Pope Francis frequently points to a “culture of indifference” that exposes our tendencies to forget the people in this world that we need to remember most. This reveals a shocking reality that we must grasp about ourselves. Instead of being attentive to those who lie on the “peripheries,” we often choose to turn our hearts and minds from the discomfort of suffering and avoid thinking about both global and local problems. We refuse to realize that the suffering of our brothers and sisters is not just on nightly news—it’s also in our own backyard. Sometimes, however, experiences of encounter open our eyes to these realities. Once we have the courage to see this reality, there are two ways we can respond: with generous hearts, or with stubborn indifference.
When we, the faithful of the Church, see suffering and despair in the world, we have a distinct advantage as we seek to respond. As isolated individuals, we might flounder in despair at the gravity of the issues we see in society. But when we gather as the Body of Christ, we can discover that we are not isolated in tackling these tough issues. Our faith provides us with a moral framework for facing these issues, influenced by the lives and witness of the holy men and women we now call saints, , sacred Scripture, and the development of the teachings of the Church in her wisdom.
This framework is what we call Catholic Social Teaching (CST). It serves as an aid, a way forward, and a guide for those of us who seek to shed the light of our faith on those problems which face our brothers and sisters on the peripheries.
Every year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hosts the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG) in Washington, D.C. to unite the Church in the United States in her work to address many of the social issues our country faces. The gathering brings together the people of the Church who wish to unite their voices to address the concerns of those on peripheries. CSMG delegations meet with lawmakers to advocate for policies reflecting the God-given inherent dignity of the human person.
I attended CSMG as a sophomore in college as part of the Young Leaders Initiative. During my visit to D.C., I saw courageous men and women bring the rich teachings of our Church to bear on the most difficult issues that our world faces. They do so with joy and determination because their work is inspired by the Gospel. When I saw that, I was inspired to do the same.
Since my time at CSMG, I have worked to feed the hunger inside myself to love the Lord and love his people. I take advantages of opportunities on and off campus to serve the poor and advocate for and with those in poverty. Students from across the country take part in the gathering to learn and grow as advocates, forming the next generation of advocates for those on the margins, whom Christ loves.
When I am discouraged, I remember all the good work that I learned about at CSMG, and I know I am not alone. Most importantly, I look to our crucified Lord as the ultimate source of strength when wrestling with the great challenge of Pope Francis’ call.
Alexander Mingus is a Senior at the University of Dayton, pursuing a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Human Rights Studies.
Invite colleges and universities in your diocese to participate in the Young Leaders Initiative, which facilitates participation of student leaders in the upcoming Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on Feb. 3-6, 2018.