Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
December 17, 2001
Unusual pilgrim travels with outcasts
It would almost take an uncanny ability to gate out the reality of the present turmoil the world is in, economically, ecologically, socially and politically and even religiously, to sing in exultation: "Ad Veniat Regnum Tuum."
Even the innocuous tunes piped into shopping malls, such as Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, have taken on new connotations as military might desecrates the sacred place in an extended war on terrorism.
Tanks roll into manger street where shepherds walked on calloused feet, and trace bullets pierce the sky where angel choirs sang on high: "Peace on earth and have no fear, the reign of God is almost near."
I read a wonderful book recently that takes us away from this mad world where power is matched with power in an unending cycle of accelerated violence. The narrator invites us into a world not less real, but barely spoken of in news bulletins and in global trade conferences.
Joining the Street People is the diary of Henrique of Albertville who shares with us his encounter of the Holy Trinity in the street people of Latin America.
Henrique is one of those rare individuals who abandoned a promising career in the world of work for the uncertain existence of a life among the excluded. With degrees in engineering, publishing, theology and Scripture studies, Henrique is not your common never-do-well.
After much contemplation and prayer he resolved to embrace the life of a pilgrim among the world's outcasts and vowed that from one day to the next he would not carry a single penny with him, but place his trust in a compassionate God and the good will of his fellow beggars.
Here is a book that exemplifies the power of love instead of the love of power. As you travel with Henrique through desert and slum, you become convinced that the reign of God is already here and that the Triune God already dwells among us. We've just been looking for him or her in the wrong places.
The tent God pitched in our midst is nothing more than a sheet of cardboard on a concrete sidewalk, sometimes laid out in front of a bank, a palace of justice or right on the steps of the cathedral.
We can find this God who has taken on the sins of the world in alley ways and culverts, in cardboard shacks on plantations and wherever humanity has abandoned its brothers and sisters in the pursuit of worldly ambitions.
The pilgrim does not preach, but he leads us gently into a world where we normally fear to tread.
In short vignettes he introduces us to the sojourners with whom he shares his bread, his square metre of sidewalk and his life. And in doing so he shows us the many faces of Emmanuel, the long-awaited one, the God-with-us.
Al Gerwing, who met Henrique in Brazil last year while monitoring development projects for Rainbow of Hope, has done a marvellous job of translating the book from Portuguese.
"The man had an aura of sanctity about him," says Al who recognized in Henrique the compassionate love of a St. Francis and the holy indignation of a Dorothy Day.
This is a book that will restore hope in the promise of peace and renewal and remind you that the all-powerful God sent his first invitation to the powerless. This is the same God who was later accused by those in power of eating and drinking with the outcasts.
Published by St. Peter's Press, Box 190, Muenster, SK, S0K 2Y0, the book extolls the happy marriage between prayer and action which may heal the human race and our hurting Church.
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