If These Moccasins Could Speak!

by | Aug 10, 2022 | Formation, Reflections

Have you ever walked a mile in another’s moccasins? … in the moccasins of their sufferings?

Pope Francis uses the image to describe his 5,000-mile pilgrimage, not of conquest but of contrition.

I was very moved by how he uses this image to explain what is in his heart and what are his hopes. He speaks to a people whose roots go back thousands of years before European settlers arrived in Canada and pillaged their land, languages, and lives.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk, Francis speaks directly without media filters.

Walking in the moccasins of suffering

“I recall the meetings we had in Rome four months ago.”

“At that time, I was given two pairs of moccasins as a sign of the suffering endured by indigenous children, particularly those who, unfortunately, never came back from the residential schools.

I was asked to return the moccasins when I came to Canada; I brought them, and I will return them at the end of these few words.

I reflect on this symbol, which over the past few months, has kept alive my sense of sorrow, indignation, and shame.

Pain – Past and Present

The memory of those children is indeed painful; it urges us to work to ensure that every child is treated with love, honor, and respect.

“At the same time, those moccasins also speak to us of a path to follow, a journey that we desire to make together.

We want to walk together, to pray together, and to work together, so that the sufferings of the past can lead to a future of justice, healing and reconciliation.

“The place where we are gathered renews within me the deep sense of pain and remorse that I have felt in these past months.”

I think back on the tragic situations that so many of you, your families, and your communities have known, of what you shared with me about the suffering you endured in the residential schools.

Yet it is right to remember because forgetfulness leads to indifference and, as has been said, “the opposite of love is not hatred, it’s indifference… and the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference” (E. WIESEL).”

 “To remember the devastating experiences that took place in the residential schools hurts, anger causes pain, and yet it is necessary.

I thank you for making me appreciate this, for telling me about the heavy burdens that you still bear, and for sharing with me these bitter memories.”

Righting wrongs

“Dear brothers and sisters, many of you and your representatives have stated that begging pardon is not the end of the matter. I fully agree: that is only the first step, the starting point.

” No effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient” and, “looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening” (Letter to the People of God, 20 August 2018).

An important part of this process will be to conduct a serious investigation into the facts of what took place in the past and to assist the survivors of the residential schools to experience healing from the traumas they suffered.

“I am with you to recall the past, to grieve with you, to bow our heads together in silence, and to pray before the gravesLet us allow these moments of silence to help us interiorize our pain. Silence. And prayer.”

Walking in the moccasins of suffering

  • Is such a journey also necessary in Australia, Africa, Asia, South America, and even in our own United States?
  • In what way is the Pope modeling painful aspects of journeying together?

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk