“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)”
Every February 14th, we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Traditionally in the United States, it is a holiday for expressing love, whether romantic or platonic, with candy, flowers and cards. Children pass out Valentine cards and tiny heart shaped candy to their classmates. Husbands bring their wives flowers and chocolates, sometimes jewelry. Many couples celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic dinner. Kids give their parents homemade construction paper Valentines.
While the florists, greeting card companies and candy companies tell us that February 14th is the day that we should express love to one another, the Church teaches us to love our neighbor every day. The Principle of the Human Person, the bedrock principle of the Ten Foundational Principles in the Social Teaching of the Church, is the idea that every person is worthy of respect. Each human being is worthy of respect no matter what- regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation, health, intelligence, employment, achievement or economic status, or any other characteristic.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church teaches that “every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family.” The Church teaches that every person, from the moment of conception until natural death, inherently has dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Being human is an automatic entitlement to dignity. God is the sole source of our human dignity, and no human being can take it away. A person cannot earn dignity nor can he or she lose their dignity.
Since Catholic social thought revolves around humans being part of a family, or members of the community, individual dignity transfers upon the individual a place in the community, or membership in the human family. Everyone in the human family deserves to be valued and respected.
This Valentine’s Day, reflect upon loving your brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus taught his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Act with compassion and love towards your neighbor, no matter their situation. As part of the human family, we need to look after our brothers and sisters. There are so many members of our human community who are suffering, impoverished, in need of basic life essentials or in emotional pain. We can lift them up. Transforming lives is possible. See the face of Christ in every member of the human family.
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Philadelphia has many ways, customized to each local community for you to transform the lives of your neighbors as well as your own life. Like that of its founder, blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the vision of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “is to embrace the world in a network of charity.”
“Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise. (Luke 3:11)”
January is Poverty Awareness Month. The U.S. Bishops, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Catholics in the United States are working together to address Pope Francis’ call to live in solidarity with those in poverty.
The statistics on poverty in the U.S. are staggering. The federal government defines a household living below the poverty line as those with a yearly income of less than $24,000 per year. This means that people earning the minimum wage or even those holding down several low paying jobs, workers living paycheck to paycheck who are suddenly out of a job, or seniors living on fixed incomes are all living in poverty, from rural areas to the inner cities.
According to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, 2016 statistics show that 13.8% of U.S. men and 16.3% of U.S. women were living below the poverty line. The rate for single parent families with no husband present is as high as 26.6%. 21% of disabled Americans, more than 4 million, are living in poverty. The poverty rate for children in 2016 was 21.2%, almost 1 in every 5 American children, a heartbreaking statistic.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development also finds that of those living below the poverty line, 6.7%, or 21.3 million Americans, live in deep poverty. This means that their income is below 50% of the poverty threshold. They also cite that 29.8% of Americans, 95 million people, live close to poverty.
Those living in poverty or close to it are struggling for the basic needs many of us take for granted, like shelter and food. The US. Department of Agriculture estimated in 2016 that approximately 15.6 million households were struggling to put food on the table. The National Center of Family Homelessness found in 2014 that more than 2.5 million U.S. children are homeless at some point during the course of a year.
The Voice of the Poor, the advocacy arm of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, identifies the issues critical to those living in poverty. VOP helps bring these issues to the attention of our elected officials, with the goal of government and communities developing strategies to reduce or eliminate poverty. VOP consists of members representing every section and demographic of the U.S., because poverty is far reaching and affects people in all corners of our nation.
Our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., have the ability to bring about legislation that can help the poor and needy members of society that St. Vincent de Paul Society serves. By informing our representatives of the statistics and stories of the poor and suffering that we serve, we can help those who are in desperation.
We are called to service by our Catholic values, and there are many ways that you can help to raise awareness and help those suffering from poverty. Join with St. Vincent de Paul Society to serve your neighbor as Jesus taught us, whether by working to make others aware of the need that exists to enact change, or by helping to provide the essentials, such as food, clothing, shelter or transportation. Act with compassion and love to provide hope to those who have none. See the face of Christ in every individual you encounter, even the homeless cowering in the street. Think of the children who do not know when they will eat next. Remember that there are so many who are constantly suffering, especially during these cold winter months.
