Archive | September, 2010

“I knew this place was here, but I never thought I’d need to come here…

24 Sep

…I can’t believe I’m at a place in my life where I’d need help like this, and I can’t believe God gave me this help through you all here. Thank you very much.”

— the words of a gentleman who received help from Christian Help earlier today, as he embraced Sr Therese who had just provided it to him

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‘Each of us can do something’

23 Sep

You saw the news a few days ago that poverty rates in the United States are at an all-time high: 43 million people living in poverty.  The information caused a clamor around the country — and rightfully so — but here in central Appalachia, we’re well acquainted to intense poverty.

I appreciated the two cents offered in a CNN interview by popular Christian author Max Lucado.  The numbers are big, but they represent individual lives.  Every one of “the hurting poor” (as Lucado calls them) is a person, and each of us can do something to help some of them.

(Apparently CNN won’t let the YouTube video embed.  But you can click on “Watch it on YouTube” to do just that.)

On the Road

19 Sep

I’ve been on the road for the past several days and thought I’d tell you about my travels.

I attended the Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, Wednesday through Friday of this past week. Brushy Fork is an annual gathering of nonprofit leaders from around Appalachia. It provides some excellent educational and professional development opportunities, as well as a chance to network with hundreds of other people involved in a wide variety of important community development efforts.

Then on Friday, I drove from Berea to Hinton, West Virginia, for the annual meeting of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia.  This was my first time at this meeting, but the group was marking its fortieth anniversary, and I was able to meet, chat with, and learn from many people who have been involved in some extraordinary work of social justice here in these mountains for many decades.

They were also marking the 35th anniversary of the publication of This Land Is Home to Me, the landmark pastoral letter by the Catholic bishops of Appalachia, which helped draw the attention of the nation to the poverty and exploitation that the people of the region have endured.

By the way,the town of Hinton, where the meeting was held, was itself worth the trip — what a beautiful location!

I’ll be back at my desk tomorrow morning, refreshed and energized for another day of doing the work we do: responding to situations of emergency and need with immediacy and simplicity, respecting the dignity of all, in the spirit of Jesus Christ.

“Your afflicted brother … is the most precious temple of all.”

13 Sep

Today is, in the Catholic tradition, the feast of St. John Chrysostom, who was a great leader of the Church in the late 300’s and early 400’s AD.  Chrysostom served as the archbishop of Constantinople (which is in present-day Turkey and was at the time one of the great centers of the Christian faith). 

He is most remembered for his eloquent and forceful sermons, many of which we still have record of today.  One of the things he was most eloquent, and most adamant, about was a Christian’s duty to help those who are poor — and that that duty comes before making sure we have altars and churches that are sufficiently beautiful.

Here is a clip from one of these, which I post here because it expresses so well the Gospel ideas on which Christian Help was founded:

Give Christ the honour prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts.

Now, in saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms. He accepts the former, but he is much more pleased with the latter. In the former, only the giver profits; in the latter, the recipient does too. A gift to the church may be taken as a form of ostentation, but an alms is pure kindness. Of what use is it to weigh down Christ’s table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs? What profit is there in that? Tell me: If you were to see him lacking the necessary food but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry? What if you were to see him clad in worn-out rags and stiff from the cold, and were to forget about clothing him and instead were to set up golden columns for him, saying that you were doing it in his honour? Would he not think he was being mocked and greatly insulted?

Apply this also to Christ when he comes along the roads as a pilgrim, looking for shelter. You do not take him in as your guest, but you decorate floor and walls and the capitals of the pillars. You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison. Once again, I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; I am urging you to provide these other things as well, and indeed to provide them first. No one has ever been accused for not providing ornaments, but for those who neglect their neighbour a hell awaits with an inextinguishable fire and torment in the company of the demons. Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.