Dear Salesian Family,
A few years ago, I met a man named Darren. He was no stranger to the parish. He would hang around outside the church asking people for money. Sometimes he would sit in one of last pews during Mass to get out of the cold or rain. Most of the time, he was drunk. Once, Darren stopped me after Mass and gave me $5.00. I told him to keep his money; he needed it much more than I did. He insisted that I take it and use it for the church. (I think I must have made an appeal for donations during Mass.) Thinking back on this simple incident, I wonder who the rich man was and who the poor man was. I had a warm house, a good supper, and an extra jacket; Darren had none of these things, and yet was giving me what he had begged on the street.
As one of the lasting graces of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has asked that the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time be “World Day of the Poor.” This year, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is November 19. The Pope also asked that in this week preceding World Day of the Poor, “Christian communities will make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.” The Pope is clear that this Day, and the week leading up to it, should help us in the conversion of individuals as well as communities, and in the evangelization of neighborhoods and societies. He makes some suggestions about what we can do: draw close to people living in poverty and encounter in them the God you seek; invite people living in poverty to take part in the Eucharist with you; allow people living in poverty to teach you how to live the faith with greater authenticity; learn from people living in poverty how to live simply and trust in Divine Providence. (See Pope Francis’s message for the First World Day of the Poor.)
What will you do, and your religious community or parish or school community, to participate in this First World Day of the Poor? Two weeks ago, Fr. Tom Brennan, province delegate for mission animation, sent to each SDB director some resources that can help engage all the members of our communities in this special moment. Certainly, prayer should be part of our response. Since this day falls very close to Thanksgiving Day in the USA, many of our works will conduct food drives and prepared meals for those living in poverty. Education about the causes of poverty in our world and advocacy to eradicate poverty can also be part of our response. Let’s return, however, to the primary motives of Pope Francis in establishing this First World Day of the Poor. He writes, “This Day is meant, above all, to encourage believers to react against a culture of discard and waste, and to embrace the culture of encounter.”
So what will you do? Please share your activities in brief stories and photos with captions in the next two editions of E-Service. By sharing your activities, we can all be encouraged in the process of our on-going conversion, asking pardon for our pride, selfishness, and indifference, and giving thanks for God’s great mercy.
Wishing you all a blessed World Day of the Poor.
Fr. Tim Zak