Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Evangelization and the Preferential Option for the Poor

Testimony to Christ's charity, through works of justice, peace, and development, is part and parcel of evangelization... Benedict XVI - Caritas in Vertitate

Between evangelization and human advancement - development and liberation - there are in fact profound links. Paul VI - EvangeliiNuntiandi

" And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' " Matthew 25:40

The necessary link between human advancement and evangelization spoken of by Paul VI is reiterated in Benedict XVFs latest encyclical. He reminds us that we are not only responsible for our own personal growth, but also for giving testimony to Christ in works of love and for helping others - family, friends, fellow parishioners, members of the Cenacle family, neighbors, fellow citizens of our country, and even people all around the globe. A particular emphasis of this love is the preferential option for the poor "which requires that the [needy], the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church - 182). These deeds of charity, which show this special concern, are traditionally referred to as the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Father Judge not only undertook these works of mercy in traditional ways, but looked for ways to do them in the particular circumstances of early 20th North America. To mention 2 such efforts: he led the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity to staff the settlement house which the Rev. Dr. White was developing in Brooklyn - Gold Street - to counteract the influence of the Protestant institutions and to care for recent Catholic immigrants. It was a center, not only of apostolate, but also of the social work outreach that was soon to grow in Catholic circles. Father also made it possible for members of the clergy who battled with alcoholism to serve as chaplains at various Cenacle missions, since before Alcoholics Anonymous, there was not suitable help for these men. And the Cenacle family has continued these works of mercy and many others, in institutional ways and particularly as individuals in the providence of everyday life.

It is a happy paradox that in helping others - giving of ourselves - we often receive a gift of developing latent talents and in turn being helped by those we aim to help. Each of us needs to think about what we are currently doing to care for the needs of others, how we can improve the service that we offer, and how we can get others involved in this work. It could be that we could volunteer with groups that manage soup kitchens and food pantries; perhaps it is to develop professional skills so that people in need have access to clean water or to instruct people who are illiterate, etc.; maybe, for the laity especially, it is to take an active role in civic affairs, and advocate for measures that meet the pressing needs in our local communities, home countries, and in international hotspots. However, we need to keep in mind, that no government structures can replace the personal contact and concern of individuals and local groups that are right on the ground in areas in want.

Perhaps it is time to question ourselves, knowing that each of us needs to personalize this examen:

How am I providing for the material and spiritual needs of those Our Lord has placed around me? What more could I be doing ?

Am I familiar with the Church's social doctrine and do I help others understand the power of these principles?

Is my prayer narrow and concerned only with my own and local needs? Or does it reach to global concerns?

Do stories of want in the media move me to pray for those involved? And to get involved myself in alleviating the sufferings of others?

Theresa Panzera Ad Hoc Committee for the New Evangelization 

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