Category Archives: poor Christ

A man who was poor

Yesterday at a workshop for our parish missionaries, based on the theme of the family, our pastor had us share in groups of five some memories of our childhood.

In our group, one man shared, simply and straightforwardly, without any self-pity, memories of his childhood poverty. In particular, he noted how poor his clothes were.

As he spoke I could only think of him – and of others – who were clothed in rags. As I look back, I realize that at that moment I also felt a strong sense of compassion rising up within me. I had not thought much of this man, but now I have a deeper sense of his life, then and now.

From his sharing about his childhood poverty,God opened me to love.

This morning I thought of the words of St. Peter Faber, SJ, on a holy card I’ve had since 1967:

Christ in so great poverty, I in so great wealth.

Lord, give me compassion. Help me to feel with the poor and lovingly accompany them.

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The treasures of the church

DSC07607Saint Lawrence, a deacon of Rome, was not martyred with his bishop, Pope Sixtus. The prefect of Rome knew that he was in charge of the treasures of the church and demanded that he present them to the Roman authorities.

According of one version of the legend, Lawrence, distributed all the goods of the Church to the poor, the ill, and the widows, even selling the sacred vessels. Then he gathered the poor and presented them to the Roman prefect, announcing, “Here are the treasures of the church.”

Needless to say, the prefect was not impressed and proceeded to have Lawrence martyred on a gridiron. The saint seems to have had a sense of humor. After some time over the flames he told his executioners to turn him over since he was done on that side. (Does this qualifying St. Lawrence as the patron saint of barbecues?)

All kidding aside, Lawrence knew what was important – the glory of God and the poor.

The glory of God is shown when we gather around the table of the Lord, rich and poor, sharing the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The glory of God is also shown when we gather around the table of the poor where all have a part, where all share the goodness of creation, where, in the words of the Salvadoran martyred Jesuit Rutilio Grande, everyone has a place, a stool, around a long shared table.

The servant of God serves God at the table of the Eucharist and the table of the poor – both are part of our mission, our identity.

Recalling the absolute equality around the Lord’s table, where there are no divisions, we gather around a table where those who have more share so that all may experience the abundance of God’s creation.

This may call for sacrifices, for selling what we have, even what we think we need. It might even mean, as it meant for St. Lawrence, selling the goods of the church to feed the poor.

This is not all that radical. It was mentioned by Pope Saint John Paul II in his 1987 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis  [On Social Concern], # 31:

Thus, part of the teaching and most ancient practice of the Church is her conviction that she is obliged by her vocation – she herself, her ministers and each of her members – to relieve the misery of the suffering, both far and near, not only out of her “abundance” but also out of her “necessities.” Faced by cases of need, one cannot ignore them in favor of superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary it could be obligatory to sell these goods in order to provide food, drink, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things. As has been already noted, here we are shown a “hierarchy of values” – in the framework of the right to property – between “having” and “being,” especially when the “having” of a few can be to the detriment of the “being” of many others.

That is the witness of St. Lawrence, as it is the witness of many saints, recall the example of St. Dominic who sold his books to feed the poor in time of famine.

The question then is how can we truly serve God and the poor, recognizing the real treasures of the Church.


The image is from a holy card designed by Ade Bethune. A collection of her works is at St. Catherine University.

 

 

A living Gospel

Yo quiero ser un evangelio viviente
I want to be a living Gospel

Last night in El Zapote Santa Rosa, celebrating St. Francis their patron, the first hymn they sang in their procession had this refrain – “I want to be a living Gospel.”

El Zapote St Francis

In a way that is what Saint Francis is about, being a living Gospel, incarnate in the reality where people live. The subtitle of Lawrence Cunningham’s work Saint Francis  puts it well: “Performing the Gospel Life.”

But for Francis it was not an easy incarnation since it involved following the poor Christ, the God who became poor in Jesus.

How incredible is the Christian faith. We believe in a God who became flesh, who was born poor and lived poor. He could have had anything and saved us in any way, but he became one of us, one of the poor among us.

This week I spent a night with the volunteers at Amigos de Jesús, a home and school for children near Maquelizo, Santa Bárbara. I had shared with them a reading from Padre Pedro Arrupe about the poverty of Christ, part of which can be found here.

One of the women shared with us what she had been reading from a book called The Imitation of Mary. She noted that Mary, saying yes to the Incarnation of Jesus in her body, could have asked God for anything, but she chose poverty.

That remark reflects what Francis wrote in his Letter to All the Faithful:

Though rich beyond counting, He chose poverty, as did His blessed Mother.

How can we, the privileged from the United States, be a living Gospel, be Good News to the poor?

Francis was in many ways like many of us from the north – privileged. But he chose to serve the lepers, to live as one of the marginalized, and to follow the poor Christ by living poor.

What can we do?