Pope Shines Light of Hope on Those Most in Need
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

In simple words that have deeply touched people of all ages and from all walks of life, Pope Francis has shone a new light of hope on those most in need and helped us as faithful Christians examine our hearts and refocus our own priorities.

“Protect with tenderness.”  That is the beautiful command that he gave to each one of us at his installation on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph, the “custos” or “protector” of Jesus and Mary:

“The vocation of being a “protector”…means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.  …It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.  In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it.”  

From the first moments of his pontificate, Pope Francis made it clear that he stands in solidarity with the poor and marginalized.  The choice of the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi who lived life a poor man and joyfully followed what Jesus did without a hint of self-importance, is truly significant.   

Jesus fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless, educated the ignorant, healed the sick, visited the prisoner, and forgave the sinner.  That was His example to us and what He called each of us to do. Francis of Assisi emulated Him to the point of taking the clothes right off his own back!  He dedicated his life to Jesus’ most basic teachings, and that is what we have seen Pope Francis do as well.  

Catholic Charities also cares for people just as Jesus did.  On behalf of the Church, and with the support of our dedicated volunteers, board members and donors, Catholic Charities is the “protector” of the poor and vulnerable in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Thousands of people come to us for help each day.  If they are hungry, we feed them.  If they are homeless we shelter them.  If they are struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, we provide them with treatment and counseling.  If they need a job, we provide job training and link them with employers.  

We don’t ask our clients if they are Catholic, or even if they are Christian.  What matters only is that they are in need of compassionate assistance.  With Catholic Charities’ professionally trained staff and specialized services, we not only provide a helping hand, but also a “hand up,” ensuring that people who come to us can begin to improve their lives and have hope for a better future.  

Hope is a tremendous gift that each of us can pass onto our struggling brothers and sisters. Through his eloquent words, Pope Francis reminded us that Jesus “awakened great hopes in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world.”  Jesus enlightened the spirits of the least important by making them the most important, and encouraged His disciples to do the same.  We as Christians and Catholics are so blessed to have the opportunity to bring Jesus’ light of hope to others, and to protect God’s creation and all humanity with all our hearts.  

Pope Francis’ modest charm and simple lifestyle have already won the hearts of the faithful all over the world.  His genuine spirit of kindness and focus on the poor has been very inspiring to us at Catholic Charities.  I pray that each of us will capture his enthusiasm and with renewed energy, strengthen our commitment to help the most vulnerable among us.

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