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Fratelli Tutti. Chapter 1: Poverty, And What to Do About It.

I was looking at Chapter One in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Fraternity Tutti. I was reading paragraph 21. Here the Pope says, “Some economic rules have proved effective for growth, but not for integral human development. Wealth has increased, but together with inequality, with the result that “new forms of poverty are emerging.”

Let’s look at this from the point of view of a single person. People use certain tools to increase their economic growth. Does their development as an integrated human being also increase? If not, would that not be a form of poverty? All dimensions of a person’s life need to be progressing. If not, they are not growing as a fully developed human person.

Let’s make a chart of six areas that Pope Francis mentions. In each category give yourself a plus (if it is going well in your life) or minus (if it is an area in your life where something is lacking or awry).

  1. Utilities. Do you have adequate water, heating/cooling, lighting, pest control, refrigeration, cooking capabilities?
  2. Personal development. Is work all that you are able to do right now? Had a vacation lately? Do you get any downtime in the course of the day? Read any good books lately? Are you reading anything at all? When was the last time you attended a seminar, listened to a podcast, watched a webinar to improve some aspect of your life?
  3. Gender. What’s it like being a man or woman? Anyone disrespecting you because of your gender? Does your sexuality feel healthy and integrated? How are you getting along with other genders? Dating anyone? How’s the marriage?
  4. Emotional/psychological. Are you calm? If not calm, do you at least feel content or satisfied? How is your stress level? If high, can you identify why? Can you do anything about it? If not, why not?
  5. Law and Legal: Are you currently in jail or prison? Is that a possibility? Are you in trouble with the law? Can you engage adequate, competent legal resources if needed?
  6. Physical. How’s your physical health? Are you sick? Are you dying? If you’re not healthy, do you have access to adequate medical resources? Is anyone physically threatening you? Are you being physically used or abused? If so, is there any way you can escape that or get someone to help you?

Some might say, “That list is pretty rough.” Don’t blame me. Talk to the man in Rome. It’s his list. But Francis does go to the heart of the hard-core issues in the world, doesn’t he? How did you feel as you read that paragraph? Would you feel comfortable praying the words of the Psalmist…

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way,

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46)

If you can’t say that prayer and believe it, perhaps you need to pray to the Lord about it.

In his book, Rediscover Catholicism, Matthew Kelly wrote, “You cannot become like Jesus Christ and, at the same time, stay as you are…. It is this dynamic approach to transformation that animates the human person… and allows us to experience ‘life to the fullest.’”

So let’s look at this practically from two perspectives. One – your life. Pick one area in the list above where you are ‘in poverty.” What can you do to change your life in that area? Two – others. Pick one area in the list above where you know someone else is in poverty. What can you do to help change their life in that area? 

Prayer: Lord God, when the restless powers of this world and the waters of hell rise up against your holy city, the new Jerusalem, you keep watch over it and it is safe, founded on solid rock. May the river that flows from the throne of the Lamb so purify this city as to make it shine out before men as your chosen dwelling, the unfailing sign of your greatness.

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