A few weeks ago, I attended a church presentation on Catholic Social Teaching by our deacon, Santiago Molina. The presentation was a series segment focused on family, community, and participation, and I thought it a perfect discussion topic for November and the upcoming “giving” season.
At the start of his presentation, Deacon Molina stated, “We have to respect others and their life; there is a relationship there. We need to be open to life. We are our brother’s keeper even if we don’t agree.” This prolife statement means more than opinions on controversial issues of abortion and death penalty decisions. Deacon Molina’s statement helped me to see my community in a different way.
“A good society is a society that makes it easy to be good,” said Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College. By going beyond ourselves and reaching out to others, we are actively assuming responsibility for those around us. We so often make decisions based on want rather than determining what is societal good.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:1-13) comes to mind: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal…If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Agape, the Greek word for sacrificial love, is something we associate with family, a unit of love. While we begin loving our families selflessly, eventually God calls us to extend that same love to those in our community. “If we are open to the Holy Spirit,” Deacon Molina said, “and you feel you have more love to give, give yourself to your community.” As a recent college graduate, I found Deacon Molina’s words encouraging. Knowing small acts of kindness and any donation of time, talent, and treasure – whatever I can give – make a difference in my immediate community is empowering.
“We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” states the Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. “While public debate in our nation is often divided between those who focus on personal responsibility and those who focus on social responsibilities, our tradition insists that both are necessary.”
How we organize our society directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in our communities. While it can be difficult at times to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must remember that we have a loving, social relationship with one another and in the end, we must follow our baptismal call to love.
In closing, I wanted to share two videos we watched in the social teaching segment I attended. The first video is of a group of women in Mexico who help complete strangers on a passing train every day. The second video, while it is a foreign advertisement for life insurance, is probably one of the most moving commercials I have seen and truly shows the impact small acts of kindness have on our local community. These videos remind us that we do not need a lot of money or resources to show love for our neighbors, only that our love for others be selfless and put to use the time, talent, and treasures provided to us by God. The Thanksgiving season is a perfect time to think about our neighbors.
Here are just a couple ways to think about helping out our neighbors this season:
1. Help out with your local Meals-on-Wheels or church service project
2. Donate your time in serving or cooking food for a shelter or food kitchen
3. Provide items to food pantries
4. Pray about what you are thankful for and remember to thank those around you
5. Invite someone to a Thanksgiving meal who perhaps doesn’t have family in the area or someone to celebrate the holiday with
Dana Edwards is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida where she volunteers as a lector and with communication outreach at her local parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
For more information, visit the Catholic Apostolate Center Resource Page on Catholic Social Teaching