Good news for the poor

Make justice your aim.
Isaiah 1: 17 

Today the Catholic Church in the US honors Mother Katherine Drexel who died in 1955 at the age of ninety-six. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for the care of “Indians and Colored People,” in the terminology of her time.

When I was a kid rowing up in Darby, a suburb of Philadelphia, I remember her sisters coming to Mass at our church as part of a mission appeal, asking for funds but also asking us to pray for her canonization.

Although she was born to a wealthy family and inherited an incredible fortune, when she founded her order she made the decision that her fortune would be used for others and that her sisters would beg for money.

With her fortune she founded schools and institutions for Native Americans and Black Americans, including helping fund the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic institution of higher learning for Black Catholic Americans.

Though she was not known as an outspoken advocate of justice, she did speak out against segregation and her sisters working in Harlem were maligned for their identification with Blacks.

She is an example of a person who came from a position of wealth and power but gave not only her wealth, but her life, for those on the margins of society.

She was inspired by her father and her stepmother, who opened the doors of their mansion three times a week to feed and help the poor.

What I find inspiring is that, though she controlled and distributed hundred of thousands of dollars each year, she used none of it for herself or for her congregation of sisters. It was all for others.

She took seriously the phrase from today’s Gospel, “The greatest among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 23: 11)

She sought to be Good news for the poor, in the ways she could. As she once said:

“If we live the Gospel, we will be people of justice and our lives will bring good news to the poor.”

How will I be a person of justice and peace and good news for the poor? How will I dispose of my wealth, compared to the people around me, to be a sign of God’s love for those at the margins? How will I live the Gospel?

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