“Blessed are the poor, theirs is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20-23).
There are ten foundational principles which comprise the social teaching of the Church. One of the most recent of the Ten Principles of Catholic Social Teaching is the Principle of Preferential Protection for the Poor and Vulnerable, introduced by the Father Pedro Arrupe S.J., a Jesuit, in the late 20th century. This principle highlights the importance of ensuring that the poor and vulnerable are cared for. The deprivation and powerlessness of the poor hurts all of society. In order for the common good of the community to prevail, we must put the needs of the poor first.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the meaning of this principle: “The Church’s love for the poor… is a part of her constant tradition. This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor… ‘Those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense and liberation.’”
The Church teaches us through the story of the last judgment that we will be judged by what we have or have not done to help the needy. We touch Jesus when we touch the poor and vulnerable. Jesus taught his followers that if they showed generosity to the poor, God would reward them in heaven.
These verses in the Gospel of Matthew explain: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ Then the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25 34:40).
It is our duty as part of the human community to give what we can to the least of our brothers and sisters, as Jesus referred to the poor and vulnerable. Join St. Vincent de Paul Society to serve your neighbor in need, either physically or emotionally. Whether it’s providing the essentials like shelter, food, clothing or transportation, or providing emotional support, act with compassion and love to give hope to the hopeless. When you help someone in need, you are helping Jesus, and God will reward you.
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.”