Pope Francis this month asks us to pray:
that those suffering from addiction may be helped and accompanied.
Here we see Pope Francis opening wide the Door of Mercy at the cathedral of Bangui, in his words as “a sign of faith and hope” for the people of the Central African Republic and “symbolically for the whole African population who are most in need of rescue and comfort.”’
My great-great grandfather, an actor, is seen here with a gin bottle, then a cheap source of alcohol and oblivion – not what Francis meant by comfort. Mother’s ruin, it was called. Many were addicted to it, and attracted the attention of the forces of law and order; here, it seems, the gin itself is under arrest.
I’m not sure what Grandfather would have made of the rough sleepers and street drinkers of today. Many seem to avoid the people who might be willing and able to help, stuck in their personal deserts. We saw that with Ruby, eighteen months ago. I don’t think she was addicted to any substances, but she most definitely was refusing to have anything to do with me. I hope she’s accepted help and is making her way somewhere.
The illegal drugs for sale on our streets have taken the place of 19th Century cheap alcohol. As well as those who are addicted, we should be praying for a change of heart along the supply chain. How do we support young people who are vulnerable to the suppliers? I first met Ruby when she was in care but lost touch when I left that job; she more than likely went overnight from being well accompanied in a residential home to almost no support ‘in the community’. If our society were merciful, that would not happen but Francis called us to be merciful like the Father during the Year of Mercy. We should not stop being merciful!
Pope Francis’s prayer needs to be consolidated with action to accompany, not only those already addicted, but also those most obviously at danger of becoming addicted. The very least any of us could do is to have a smile or a ‘good morning’ for whoever we meet. They may need it today! If you do it to one of these little ones, you do it to me.