Seeing with compassion

“I’d rather die young, having lived a life crammed with meaning, than to die old, even in security, but without meaning.”
Mev Puleo

 On January 12, 1996, Mev Puleo, theologian, photojournalist. advocate of the poor, died at the age of 32, of cancer.

A good friend of her teacher, Father John Kavanaugh, S.J., author of Following Christ in a Consumer Society: The Spirituality of Cultural Resistance,  she was moved as a teenager at the contrast between the rich and the poor on a trip to Rio de Janeiro.

Her photos of the poor (some included in her book with Fr John Kavanaugh, Faces of Poverty, Faces of Christ) and her interviews with liberation theologians (The Struggle is One) reveal a woman with a passion for the poor.  You can also see some of her photos here.

I often have mixed feelings about taking and sharing photos of the poor, especially children, as did Mev Puelo.  As she once wrote:

“Dare I invade their lives, steal this moment?” Yet how can I  not  share these children with the world, bringing them back with me to hearts who might receive them, voices who might speak for them?

In today’s Gospel, Mark 1: 40-55, Jesus has compassion on the leper who comes, asking to be healed. The Greek word means to “feel from one’s guts.” But I noticed that in at least one Greek manuscript another word was used that means “filled with anger.” Was Jesus angry at the marginalization of the leper, as we should be angry and compassionate at the marginalization of the poor? All too often the world does not see the poor.

May Mev Puleo’s writings and photos move us and many to anger and compassion – working with Christ and the poor in the healing of our broken world.



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