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By Deacon Keith Fournier

2/8/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

The same Jesus who promised to be with us always also told us that the poor would be with us always. They are one and the same - in a way that is revealed with the eyes of living faith

That image, that the poor are "the flesh of Christ" never left my heart. Every time I call it back to my mind it pierces my heart again. Pope Francis sounds like his namesake, the little poor man of Assisi named Francis. There is a saying attributed to St Francis of Assisi.  Whether he actually said it or not matters little. "I preach the Gospel at all times and sometimes I use words." St. Francis became a word from the Lord for others through the witness of his life.  He lived in a manner that drew others to follow the pattern of Gospel simplicity. I suggest that his namesake, the 265th successor of Peter, also named Francis, is following in his footsteps.


By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (

2/8/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: poor, poverty, simplicity, social justice, preferential option, preferential love, Matthew 25, evangelical counsels, Dorothy Day, Chiara Lubich, Deacon Keith Fournier

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The older I get the simpler my life becomes.  I think it is supposed to be that way. Since the Lord surprised the world by finding this "pope from the end of the world" to call the church to evangelical simplicity, I have been invited by the Holy Spirit to strip down even more.

I remember the announcement, after the white-smoke signaled that the Cardinal electors had chosen a successor to Benedict XVI. I was surprised that it was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio.  As soon as his selection was revealed to him, Cardinal Giovanni Battista's asked him, "What name would you like to be known by?" He replied "I shall be called Francis.

Pope Francis - End world hunger through 'PRAYER & ACTION'

Then, he stepped out to and told the whole world, "You know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him. But here we are." It was so simple. This Francis, like his namesake Francis of Assisi,  is Il Poverello, a little poor man. He calls us all to love the poor as we love Jesus Himself. He calls us to recognize all of the faces of the poor.

During Morning Prayer today I remembered when he visited Centro Astalli in Rome served by the Jesuit Refugee Service. After greeting those gathered for lunch he moved to the chapel for private prayer. He thanked those who serve Christ in the poor at the nearby Church of Jesus, where Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the founder of the Jesuit Refugee Service, is buried. He listened to the stories of two of the refugees, a Sudanese man and a Syrian woman. He asked whether empty convents and religious houses should be used to house the poor rather than seen as potential money sources for the Church. That question grabbed headlines and rattled comfort zones. That seems to be a part of his ministry.

He spoke of authentic Christian charity: It is not enough to offer a sandwich if this is not accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one's own two feet. Charity that leaves the poor in the same situation as before is not adequate. True mercy - that which God gives and teaches us - asks for justice, asks that the poor find the way out of their poverty. It asks us - the Church, the city of Rome, the institutions - it demands that no-one should be in need of a meal, of a temporary shelter, a legal assistance service, to enable the recognition of his or her right to live and to work, to be recognized fully as a person. To serve and to accompany both mean to defend, they mean to place oneself on the side of the weakest. How often are we unable or unwilling to echo the voices of those who have suffered and suffer, to those who have seen their rights trampled, who have experienced so much violence that it has even suffocated their desire for justice? The Lord calls us all to live with more courage and generosity
He called us all to welcome the poor in communities, in houses, in empty convents. Empty convents are not to be sold to be transformed into hotels to make money for the Church. The empty convents are not ours; they are for the flesh of Christ, for the refugees. This certainly isn't simple, and requires criteria, responsibility, and also courage. We do much, but we are perhaps called to do more, welcoming and sharing decisively that which Providence has given us to serve".

That image, that the poor are "the flesh of Christ" never left my heart. Every time I call it back to my mind it pierces my heart again. Pope Francis sounds like his namesake, the little poor man of Assisi named Francis. There is a saying attributed to St Francis of Assisi.  Whether he actually said it or not matters little. "I preach the Gospel at all times and sometimes I use words." St. Francis became a word from the Lord for others through the witness of his life.  He lived in a manner that drew others to follow the pattern of Gospel simplicity. I suggest that his namesake, the 265th successor of Peter, also named Francis, is following in his footsteps.

When I read the 25th chapter of Matthews Gospel I am drawn to my knees by these words of Jesus, I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matt. 25: 31-46) I understand the question posed by his stunned disciples, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs. (Matthew 25.35-36) It was an extraordinary statement! However, as I have aged I have come to see there are so many faces of poverty. I am finally beginning to learn to recognize the face of Jesus revealed in them all. Francis is becoming my teacher.

The same Jesus who promised to be with us always also told us that the poor would be with us always. They are one and the same - in a way that is revealed with the eyes of living faith. "The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me" (Jesus, Matthew 26:11) "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Jesus, Matthew 28:20) The face of Jesus is found in the face of the poor, for those with eyes to see. The word of Jesus is spoken through the poor, for those who cultivate the ears to hear Him. The cry of Jesus is heard in the cry of the poor, at least for those who will stop to listen. That is the deeper meaning behind this sobering scene:

"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' "Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Those who love the poor - like Jesus loved the poor- are an instruction manual for the rest of us. They are a sign of the kingdom, making it present in their wake. We have such a man in this Pope named Francis. He also recognizes that poverty is more than a lack of material goods. It knows many faces -and the face of Christ is revealed in them all.

Dorothy Day, a heroic witness and prophetic voice of the 20th century, grasped this mystery and let it grasp her. That is why she is moving forward in the cause for canonization. She lived in the aftermath of the industrial age where human persons were too often treated as products to be used. Though some get stuck in her circuitous and intriguing journey into the fullness of the truth as found in the Catholic Church, she gave herself away, living with and loving the poor, because she truly understood and embraced her own poverty with brutal honesty. That is the stuff out of which holiness is fashioned.

So too did her brother in that work of authentic solidarity and charity, Peter Maurin. He once wrote with simplicity and searing honesty: "We cannot imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to get all we can. We can only imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to give all we can".

Another great Christian woman of the same age, Chiara Lubich, the founder of the ecclesial movement Focolare, expressed the heart of this call to love in deed and truth:Yes, love makes us be. We exist because we love. If we don't love, and every time we don't love, we are not, we do not exist ("Even what he has will be taken away"). There's nothing left to do but to love, without holding back. Only in this way will God give himself to us and with him will come the fullness of his gifts.

Let us give concretely to those around us, knowing that by giving to them we are giving to God. Let's give always; let's give a smile, let's offer understanding, and forgiveness. Let's listen, let's share our knowledge, our availability; let's give our time, our talents, our ideas, our work; let's give our experience, our skills; let's share our goods with others so that we don't accumulate things and everything circulates. Our giving opens the hands of God and He, in his providence, fills us with such an abundance that we can give again, and give more, and then receive again, and in this way we can meet the immense needs of many.

Pope Francis - End world hunger through 'PRAYER & ACTION'

The beloved disciple John wrote as an old man in his letters to the early churches: We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. (I John 3: 14-18)

I knew a woman in Virginia Beach who challenged me to probe deeply to find the core of this truth. She was not an easy person to be around. Prophets rarely are. She went home to the Lord years ago. She once wrote to me:  In the end, there are two kinds of poor people: those who already know they are poor and those who don't know yet. Here is the crisis: If the latter don't discover this before they leave this planet, they are doomed to be poor forever. What can those of us who already know we are poor do for those who don't know yet? Love them.

Let us learn to love the poor. As Pope Francis reminds us, the poor are the flesh of Christ.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


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