"Jesus not only sides with the poor; he also shares their lot. . .The poor will always be with us, yet that should not make us indifferent, but summon us instead to a mutual sharing of life that does not allow proxies."
-Pope Francis, Message of His Holiness For the Fifth World Day of the Poor
Sunday, November 14, 2021, is the fifth World Day of the Poor. It is a time where we are reminded of our call to empower and uplift our brothers and sisters who are marginalized and fall victim to systemic poverty. As Catholics, it is our duty to intentionally encounter those experiencing poverty in order to understand it on a deeper level. We must work toward this deeper understanding so that we may together address poverty's root causes and lift those experiencing hard times so they may thrive and lead dignified lives. As children of God, we are invited to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow the example of the Good Samaritan, who challenges us to “become neighbors to all” (Fratelli Tutti, no. 80)-- and the World Day of the Poor is a much-needed reminder of this fact. As Pope Francis says, "poverty is a scandal."
What is the World Day of the Poor?
The World Day of the Poor was first launched in 2017 and is, according to the Vatican, "An initiative strongly desired by Pope Francis in order to urge the Church and the faithful to ‘go out’ to encounter poverty in the various ways it manifests itself in the modern world and in order to reach out to those most in need."
Each year, Pope Francis chooses a guiding theme that helps drive home the point of this day and allows us as Catholics to reflect on its purpose more deeply. This year, he chose a passage from Saint Mark's Gospel: “The poor you will always have with you” (Mk 14:7) and challenges us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, and encourages us to work with them to address poverty and injustice.
Pope Francis reminds us that it is through Jesus’s example that we are called to encounter and build relationships with the poor, “The poor are not people “outside” our communities, but brothers and sisters whose sufferings we should share, in an effort to alleviate their difficulties and marginalization, restore their lost dignity and ensure their necessary social inclusion” (Fifth World Day of the Poor Statement).
World Day of the Poor is an opportunity to reflect on our special concern for the poor, to recognize the opportunity to discover Christ among them. This day also reminds us that our solidarity with our brothers and sisters must be deeper than momentary moments: “It is not a question of easing our conscience by giving alms, but of opposing the culture of indifference and injustice we have created with regard to the poor” (Fifth World Day of the Poor Statement). Pope Francis has invited us to “read the signs of the times that ask us to find new ways of being evangelizers in the contemporary world” (Fifth World Day of the Poor Statement).
What Can You Do?
"What path of justice must be followed so that social inequalities can be overcome and human dignity, so often trampled upon, can be restored?” (Fifth World Day of the Poor Statement)
World Day of the Poor is an invitation for all of us to join the work to address the systems and structures that perpetuate poverty. All too often those affected by poverty in the US are cast aside and judged as lesser, simply because they fall victim to a cycle of poverty that is, by design, nearly impossible to overcome. As a Catholic, one of the most significant things you can do is to embody Jesus' teachings about embracing and walking alongside the poor. About treating them as our brothers and sisters, not as outsiders. About understanding the systems that led them to become marginalized, rather than placing blame on them for their situation.
So many of us live comfortably while turning a blind eye to our suffering neighbors -- a lifestyle in direct opposition to Jesus' teachings. On this day, we must recognize this invitation to live in solidarity with our downtrodden brothers and sisters. We must seek to improve ourselves and shift our mindset to more closely align with Jesus'. We must not only give back to our communities but also seek guidance to understand the difference between charity and justice.
While charity is an important response to immediate necessity, it is a temporary fix that doesn't address the roots of why poverty exists and how marginalized people get caught in its cycle. Addressing systems and structures that keep people in poverty, however, is the work of justice. This is the call of the Gospel.
Spend this day building solidarity with those in your community. Volunteer your time at a local CCHD-supported organization or other community organization, or support worthy organizations that not only provide immediate, charitable relief but also organize and empower impoverished communities to enact systemic change by giving to the annual CCHD Collection November 20-21, 2021. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and its initiative, PovertyUSA, works with local organizations across the US to enact social change on a fundamental level that not only alleviates stress in the short term, but that fights for a more just society in the long term. If your parish does not participate in the CCHD collection, you can also support this important work online.
You can read more about just some of the issues and organizations we work with through our extensive library, Stories of Hope. We invite you to use this day to pray, reflect, and strive for economic justice that allows all to thrive.
Missed Out on the Annual National Collection? No Problem.
You can help break the cycle of poverty by supporting the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection in your parish. If you miss the collection, or your (arch)diocese does not participate, you can support the collection online or send your donation to:
Catholic Campaign for Human Development
USCCB Office of National Collections
P. O. Box 96278
Washington DC 20090-6278
Make your check or money order payable to: "Catholic Campaign for Human Development."
All donations to CCHD are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. A receipt for tax purposes will be provided.
If you have questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.