Listening to Each Other, This World Day of the Poor


This year the World Day of the Poor, on 14 November, coincides with the time during which we are asked to participate in the Synod – the listening exercise being undertaken by the whole Catholic Church throughout the world. The words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, and quoted in his message for World Day of the Poor, are therefore particularly appropriate: 

We are called to discover Christ in [the poor], to lend them our voice in their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to understand them and to welcome the mysterious wisdom that God wants to communicate to us through them. Our commitment does not consist exclusively of activities or programmes of promotion and assistance; what the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism, but above all an attentiveness that considers the other in a certain sense as one with ourselves. This loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person which inspires me effectively to seek their good” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198-199).

We are suggesting to parishes, and social outreach projects, that they celebrate World Day of the Poor this year by running their own “synodal” listening exercise. This could be something as simple as sitting down with someone over a cup of tea, and hearing their story. In this way, we can include those who are often left on the margins, but who are in fact central to our Christian communities.

In his message, the Pope refers to the story in the Gospel of Mark when, a few days before his crucifixion, an unknown woman anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume. “Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” (Mark 14 v4-5)

But Jesus says “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you and you can help them any time you want.” (v6-7). He knows that their suggestion to give money to the poor is just “virtue signalling”.  By identifying himself, throughout his mission, with the poor and outcast, Jesus calls us to do more than just give money to the poor. We are to stand in solidarity with them.

In fact, on this website, you will barely see Caritas Westminster use the word “poor” about those we serve. Certainly, there are those who need help and there are those we support, people who have found themselves struggling, or whom society has marginalised. But we do our best to not to use the language of “us and them” and instead to recognise that we are all on a journey together. We can listen and learn from each other, always.

Louise Cook

Louise Cook is Caritas Westminster’s Communications Officer.

Please join us, alongside the rest of the Catholic Social Action Network (CSAN) in praying a Novena (nine days of prayer) for the World Day of the Poor:

Day 1, 5 November — Day 2, 6 November — Day 3, 7 November — Day 4 –  8 November — Day 5, 9 November — Day 6, 10 November —  Day 7, 11 November — Day 8, 12 November — Day 9, 13 November

How to get involved with a listening exercise for World Day of the Poor and the Synod:

This could be as simple as inviting your project’s beneficiaries to stay for a cup of tea, and gently asking them questions about their experience of the pandemic, such as:

  • How have the last 20 months (of the pandemic) been for you?
  • What has been your experience of ‘journeying together’ with this outreach project?
  • When does this journeying bring joy? 
  • When have there been times of pain or sadness?

Depending on the nature of your project, you might want to create a more reflective atmosphere through music or prayer.  The important thing is to listen deeply, and without judgement. There are tips on listening in this document and you can find out more about the synod on the Westminster Diocese Website.



Latest News

Read more…

Skip to content