The Poor Need to be Seen and Loved
by Mark Votava
I have learned from the life of Dorothy Day and the Catholc Worker Movement to value the poor by practicing hospitality. As I have lived at the Tacoma Catholic Worker for four years now, I am coming to understand more how Christ lives in the poor. So many of my friends are poor, oppressed and marginalized. It makes me sad.
- Christ lives in the poor
Some of my friends have mental illnesses, physical disabilities and struggle with depression or loneliness. The other day, someone came to our house to take a shower and he thanked me for the kindness shown to him. I didn’t think giving someone the opportunity to take a shower was that big of a deal, but it is. It struck me that Christ lives in the poor somehow.
- How I experience the poor is how I experience Christ
When I am giving someone a shower, I am giving Christ a shower. When I am eating with the poor and hungry, I am eating with Christ. When I offer my friendship to the poor, I am offering friendship to Christ.
- Taking seriously hospitality
Christians need to take seriously hospitality as the body of Christ in the parish. So many of our neighbors are poor, oppressed and marginalized. They are invisible and degraded by the systems of our culture. Almost nobody cares for the poor anymore.
- The poor have been pushed out or clustered into social services
The poor have been gentrified in our neighborhoods. They have been pushed out or clustered into social services away from common everyday life with others. A lot of Christians have abandoned the poor. We have become a church of the wealthy and middle class.
- Closing the doors of our homes
We have become a church of mainly white people. We have closed the doors of our homes in fear from those who live in poverty. Addiction, mental illness, prison systems, immigration, war, domestic violence, unlivable wages, the greed of capitalism, loneliness and abuse all contribute to the lives of the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Christians cannot remain apathetic towards our neighbors who experience these life conditions any longer.
- Practicing hospitality together in the parish
What would happen if we sought to practice hospitality together in the parish instead of letting our neighbors be reduced to a number at a social service with little genuine care. The poor are dying among us as we ignore their existence. Ian Adams says, “Imagine a community of hospitality and reconciliation inspired by Christ in every neighborhood….”
- The poor need to be seen and loved
Hospitality inspired by the parish imagination could change everything. Hospitality inspired by the parish imagination could bring dignity back to the poor. The poor need to be seen. The poor need to be loved.
- The poor need friendship
The poor need friends to help with the loneliness they experience every day. If we practiced hospitality as the body of Christ together opening our homes, our lives, our presence, our care and our tables; what would God do through our reconciling friendships? I think miracles would happen if the rich, poor and middle class shared life together in the parish.
What keeps us from seeing Christ in the poor, oppressed and marginalized?