Over seven weeks, members of the Tobar Mhuire Team reflect on the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching; Solidarity, Human Rights, Dignity of Human Life, Call to Family & Community, Dignity & Rights of Work, Preferential Option for the Poor, and Care for Creation.
Passionist Student, Gareth Thomas offers the following reflection on Solidarity.
A wise man (not one of three wise men that came to see Jesus), once told me that the difference between solidarity and care for the poor can be put in this way:
A man is told that two streets away a man that he has met and chatted to from time to time is trapped in a house fire to which this man replies “oh poor chap, I’ll say a little prayer for him.” On another occasion this same man is told that two streets away his eldest daughter is trapped in a house fire, what does he do this time? Immediately he runs to rescue his daughter!
Maybe the right thing is always to do both, to pray and to act, but to be in solidarity with the poor is to be intimately concerned and involved with our brothers and sisters to the point that our love for those who are suffering brings forth action in each and every one of us. One of the most powerful examples in the Gospels of love of neighbour is the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is interesting however that as much love as the Good Samaritan shows, it is simply a charitable act that is shown, the Good Samaritan does not himself look after the man but entrusts his care to others. Neither does the Good Samaritan later check, we are told, if the man is ok, he goes on about his own business, this is not what Jesus in God does with us, this is not what solidarity with the poor means, this is not what Christians are called to do, Christians are called to go beyond these simple efforts if they are in good health, good wealth, and are able to do so.
My Grandfather used to tell me that when he was a young man in the 1930’s during the depression, the communists and fascists would make a tour of South Wales and produce phenomenal speeches about poverty, and how they could change the world, and what they brought with them was bread and
food and money which they distributed to the people, and many men, miners and steel workers would be persuaded by these great orators such as Oswald Moseley to join these parties who could put food on the table for their families. My Grandfather told me however that many of the Irish Catholics who lived and worked in South Wales at the time were not so persuaded by these false promises. My Grandfather said that what was most persuasive was the fact that the Irish Priests who lived and served the people of the valleys were themselves poor men, they took very little for themselves, they lived poverty, they were humble, they were as poor as the people around them and their witness to Christ in their faith, prayer and poverty was so powerful that most of the Irish Catholics remained loyal to the Church and to God. That is what solidarity with the poor is!!! The communists and fascists offered a false hope from their empty but decorated pulpits, they themselves did not feel the pinch, they could not understand the plight of the people in the way the humble priests did. They could not provide a lasting hope, or a lasting vision, they could not provide anything more valuable than the Faith in God which the Irish Catholics already had!
Church teaching on solidarity with the poor draws on the teachings and life of the Lord himself, who identified with the poor, the marginalized, and the despised of his world with no thought about the risks he took in being with and showing love to them which in turn led him to becoming one of them, poor, marginalized and despised. As a Church we should be affected by the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, to use Paul’s idea the different parts of the body suffer when one part of it suffers. Christ suffers too in the poor that should never be forgotten, and to end maybe it is appropriate to quote St. Paul of the Cross founder of the Passionists:
“I saw the name of Jesus written on the foreheads of the poor.”
Gareth Thomas, Passionist Student
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