“Once upon a time…”, so go fairy tales. What I wish to share with you is not a fairy tale but I believe it has the best of all possible endings. So I hope you will indulge me for just a few minutes as I unfold the story of a life in poverty.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.” It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.
I knew a young girl who grew up in a large family of 13 in southern Iowa. Her parents were farmers and she was born during the Great Depression. Born into poverty, this little girl had one dress. Not one for church and one for school …just one dress. She did her farm chores and helped keep watch over her younger siblings while her parents worked in the fields. Like her brothers and sisters she went to a country school for a time. Her family moved often as they lost one farm, then another. Eventually the children were enrolled in public school at a nearby town. They found themselves thrown into a mix of children entirely different from the one they had grown accustomed to.
In the country schools they were more or less among equals. Their farm neighbors, like so many everywhere, struggled to reach subsistence. In town things weren’t easy either but there was a little more opportunity and the depth of poverty didn’t run quite so deep. As a consequence this little girl found herself one day the poorest of the poor; no longer the poorest among the poorest. A fine distinction maybe, but a significant one it turned out.
There was little consolation or relief from the harshness of her family’s poverty. School offered no solace because her classmates were unsympathetic toward her poverty and treated her harshly. By all measures these children were not well off, but their parents could afford a few school clothes and managed simple things that her family lacked; like regular baths. How hard is it to approach someone who hasn’t bathed in a while, let alone draw near them in friendship.
The change wasn’t all bad- in the beginning. At first the little girl was able to enjoy the company of two other girls- twin sisters. They belonged to the bottom rung also and the three girls developed the bonds of friendship and found some consolation in not occupying this lowly place alone. Old sayings are sometimes mocked but so often true at their core. Misery does love company. To be in misery alone is to be on Calvary without the Christ.
Unfortunately the safe harbor of their friendship did not last long. The mother of the twin sisters met and married a man who was financially secure. Virtually overnight the twin sisters found themselves well off and were attending school in new dresses and shoes. With this new-found wealth came a new-found poverty of spirit among the twin girls. Who knows what was in their hearts- only God. Whether they truly lost sight of the little girl’s personhood or they simply wanted to win the approval of their new peer group, they had no friendship or warmth left to
share with her. It was a double cruelty to lose their friendship; she found herself alone and isolated.
Eventually this little girl grew up into a young lady, never experiencing the love and kindness of friendship the rest of her school days. And the in-between years brought other sorrows and hardships. She was present when her baby sister died of tetanus. When her alcoholic father left her mother and their 10 living children, her greatest consolation was that the physical and mental abuses would leave with him. But greater financial hardships followed in the wake of his departure.
By the time this little girl was in eighth grade her heart had born as much pain as it could and she dropped out of school and entered the adult world as a laborer. It was hard work but she was finally free of a culture that was blind to her inviolable worth and dignity. The work world may have been sterile, but at least she was being judged objectively on the merit of her work and not on meager state of her person. Perhaps she never lingered in pain and anger because she was so self-aware that dignity isn’t something we give to, or take away from, another. We are our own merchant of dignity and hers was never for sale.
CCC 2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. the goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”: When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.
This little girl never asked to be born into poverty. No one ever does. If her impoverished family had come into being in the 1970’s her parents would have been ridiculed for being selfish and burdensome on society. Most likely she and eight of her siblings would never had been born. Some people today sincerely believe it’s better that way. But not this little girl. The only fruit of the poverty and hardship she bore was a greater appreciation for life and the lives of everyone around her. She expressed that appreciation to God in prayer and in the way she lived each moment. In her later years, her husband would ask her why she prayed so fervently every night for her family and friends who were struggling. Her husband would say to her, “Why do you pray for this person or that one? God’s not going to answer your prayers.” Undeterred and without malice she would simply reply in faith, “He might!”; a gentle work-warn finger pointing upward to both emphasize her point and to acknowledge the Father.
That little girl of poverty is my mother. Her name is June. She passed away on March 9, 2007. During her life she poured herself out like a libation for her family. She never turned away a soul who crossed her doorway. She didn’t expect charity when times were lean for our family, but she never turned away a kindness when it was offered in sincerity. Mom donated to schools and children’s hospitals. She donated clothing and food, time and resources to help others who were poor in money and who were spiritually poor. By our standards she lived an austere life but she found nothing lacking in her life except maybe a little more time. I know my mom never read the paragraphs above from the Catechism but she lived them. She never gave from a
position that she was doing anyone a favor. She gave because she had and they did not. She gave because she recognized their humanity and longed that they should experience someone affirming their dignity and self-worth. Something that was denied to her in her childhood. She gave because she loved. St. John Chrysostom’s words may be very challenging, but in living up to that ideal we more closely conform our lives to God. That is the witness my mom gave to me.
Emmett Till. Do you know his name? Do you know this person? Have you seen his face? Perhaps… perhaps not. Until a few short years ago neither had I. But we should. Emmett Till is credited with being the pivotal person in motivating the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
What did Emmett Till do to receive such notice? In 1955 a 14 year old Emmett Till left Chicago for relatives in Mississippi. He took a break, along with several other kids, from picking cotton to have some refreshments and cool off at a grocery store owned and operated by a white couple. The reports from the kids outside were that he whistled at the wife. Several days later Emmett Till was forcibly removed from his family’s home. He was brutally beaten. One of his eyes was gouged out. He was shot through the head. A 70 pound cotton gin fan was tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body, was dumped into the Tallahatchie River…to be hidden away from family and the world as though Emmett Till was never a person and with the intent that he should be forgotten.
