One gets tired of the myth of sunshine and gold that so often surrounds stories of Southern Africa. Shocking poverty is always just around the corner. A few weeks ago a priest friend blurted out the story that had rocked his nearly 30 years of experience in many parts of the world.
A member of the Legion of Mary had told him of a sick woman lying on a makeshift bed in a 12' x 6' x 6' shanty in a backyard near a big city. The woman had been loaned the shack by someone almost as poor as herself whose house was full. The shack had a hole in the roof, partly covered by a bit of plastic.
The priest immediately visited her. "I was appalled at the conditions". he told me. "I gave her the Sacraments and now I'm going back with food and blankets." We talked about this woman, not an isolated case, and he decided to contact a branch of St Vincent de Paul to ease her sufferings, and suggested that I should write the bare facts for the readers of the local newspaper.
We met that evening and he told me: "Forget the paper, the poor woman has died." He related how he had consulted a non-Christian doctor about getting her to hospital and was advised not to call an ambulance but to wrap her in blankets and drive her to a hospital.
However, he didn't even have time to do that. On his next call he found she had died. The body was removed to the mortuary. He visited the mortuary official and requested that Once the post mortern was over, the body be released into his care and he would provide a dignified, Christian burial from his church.
lime passed; he called again at the mortuary only to be told that she had been given a pauper's funeral. He was, iurious. Nevertheless on reflection he was consoled. God in His mercy had called the destitute woman to a better life. Meditating over the events, he had been heartened by the fact that it is always the poor who help the poor. The woman who had given her shack could give no more, her own house was over-filled. The sick woman had received the Sacraments, a Legionary had relieved her loneliness. "There's always a welcome for the poor from the God who was born in a stable." (RI. Rev. Mgr) Desmond .1. Halton National Director.
The Society for the Propogation of the Faith, Pretoria.