Err on the side of kindness

Let me state my case clearly; while I am tremendously proud of the good works taking place in the Catholic Church, I am equally ashamed at the behaviour of many Catholics when it comes to dealing with the poor. There is something going horribly wrong in the way we approach charity with little attempt to correct it, both at the grass roots and from the pulpit. The Catholic Church is known for her charity to the poor but what bothers me is not so much ‘what we give’ but ‘how we give’ and the thinking that governs such giving.

A few years ago I developed a very close relationship with a financially challenged family in my parish. Poverty and fate’s cruel twist had left them without a father and no source of income. The boys quit school to help their mother and educate their only sister, and together they struggled to put just bread on the table.

In this miserable situation they turned to the Church. While they always praised Fr Michael Goveas, the parish priest, they were deeply disturbed by the laity who were in-charge of distributing aid to the poor. They were made to wait in line like they were refugees waiting for their next meal and often spoken to harshly, if not in an insulting manner. As they young man said to me, “their insults first filled our bellies, their food was hard to swallow but hunger forced us to eat.”

The recounting of this incident made a deep impression on me and I was determined that this would not happen in my parish. To my horror that was exactly the case and I was horribly embarrassed. So I began to catechise those who distributed aid to the poor, sharing with them the mind of the Church. I also decided to invite a few people to be on the committee that cared for the poor. It was my hope that the poor man would understand another poor man. Immediately two members on the committee left citing differences with my approach and may I say I was exhilarated with their exit!

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