22 October 2008

Where are the Poor?

There is a re-print of an article by Dorothy Day titled, "Where are the Poor?" which can be read at the ChesterBelloc website. In it she quotes from the 1952 Christmas letter of Pope Pius XII which bears repeating here.

If we were convinced of the need, if our consciences were aroused, how much could we not do, even those of most modest income, in the way of helping the poor. We must reprint, and read again and again the words of Pope Pius XII, who cried out two years ago in a most noble encyclical, Christmas 1952.

"While our thoughts dwell on these scenes of poverty and utter destitution," he writes, "Our heart fills with anxiety and is overwhelmed, we can say, by a sadness unto death. We are thinking of the consequences of poverty,still more of the consequences of utter destitution. For some families there is a dying daily, a dying hourly: a dying multiplied, especially for parents, by the number of dear ones they behold suffering and wasting away. Meanwhile sickness becomes more serious, because not properly treated; it strikes little ones in particular, because preventive measures are lacking. Then there is the weakening and consequent physical deterioration of whole generations.

We cannot conclude without mentioning that the very best charitable organization would not suffice of itself alone to assist those in need. Personal action must intervene, full of solicitude, anxious to overcome the distance between helper and helped, drawing near to the poor because he is Christ's brother and our own.

"The great temptation in an age which calls itself social--when besides the Church, the state, the municipality and other public bodies devote themselves so much to social problems--is that when the poor man knocks on the door, people, even believers will just send him away to an agency or social center, to an organization, thinking that their personal obligation has been sufficiently fulfilled by their contributions in taxes or voluntary gifts to those institutions.

"Undoubtedly the poor man will receive your help that way but often he counts also on yourselves, at least on your words of kindness and comfort. Your charity ought to resemble God's, Who came in person to bring His help.

"These considerations encourage us to call on your personal collaboration. The poor, those whom life has rudely reduced to straightened circumstances, the unfortunate of every kind, await it. In so far as it depends on you, strive that none shall say any more, as once did the man in the Gospel who had been infirm for 38 years: 'Lord, I have no one.'"

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