Let me ask you priests, then, to be there with the people, giving them all of your time. I beg you to live your priesthood to the fullest by being carriers of Christ. You must be for the people the living reality of Christ present among them. You must be there where obedience has placed you, revealing the presence of Christ and giving Him to the people. You are the only ones who can do this!
I remember the time a few years back, when the president of Yemen asked us to send some of our sisters to his country. I told him that this was difficult because for so many years no chapel was allowed in Yemen for saying a public mass, and no one was allowed to function there publicly as a priest. I explained that I wanted to give him the sisters, but the trouble was that, without a priest, without Jesus going with them, our sisters couldn’t go anywhere. It seems that the president of Yemen had some kind of a consultation, and the answer that came back to us was, “Yes, you can send a priest with the sisters!” I was so struck with the thought that only when the priest is there can we have our altar and our tabernacle and our Jesus. Only the priest can put Jesus there for us.
So we went to Yemen, and began to take care of the destitute people dying on the streets. When they began to build a convent for us, one of our sisters said to the governor, who was sponsoring the building, “Kindly make one of the rooms in the convent beautiful, because Jesus is going to be in that room. Please build us a little chapel for Him.” “But, sister,” he answered, “you must tell me how to build a Roman Catholic church for you here.” That is how he said it, even though we were asking only for a little chapel. He did build us a beautiful little chapel. It is there now, and so is Jesus, and so are our sisters.
Then they wanted to give us a whole mountain in Yemen to use for rehabilitating lepers, because there are very many lepers there. So I went to see the place, and what we saw was an open grave for all the dead. I can’t describe what it was like, the rotting bodies and the terrible smell! My thought was, Jesus, how can I leave you in this terrible condition. So I accepted the place and, if you go there today, you will find it very different.
Since all the lepers were Muslims, and not a single one was a Catholic, I said to a rich man there, “These are all Muslim people, and they need their own place to pray. So kindly build a mosque for them, so that they can go there to pray.” The gentleman was very surprised that I, a Catholic sister, was asking him to build a mosque, but he did build it for the lepers, a very beautiful mosque. Then, when the mosque was finished and this man saw the lepers crawling there to pray, he turned to me and said, “I give you my word that the next thing I am going to build here is a Catholic church for your sisters.”
Another time I was walking through the streets of London in a poor area, where our sisters also work. I saw a man in a truly terrible condition, sitting there looking so sad and alone. So I walked up to him, and took him by the hand, and asked him how he was. When I did this, he looked up at me and said, “Oh, after such a long time, I feel the warmth of a human hand. After such a long time, someone is touching me.” Then his eyes brightened, and he started to sit up straight. Such a tiny attention had brought Jesus into his life. He had been waiting so long for a show of human love, but it was actually a show of God’s love.
These are beautiful examples of the hunger I see in these people, the poorest of the poor, the ignorant and unwanted, the unloved, the rejected and the forgotten. They are hungry for God. This is something you priests must meet continually; not only a hunger in people suffering physically, but also a great hunger in people suffering spiritually and emotionally – people suffering in their hearts and souls.