Asking the Why ?

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Years ago I heard a saying and it has always stayed with me: “I gave bread to the hungry and people called me a saint. I asked why people were hungry and people called me a communist”. Of course, there is a story behind the saying.

The work of the Catholic Church is now and has always been deeply involved at all levels of human life. It simply is not possible to separate our belief in a loving God and our responsibility to our neighbor. As the Catholic Church works to respond to the needs of the poor, she has consistently developed programs and services to meet the identified needs. Sometimes these are soup kitchens and food pantries. There are neighborhood medical dispensaries and hospitals as well as all types of educational initiatives and programs such as orphanages and safe houses for folks in need. The list is long as the needs are many.

Most of the time Christians see this work as appropriate and flowing from their life as faithful believers. Yet when the Catholic Church actually asks the question “WHY” there are so many people who are suffering and in need and “WHY” policies, government practices, financial systems and more are not helping to resolve and may be even contributing to the problems, some of the faithful are uncomfortable and some have said that the Church should stay out of politics. And so it is that many are comfortable giving bread to a hungry person (extending charity), but not pleased with asking the reason why there are so many hungry people, (working toward the elimination of hunger by addressing problematic systemic issues). The reasons for this may be varied, but one known reason is that people are not always informed about the dynamics involved and, even if they are, they feel powerless in their ability to effect change on such a grand scale.

The work of the Church in social justice is broad and the areas of concern are many. The following is a list, by no means exhaustive, of some of the more compelling areas: budget – federal and state; elder care; children and child care; criminal justice and prison reform; death penalty; domestic abuse; health care; housing/homelessness; human rights; hunger; human trafficking and environmental justice, immigration, national aid, global poverty, arms control, veteran’s rights, pandemic related issues, and so much more. So many challenges need to be addressed. None of us can do everything, but we can do something to educate ourselves about one of these concerns. Then, by joining our voices with the voices of others who are laboring to create a more just society, change can happen.

As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I want to extend my gratitude to our parishioners and others in the Charlestown Community who so generously contribute to our Parish emergency food pantry, Harvest on Vine and to our Parish conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Until all have enough, these services that provide food and essential items and financial assistance are so greatly needed.

Fr. Ronan