Sunday, 14 December 2008

Keep hope in your hearts

Dear WAC workers,

There are so many reasons to be despondent about the state of the world, and the state of the Church today.

I can't offer solutions to the problems we face.

All I can do is share with you my own way of coping, and living my faith.

I don't know most of you, I haven't been involved in the work We Are Church has done over the last few years, but I know some of you feel rather disillusioned with the lack of change, lack of response to the things you have said, in the areas you feel are important.

Perhaps, however, we have been looking for hope and light in the wrong places.

We know, from the Gospels, that the one thing that we are asked to do is love - love God, love each other, love ourselves. For me, that has, over the years, translated itself into service, love through service of those most in need of God's love, most in need of the message that love is there for the giving, there for the asking. I live this out in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the largest lay-led organisation in the church, the largest voluntary organisation in the world meeting the poor where they are. In a quiet way, the SVP has, since its inception over 150 years ago, penetrated 159 countries, with almost 1 million members, carrying out at least 50 million individual loving actions every year (one a week each, it's our rule). Add that to all the other loving actions that individual human beings, people of faith or none, carry out every year, every day, and you have an awful lot of loving, giving us an awful lot of hope. Ignore the headlines, look at what people like you are doing.

This is not happy, clappy, cuddly spirituality. This is down there, in the dirt, practical help - giving food, material goods, financial support, practical advice, looking after the elderly, orphans, victims of disaster, the lonely, the addicted, the homeless. It happens here in in the seaside town where I live and in thousands of other towns and parishes all over the world, literally, even in war zones, in the former communist bloc, in the Australian desert and the cold of Alaska, you will find Vincentians and all those who give of their time, their resources and themselves for their neighbour. Never mind the pomp and circumstance of the clerics, the carping of traditionalists or the constant, miserable criticism of the anti-religious secularists. This is where Christ is present, and he is never miserable.

I am not suggesting that you all go out and join the SVP. Nor am I suggesting that we should give up and stop campaigning for the justice we know is missing in our Church and in our world. But the poor are always with us, and so is injustice, and so is human frailty and error. I suggest we continue to write, and speak out and witness to the truth. But I also suggest we experience the joy of the Spirit in our lives by living the Gospel of love daily, as I am sure you all do, adopting a rule of life for ourselves, offering our own pain for the world, in a very traditional Catholic way.

Use Matt. 19:21, and 25:31, for reflection, and especially James, 1: 2-3, 1:17, and above all 2:14-17. Show the begrudgers that the open, loving, liberal-minded, generous love of Jesus is alive and active in the world, in all you say and do, above all do, act, love.

My prayers, good wishes and love to you all,

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