The first ever World Day of the Poor was celebrated on Sunday 19th November 2017, the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The Day was a chance for reflection and for action on poverty, in response to the Gospel. Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to encounter the poor: the day was of the poor, not about or for them. In his homily on Sunday, Pope Francis said, “In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love. When we overcome our indifference, and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell.”
Parishes in England and Wales responded to this call in various ways, drawing on resources produced by Caritas Social Action Network. Prepared in collaboration with the Society of St Vincent de Paul (England and Wales), the National Justice and Peace Network, and CAFOD, these resources enabled parishes to explore Pope Francis’s message in the Sunday Liturgy. The resources included testimonies, prayer cards, activities and posters, to be adapted and used as needed. In some dioceses, such as Leeds, pastoral letters were read out during Mass; in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, special blessings were given for all those involved in Catholic Social Action.
In many dioceses, there was a strong emphasis on volunteering as a way of uniting in love with the poor. The Caritas agencies in Salford, Portsmouth and Middlesbrough dioceses held different events encouraging volunteering and sharing experiences. In the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, young people aged 11 to 15 reflected on how poverty is at the heart of the Gospel at a special event in Arundel Cathedral, which included Mass and a performance by Rise Theatre. Awareness-raising workshops were held in the Archdiocese of Cardiff, encouraging people to listen to those who have been on the margins of society. Plans were made to hear the authentic voice of the poor with greater clarity and conviction in the coming year. In Westminster a six-week programme, entitled ‘Say it with your life’ has begun, which explores how to bring Catholic Social Teaching to life in very practical ways.
The Pope emphasised that “At the heart of all the many concrete initiatives carried out on this day should always be prayer”. Prayers were offered for the relief of poverty and for those on the margins of society.
Through these prayers and activities, the Catholic community in England and Wales was able to explore the meaning of loving “not with words, but with deeds” and to prepare for the Feast of Christ the King, celebrated the following Sunday, 26th November.
Picture – Christ feeds the five thousand. Mosaic in Church of the Holy Saviour, Istanbul. Thanks to Peter Hess for permission to re-use.