Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 7, 2007
Christ's light shines in Lima's slums
Canadian helping hands reach out to children of God
By GLEN ARGAN
"There is some dignity happening in the dwellings and in the people."
- - Archbishop Richard Smith
He returned a year and a half later. "This time when I went back and saw the area, the response for me was one of hope.
"The difference between the two experiences was the Eucharist."
Smith saw that the walls of some of the hovels were being replaced with brick. "There is some dignity happening in the dwellings and in the people."
Speaking with a priest for the area, he learned that the first thing the people asked for when clergy began to work in the area was a church. So one main church and several small chapels were built.
"They have, with the people's prompting, made these to be truly, truly beautiful buildings in the midst of terrible squalor."
Next to the church were built schools, infirmaries, day care centres, drug dispensaries and an office for human rights.
"The priest explained that from the celebration of the Eucharist is flowing out all these other activities. It's right there visibly - the link between faith and works.
"The priest said that as these things are taking place, the people are themselves beginning to feel a sense of their own dignity. Their sense of their own self-worth is starting to be given visible expression in the gradual strengthening of the homes in which they live.
"The priest linked it instinctively to the communal celebration of the Eucharist."
Smith described the eucharistic celebrations in the shantytowns as "full, they're alive, they are joyful, the churches are packed."
The people, he said, "have come to name themselves properly." They have come to see themselves "as children of God, of inalienable dignity and inexpressible worth. Yet they know themselves to be limited, to be dependent on God's goodness and they are dependent joyfully."
The hope of the Pembroke Diocese was to help the Lima Archdiocese in its work with the poor and also to see how the Peruvians could be helpful in evangelizing Canadian culture.
After his Peruvian experiences, Smith was able to conclude, "Here in our Western culture, we need to name ourselves properly. Jesus is the one who came to save, to rescue the lost, to save the sinner, to bring good news to the poor.
"We have more and more difficulty, it seems to me, to see ourselves as lost, as sinner, as poor. If we cannot properly name ourselves then we cannot properly acknowledge our need for our Rescuer, our Saviour."
At the time of his 2005 talk, the House of Commons was discussing a private member's bill to allow assisted suicide. Smith said that bill was likely a trial balloon, sent up in preparation for a more serious effort in the future to legalize euthanasia.
"We need to turn again and again to the Eucharist as the sacrament of life to provide us with guidance on this.
"The Eucharist teaches, in essence, that life is self-gift. Life is not a privileged possession for me to do with as I see fit. Life is God's gift and we are its stewards.
"Christ's gift of his life to the Father was given in the midst of unspeakable pain and suffering. Life at all moments, particularly moments of suffering, is to be offered as gift. This is not a time to abandon life."
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