Inclusion of the Poor in Society (EG 186-216)– Spiritual preparation for the General
Congress of the Union in July 2015
Spiritually, the “poor”
is a very rich and broad term not within our human capacity to grasp fully. It
is part of the mystery of the economy of salvation. Jesus said in Matthew’s
gospel, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt
5:3) In the ordinary sense, the poor are not blessed. Poor in this text is a
blessed state and it refers to one’s spirit of total detachment from things of
the world to be free for God and for his people. Anyone who has attained that
blessedness will love those who suffer from the worldly poverty which leads to
many basic deprivations – of food, shelter, opportunities for development, etc.
- and be at their service with joy. We can see that St. Vincent had developed
such a deep sense of detachment from things that even as a child he would give
away things - his coat, shoes, food, etc. - to the needy. Such a love and concern
is what God wants from His true worshipers. God himself is deeply concerned
about the poor and needy (Is.41:17). True righteousness is to share your food
and clothing with the needy (Is. 58:7) and God will bless and strengthen the
hands of those who perform such services for the poor (Is. 58:10-12). Love of
the poor will be the measure used in the final judgment (Mt. 25:34-40).
There are also other
dimensions of poverty in human lives. In Gn. 4:5 Cain’s offering was poor and
unacceptable before God because he was self-conceited and arrogant (v.9). He
wanted to be accepted on his own terms. God showed him the way to make also himself
pleasing before God (v.7). In spite of that, Cain not only refused to love and
be concerned about his brother, but murdered him. God comes to him with great
concern. “Where is your brother? What have you done?” (vv.9-10). Cain did not
show any regret for his action, inviting God’s wrath on himself. This is the
poverty of those who have too much and are self-centred and always driven by
greed for power, self-glory and possessions. We find such people everywhere and
often they become the reasons for depriving others of their rights and
legitimate needs and for maintaining unjust social/human systems. This happens
in families, in presbyteries, in religious communities, in parishes, in organizations
and between nations.
Pallotti saw in his time that even within the
Church some were running around for their own glorification and leaving the
people in a lot of misery. He founded the UAC as a possibility for people of
all walks of life to feel at home and to feel cared for, to help bring joy and
happiness to all without cravings for oneself and with the sole aim of the
infinite glory of God.
I have known from UAC groups which I have met
in different parts of the world, that many have found a way in some measure to
create homely communities of people of all walks of life. One such memory is from
the year 2000, walking with our UAC members in Berlin on a cold night with hot
soup and blankets to meet the poor sleeping on the street pavements; another was
of being with the UAC members in Calicut in Kerala India, who collected Rs. 3.5
million (c. €49,500/US$56,000) to build a house for the abandoned. These are
people in the Union who belong to the “blessed poor”.
When UAC members refuse
to accept and cooperate with other members of the Union they show something of the
attitude of Cain and reveal their poverty of UAC spirit.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is
the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3)
“I was hungry and you gave me food …” (Mt.
“The Catholic Apostolate
is common to all classes of people and consists in doing whatever anyone can
and should do for the greater honour of God and for our own and our neighbour's
eternal salvation” (OOCC III, p. 143).
Are all people welcome and happy in our UAC
groups and gatherings?
Lord, may the UAC communities everywhere
become places of acknowledging your wonders in our midst and of glorifying your
name. May we always remember our own misery and sin and praise you for your
infinite mercy to call us to the Catholic Apostolate together with our brothers
and sisters of other walks of life in the Union. Forgive us for the times we
did not welcome them with warm love and offer our wholehearted cooperation. In
your infinite mercy, include us among the “blessed poor” in your kingdom as we
welcome all with totally detached and selfless love so that Christ may dwell in
our inner selves, that rooted and grounded in love, we may have the power to
know the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ
(Eph. 3:17-19). Inflame our hearts with the same love of Christ to enrich all
members of the Union to be zealous apostles of Jesus, the Apostle of the
Eternal Father. St. Vincent, our inspirer and model and Mary Queen of Apostles,
our Patroness, intercede for us that we will be freed from pride and
self-conceitedness and be filled with that charity which flows from the Cenacle.