Lent 2016: travelling through the wilderness with Caritas

By Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis

If I had to go on a long journey through a desert alone I’d make sure I had water, food, clothes to protect me from the sun, medicines and a tent. But having a companion for the journey would also be important because on a tough journey, having someone by your side always makes things easier.

As Lent draws near, you may be about to go on your own “journey into the wilderness”. It is a time for self-exploration and understanding, it is a time for just packing the essentials in your life. It is also a time for transformation of our hearts and for preparation for the great moment of joy and rebirth which is Easter.

A Malian refugee takes charcoal to the tent where he's staying with his family. Photo by Simone Stefanelli/Caritas

A Malian refugee takes charcoal to the tent where he’s staying with his family. Photo by Simone Stefanelli/Caritas

Millions of people that Caritas helps around the world are in perpetual deserts. They flee wars or live in poverty, they are sick or they have been imprisoned. They’ve been made to focus on what’s essential in their lives as they have nothing else. Caritas provides not only for their material needs, but also love and companionship on their trip through the wilderness.

In this Lenten message this year, Pope Francis invites us all into the desert for a mission of mercy. “In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” says the Holy Father:

“These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them[….]For this reason, I expressed my hope that the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.”

In his message, Pope Francis reminds us that those who consider themselves wealthy but who don’t have compassion and refuse the possibility of opening their hearts to those less fortunate than themselves “are actually the poorest of the poor”.

By launching the Holy Year of Mercy at the end of 2015, Pope Francis has invited us all on a journey. The first stop on this “expedition” is our own hearts. It is there that we learn to have mercy on ourselves, to seek forgiveness and to mend our broken relationship with God. Then Pope Francis invites us out onto the streets where we are called to perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy and help those who are struggling through the wildernesses of the world. It is through these works of mercy that “we can make visible signs of the presence and closeness of God”.

You are welcome to join Caritas on its mission of mercy in this Holy Year.

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