Charity of the Church
Fr. Peter Daly
April 30, 2010
(Fr. Peter Daly talks about pastoral work for the poor as being at the center of priestly life.)
The Catholic Church is at its truest and best self in charity.
Our saints not only lived as poor people, like Francis of Assisi, but they helped poor people, Vincent de Paul.
Jesus said very little about sexual morality. But he said a great deal about concern for the poor. He told us that if we want to be perfect, we should sell all we have and give to the poor.
He told us that in the final examination, our last judgment, will be based on how we treated the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger.
Responding to the poor in any parish is not some extra function or adjunct work. It is just as essential to the work of the Church as the sacraments.
Between Sundays it is the thing that takes up most of my time. That is as it should be. If we don’t forget the poor, God will not forget us.
But the question is always, how to help? How do we properly remember the poor?
And how do we know when are we being charitable and being played as chumps?
It is hard to know.
I am sure that we are frequently cheated. Often the needs of the moment are the long term fruit of addictions. Sometimes they are brought on by mental illness that defies a solution.
But abuse of out charity comes with the territory.
I would rather that people occasionally play us as suckers than brand us as hard of heart. As the monks say, “He who knocks is Christ.”
My parish is relatively prosperous. The Washington area has relatively low unemployment, thanks to the government. Even so, in this last couple of years we have seen a parade of people needing help.
We have a fund for rent, mortgage, and utility payments. Some generous parishioners make major gifts to that fund every year. At funerals, when people give us gifts, we put the money in that fund. Several times this money has kept a local family from losing their home. It often keeps the lights on or the fuel oil tank filled.
In addition to the housing fund, we have the Poor Box. That money goes to non-housing needs, like car insurance, gas, or medicine. Just down Main Street from our church is the local Catholic Charities office. They have a food bank.
All this charity does not depend on me. We use an army of volunteers. They check on the stories,, and visit the homes. The bringing Christ to others just as surely as our Eucharistic ministers.
No matter how prosperous a society or generous the government, there will always be a need for direct personal charity in the name of Christ.
At the close of the age, when Jesus comes back to judge us, I don’t think He will care too much about the style of our liturgies or the rigor of our theology. But He will care about our deeds of love and service to the poor.
In the seminary no one ever talked to us about how pastors would be expected to care for the poor. No one ever told us that priests should be the companions to needy and ministers of the poor. There were a few faculty members who modeled this service to us, however.
A church that does not have charity for the poor at its center does not have Christ in its heart.