The annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick took place on Sunday last. After making the pilgrimage, the popes representative in Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown said that making the pilgrimage up Ireland’s holiest mountain had been a “beautiful and unforgettable experience” and that it was personally gratifying to see a crowd of thousands making a journey of faith.
“I think that it is a great expression of the continuity of the Faith in Ireland,” he said. “On the first level I would say that it is a great confirmation for me that the Faith is very deep and in spite of everything it continues. “ And the second thing is that every pilgrimage is an image of the life of faith, and this pilgrimage, which is quite difficult, is a great image of what it means to be a Catholic. “It means in a sense to struggle for the life of faith, to fight for one’s faith, to put one foot in front of the other, to always go forward, to help one another on the path.”
The Shoeshine Boy
Shoeshine boys are on the lowest rung of the ladder in the Third World—almost always homeless, and often as young as five or six years old, they eke out a miserable living on the streets of every African capital. By day, they aim to make enough to keep hunger at bay; at night, they sleep together in small groups in doorways or disused buildings.
The young boy who shone my shoes in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, that day was no different. Barefooted and clothed in rags, he couldn’t have been more than nine of ten years old. Without the chance of education, he was doomed to spend the rest of his life on these streets and, most probably, to die on them.
My shoes shined, I stood up and paid the young lad before walking on into the city. Fifteen minutes later, arriving at the door of my hotel, I heard a shout and looked around to see the shoeshine boy running after me. Perspiration dripping from his forehead, he held out his hand with a smile. He was holding my wallet, which I must have dropped by his stall earlier.
One of the most extraordinary things about this story is that I was due to fly the following day to Guinea to buy supplies for a project we had just opened, and as a result I was carrying at lease $5,000 in my wallet. The notes were bulging out of the sides. This boy had found more money than he could ever dream of making in his entire working life and he was offering to give it back to me. He didn’t have enough money to buy shoes, but he hadn’t touched a note in the wallet.
The Third World is full of contradictions, but none more striking than this: in the midst of some of the worst poverty, you can discover the greatest human qualities.
John O’Shea. Founder of Goal.
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
An honest man’s the noblest work of God.
Robert Burns (1759—1796)