One Day In Paris.
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It was the year 1949 and a wise, charismatic old priest called Abbe Pierre had been called to the banks of the river Seine by the French police. A man they had rescued from committing suicide stood before him cold, wet and shaking. He was a bankrupt alcoholic, his wife and family long gone, who had served 20 years in prison for murder and had only recently been released back into the community. The police told the priest that they didn't know what to do with him, apart from locking him up overnight they had nowhere else to send him. The priest Abbe Pierre was a former M.P. and also a World War Two resistance fighter against the occupying German forces. He was already trying his best to look after the poor and needy and had spent all his savings on the destitute in Paris and his own home was full to overflowing with the homeless.
The priest just didn't know what to do, but addressing the man the priest said, “I'm afraid I have nothing left to offer you, but why don’t you give yourself to me and together we will try and save others.” Who can say what inspired Fr Pierre to make this unusual offer and also what made this sad, wretched man understand exactly what he was being offered.
Whatever it was, Emmaus was born out of misery and despair. The man later said that he would have tried to commit suicide again, but was saved by the realisation that for all his past wrongdoings he felt he still had something left in him that he could give to others.
There are now Emmaus Communities in over 45 different countries, but where did this name come from? In the Gospel, Emmaus is a place of new beginnings. It was at the inn in Emmaus that two of the disciples encounter the risen Christ as he breaks bread at a table with them and opens their eyes to new hope and joy of the resurrection.
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
“Are the people we surround ourselves with affirming and confirming?
We don’t need anyone to remind us how difficult and tough life is, but we do need encouragement to face every day and we have to instil dignity and reverence in everyday life.”