by Sr Silvana Dallanegra
‘Let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18).
With these words Pope Francis launched the first World Day of the Poor last year. To be kept annually on the 33rd Sunday of the liturgical year (which this year falls on the 18th November), this World Day is an opportunity for us all to bear witness to Jesus’ love for the poor and vulnerable among us, through focused prayer and almsgiving or some sort of service.
By now, in this country at least, our shops are full of Christmas gifts, food and drink; our screens bombard us with enticing adverts; and plans for parties, family get-togethers and festive meals are in full swing. Coming in the midst of all this, World Day of the Poor invites us to remember a different reality: that of hardship and deprivation, and the poverty that comes from loneliness. It also reminds us that next month we will celebrate God’s Incarnation as a helpless baby, born in a makeshift shelter, in poverty and insecurity. If for no other reason World Day of the Poor is important because it keeps us anchored in these realities, and gives us the opportunity to pause, take stock and offer something of ourselves in prayer and service.
Not surprisingly, those Christmas Day staples, food, companionship and gifts, are often at the heart of our initiatives for the materially and socially poor. In his letter for this year’s World Day Pope Francis acknowledged this, saying that last year: ‘Many people encountered the warmth of a home, the joy of a festive meal and the solidarity of those who wished to sit together at table in simplicity and fraternity. I would like this year’s, and all future World Days, to be celebrated in a spirit of joy at the rediscovery of our capacity for togetherness.’
Caritas Westminster is inviting parishes, schools and other Catholic communities to pray, discern and find ways to put their faith and love into action, on or around this World Day. For some this might mean supporting a local foodbank or other project, for others a collection or event to raise funds for a charity such as Mary’s Meals, or something which enables people to reach out to those around them who are poor, lonely or vulnerable. We at Caritas Westminster can help with ideas and contacts, and there are also resources for prayer and reflection on our website.
However we mark this and future World Days of the Poor, we hope it will enable us all to grow in awareness, generosity and an active love. In the words of Pope Francis: ‘Let us not squander this grace-filled opportunity. On this day, may all of us feel that we are in debt to the poor, because, in hands outstretched to one another, a salvific encounter can take place to strengthen our faith, inspire our charity and enable our hope to advance securely on our path towards the Lord who is to come.’