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Jesus' Command: 'Give Them Some Food' View Comments
By Text and Photos by John Feister

BY MID-FEBRUARY, Catholics everywhere will be thinking Lent. It’s a time of the year when we aren’t squeamish about being Catholic, whether it’s wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday, observing meatless Fridays, or giving up something special and not fretting if people know about it. It’s a time when we repent of our usual ways and reflect on who we really are—and who we are to become.

This Lent, I want you to follow me on a trip to Niger, the poorest nation on earth. I went to this West African nation and neighboring Burkina Faso with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) last October. I came back with reams of notes, interviews, photos, and videos. We visited about 15 program sites in all. In the following pages, I want to share with you only a few highlights.

Faced with great poverty, I saw an incredible response to Jesus’ command to feed the hungry. CRS is our Church at work, doing incredible good. In a time when the Church in parts of our country is weary of argument, scandal, and shortcoming, I thought you’d like to know that.

Three CRS staff were among our guides, and I’ll depend upon them to help tell this story. They know the ins and outs of CRS’ work in these two countries. But more important, their own commitment says a lot about what our Church is doing in West Africa.

It is not an easy thing. There’s the decade-old drought and resultant widespread hunger in the Sahel, this region just below the Sahara Desert. And the US nemesis, al-Qaeda, has fomented political instability to the north and south of these countries. War is brewing even now, as the United Nations is assembling a multinational army to run al-Qaeda out of northern Mali, which borders both Burkina Faso and Niger. Refugees are fleeing without water, food, or shelter.

We journalists, in fact, wound up with an armed military escort for part of our visit and had to change plans to avoid a dangerous area near the Mali border. We’ll get to that as our story unfolds.

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John Feister is editor in chief of this publication. He has master’s degrees in humanities and in theology from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort: Louis's life is inseparable from his efforts to promote genuine devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus and mother of the Church. <i>Totus tuus </i>(completely yours) was Louis's personal motto; Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II, October 22) chose it as his episcopal motto. 
<p>Born in the Breton village of Montfort, close to Rennes (France), as an adult Louis identified himself by the place of his Baptism instead of his family name, Grignion. After being educated by the Jesuits and the Sulpicians, he was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1700. </p><p>Soon he began preaching parish missions throughout western France. His years of ministering to the poor prompted him to travel and live very simply, sometimes getting him into trouble with Church authorities. In his preaching, which attracted thousands of people back to the faith, Father Louis recommended frequent, even daily, Holy Communion (not the custom then!) and imitation of the Virgin Mary's ongoing acceptance of God's will for her life. </p><p>Louis founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom, who cared especially for the sick. His book <i>True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin</i> has become a classic explanation of Marian devotion. </p><p>Louis died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where a basilica has been erected in his honor. He was canonized in 1947.</p> American Catholic Blog The Lord has given us human beings the ability to reason. We have an intellect and are able to use our reasoning skills to arrive at logical decisions. As long as our conclusions don't conflict with any of the Lord's teachings, He absolutely expects us to use our intelligence.


 
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