In the Earlier Rule (IX FF32), St. Francis of Assisi tells us: “Let each one confidently make known his need to another that the other might discover what is needed and minister to him. Let each one love and care for his brother as a mother loves and cares for her son in those matters in which God has given him the grace.” Thus, the one who is in need has today become “my brother”.
Helping the needy is not a recent thing for our Conventual Franciscan communities in Lebanon. For a long time, our confreres have been feeding a local group of more than forty elderly people, twice a week. Then the friars help many others in need, providing shelter, medicine, food, etc. The friars also help families who cannot pay for schooling for their children.
These days, however, because of the popular uprising, the financial crisis, Covid-19, and above all the explosion at the Port of Beirut, Lebanon is undergoing a further crisis. More and more, the needy are knocking on the doors of our friaries. The friars donate hundreds of food parcels and St. Anthony’s bread is multiplied every day. Providence is making itself felt!
This situation has led the confreres to pose some questions: “Who is this person asking for help? Should I help him? Is it my responsibility? How can I help him? “
These questions have become a challenge. They have helped the friars become more selfless and to think together with their brothers and sisters in need. Thus our two communities in Lebanon, Zahleh and Sin el Fil (Beirut), are collaborating. It was decided to relaunch the project financed by Caritas Antoniana for a soup kitchen. Working in their own friaries, the confreres have prepared a space for this purpose and have gotten the project started. The financial crisis and the explosion, however, have slowed things down. We have finally finished all the structural work and have moved on to the daily work of helping our brothers in need.
The above-mentioned activities are still ongoing, but we are trying something different. We wanted a fraternal approach in our outreach to the other: “going to the outskirts” as Pope Francis often says. We cook for our brothers in need and deliver hot meals to their homes. The situation requires commitment, but it gives so much satisfaction. The “other” is no longer a foreigner; on the contrary, he is “my brother”. Moreover, the people reflect this, even if they have nothing to offer; they always invite us to have a coffee with them and tell us of their joys. They do not talk about their problems, instead, they are happy that someone has entered their home; they feel dignity, a fraternal embrace, and no longer feel they have been rejected by society.
Starting with this fraternal joy, on Tuesday, January 12, 2020, thanks to the collaboration of the non-profit Hot Pot Meal and several volunteers, people began delivering hot meals to about a hundred people: young and old, Christians and Muslims. This service will be carried out every Tuesday with double portions of food. It is a joy for the people and a joy for the friars.
The project’s first test was carried out during Christmas by the friars from Zahle and Sin el Fil. It was a very successful test!
This fraternal joy has also been made possible by the friars of our Order around the world, and by many anonymous benefactors. We thank the Lord and ask Him to bless everyone abundantly for what has been done and what continues to be done.
Greetings of Peace and All Good!
Friar Felician TAMAŞ and the Friars of Lebanon