Have you ever had a moment when you just knew the Holy Spirit was at work right in front of you? When your spine tingles and your eyes grow wide? I experienced one of those sacred encounters in a Catholic school basement in Cherry Hill last year, and I’ll never forget it.
I was moderating a panel of folks who work for our Catholic Charities’ refugee resettlement program. They welcome individuals and families who are fleeing violence and persecution around the world and help them adjust to their new lives here in South Jersey. Two of the panelists were former refugees themselves who now work for the program, including a lovely man named Francis, who is originally from Burma (now called Myanmar).
At the start of the program, I told the crowd that the refugees who move here are living and working and going to school right alongside us, whether we knew it or not. The panel’s goal was to help raise awareness of the work Catholic Charities is doing and share with attendees how they could get involved. How might we all be good neighbors to these newly arriving members of our community?
We took a short break in the middle of the event, and I made small talk with Francis.
“So, where do you live?” I asked.
He told me.
“Wait, where?” I replied. My spine tingled and my eyes grew wide.
It turned out Francis and his family lived right around the corner from me. They were my literal neighbors. I drive past their place every day. I had no idea.
Read the rest of this column at the Catholic Star Herald.
When Pope Francis called for a day of Fasting and Prayer for peace in Syria, many Catholic outlets pulled together prayer services and resources (including this blog). But why are we called to pray AND fast this Saturday?
In 2009, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio issued a Lenten message to the Archdiocese of Buenos Aries all about fasting. His ideas then shed light on his request for fasting now:
In his Lenten message, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said amidst the atmosphere of “sadness” on display in the streets of Argentina with so many going hungry and in poverty, the Lenten fast is a way of expressing “solidarity with those who fast involuntarily” and helps people overcome indifference.
In a press release about the message, the cardinal said the reality of “men and women begging or going through trash, the elderly sleeping on street corners, kids sleeping on top of subway vents to stay warm” no longer “shocks us.”
“We show no interest in their lives, their stories, their needs or their future. How many times did their pleading looks made us look the other way and walk by. When we get used to something we also become indifferent,” he warned.
Cardinal Berglogio called on the faithful to observe the Lenten fast as “God desires,” that is, “giving bread to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, clothing to the naked, and not turning our backs on our neighbor.”
“Today we need to fast by working so that others don’t have to fast. Today we can only practice fasting by taking of the pain and powerlessness of the millions who go hungry. Whoever does not fast for the poor cheats God. To fast is to love,” he said.
Our fasting this Saturday is a powerful way to stand with those who “fast involuntarily” in Syria, who are going without safety, shelter, peace, and more.