Labor Day 2019: On the Hundredth Year of the United States Bishops’ Program of Social Reconstruction

OT Photo TwoIn his 2019 Labor Day statement, On the Hundredth Year of the United States Bishops’ Program of Social ReconstructionBishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, invites us to consider how we can work together to address the persistence of low wages and inequality in our workplaces:

In the Gospel for this Labor Day, Jesus proclaims in the synagogue the words of Isaiah: that he, like the prophet, has been “anointed” “to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Lk. 4:18). How do we bring glad tidings to the poor today? As Pope Francis said earlier this year, “today’s tendency is toward slowing down the pace of reducing extreme poverty and increasing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. . . . Many do not have food to eat and live adrift while a few drown in excess. This perverse current of inequity is disastrous for humanity’s future.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the “Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction,” published by an early predecessor of the current U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Following World War I, the bishops recommended a series of “practical and moderate” reforms because “the only safeguard of peace is social justice and a contented people.” Today’s economy, if measured by the stock market, has the most money and wealth it has ever had, and unemployment is around the lowest it has been in fifty years. And yet, roughly four in ten Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 bill, and would fall below the poverty line after three months without income. More than one in five jobs in the United States is in a low-wage occupation where the median wage pays below the poverty threshold for a family of four. Real wages have been largely stagnant for decades, and workers’ share of the fruits of the economy has been declining for decades. Why does this situation persist? It is worth revisiting the “Bishops’ Program,” which presented three themes from Catholic social teaching that, as recent research suggests, may help explain the present.

It is up to us, as Bishop Dewane reminds us, to live and act in solidarity with all workers as we seek to live out the call of the Gospel:

As the “Bishops’ Program” concluded 100 years ago, “[c]hanges in our economic and political systems will have only partial and feeble efficiency if they be not reinforced by the Christian view of work and wealth.” In this view, workers and owners both have rights and duties towards each other; a business enterprise must view itself as a “society of persons” rather than a mere commercial instrument. As Pope Francis recently said, “[t]he new course for sustainable economic development needs to set the person and work at the center . . .”16 To this end, no merely technocratic policy changes will bear the fruit that is so desperately needed today. Rather, with consideration for the treasury of the Church’s social teaching, let us consider “new processes” that can build up justice in the workplace over time. Let us then proceed as a people who, through Baptism, share in Christ’s anointing “to bring glad tidings to the poor.”

Read the complete 2019 Labor Day statement (also available in Spanish), and find ways to help your community respond with prayer and action in the 2019 pastoral aid. (en Español)

Additional ways you can help your community support workers and strive for just workplaces:

Reconciling God, Creation and Humanity on Earth Day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we celebrate Earth Day, we are reminded of Pope Francis’s call in Laudato Si’ to care for creation and to reconcile our relationship with God, creation and one another.

 The following is an excerpt from an Ecological Examen developed jointly by Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, and the Ignatian Solidarity Network. The Examen asks you to reflect on your personal relationship with creation, to acknowledge and amend your ways and to promote ecological justice by standing in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.

Begin the Examen by placing yourself or your group in a posture that allows you to be open to the ways the Spirit is working in you. There are six steps in the Examen.

1. I give thanks to God for creation and for being wonderfully made. Where did I feel God’s presence in creation today?

I begin my Examen by centering myself in the midst of God who is the God of unconditional love and infinite creativity. I imagine how this God of love created the beauty of the universe.

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” 1  I see that God is part of every facet of creation, operating in the world in the smallest organism to the greatest mountain range.

I give thanks to my God who created all the Earth, all the creatures upon the Earth, the fishes of the sea, the birds that soar through the skies, the water that gives us life and all humanity.

I give thanks to a God who molded me in my mother’s womb and who crafts me into the person who I am today. I thank God for my life and for all that God has provided me to sustain this very life. I recognize all I am and all Creation that surrounds me is a gift from God.

