Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dont forget us

So Pope Francis took the ceremonial foot-washing of Maundy Thursday offsite, to a juvenile prison, and washed the feet of inmates there, including two young women, one of whom was a Bosnian Muslim. (I gather the Pope traditionally washes the feet only of priests, certainly only men.) This feels like a big deal. It came reflected back to me today at St. Luke and St. Matthew, my neighborhood Episcopal church here. The young rector (raised Methodist and not someone accustomed to seeing prophetic work done in Rome) devoted most of his Easter sermon to reading aloud letters which inmates of a juvenile prison in California sent Francis on hearing about it. Here are three of those he read:

Dear Pope Francis, 
Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy. 
We also are young and made mistakes. 
Society has given up on us, thank you 
that you have not given up on us. 

 Dear Pope Francis, 
I don't know if you have ever been to where I live. 
I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence. 
I have seen people killed. I have been hurt. 
We have been victims of violence. 
It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness. 
Pray for me that one day I will be free 
and be able to help other youth like you do.

Dear Pope Francis, 
I think you are a humble man. 
When you read this letter you will have washed the feet of other kids like. 
I am writing this letter because you give me hope. 
I know one day with people like you us kids 
won't be given sentences that will keep us in prison for the rest of our lives. 
I pray for you. Dont forget us. 

The priest's somewhat smarmy point was something like "if an old man with one lung can do something in Italy which touches the lives of young people in Los Angeles, think what we could do," but clearly he was touched by Pope Francis' outreach to those on the margins of society. I'm wondering how many other people have been moved by this around the world - women and men, young people and old, Christians and non-Christians - and in what ways. It is a heartening thought for Easter.

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