Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 22, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

John 17:1-11a

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: John puts the words in today’s gospel on the lips of Jesus at the Last Supper, but they are really words that the resurrected and exalted Jesus in heaven speaks even now into the ear of his Father. The words are Jesus’ prayer of recognition of what has happened to us as the result of his mission. The words are the hope to which we as Christians aspire.

Saint of the day: Blessed Irmã Dulce Pontes, S.M.I.C., was a Brazilian Catholic Franciscan Sister who was the founder of the Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce also known as the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce (Irmã means Sister). Her work with the poor population in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, has made her a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Born in 1914 in Salvador, Bahia, the second daughter of Augusto Lopes Pontes and Dulce Maria de Souza, as Maria Rita de Souza Pontes, she entered religious life when she was 18 years old. When she was thirteen years old, her aunt had taken her on a trip to the poor area of the city. The sight of the misery and poverty she encountered there made a deep impression on the young girl, who came from an upper middle-class background.

She began to care for the homeless and beggars in her neighborhood, giving them free haircuts and treating their wounds. By that time, she had already shown interest in following religious life. Her father, however, did not like the idea and insisted that she became a teacher. She graduated from high school at the age of 18. She then asked her father to allow her to follow her religious calling. He agreed and she joined the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, in Our Lady of the Carmel Convent, in Sergipe. A year later, she received the religious habit of that Congregation and was given the name Dulce, in memory of her mother (who had died when she was 6 years old).

During the same year, she founded the “São Francisco’s Worker’s Union,” the first Christian worker’s movement in Bahia. A year later, she started welfare work in the poor communities of Alagados and Itapagipe. It was then that they started calling her the “Angel of Alagados.” In 1937, she transformed the Worker’s Union into the Worker’s Center of Bahia.

Determined to house sick people who came to her for help, Sister Dulce started to shelter them in abandoned houses, in 1939, in Salvador’s ‘Ilha dos Ratos’ (rats’ island) district. Then, she would go in search of food, medicine and medical care. Later, when she and her patients were evicted from the neighborhood, she started housing them in an old fish market, but City Hall denied her the use of the space and told her to leave.

Facing a big problem and already taking care of over 70 people, she turned to the Mother Superior of her convent and asked her permission to use the its chicken yard as an improvised hostel. The Superior reluctantly, agreed, so long as Sister Dulce could take care of the chickens (which she did, by feeding them to her patients.)

There, in 1960, the Santo Antônio Hospital, consisting of 150 beds, was inaugurated. On May 26, 1959 the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce was born, a result of the determination of a Sister who was tireless in her attendance to the sick and to the beggars who lived in Salvador’s streets. Sister Dulce’s work impressed the President of Brazil, José Sarney, who, in 1988, nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize, with support of Queen Silvia of Sweden.

The organization she founded, known by its Portuguese acronym as OSID (Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce) is one of the most well-known and respected philanthropic organizations in Brazil. The Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce is a private charity chartered under Brazilian law. It provides health, welfare, and education services, with a strong commitment to medical education and research. The Santo Antônio Hospital is the largest completely free hospital in Brazil, according to the Federal Ministry of Health. It has over 1,000 beds and receives more than 3,000 patients everyday. The Foundation established the Santo Antônio Educational Center, a school for the poor in Simões Filho, one of the most impoverished cities in the Metropolitan Area of Salvador and in the State of Bahia. There, free educational programs are provided for approximately 800 children and young people ranging in age from 6 to 19 years old. It also operates a commercial bakery and an orthopedic production center, staffed by professional workers, which produce and sell their products in many regions of Brazil and even internationally, following the idea of self-sustainability, which is part of the work concept created by Sister Dulce.

During the last 30 years of her life, Sister Dulce’s lungs were highly impaired and she had only 30% breathing capacity. In 1990, her respiratory problems began to worsen and she was hospitalized. After being hospitalized for 16 months, Sister Dulce died on March 13, 1992, at the age of 77, in Santo Antônio’s Convent, and she was buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of Conception. On June 9, 2010, Sister Dulce was finally buried at the Imaculada Conceição da Madre de Deus church in Salvador, Bahia. It was discovered that her body was naturally incorrupt and even her clothes were still preserved 18 years after her death. Her cause for canonization commenced in 2000 just eight years after her death, and she was beatified on May 22, 2011.

Spiritual reading: Work without love is slavery. (Mother Teresa)

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