Meditation: Fighting Slavery through the Sacrifice of Christ
Pelegrino FAITH Magazine July-Aug 2007
Henriette Delille was a coloured/creole or “quadroon” girl born in New Orleans in 1812. Although her family was prosperous, as a descendent of slaves she was expected to make her way in society by becoming available as a “mistress” to rich white men. Special dances were organised in a ballroom in the city where quadroon girls were chosen by their corrupt patrons. Henriette refused to co-operate. Already at the age of fourteen she had formed a deep spiritual life and had begun to teach local slaves about the love of God and train them for baptism and ministering to the sick and elderly among them. Needless to say she got into a lot of trouble for all this. But she became a woman of immense courage and determination.
She gathered a group of like minded women around her and formed a religious community to defend the human rights and cater for the spiritual needs of slave and coloured girls. During the American civil war she walked into the army camps of both sides to denounce the abuse of black girls as “camp followers”. Eventually, after much opposition, she managed to buy the actual ballroom where she was once going to be sold into high class prostitution. She turned the building into a convent, a house of prayer and care for the socially excluded women of the southern United States. Her community still exists and flourishes as the Sisters of The Holy Family.
Every new generation hopes that they can make the world a better place. We see so many things that are wrong with our world and we want to change them. But how do we achieve that? How do we turn our dreams of a better world into reality? Talk is easy, but making a lasting difference takes courage and integrity, willingness to stick your neck out, accepting loneliness and misunderstanding. It needs perseverance and involves many setbacks. It often means letting others take the glory, even being misunderstood by those you are trying to help. It means putting aside personal ambitions and the desire for a comfortable life. This is why the saints are the real heroes and heroines of humanity. They are the true revolutionaries who change the world through the power of self-sacrificing love,which is the way of Jesus Christ.
Henriette Delille wrote “I believe in God. I hope in God. I love and I want to live and die for God”. She was a woman of faith as well as courage. She drew the energy and love she needed to change the world around her directly from the heart of Jesus. That is the only way to do anything truly worthwhile and make changes to our world without distorting the work through our own subconscious faults and ambitions. The way of sacrifice and charity is learned from the crucified Christ and turned into reality through the power of the risen Lord.