2.  I ask for the grace to see creation as God does – in all its splendor and suffering. Do I see the beauty of creation and hear the cries of the earth and the poor?

I ask for the grace to look at the world as God does – to see the world in its infinite goodness, diversity and interconnectedness.

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf,

I see the close relationship between all creatures and our common home and how we are dependent on one another for our mutual well-being.  Like God, I rejoice in how the earth and the creatures and people who inhabit it are all wonderfully made.

But like God, I also hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”  I hear how “this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

I see signs of our sins reflected in the “symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.” I see how indigenous peoples have been displaced from their lands and seen their water contaminated due to an economic system that prioritizes profit over people and the common good. I recognize how a “throwaway culture” discards not only things but people as “leftovers,” and how it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most from climate change.

I see how poor people and persons of color disproportionately live in neighborhoods near industries that produce contamination and waste, whether in urban cities, rural areas or in precious natural biomes such as the Amazon.

I see how poverty, inequality and globalization contribute to “social exclusion [and] an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services.” I am pained by the increasing negative impacts of globalization on the earth and humanity.

As Pope Francis exclaims, we cannot ignore the cries of Creation, the poor and the earth who “is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.” 

3.  I ask for the grace to look closely to see how my life choices impact creation and the poor and vulnerable. What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation? How can I turn away from a throwaway culture and instead stand in solidarity with creation and the poor?

How present am I to the world around me? How do I show my love for God through my respect for creation and my neighbor? How does my environment shape who I deem to be my neighbor or part of my community? Who is left out?

Where are the most polluted areas of my community and in the world? Who lives there?

How do I use water throughout my daily life? How am I a responsible steward of this gift? How do my consumption patterns and demand for energy impact the availability of clean water for communities in my country and around the world? Who has access to clean water, a basic human right, and who does not?

Do I recognize that eating is a moral act and that “how I treat my food is how I treat my home?”  Do I take more than I can eat?” Do I waste a lot of food when many around the world are hungry? Am I conscious of where my food is grown and under what conditions? Am I aware of the energy and water that went into the production of my food, and the impact on the environment?

iStock_000006715814Large4.  I ask for the grace of conversion towards ecological justice and reconciliation. Where have I fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters? How do I ask for a conversion of heart?

In my desire for reconciliation with creation, I ask God for forgiveness and the grace of ecological conversion.

I acknowledge the ways in which I personally have chosen convenience, selfishness, and greed over ecological and social justice.

I also acknowledge the ways structures, patterns, and cultures of sin impact my life, the lives of people on the margins and the earth. Through my recognition of where I have fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters, and through God’s mercy, I pray for a conversion of heart to amend my ways. I seek through my prayer and actions to reconcile myself with God, creation and humanity.

I ask for the grace to become someone who chooses to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized and acts to contribute to a more socially and ecologically just society.

Seeing the joys and suffering of the Earth and its creatures and persons across the globe, I also see “signs of God’s work, of the great ministry of reconciliation God has begun in Christ, fulfilled in the Kingdom of justice, peace and the integrity of creation.” 

5.  I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity, and to stand in solidarity through my actions. How can I repair my relationship with creation and make choices consistent with my desire for reconciliation with creation?

God calls us as caretakers of the earth not simply to take the earth’s resources for our own benefit, but to use the earth’s resources to praise, reverence, and serve God.

By working for environmental justice and reconciliation with creation, we reverence the God of love and co-labor with God towards Christ’s own mission of reconciliation and love.

We “are called to help heal a broken world,” to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter. This means embracing a new sustainable path forward and a “new way of producing and consuming [that] puts God’s creation at the center.”

I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity. With the entire Ignatian Family, I take up this challenge by identifying personal concrete action steps to live more sustainably.

In what ways through my actions can I stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected by the environmental crisis?

In what ways will I advocate for environmental policies that care for creation and the most vulnerable?

