Poverty through a Catholic Lens

“Poverty is a condition of the human person – one in which he or she is deprived of the practical creativity given by God and characterized by the inability to provide for oneself and contribute to the greater good due to a lack of resources and connections.” 

278681_10150702014335125_5390793_oThe problem of poverty is not a simple one, otherwise we would have solved it by now. Think tanks and media can often flood us with more facts than information. When we hear things like 15 million vacant homes in the US, we become primed toward easy but very unhelpful solutions like giving away vacant homes(especially before even asking questions about why they are vacant).

“Having a heart for the poor isn’t hard. Can we have a mind for the poor? Can you really relate to the poor on a one-to-one basis as equals as partners as colleagues?” excerpt from Poverty Cure videos provided below

Define Poverty: Many theorists have tried to define poverty, but in general they all address poverty as a lacking of normal means. This can be applied to the slums in Kenya where post-colonialist life left an exploited people even less connected with the world. The problem is no longer as much that they are exploited as that they are now even more disconnected from the developing world.

It can also be applied to remote villages in Haiti where the world’s best rum is produced but there are no roads to transport it to the market. Without a clear definition, researchers refer to statistics on how many people are living in an area on just $1 per day- but that does not appreciate the fullness of the problem.

Poverty is a condition of the human person – one in which he or she is deprived of the practical creativity given by God and characterized by the inability to provide for oneself and contribute to the greater good due to a lack of resources and connections. 

Catholic Lens: First and foremost, the Church reminds us that the human person is always due dignity and justice. One of the benefits of the Catholic Church as a multi-national organization is that it is more possible to appreciate the complexity and depth of Christian mission work, guided by the Holy Spirit, and how he inspires individuals of all walks of life to work toward bettering lives and bringing people to Christ. People from every demographic and wealth class are unified by this belief that Jesus Christ is the universal savior, thus necessitating a spirit of equality and greater appreciation of human dignity for those suffering in poverty.

A meeting of Catholic non-governmental organizations ahead of a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council in Geneva. -July 2011

A meeting of Catholic non-governmental organizations ahead of a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council in Geneva. July 2011

Once the paradigm shifts to a lens that shows impoverished people as equals, it becomes obvious that they are also the source of a solution. The Catholic Church clearly states that governments have a role in guaranteeing that the people are not taken advantage of, that corruption does not inhibit human drive, and that society works to make sure basic human needs are met. Continue reading


Photos: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception


The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the world’s 8th largest church. Auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, Monsignor Barry Knestout celebrated the Mass. Approximately 4,000 attended and it was broadcasted live on EWTN.


Video: How to confront anti-Catholicism

From the great website Catholic Answers at http://www.Catholic.com

Feast of St. Nicholas


Above is an altarpiece, completed circa 1510 and pictures St. Nicholas(left), whom we celebrate today. St. Nick is widely hailed as the inspiration for Santa Claus although his true identity was that of a 4th century Catholic bishop who preached Christianity and practiced model charity in what is present day Turkey. 502 years after the altarpiece’s completion, Catholic bishops still wear the same vestments.

Note that while St. Nicholas already had many traditions associated with his feast in the 1500’s, he is not depicted as the Santa Claus that we know today; rather, he is painted with the chasuble and bishop’s miter(hat) with crosier(staff). Below is the famous painting completed in 1668 by Dutch artist Jan Steen which depicts boys and girls checking to see what gifts St. Nick had delivered to their homes and stuffed in their shoes on the morning of December 6th. It is clear that the girl(painted as if she is a little adult) was on the “nice list” and the boy was not. stnick The most famous story of St. Nick is his gift of the dowry for three women. A poor father was unable to provide the funds for his three daughters to get married, which would likely mean they would have to turn to prostitution. So in his humility, St. Nicholas quietly and secretly delivered three small purses with enough money to cover the dowry.

St. Nicholas is a fantastic example of Christian charity and humility for all of us to follow.


Statues and Sacred Images inside a Church

On Thanksgiving Day, the priest directed the attention of the congregation to the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe leaning against the flagstone wall near the sacristy. Father wanted to hang the painting up but first had to get permission from the Diocesan Office of Sacred Liturgy. So this raised the question about why the Church is taking great care to monitor the use of holy art.

Holy images in a church can enhance our awareness of the sacredness of the Mass and serve to inspire us with Christian models who dedicated their lives to Jesus.

The Catholic Cathedral of St. Louis in New Orleans depicts Sts. Peter and Paul, both facing the tabernacle with a Latin inscription above saying, “Behold, the Bread of Angels”

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He directed us to worship Him alone, “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath it, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shall not adore them, nor serve them” -Exodus 20:3-5

The National Cathedral(Anglican) in Washington has several stained glass windows depicting the life of General Robert E. Lee, the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and a depiction of the moon containing an actual reliquary with moon rocks.

The very first Christians did not view the use of holy images as a violation of this commandment. The Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome which depict cave like paintings of Christ as a lamb and the celebration of the Eucharist are examples of this. In fact, some 3rd century Jewish catacombs have  been known to feature similar paintings but without the Christian overtones(Which is not evidence of justification, but merely an interesting note).

Martin Luther the Protestant Reformer even said, “The custom of holding a crucifix before a dying person has kept many in the Christian faith and has enabled them to die with a confident faith in the crucified Christ.”

God is omnipresent and so we are always in His presence, but churches offer a particular place of dedicated prayer and worship. The purpose of having sacred images and statues in Church is NOT for worship. These images are meant to enhance our awareness of God’s presence and of the many paths there are to reach his Son. As such, they should never be so numerous that they distract from the liturgy. The Cathedral of St. Louis shown above demonstrates a setting with a moderate number of statues, and note that they are all oriented slightly toward the tabernacle.

This critique is only for the purposes of respectfully examining how art can be used incorrectly. The National Cathedral(Anglican) in Washington DC is modeled after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; however, the images and statues are half centered on God and half on man, which is a clear deviation from the intended purpose of the building. For example, the statue of Martin Luther(reformer) facing Desiderius Erasmus(reformer who defended primacy of the pope) can insight divisive feelings of “us vs. them” rather than directing attention to any Christian virtue the men may have exhibited.

There is also a large stained glass window commemorating the landing on the moon with a reliquary containing moon rocks which is not being used in any way to promote prayerful adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, or supplication.

The bottom line is that sacred art can be used to enhance our awareness of Christian virtue and place us in a mindset to pray a better prayer, but sacred images and statues must be carefully placed so that they do not distract from the greater honor and glory of God in the blessed sacrament.



The New Cardinals of the Catholic Church

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (Philippines)

James Michael Cardinal Harvey (United States)

His Beatitude Bechara Cardinal Rai (Lebanon)

John Olorunfemi Cardinal Onaiyekan (Nigeria)

Ruben Cardinal Salazar Gomez (Colombia)

His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Thottunkal (India)


Advent is around the corner

Construction has already begun on the oversize nativity set in St. Peter’s Square