“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the feast” (Luke 14 13:14).
The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and that each individual is born with God-given dignity. The inherent dignity in every member of the human family is the basis for all the principles of Catholic social teaching. There are ten foundational principles which comprise the social teaching of the Church, one of which is the Principle of Human Equality.
Today’s world is increasingly plagued by growing materialistic attitudes and declining respect for human life. In contrast, the Church teaches that all human life is sacred and that human dignity is the foundation of society’s moral compass. God’s plan for humanity includes giving each person unique gifts and talents. The social, cultural and economic discrimination that occurs because of some people’s differences does not fit in with God’s plan. Every member of the human family has an inherent right to be treated with equality just as they have an inherent right to dignity.
Treating your brothers and sisters fairly, as equals, is a way to define justice, or giving each person his or her due. From a very young age, many children understand the concept of fairness. The concept of treating others with equality can be translated to treating others fairly.
The founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, lived in Paris during the June Rebellion of 1832. The world’s most populous city then, Paris was in total chaos from the lack of equality among classes, resulting in the oppression of the poor. Hunger and disease plagued the lower class, causing societal unrest. Food shortages and increases in the cost of living caused extreme hardship for the lower class. A cholera outbreak took the lives of more than 18,000 in Paris, ravaging the poor neighborhoods. Ozanam and other like-minded, young Catholic students at the Sorbonne University saw a path other than dying or killing others to uphold their democratic ideals in the name of social justice and equality. While many at the university eschewed Christian beliefs, Ozanam and his friends were inspired by the Gospel to follow the example of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of Charity. They ministered to the poor by personal visitation, bringing food, clothing, medicine and firewood to them in their quest for social justice.
Just as Blessed Frédéric Ozanam and his society did in Paris in the 1800s, today members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society work to treat everyone with equality. Ministering to those who are down on their luck or unable to support themselves, or by bringing oppression to the attention of political leaders in an attempt to stop it, helps promote equality among all members of God’s 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.”