6.  I offer a closing prayer for the earth and the vulnerable in our society.

“A Prayer for Our Earth” 

All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

(Laudato Si’, n. 246)

Going Deeper!
Caring for creation doesn’t stop with Earth Day! Learn more and view the full Ecological Examen, available online and in booklet form. Find out how you can get involved with the work of the Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

World Day of Peace 2019: Good Politics at the Service of Peace

“Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.” – Pope Francis, 2019 World Day of Peace Message

povertyusa 3

An annual papal message for the World Day of Peace (Jan. 1) has been released every year since 1968. Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message for 2019, entitled Good Politics at the Service of Peace, is a call to political participation. He reminds us that the Gospel calls us to raise our voices for the common good, for “politics is one of the highest forms of charity.” Advocating for and with communities who are oppressed, disadvantaged, or excluded is a response to our baptismal call to love all members of the Body of Christ, in imitation of Christ’s love.

How can we use our political and social systems to seek peace?

In announcing the theme for this year’s World Day of Peace on January 1, 2019, the Vatican made note of the call to all of us to engage with our civic systems saying, “Political responsibility belongs to every citizen and, in particular, to those that have received the mandate to protect and to govern.” Instead of indifference, cynicism
or thinking our voices do not matter, we believe the Gospel calls us to raise our voices for the common good, for “politics is one of the highest forms of charity.” Advocating for and with communities who are oppressed, disadvantaged, or excluded is a response to our baptismal call to love all members of the Body of Christ, in imitation of Christ’s love. God created human beings as social and relational creatures, made in his own image. We are called to reach out and build relationships of love and justice, making love visible in structures and policies through political engagement. Two areas in which we are called to protect human dignity is in our “concern for the future of life and of the planet, of the youngest and littlest.”

We must work to ensure that the dignity of all is protected is through our political, social, and economic systems. As Pope Francis teaches us in his World Day of Peace Message, these systems must always work to promote peace in our communities. Catholic Social Teaching demands that politics must have a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, and not be used to promote violence or marginalize those in poverty. Instead, “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

What Can You Do? 

  1. Pray. Pray for the grace to approach all political and social issues from a starting point of faith, love, and a spirit of generosity. You may also try one of the prayer practices at bit.ly/9WaysPray to enrich your experience of prayer for
    peace.
  2. Learn. Civic participation and faithful citizenship requires us to understand the political and social issues that impact our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Visit USCCB resources on Catholic Social Teaching and civic engagement
    to further your knowledge. Read stories of hope to learn how faith communities are answering the call to work for peace and justice.
  3. Act. Join tens of thousands of Catholics to advocate for policies that support justice and peace in the U.S. and those experiencing poverty or conflict around the world. Take action today by visiting confrontglobalpoverty.org. Join 500+ Catholic Advocates on Capitol Hill for the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (Feb. 2-5, 2019).
Going Deeper!

Learn more about the World Day of Peace by checking out these accompanying resources, including a two-page handout ( also available in en Español) to reflect on Pope Francis’ important invitation to all Catholics and people of good will.

For more ways to raise your voice for the common good throughout the month of January, join us for Poverty Awareness Month! An online and print calendar (also en Español),  longer daily reflections (also en Español) and a pastoral aid for Sunday, January 27, 2019 (also en Español) includes daily ways to learn about poverty, get inspired by how communities are responding, and take action with others. You can also sign up to receive the daily reflections by email.

Pray with Pope Francis: Show Us Your Face

In Gaudete et Exsultate, or Rejoice and Be Glad, Pope Francis asks us to respond to Christ’s invitation to holiness by encountering Jesus’ face in those of our brothers and sisters. This prayer based on Gaudete et Exsultate can be found on the USCCB website in both English and Spanish. You can also purchase copies of Rejoice and Be Glad from the USCCB online store.

