Twenty years ago, the life of Spanish missionary Father Ignatius Mary Donoro changed when he saw children dying of malnutrition in the mountains of Panchimalco, El Salvador.
In Bogota, Colombia, he also saw many minors wandering through the streets huffing glue to escape their pain and misery. He met children who earned their living ingesting gasoline, then setting it alight in their mouths to call attention to themselves as they begged for coins at traffic lights.
So this priest quit his relatively cushiony apostolate in Spain and found Nazareth House. He had to do so when he saw that “God is in the crucified children.”
Fr. Donoro continued saying that, he “would never be able to distance myself from [their] pain. The blood of the crucified children, Christ’s blood, was falling on my head. Either I ran away or remained at the cross by Jesus’ feet. And Mary is always at the cross; having your Mother by your side you lose all fear; there is no better company.”
Fr. Donoro reminds us that, “God is, without a doubt, in the crucified children. It is God who lives on the street terrified with fear; it is God Himself who works as a slave … He has been sexually abused.”
A person in possession of his wits and a warm heart cannot ignore this suffering. These poorest children among the poorest people are made in the same image of God as the rest of us. How can anyone turn away from such suffering? They too have the right to identity, to health, to a family and the right to feel special and to be loved. Each poor child is unrepeatable, essential and unique. God knew them as He was knitting them together in their mother’s wombs. (Psalm 139:13) they are eternally loved by their Father. Who are we to say, “I don’t care?”
When I was in Burma a few months ago covering the Pope’s visit, I had the good fortune of bumping into some Salesians who were working with street kids. When they found out I was a magician, they begged me to put on a show for the kids. Like all magicians, I’m an incorrigible ham and no one needs to ask me twice to do a magic trick.
The priests brought me out to where the kids lived ― under a busy overpass in Yangon (Rangoon). The priests were immediately mobbed but they eyed me with suspicion until the priests introduced me. From that point on, I was trusted. I had never felt so honored in my life because the smiling, dirty faces of Christ starred at through the darkness under that busy overpass and pierced my soul.
As I performed for them, the kids’ boisterous remarks drew the attention of a better-heeled crowd to my “stage.” They were almost as vocal as the kids. The show eventually ended and I took my bows but before I dismissed everyone, I directed my attention to the well-off in the crowd. Through an interpreter, I asked them to look at the poor around them. I reminded them of how fortune life had been to them. If they were grateful for my magic, I asked them for nothing for myself but rather for the children.
I managed to collect the equivalent of 35 American dollars from the adult members of my impromptu audience. That’s a lot more than you think, considering the low standard of living in Burma.
St. Basil the Great’s words came to me like acid on my soul:
When someone steals another's clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
And in the eyes of the poor children around me, I saw my loving and generous God and I was ashamed. I was a millionaire in comparison to these, the least of my brothers and sisters.
St. Teresa of Ávila points out:
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
And St. Francis of Assisi reminds us:
Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these, they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.
If you have the means, I beg you, for the sake of the children and for the disposition of your own souls, please consider giving to Nazareth House or to Burma’s only Catholic hospital. Or mail Fr. Dominic Thiha or Sr. Emilla Cing, Catholic Archbishop's House, 25th and 81st Sts. Corner, Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) or any other Catholic charity of your choice.
As St. Mother Teresa reminds us, “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
If you do, God will personally introduce Himself to you. He’s dying to meet you.