But somebody didn’t forget Emmett Till. Three days later Emmett Till’s decomposing body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. His body was delivered to his mother in Chicago. Mamie Till was a single mother- a widow.
On September 2, 1955, Mamie was photographed collapsing at the train station where she received the partially decomposed and disfigured body of her son. On September 3 Emmett Till’s body was taken to Chicago’s Roberts Temple Church of God for viewing and funeral services. In spite of the horrible condition of Emmett Till’s body, Mamie Till insisted on having an open casket funeral so that everyone can witness the brutality and evil inflicted on her son. This is all that Emmett Till had to do to raise the awareness of a nation: to wake from a false peace the conscience of millions of indifferent people.
At last count the pro-abortion movement has created over 56,000,000 Emmett Tills. Bodies ripped out of their mothers. Brutally punctured and cut into disfiguring pieces. Dumped into garbage bins and incinerators that they may remain nameless and faceless to the world. Non-persons who should be forever forgotten.
There were certainly more Emmett Tills in the world before 1955, so a great deal of evil persisted before the murder of this one person. How many more Emmitt Tills will it take to end abortion? Would more open casket funerals revealing the broken bodies of babies from the womb bring us to that end sooner?
A Missouri mother made the ultimate sacrifice when she decided to deliver her baby girl in the face of a serious cancer diagnosis.
Cara Combs found out she had Stage 4 Melanoma when she was 23 weeks pregnant with her fourth child in November, FOX reports. Doctors advised her to have her baby immediately, but Combs chose to wait, giving her child a better chance at survival, thus postponing her cancer treatment.
Combs delayed her treatment in order to get her baby to 28 weeks,” Combs’s husband, Roy, wrote on a GoFundMe page for the family.
Nurses in a big city hospital never know what a day’s shift will bring – straightforward cases or medical miracles, major crises or minor first aid. Whatever her station, whatever the duty of the moment, a nurse tries to ready herself for anything. But some things, you just can’t see coming.
It was Beryl Otieno Ngoje’s turn to work the desk in the Same Day Surgery Unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), in Newark. She was busy with the usual administrative duties – filing charts, handing out forms to the patients, answering visitors’ questions – when another nurse hurried up beside her.
“Oh, something just happened, you won’t believe it,” the woman said, visibly excited. “I have it in my hand.” She held up a clenched fist, palm up. “I have it in my hand,” she said again.
“What do you have in your hand?” Beryl asked, bemused at the woman’s demeanor.
“Do you want to see?”
“Yes,” Beryl said – and instantly regretted it. Continue Reading
The Catholic bishops of the United States are pleased to offer once again to the Catholic faithful Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, our teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement represents our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We urge our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use this statement to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching. Continue Reading
– David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
In the 1960’s, when abortions were available only for “therapeutic” reasons, it was not uncommon for persons with the means and know-how to obtain an abortion on psychiatric grounds. In some states, all that was necessary was to find an agreeable psychiatrist willing to diagnose every woman with a problem pregnancy as “suicidal.”
Yet all the studies done on this issue show that pregnancy is actually correlated with a dramatic decreased rate of suicide compared to non-pregnant women. Read More
October 22, 2015 (LC) — On September 29, Inside the Vatican and Liberty Counsel both announced that Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis on September 24. Since the announcement, there has been a wide variety of reporting ranging from some who deny any meeting occurred to others who admit a meeting occurred but that Kim Davis was merely one of many in a sea of faces. The fact is, Kim Davis was invited to a private meeting with the Pope and did meet privately with him on the afternoon of September 24, during which meeting Pope Francis said to Kim, “I want to thank you for your courage” and “Stay strong.” Below are the facts:
1. While Kim Davis was in jail on September 3, 2015, Inside the Vatican reported, “A Church source advises that Francis may soon decide to delegate a personal representative to visit Kim on his behalf.”
2. After spending six days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses, Kim Davis returned to work on September 14 and that evening received an invitation from the Vatican Embassy for a private meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday afternoon, September 24. Continue Reading.
Reprinted with permission from Liberty Counsel.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2015
Contact: Joshua Mercer, 517-212-0419, email@example.com
CatholicVote.org exposes political contributions on new PlannedProfithood.org site
CHICAGO — The House Judiciary Committee today opened investigative hearings on Planned Parenthood, but many Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have a conflict of interest, says Brian Burch, President of CatholicVote.org.
According to FEC records, 10 Democratic Members of the Committee have received contributions from Planned Parenthood’s campaign fund:
The House Judiciary Committee has announced that Congress will hold its first hearing on the Planned Parenthood scandal next week, following the recess. Among the witnesses to provide testimony are two women who survived abortion attempts; they will speak from first-hand experience about the horrors of the abortion industry.
The first of a series of hearings, titled “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider,” will take place on Wednesday, September 9.