Dignity of Human Life, Call to Family & Community, Dignity & Rights of Work, Preferential Option for the Poor, and Care for Creation.
To be honest, as popular as service trips and immersion experiences are in the United States, I have never been one. Until two years ago, I never volunteered in either my local or global community. I took a class on Catholic Social Teaching as an undergraduate student. Of course I agreed with themes and principles that were taught in class, but I left the learning in the classroom. When I went to Boston College to study Theology, despite the world renowned ethics professors, I had no serious interest in taking any of their classes. My whole faith experience was based on me and Jesus.
And all of a sudden, that changed. I moved. I actually moved six houses down the street and my world changed forever. I move in with five amazing people, people who were dedicated to advocating for equality, for women’s rights, for the end of domestic violence, and for the poor and marginalized both in Boston and the developing world. I had the honour of living and learning from a community committed to justice and I have become a better person because of it.
I learned that my family is bigger than my mom, dad, sister and brother. I learned that my community is bigger than my friends, colleagues, and professors.
I saw the face of Jesus in my house mates. Their commitment to loving their neighbor, no matter his or her race, gender, occupation, education level, socio-economic position, or sexual orientation, was a powerful reminder to me who Jesus Christ was. He was one to dine with the sinner, reach out and touch the sick, and built relationships with those most marginalized in his society. It was Jesus who said, “Whatever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”In my case, it was “whatever you DIDN’T do for the least of my people, that you DIDN’T do unto to me.” I soon began to realize my faith compels me to do something.
The big question becomes, what can I do? How do I begin this task of advocating and promoting justice? The answer came to me in the form of Catholic Social Teaching. What is Catholic Social Teaching? It is the comprehensive teaching of the Catholic Church, informed by the Gospels and the lived experiences of Christians, on social, political, and economic issues. Popes have written encyclicals, bishops have created statements, and theologians have decided their lives to exploring, nuancing, updating, and reflecting upon Catholic Social Teaching.
Catholic Social Teaching gives us concrete steps for putting our faith into action. CST gives us seven different themes that help shape our actions.
· Life and Dignity of the Human Person
· Call to Family, Community, and Participation
· Rights and Responsibilities
· Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
· Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
· Care for Creation
For the next seven weeks, a different team member is going to be reflecting on one of these themes. The hope is that we will both learning more about each theme and be inspired to incorporate the themes into our lives. The key is to start small. I challenge you to find one practical and concrete way you can express each week’s theme in your everyday life. Just one thing. But if we all do one thing, think of the difference we will make!
Cheryl Rice, International Volunteer