March 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – To those who are steeped in history and keep their eyes open to the life of the streets, nothing is clearer than that the Catholic Church has never been equalled in her care for the poor and needy, for the sick and the dying, the widow and the orphan, the prisoner and the refugee, the dispossessed and the abandoned.
Her religious orders cover the globe, performing works of mercy not only for those to whom it may be fashionable to give aid, but also for those from whom the rest of society turns away in disgust.
The Church has never been in the business of “social work”; her devoted religious and laity simply love God’s poor with the love of Christ and want to raise them out of their misery, so that they too can become aware of their dignity as children of God, called to be co-heirs of Christ. The devoted Catholic sees in every man, woman, and child the face of Christ, and this face calls forth one response: the gift of oneself, the offering of one’s life on behalf of the lives of others—self-denying, self-emptying love.
The most ambitious secular social programs are timid, their achievements infinitesimal, in comparison to the radical “program” proposed by the Gospel, the many saints who, kindled by the words of Christ, expended their lives in service to the poor, and the even more numerous throng inspired in turn by their example and walking in their footsteps.
In this respect, too, the Church has the advantage, showing herself to be far ahead of the social workers and their programs, and far more successful at alleviating mankind’s misery. For one thing, she is energetic with a perpetual youthfulness that comes from beyond this world; how else can one account for the awe-inspiring fact of so many who voluntarily embrace poverty in solidarity with Christ and the poor, and who spend themselves with a dedication very few unbelievers have ever equaled?
But more than this, she recognizes that misery is not only material but spiritual; she never forgets that the human heart needs God even more desperately than the body needs bread. The whole of mankind, whether “rich” or “poor,” is equally needy when it comes to the life that is worth living. The worst human poverty is a life without God, without hope, without meaning, and it is this poverty that seems to be the special affliction of the mighty and the monied. The poor need something more than philanthropy, with its condescending airs; like all men, they need love, and that is something that only the supreme Lover, Jesus Christ, has given to us, and continues to give through all who obey His commandment of love.
The joy man’s heart wants to feast upon is not something that can be gotten from worldly goods, amusements, or diversions. It comes from above, and from deep within. It is a joy that springs up with the force of a gushing torrent from the love of God for us and our love of Him in return. There is no other source of abiding happiness.
One might as well admit from the start that either there is a God and in Him alone is bliss, or that human life is bracketed on either end, hemmed in, with inescapable nothingness, a meaningless impersonal void that has thrown us onto the stage to speak our insignificant lines and will blindly consume us in the end. As Josef Pieper often says, you cannot have a “good time” unless there is something really good standing above and beyond you, something that will not give way like a mirage or burst like a balloon.
What is there, in the whole world, that does not eventually give way? Can anything here fully and perfectly satisfy man’s heart?
Modern man: if you are looking for true joy, for lasting happiness, then you must turn your gaze elsewhere. Turn it to the source of these good but perishing things, and you will find a good that is imperishable, the one good which is abundant life and never-ending joy. The Catholic Church promises you something that you cannot obtain elsewhere, try as you may; she promises the reality of which all the enjoyments of this world are feeble imitations.
Indeed, she invites you to believe her when she says, in all simplicity, that her faithful children already begin to live that immortal life here and now. They begin to savor the joy that never grows old, the peace that surpasses all understanding. This is the first, last, and best service to the poor—to all of us—that the Church renders.