5 Ways to Celebrate the First World Day of the Poor

In order to keep the merciful spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy alive, Pope Francis declared the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time to be known from here on as the World Day of the Poor, which makes this Sunday the inaugural year for this new Church initiative.

On Sunday, Nov. 19, which is the one-year anniversary of the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will recognize the first annual World Day of the Poor. This day is to be set aside every year for communities to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel.

In his first World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis reminds us that for the disciple of Christ, poverty is above all a call to follow Jesus in his own poverty. This applies even to those of us who are not materially poor. Everyone, regardless of their material status, is called to acquire the kind of poverty of heart that Our Savior exhibited.

“Poverty means having a humble heart that accepts our creaturely limitations and sinfulness and thus enables us to overcome the temptation to feel omnipotent and immortal,” the pope explains. “Poverty is an interior attitude that avoids looking upon money, career and luxury as our goal in life and the condition for our happiness. Poverty instead creates the conditions for freely shouldering our personal and social responsibilities, despite our limitations, with trust in God’s closeness and the support of his grace. Poverty, understood in this way, is the yardstick that allows us to judge how best to use material goods and to build relationships that are neither selfish nor possessive.”

But we can’t stop there. As the theme for this first celebration states, “Let us love, not with words but with deeds,” Christians are called to do whatever they can to alleviate the suffering of those who are materially poor.

“This Day is meant, above all, to encourage believers to react against a culture of discard and waste, and to embrace the culture of encounter. At the same time, everyone, independent of religious affiliation, is invited to openness and sharing with the poor through concrete signs of solidarity and fraternity,” he writes.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers the following list of ideas for people who wish to embrace the spirit of the day.

“There are so many people who need our prayers. If you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to start, try praying with your newsfeed. As you see headlines about what’s happening around the world, pause and pray for the people affected by those stories,” CRS suggests.

The Corporal Works of Mercy call us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, bury the dead and give alms to the poor. With Thanksgiving just a week away, what holiday food items could you donate to the local food pantry to make a poor family’s Thanksgiving day more nourishing? Is there a sick family member you haven’t seen for awhile? Why not donate some of those old coats and sweaters to the local homeless shelter?

Also, Pope Francis added a new work of mercy – to care for God’s creation. Can we be more vigilant in our recycling? Are we wasting energy by keeping our thermostats too high or too low?

“Do you buy coffee, chocolate or Christmas gifts? One way to support low-income workers around the world is by buying things you use on a regular basis from organizations that pay a fair wage. If you drink coffee or tea, look for a fair trade label, which means that the farmers who harvest the coffee or tea are paid fairly and work in safe conditions,” CRS suggests. “As you begin your Christmas shopping, consider buying gifts from around the world that are produced and traded ethically.”

The CRS Ethical Trade Shopping Guide is full of unique items that make great gifts.

There are many reasons why people are trapped in poverty – lack of jobs, war, discrimination, government corruption. Never miss an opportunity to write your local, state and federal representatives in support of policies that address the causes of poverty.

The Catholic Church is one of the greatest providers of assistance to the poor in the world today. Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community serves the poor and suffering in more than 100 countries. To aid the local poor, visit the Catholic Charities office in your area to see what programs they are offering.

For those who embrace this call, God can never be outdone in generosity! He will bless us richly for our efforts.

As Pope Francis writes: “Remember that Blessed, therefore, are the open hands that embrace the poor and help them: they are hands that bring hope. Blessed are the hands that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality, and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity. Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange, with no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’: they are hands that call down God’s blessing upon their brothers and sisters.”

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