A letter lights a candle in the dark
SOMETIMES my email inbox yields something so precious that I feel it must reach as many eyes and ears as possible. One example is this one sent to me by my dear nuns at the Sœurs de la Famille Missionnaire de Notre-Dame convent in Cannes, France.It is a letter from a priest, addressed to a journalist. I believe it is what we sorely need to hear these days when media and various bashers seem all fangs and claws chasing after the Catholic Church. After reading this letter in its entirety, you might agree with what the Soeurs say of it, “What more can be added? All is said!” So allow me to print the letter here, Google-translated from the French—perhaps awkward in some parts but clear enough, with sentiments fully captured.
“Dear Brother Reporter:
I am a simple Catholic priest. I feel happy and proud of my vocation. For 20 years I’ve lived in Angola as a missionary.
I read in many means of communication, especially in your newspaper, the amplification of the theme of pedophile priests, that a morbid way, looking in detail in the lives of priests, past mistakes.
There is one, in a city in the United States in the 70s, another in Australia in the 80s, and so on, other more recent ….. Certainly all reprehensible cases when real course!
There are weighted and balanced journalistic presentations, other amplified, full of prejudice and even hatred. I feel myself a great pain for the immense harm that people who should be signs of the love of God, be a dagger into the lives of innocent beings. There are no words to justify such acts. There is no doubt that the Church can not be, if not on the side of the weak, the poor. For this reason, all measures that can be taken for the prevention and protection of the dignity of children will always be a top priority.
But it is curious how little news and the lack of interest for the thousands of priests who sacrifice their lives and spend for millions of children, adolescents and for the poor around the world.
I think that your newspaper, it does not interest him:
1) That I had to carry a lot of hungry children by roads mined because of the war in 2002 since Cangumbe to Lwena (Angola), because neither the government could do neither NGOs there were authorized;
2) That I had to bury dozens of dead children because of the movements of the war;
3) Whether we have saved the lives of thousands of people in Mexico through the only existing health center in an area of 90,000 km2 with the distribution of food and seeds;
4) What we could provide are education and schools in the last decade to more than 110,000 children;
5) This remains uninspiring that with other priests, we had to rescue about 15,000 people in the camps of the guerrillas after they surrendered, because the Government of the UN Food and n ‘not arrive;
6) This is not a new interesting that a priest of 75 years, Father Roberto, through the city of Luanda, healing the street children, leading them to a shelter, so they are detoxified of gasoline they aspire earning a living as flame thrower;
7) Literacy of hundreds of prisoners are not new;
8) other priests like Father Stephane, organizing transition houses for young mistreated, beaten, raped, to find refuge;
9) No more, that Father Maiato, 80, visit the homes of the poor one by one comforting the sick and desperate;
10) It’s not news that more than 6,000 among the 40,000 priests and religious today have left their country and their families to serve their brothers in a leper colony, hospitals, refugee camps, orphanages for children accused of sorcery or orphans of parents to AIDS in schools for the poor, vocational training centers, reception centers for HIV positive …… etc ……
11) Or, especially, spending their lives in parishes and missions, motivating people to live better and above all to love;
12) It is not news that my friend Father Marcus Aurelius, to save children during the war in Angola, transported Kalulo in Dondo and in returning from his mission, he was machine-gunned in path; as Brother Francis with five ladies catechists, are killed in an accident, going help the most remote rural areas of the country;
13) That dozens of missionaries in Angola have died for lack of health facilities, because of simple malaria;
14) What others have jumped in the air due to mine by visiting their faithful; Indeed, in the cemetery of Kalulo are the tombs of the first priests who arrived in the region …… none exceeded 40 years ……….;
15) This is not a new one, that of following a “normal” priest in his daily work, its difficulties and joys, spending his life quietly for the community it serves.
The truth is that we are not looking to make the news, if not simply bring the “Good News”, the New, which quietly began on Easter morning. A tree that falls makes more noise than a thousand trees growing.
It makes much ado about a priest who commits a foul than for thousands who give their lives for thousands of poor and needy.
I do not pretend to apologize for the Church and priests.
A priest is neither a hero nor a neurotic. It is simply a normal man who, with his human nature seeks to follow Jesus and to serve Him in his brothers.
There are miseries of poverty and weaknesses like all human beings; but there is beauty and grandeur as in every creature ……… Insist an obsession-born and persecutory manner on a painful topic, losing sight of the whole of the work really creates offensive cartoons of the Catholic priesthood, by which I feel offended.
I ask you only journalist friend, to seek the Truth, Good and Beauty. This will grow your profession.
- Martin Lasarte SDB”
Searching for the letter’s possible presence in the internet I gathered that it is indeed a letter sent to the New York Times in April 2010 and which the paper ignored. It appears to have been published in a blog in January 2011, and then again by zenit.org on May 24, 2011, then in different news agencies again in September and in October 2018. The Salesian author of the letter, Fr. Lasarte is an Uruguayan missionary—perhaps the original was written in Spanish and translated to French, I’m not sure, but the English translations I found vary only in some parts—the spirit of the intention is intact. Why do you think the New York Times ignored it? Maybe because it is the priest’s reaction, expressing his feelings about the media feasting on priests’ abuses while choosing to be blind to the other good things other priests do. That was about eight years ago—today Fr. Lasarte’swords still ring true, and if mainstream media are too biased or cowardly to give way to such expressions, then surely social media can rise to be fair and defend the truth. Fr. Lasarte’s signature in the letter is followed by this quote: “My past, Lord, I entrust to your mercy; my present to your love; My future in your providence.”If even one-tenth of Catholic netizens would give space to this letter, they would be lighting a candle in the dark, proving the reality of God’s providence that Fr. Lasarte is entrusting his future to. And that’s the truth.