“Make a welcoming and available space so that all the minors of your day may enter into your life: the marginalized, men and women who live on [the] streets…many abandoned elderly… all those who live in existential peripheries, deprived of dignity…” Pope Francis
At dawn on a hot September Saturday at San Miguel Church in Manila, Philippines, members of a delegation arranged by the Order of Malta’s worldwide humanitarian relief organization, Malteser International (MI), stood shoulder-to-shoulder — most bleary-eyed and jet-lagged but standing — with the Order of Malta Philippines’ members and volunteers.
The delegation from Germany, Australia, Singapore and the US were visiting some of MI’s humanitarian projects in Southeast Asia. We were at San Miguel Church to lend a hand at one of the works of the Order of Malta Philippines, packing warm spaghetti and non-perishable food and distributing them to street dwellers. These temporary settlers travel biweekly from all over Metro Manila and surrounding provinces to receive their sustenance.
Inflation had worsened their plight, making the long trek to the church even more critical. All took a pew at the church and listened to the Word of God in Pilipino. At the end of the service, approximately 900 (up from ~700 two weeks previously) patiently filed out of the church to receive their food ration — each exchanging a sincere “thank you” and some even managing a smile.
As I stood, overcome by sadness at their plight, a German confrere reminded me that these are the ones to whom are given the seats of honor in the kingdom: those who cannot return the invitations and are hungry for the food.
That morning, I too felt gratitude because behind the worn faces of the impoverished, I saw great dignity. Members from different parts of the world of both our Order and Malteser International answered God’s call to love — the kind of love that sees beyond appearances, the kind of love that calls people out of imprisonment, and the kind of love that dignifies people.
Marissa del Rosario-Blackett, DM is a member of the American Association and the Board of Malteser International Americas