by Sr. Monica Prendergast MMM Ireland/Uganda 16.04.2022
A reflection on the grief of a mother whose child died from malnutrition
Lord, I feel sad tonight.
I lift up to you that poor mother I saw today.
Comfort her broken heart and
O Lord, comfort all mothers who mourn
But especially mothers
whose children die of hunger.
For, O Lord, I do not think you meant
Your little ones to feel the pangs of hunger.
What has gone wrong with your fair world?
You never meant so few people
to possess so much
while little children starve.
The grief of that mother haunts me.
She walked many weary miles under the tropical sun
to bring her child to us.
I remember his thin, emaciated body
and his sick little eyes.
He did improve with care
And the worry left her face.
What love she lavished on
her little one!
But today he suddenly died.
Malnutrition had lowered his resistance,
and, O Lord, what grief I saw.
I felt silent and helpless.
She was one of your very poor.
And I saw Calvary re-enacted on
that grassy hill outside our hospital.
For, as your broken Body was wrapped in linen cloths
So now they took this little body
and tenderly wrapped it in bark cloth
and expertly and reverently the father
secured it with bamboo sticks
on the carrier of his bicycle.
A borrowed bicycle – and wasn’t your tomb borrowed too?
I clasped the mother’s hand in silent sympathy
and she said: “Weebale Nnyo”
‘Thank you, Sister, for being kind to my little son.’
With dignity she walked ahead as they began
the long journey home.
And in my mind, I walked with her.
I felt restless and deeply concerned,
Concerned that children must die
while so many are overfed.
Lord, I pray for your world,
This beautiful world whose abundance was meant
to be shared by all.
Raise up again ‘doer of the Word’
Who will challenge the rich nations to distribute
Your bread to the hungry multitude?
Take away hunger, give us
the ‘new earth’!
It is easy to read about starving people,
to look at those thin bodies on TV;
So easy to say: “Let is pray for the hungry.”
But, as St. James said so well:
“Can faith without works save you?
No, it is a dead faith.”
We can so easily be irrelevant in today’s society
if we do not enter deeply into
the lives of the oppressed.
The cry of the poor reaches us daily.
Forgive us, Lord, for the times
we close our eyes to that cry.
We do not want to be involved
so that like those
in the parable of old
we quietly pass by
on the other side!
We receive from your hands,
Lord, the bread of life.
May its recetion inspire us
to share our bread with the hungry.
Thank you for the privilege of being here.
Reward with eternal life the many
who support us and enable us to help
your little ones.
Editor’s Note: This poem/reflection was written by Sr. Monica while she was working in Uganda in 1982. You can see how relevant it is today.