Show Us Your Face
Prayer based on Rejoice and Be Glad [Gaudete et Exsultate]

 “Amid the thicket of precepts and prescriptions, Jesus clears a way to seeing two faces, that of the Father and that of our brother. He does not give us two or more formulas or two or more commands. He gives us two faces, or better yet, one alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces. For in every one of our brothers and sisters, especially the least, the most vulnerable, the defenseless and those in need, God’s very image is found. Indeed, with the scraps of this frail humanity, the Lord will shape his work of art.”

– Pope Francis, Rejoice and Be Glad [Gaudete et Exsultate], no. 61

Father and Creator,

Show us your face reflected in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially the least, the most vulnerable, the defenseless, and those in need.

In refugee families fleeing violence or war, show us your face.

In those suffering from hunger, show us your face.

In children not yet born, show us your face.

In those enslaved by drug addiction, show us your face.

In parents who work two jobs but still struggle to get by, show us your face.

In those on death row, show us your face.

In young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, show us your face.

In those aging and alone, show us your face.

In all faces, we know that your divine image is reflected. Help us to recognize always that image.

Help us to work together to protect the dignity of all people—each one created in your image.

Lord, in our families, communities and world shape your final work of art with the scraps of our frail humanity (cf. GE, no. 61).

We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

__________________________________________

Muéstranos tu rostro
Oración basada en Alegraos y Regocijaos (Gaudete et Exsultate)

“En medio de la tupida selva de preceptos y prescripciones, Jesús abre una brecha que permite distinguir dos rostros, el del Padre y el del hermano. No nos entrega dos fórmulas o dos preceptos más. Nos entrega dos rostros, o mejor, uno solo, el de Dios que se refleja en muchos. Porque en cada hermano, especialmente en el más pequeño, frágil, indefenso y necesitado, está presente la imagen misma de Dios. En efecto, el Señor, al final de los tiempos, plasmará su obra de arte con el desecho de esta humanidad vulnerable”.

—Papa Francisco, Alegraos y Regocijaos [Gaudete et Exsultate], no. 61

Padre y Creador,

Muéstranos tu rostro reflejado en los rostros de nuestros hermanos y hermanas, especialmente los más pequeños, los más frágiles, los indefensos y los necesitados.

En las familias de refugiados que huyen de la violencia o la guerra, muéstranos tu rostro.

En los que sufren de hambre en todo el mundo, muéstranos tu rostro.

En los niños aún no nacidos, muéstranos tu rostro.

En los esclavizados por la adicción a las drogas, muéstranos tu rostro.

En los padres que tienen dos trabajos pero aun así luchan por sobrevivir, muéstranos tu rostro.

En los que envejecen y están solos, muéstranos tu rostro.

En todos los rostros sabemos que se refleja tu imagen divina. Ayúdenos a reconocer siempre esa imagen.

Ayúdanos a trabajar juntos para proteger la dignidad de todas las personas, cada una de ellas creadas a tu imagen.

Señor, en nuestras familias, comunidades y mundo plasmamos tu obra de arte final con el desecho de nuestra vulnerable humanidad (cf. GE, no. 61).

Te lo pedimos por Cristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved.  This text may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration for nonprofit educational use, provided such reprints are not sold and include this notice.

Archbishop Kurtz on Charleston

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded to the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, with “grief and deep sadness,” June 19. He said the Catholic community “stands with all people who struggle for an end to racism and violence, in our families, in our places of worship, in our communities and in our world.” He made this statement:

It is with grief and deep sadness that we learned of the tragic murder of Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and eight members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. There have been far too many heartbreaking losses in the African-American community this year alone. Our prayers are with all those suffering from this heinous crime.

We join our voices with civic and religious leaders in pledging to work for healing and reconciliation. Our efforts must address racism and the violence so visible today. As the U.S. Catholic Bishops said in our pastoral letter on racism, “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.”

The Catholic community stands with all people who struggle for an end to racism and violence, in our families, in our places of worship, in our communities and in our world. We must continue to build bridges and we must confront racism and violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope, and a call to action.