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Philadelphia has many ways, customized to each local community for you to transform the lives of your neighbors as well as your own life. Like that of its founder, blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the vision of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “is to embrace the world in a network of charity.” 000000
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians5:17)”
The Christmas season has come and gone, and a brand new year is upon us. December’s hustle and bustle, shopping for presents, tree trimming, and holiday get-togethers are over. The Feast of the Epiphany has passed, and with it all the Christmas decorations have been put away. The days are beginning to grow longer. Winter’s cold winds are here. As 2019 begins, so does the opportunity to ring in the new and make a fresh start- physically, emotionally, and also spiritually.
Many of us take the opportunity at the start of the New Year to make resolutions. Some people resolve to improve their diet by consuming more fruits and vegetables, eating healthier. Some of us will resolve to reduce our intake of fatty, sugary foods and alcoholic beverages, especially after the gluttony of the holidays, with an abundance of sweets and heavy meals. Some resolve to start a new exercise regimen and get into better physical condition, maybe joining (and regularly visiting) a health gym. Some of us resolve to do a better job of cleaning our homes and organizing our clutter.
Then there are those of us whose resolutions include a change in our emotional behaviors. . Perhaps we resolve to be more patient with our children, spouses, or parents, or try to better control our tempers. Some of us will resolve to spend more time with family. Some of us will resolve to appreciate the precious quality of life, and stop taking our lives and our families for granted.
The New Year is also a time for making positive changes in our spiritual lives. One of the ways in which we can make move closer to God is by resolving to help others who are less fortunate than us by acting with compassion and love. We are called to service by our Catholic values. Charity allows us to see the face of Christ in our neighbor. Helping those who need it most makes transforming lives possible. We should follow the example that Jesus set. Instead of looking past someone who is suffering, take action to help them in their time of need. Help might be in the form of offering them basic necessities like food or shelter, or it might be giving them emotional comfort or hope in their time of desperation.
Refresh your soul by refreshing the soul of your neighbor. When you help someone else, you help yourself in the process. It is so rewarding to improve someone else’s life, and feel as though you have made a difference. When transforming other people’s lives, you may transform yours in the process.
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Philadelphia has many ways, customized to each local community, for you to resolve to make a fresh start this year spiritually and transform the lives of your neighbors as well as your own life. Like that of its founder, blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the vision of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “is to embrace the world in a network of charity”.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Christmas is a season of good will toward others. As we are called to service by our Catholic values, we can look to Jesus’ example in transforming lives during the Advent season.
Amidst the modern commercialism of Christmas, it is easy to forget the true spirit of the season. Many people get caught up in the Christmas rush, worrying about completing shopping lists and dealing with the hustle and bustle of the season. Christmas is truly a time to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. During this time we are reminded that the Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Giving is what Christmas is all about.
For many, the holiday season abounds with delights for the senses. Sparkling lights, festive music, brilliant decorations, splendid gifts, and decadent foods are what many of us associate with Christmas time. In contrast, the poor and needy experience a very different Christmas season. It is important to be charitable to those less fortunate all year-long, but particularly during Christmas. At this time of year, many families feel especially constrained. When they are already struggling to afford basic necessities like food and shelter, holiday meals and gifts are not possible.
While many of us have a full refrigerator and stocked pantry, too many men, women and children know all too well the painful grumble of an empty stomach. Some families do not know where their next meal will come from. Instead of retiring each evening to a warm bed in a safe and comfortable home, many of our neighbors have no place to call home. They are left to sleep out in the freezing cold with nothing but a hard sidewalk on which to lie down. While many children awake to a glorious treasure of presents under the brightly lit Christmas tree, some children wish for just one small toy.
Despite all the suffering that is around us, transforming lives is possible. You can take action to help those in need and perhaps ease their burdens. See the face of Jesus in your neighbor. Act with compassion and love. Spread hope this Christmas by donating whatever you can to those in need.
Whether you choose to donate your time, your talents, or food, clothing, or money, do as Jesus would have, and offer whatever you can to those who need it most. If you cannot give in abundance, give in ways that you can afford. Live your faith by loving and serving others as Jesus did – giving of yourself.
You will feel most blessed when you provide emotional comfort and hope to the suffering. When transforming the life of a neighbor in need, it is possible to experience your own transformation as well. Many who have served or given to others realize how it does indeed feel better to give than to receive.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Philadelphia has many ways, customized to each local community, for you to live the true meaning of Christmas. Serving your neighbor by giving whatever you are able to can transform lives. Like that of our founder, blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the vision of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “is to embrace the world in a network of charity.” CLICK HERE to join us with a donation or by volunteering.