Pope Francis’ Annual Day of the Poor (Sunday Before Christ the King) – There must be a big smile in St. Vincent’s heart! When Pope Francis pours out his heart about the meaning of the annual World Day of the Poor his words resonate with themes close to the heart of St. Vincent. (This post first appeared on the website of the Eastern Province of the Pongregation of the Mission.)
“Sweat of our brows”
Last year when Pope Francis called for an annual celebration of a World Day of the Poor he borrowed for his title words from the First Epistle of John “Let us love, not with words but with deeds.” This should resonate with members of the Vincentian Family. Vincent had his own way of saying it.
“Let us love God, brothers, let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows; for very often many acts of love of God, of devotion, and of other similar affections and interior practices of a tender heart, although very good and desirable, are, nevertheless, very suspect if they don’t translate into the practice of effective love.”
“Evangelized by the Poor”
“This new World Day, therefore, should become a powerful appeal to our consciences as believers, allowing us to grow in the conviction that sharing with the poor enables us to understand the deepest truth of the Gospel. The poor are not a problem: they are a resource from which to draw as we strive to accept and practice in our lives the essence of the Gospel.”
Vincentians today are familiar with the phrase “evangelized by the poor.” It seems this phrase was never uttered as such by Vincent. But he often affirmed that the poor are our teachers and that true religion is lived and practiced especially by the poor, the humble and the peasants. They are teachers of the faith because they have cultivated a series of fundamental Christian virtues and attitudes. (Pope Francis is a strong believer in The evangelizing power of popular piety [Evangelii Gaudium 122-126].
For Vincent, Jesus was in the person of the poor. There Vincent discovered Jesus. Just as they called Vincent, they call us to conversion. Is it any surprise that in Vincent’s time the majority of the Daughters of Charity came from among the poor in order to serve God in the person of the poor. That the poor evangelize us is one of the most significant teachings that Vincent learned from being at the side of the poor.
Many of us have grown up in cultures that think of ourselves as being evangelizers and missionaries rather than being evangelized. We rarely think of what we receive from those who are poor. Francis and Vincent call us to remember that we learn from those who are poor
Rediscovering our capacity for getting together.
Learning from poor and each other requires encountering each other. Last year Pope Francis asked that “Christian communities make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.”
This year he writes:
“I would like that this year and in the future this World Day be celebrated in the spirit of joy for the rediscovery of our capacity for getting together.”… “When we find a way to draw near to the poor, we know that the first place belongs to Him who has opened our eyes and our heart to conversion.”
Putting it into practice
- Do I think of myself as learning from those who are on the margins?
- When do I draw near enough to those who are poor to learn what Pope Francis and Vincent learned?