Vincent de Paul did not say this…. But it sure sounds like something Vincent believed and lived!
This the message the Pope sent back home via YouTube as his way of joining in a major feast in his native country. (It is reported that in years past Cardinal Bergoglio would quietly slip into the line of devotees waiting to venerate the shrine’s central image of St. Cajetan in the late-night hours on the feast and hear their stories.)
Here’s video of the message – the text follows below the video but is almost not needed. In the video he seems to look one right in the eye and speak directly to the heart. Watch the video and let your eyes meet his.
Talk about looking people in the eye!
Of course, as the cause of the poor, the role of work as key to human dignity and a firm reliance on traditional popular piety are all emphatic, repeated emphases of the Argentine pontiff, while the content is anything but new, the means of delivery is the story. (Intriguing as well, and not to be discounted, is the story that Cajetan – trained as a lawyer only to become a priest – left his work in the early Roman Curia to dedicate himself to a life of austerity and the care of the poor and sick.)
Every year, after having travelled the length of the queue, I speak with you. This time, however, I have travelled the length of the queue in my heart. I am a little too far away to be able to share this beautiful moment with you. Right now, you are on pilgrimage towards the image of St Cajetan. Why? To meet with him, to meet with Jesus. But today, the theme of this pilgrimage – a theme chosen for you, selected from among many possibilities – today the theme is about another meeting, and says: “With Jesus and St Cajetan, let us reach out to those most in need.”
This speaks of the people most in need, of those who need us to give them a hand, who need us to look them with love, to share their pain or their anxieties, their problems. What’s important is that we don’t just look at them from afar or help from afar. No, no! We must reach out to them. This is being Christian! This is what Jesus taught us: to reach out to the needy. Like Jesus who always reached out to the people. He went to meet them. Reaching out to those most in need.
Sometimes, I ask people, “Do you give alms.” They say, “Yes, father.” “And when you give alms, do you look into the eyes of people you are giving alms to?” “Ah, I do not know, I don’t really think about it”. “Then you have not reached out to those people. You just tossed them some charity and went away. When you give alms, do you touch their hands or just toss them the coins?”. “No, I toss them the coins”. “Then you have not touched them. And if you have not touched them, you have not reached out to them.” What Jesus teaches us, first of all, is to reach out to each other, and in reaching out, helping one another.
We must be able to reach out to each other. We must build, create, construct a culture of encounter. How many differences, family troubles, always! Trouble in the neighborhood, trouble at work, trouble everywhere. And these differences do not help. The culture of encounter. Reaching out to encounter eachother. And the theme says, “Reaching out to those most in need”, in short, with those who need me. With those who are going through a bad time, far worse than what I’m going through.
There is always someone who is having [it] worse, eh? Always! There is always someone. So, I think, “I’m going through a bad time, I line up to encounter San Cayetano and with Jesus and then go out to encounter others, because there is always someone who is having it worse than me.” To these people, it is to these people that we have to reach out.
Thank you for listening, thank you for coming here today, thank you for everything you carry in your hearts. Jesus loves you very much! San Cayetano loves you very much! We ask only one thing: that you reach out! And that you go and seek out and encounter the most needy! But not alone, no. With Jesus and San Cayetano! Does this mean going to convince someone to become became Catholic? No, no, no! You are just reaching out to meet him, he is your brother! That is enough. You reach out to help them, the rest is done by Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. Remember well: with San Cayetano, we need we encounter the neediest. With Jesus, we who are in need, we reach out to those who are even more in need. And maybe Jesus will show us the path to meet with those who need it most.
When you meet those most in need, your heart will begin to grow bigger, bigger and bigger! Because reaching out multiplies our capacity to love. An encounter with others makes our heart bigger. Take courage! “I don’t know what to do on my own”. No, no, no! With Jesus and San Cayetano! May God bless you and may this feast day of St Cajetan end well. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.