Recent Posts

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Popes And The Poor

St. John Paul II and the Pope Emeritus spoke and wrote about the poor. St. John XXIII wrote and spoke about the poor. Pope Pius XII and Pope Leo XIII wrote and spoke about the poor.

But, some Catholics are not listening still to the cry of the poor in our societies. The care of the poor is not the business of government, primarily, but the business of the Church.

Speaking, reflecting on and helping the poor is not the stuff of liberal Catholics only.

I personally know several trad families who are generous to the poor. These good Catholics go beyond what the minimum is for answering the corporal works of mercy.

I praise them.

In Mater et Magistra, the very first encylical I read as a very young person, St. John XXIII states this:

55. But however extensive and far-reaching the influence of the State on the economy may be, it must never be exerted to the extent of depriving the individual citizen of his freedom of action. It must rather augment his freedom while effectively guaranteeing the protection of his essential personal rights. Among these is a man's right and duty to be primarily responsible for his own upkeep and that of his family. Hence every economic system must permit and facilitate the free development of productive activity.
56. Moreover, as history itself testifies with ever-increasing clarity, there can be no such thing as a well-ordered and prosperous society unless individual citizens and the State co-operate in the economy. Both sides must work together in harmony, and their respective efforts must be proportioned to the needs of the common good in the prevailing circumstances and conditions of human life.
57. Experience has shown that where personal initiative is lacking, political tyranny ensues and, in addition, economic stagnation in the production of a wide range of consumer goods and of services of the material and spiritual order—those, namely, which are in a great measure dependent upon the exercise and stimulus of individual creative talent.
58. Where, on the other hand, the good offices of the State are lacking or deficient, incurable disorder ensues: in particular, the unscrupulous exploitation of the weak by the strong. For men of this stamp are always in evidence, and, like cockle among the wheat, thrive in every land.

However, it must be said that there the heresies of the Protestant Work Ethic and the false idea of Providence blessings being seen in this world have crept into the consciousness of so many Catholics. I see it daily. In an effort not to fall into the heresy of socialism, too many Catholics deny the call to help the poor, which is a personal call as well as a societal one.

23. As for those who possess not the gifts of fortune, they are taught by the Church that in God's sight poverty is no disgrace, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of in earning their bread by labor. This is enforced by what we see in Christ Himself, who, "whereas He was rich, for our sakes became poor";(18) and who, being the Son of God, and God Himself, chose to seem and to be considered the son of a carpenter - nay, did not disdain to spend a great part of His life as a carpenter Himself. "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?"(19)

24. From contemplation of this divine Model, it is more easy to understand that the true worth and nobility of man lie in his moral qualities, that is, in virtue; that virtue is, moreover, the common inheritance of men, equally within the reach of high and low, rich and poor; and that virtue, and virtue alone, wherever found, will be followed by the rewards of everlasting happiness. Nay, God Himself seems to incline rather to those who suffer misfortune; for Jesus Christ calls the poor "blessed";(20) He lovingly invites those in labor and grief to come to Him for solace;(21) and He displays the tenderest charity toward the lowly and the oppressed. These reflections cannot fail to keep down the pride of the well-to-do, and to give heart to the unfortunate; to move the former to be generous and the latter to be moderate in their desires. Thus, the separation which pride would set up tends to disappear, nor will it be difficult to make rich and poor join hands in friendly concord. 

Too many Catholics in America, as I have written on this blog, have middle class sensibilities. They do not understand that at any moment they could fall through the cracks and be very poor.

There are too many Catholics who cannot accept strangers or those who do not fit into their social set.
We are not judged on loving those who love us, but loving those who do not, at least at first, love us.

 I need to forgive almost daily those who judge me, those who cannot trust someone who is poor, who is not situated comfortably. Even today, again, I met prejudice through someone who "does not know my family" and would never trust "someone who is online".

Forgive and forget...but we are not on the same wavelength and I cannot convince her otherwise. She is the one who closed a door to friendship in the Lord. God bless her.

At some time in the near future. in America and in Europe, there will be social and financial upheaval as we have never seen before in our lifetime.

Will you turn away someone at your door? Will you turn away from personally helping the poor?

My mother remembers her great-grandmother from Bohemia feeding tramps on her back porch during the recession. The old woman could not speak English but she made sandwiches and passed out beverages.

God blessed her with sons who became priests,  all but two, and all her daughters became nuns out of eight or nine children.

There is a connection.

Perhaps more than any other recent pope, Pope Francis speaks of the poor readily. We need this teaching right now. 

Sometimes, I hear TLM people say it is not their problem to help the poor, but the governments. Leo XIII and Pius XII would disagree with them.

to be continued....