Pope Francis on Solidarity with the Poor 

pope francisToday let us pause from our considerations of the Holy Spirit and consider what Scripture, the Tradition, and the Magisterium all insist is a central expression of true Catholic spirituality: love of the poor.  There are no saints who did not actively love the literal poor.

Francis makes two important points here.  The first is about a change of mindset: you cannot be truly Catholic without this change of mindset – but we cannot hope for a society that cares for the poor without this conversion of heart.  Structures matter, but they are the result of changed hearts.

Second, in the last paragraph below, he nicely makes a key point about private property.  The Church has always condemned socialism. Private property is necessary – so that fields will be well cultivated, so that we can truly care for our neighbor.  In that one sentence is a world of Catholic social thought.  But it also expresses what we said in the previous paragraph: it’s not about eliminating property, it’s about changing hearts, creating Christians who use their property to love their neighbors.

 

Let us recall also how bluntly the apostle James speaks of the cry of the oppressed: “The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (5:4).

The Church has realized that the need to heed this plea is itself born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a question of a mission reserved only to a few: “The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might”. In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37).

It means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. The word “solidarity” is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.

Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property. The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them.

These convictions and habits of solidarity, when they are put into practice, open the way to other structural transformations and make them possible. Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual.

-Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

eric.m.johnston

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