The social doctrine of the Catholic Church has been described as one of the best kept secrets of our modern times. It is believed that the foundations of Catholic social teaching were first written and presented by Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical letter Rerum Novarum.
The website ccfsn.org states: “The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral society. This belief is the foundation of all of the principles of [Catholic] social teaching. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”
The idea that “people are more important than things” is more relevant now than ever before. Do we really live this concept?
On March 8 we celebrated International Women’s Day, which highlights the importance of women in our world. This year’s theme, Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, should ideally cement the idea that women hold a critical place and highly valuable roles, whether they are chief executive officers of a large organisation or homemakers and housekeepers.
Sadly, our current societal norms do not seem to reflect the dignity of men or women in the world. We, as a society, are bombarded with images of human suffering. This is a far cry from the belief that “every person’s life is precious”.
Our various communication channels provide us with a constant stream of content containing pestilence, war and more recently, instances where corporate greed appears to hold more value and weight than basic human life.
As such, there is a deep lack of trust and despondency can potentially creep in.
As the Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, Leela Ramdeen, would say, “there is much work to be done”.
We must also have hope! We, as Catholics, are called now to promote the social doctrine of the Church. This teaches us that our innate value comes from the fact that we are children of God.
Our roles in society, even though important, do not dictate our individual self-worth as each of us is innately worthy of God’s love and grace.
Further, Pope Francis reminds us in his Lenten message that the harvest will indeed come!
“Bitter disappointment at shattered dreams, deep concern for the challenges ahead and discouragement at the poverty of our resources, can make us tempted to seek refuge in self-centredness and indifference to the suffering of others. Indeed, even our best resources have their limitations: ‘Youths grow tired and weary, the young stumble and fall’ (Is 40:30). Yet God ‘gives strength to the weary, he strengthens the powerless… Those who hope in the Lord will regain their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire’ (Is 40:29, 31). The Lenten season calls us to place our faith and hope in the Lord (cf. 1 Pet 1:21), since only if we fix our gaze on the risen Christ (cf. Heb 12:2) will we be able to respond to the Apostle’s appeal, ‘Let us never grow tired of doing good’ (Gal 6:9).”
As we navigate the very pressing concerns of our times, we should use this Lenten season to foster trust and a consistent personal relationship with God. In doing so, we receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit which will carry us through our individual and shared challenges.
Download your copy of Pope Francis’ full Lenten message in an attractive and easy to read format, from CCSJ’s website rcsocialjustice.org today.
SOCIAL JUSTICE QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
“I realize that some people are hesitant and fearful with regard to migrants. I consider this part of our natural instinct of self-defense. Yet it is also true that an individual and a people are only fruitful and productive if they are able to develop a creative openness to others.” (41)
—Pope Francis, Fratelli Tuitti
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee