Being Christ on the Streets

A very inspiring and humbling article:

ROME (CNS) — With her hair dyed an unnatural shade of red and a thin green shawl draped over her, Carmelite Sister Begona Arroya stands out among nuns in a convent overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

But when she is ministering in southern Spain to prostitutes from all over the world, she blends right in.

“I dress so I won’t intimidate the women I need to reach,” said Sister Begona, 41, with a smile. “I have no office, just a cell phone and a car.”

Good Shepherd Sister Magdalena Barsan Bilibok, 28, of Romania is studying in Italy. She participates in a street outreach group in Rome that befriends exploited women.

“There are places in Rome where men in cars come to buy sex and there are many, many women, all from foreign countries, lined up to go with them,” said Sister Magdalena. “Of course, pimps are behind almost all the girls on the streets.

“It is so terrible. The girls get in the car, and when they come back, most look completely gone, like they don’t exist, they are destroyed by this,” she said. “We talk to them and pray with them. We serve them hot tea.”

Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti, who spent 24 years in Kenya before returning to Italy “as a missionary in my own country,” recalled the words of a woman who sought shelter in a safe house run by women religious.

“She said, ‘They destroyed my life.’ And she repeated it, ‘They destroyed my life.’ And a third time, again. Every word was like a bomb,” said Sister Eugenia.

A sister giving a prostitute a cup of tea might be laughable to some – it might seem like putting a bandage on a gaping, mortal wound. But what the cup of tea says is: “you are human, you are valuable to God and to me. You are worth loving.” And it helps restore, in a small but meaningful way, to the prostitute her dignity and humanity.

We cannot change every reality. We cannot make the fact that there will “always” be poor and “always” be exploited people go away, no matter how much we would like to. The world is broken, and as long as some humans are willing to treat other human beings as “things” first and foremost, then prostitution and other forms of exploitation will continue to be part of the world.

Jesus knew this. He did not just show up and clear the streets of the poor, the sick, the lame, the slave, the prostitutes, the soldiers and so forth. If he had, that would have been lovely for a few days, but it would have ultimately changed nothing, because the brokenness would still exist. He healed those who asked – many clearly did not – but also taught how to live in this broken world by being Christ for each other. In the Culture of Life, no one gets thrown away.

I think what these nuns do is remarkable, laudable and very worthwhile, even if others would disagree, or mock it, or declare it “useless.” It’s easy to judge, much harder to do. Even more difficult – without grace – to “be.” These nuns are doing and be-ing. Pray for them. Pray to be more like them, and so to be more like Christ.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Maggie45

    I am totally humbled by these wonderful nuns. How many seeds are they planting while performing this amazing service? God love them, they are on my daily prayer list from now on.It’s going to be as long as your’s pretty soon. (smile)

    Also…did you happen to notice who sponsored the conference?

    OT, but I had mentioned when I ordered the Midnight Vigils blend from the Good Monks, that I would tell you how I liked it. It’s just a tad too dark for me, but I”m grinding a few tbs of the Breakfast Blend in with it, and it’s a perfect combination for me. I’m planning on trying all the blends over time. So far my favorites are Mystic Monk(medium dark), and Hazlenut, which serves as my DESSERT when I have it with cream. I think I’ll have some now. MMmmmm

    [Maggie- try the Hermit's Bold - I suspect it's a little less dark than the's my new fave along with the Rum/Pecan one, which is truly...dessert! -admin]

  • Foxfier

    What was that line…. “Preach the gospel at all times. If absolutely needed, use words.”

  • Foxfier

    Oooh! Anchoress, how long have you had an “email replies” button?!

  • Poulette

    This makes me think of the people I see every day here in Paris lining the streets through the Bois de Boulogne. So, so many prostitutes, both men and women. On cold days, some of them huddle together, they’re wearing so little clothing. A report on French tv about them nearly broke my heart–one wonders what must have happened in their lives to lead them to this point. Please pray for them, that they too might learn to love themselves, acknowledge their inherent dignity as a child of God, and feel the love and peace of Christ.