An important business matter needed attention which necessitated my first trip into Liverpool city centre since Lockdown began in 2020. The sun shone and a gentle breeze kissed my cheeks as I made my way to the train. My fellow travellers and I sat masked and socially distanced on the train. An air of relaxation and new hope prevailed as people milled about the city centre. A growing queue of Mass attendees gathered outside the Blessed Sacrament Shrine. Later, fortified by the Eucharist on the fourth Tuesday in Easter I strolled along Church Street and gave way to the temptation of coffee al fresco. A stone bench beckoned and I relaxed in the sunshine. A little while later, a young woman of about forty approached me. Her opening words were, ‘could you please get me a cup of tea. I had a mental breakdown four months ago when my 17-year-old son was killed in a motor bike accident and I now live on the streets.’ She was clearly distressed at the loss of her son, her clothes hung loosely around her thin frame and the grime of street living was caked into her slim hands; however, graciousness and beauty of soul radiated in her eyes. ‘Of course, I will get you some tea, would you like some sugar in your tea and something to eat.’ ‘Three sugars and a donut please’ her response. She thanked me profusely, I was humbled and we chatted for a little while. I asked her if she was aware of the services that are available to people who live on the streets. ‘I am, however, owing to ‘lockdown’ everything is delayed and I now have to join a long queue for help.’ My heart ached for this lovely woman who had already suffered so much. It led me to reflect ever more deeply on how fragile the mental health of all people is and the massive impact that personal tragedy and pandemic can have on a person. The suffering associated with tragic, unexpected, untimely death crushes the soul; when this is compounded by a lack of resources the ‘strongest, bravest’ person can be broken in an instant. I believe that a timely, compassionate, multi-disciplinary response is necessary if long-term suffering is to be minimised. I then reflected on how church and state are called to work as one for the relief and empowerment of the most vulnerable so that the Gospel message of Easter can be fleshed out in the daily realities of life.
Mary wept at the loss of her son, she now pleads for all women who grieve and asks us to work with her for the protection of women whose suffering has robbed them of their dignity, their children, homes and at times their lives. At this time of Pentecost, we seekers ask for the grace to know how to continue to respond in new ways to the cry of all who weep.