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Father Muench Says...

Becoming a Church for the poor

Nov. 6, 2013

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to recommend to you a magazine article written by Bishop Robert McElroy, the Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, published in the recent America Magazine  entitled “A Church For the Poor.”  The subtitle of the article is “Pope Francis Makes Addressing Poverty Essential.”

Pope Francis speaks often of a Church of the poor and for the poor. 

Bishop Elroy picks up on the Pope’s lead that our Church must make the needs of poor a priority for our Church. 
Bishop McElroy writes this, “The teachings of Pope Francis on a church for the poor not only speak to the centrality of addressing poverty as an imperative for Catholics in the public order, but also call us to look anew at the nature of the common good in society and how we seek to achieve it.”

I would like to share a bit of this with you.  How must we reach to this call to be a Church for the Poor?  Our challenge begins with the attitude of materialism that can invade our society and even make us ignore the whole question of poverty in our world. 

So, in this article, we are reminded of three false cultures that materialism often thrives upon and I must admit them often touch my life.

First off, there is the culture of comfort that makes us think only of ourselves.  So, we all have to face the fact that all too often we make decisions based on our own comfort and ease.  Selfishness can influence us.  So, we don’t even think of the poor and needy – those who have little comfort – those we might be able to help.
Then, there is the culture of waste that seizes the gifts of the created order to savor for a moment and then discard them. 

A culture of waste – there are many examples, aren’t there? We buy groceries without care and then ending up wasting some, just throwing them out.  Often, we waste more than could be enough for say a needy family.
The real problem is our attitude.  Overcoming waste – truly it would make me a better person, a more caring person.

Then, there is the culture of indifference that desensitizes us to the suffering of others, no matter how intense, no matter how sustained. 

The question each of us must face – do we really care? In our country, too many children are dying from disease and malnutrition.  If we care, then this must become a real concern.

Pope Francis challenges our Church to shake off these cultures of indifference and comfort.  The Church of the poor must elevate these issues along with all of our other concerns as Catholics.

So, Bishop McElroy reminds us, Catholics, that while there are many concerns that we speak about and preach about and work for – now, the poor in our place and in our world must be one of our concerns.

He ends his article by writing this, “In the end, the very purpose of Catholic political conversations is to help our nation see human suffering and human striving, not through the lens of politics but as God sees them. 

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