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"An act of kindness is remembered" by Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: By Long Thiên (2016), Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption] I read this story recently that brought to my mind how necessary it is that we take on a stronger commitment and responsibility and reach out across the world to help the millions of people who live in extreme poverty. This story was about animals, but conceptually, the idea is still the same. In truth, it reminded me of St. Francis and our very own Pope Francis. St. Francis gave up everything he owned including the clothes on his back and began a group of brothers whose sole purpose was that of helping the poor and downtrodden. Pope Francis seems to want to duplicate this same philosophy and share the same message. As for the story, it was about a woman, Margarita Suarez, who was forced to move from her home in Merida, Mexico due to failing health, and move to Cueramaro in Mexico City. Shortly after her move, she died. She was a poor, humble woman who had made it her mission to feed stray animals. She lived on a limited income but more than 20 stray cats came to her door daily for food. Every day when she would go out, she always stopped to feed several stray dogs living on the street. After she passed away, her family was preparing for her funeral at a local funeral home. Surprisingly, stray dogs started arriving. Initially they thought these dogs were regulars to the funeral home, but dogs just kept coming in and stayed close to Margarita’s coffin. Pictures of dogs lying by the coffin were taken by the family because they were amazed. The dogs then followed the vehicle carrying her body to the church for her funeral and then followed her back to the funeral home and stayed with her until she was prepared for cremation. It was so amazing that one individual who had very little herself managed to make sure animals who had no one weren’t forgotten. It struck me that we could learn so many lessons from this woman and her story. Imagine if every person extended a little of themselves to the millions of poor and suffering in the world: what a difference we could make to end hunger across the world.
“When we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them; some food, a place in our homes, our time, not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door you will always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, ‘one can always add more water to the beans’! Is it possible to add more water to the beans – always? After you do so, we are demonstrating that true riches consist not in material things but in the heart.” (Pope Francis, July 23, 2013)
Another story circulated about a group of 150 homeless men and women who were given a tour at the Vatican of the museum and gardens and then received dinner in the cafeteria. They were then invited to pray in the Sistine Chapel followed by a surprise visit and greeting by Pope Francis. “This is everyone’s house, it’s your house. The door will always be open for you all.” After shaking their hands, Pope Francis then asked them to pray with him. Pope Francis seems so determined to spread the message about giving of ourselves to the less fortunate.
“Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor.”  (Pope Francis, June 14, 2013)
I recently wrote an essay about young atheist girls criticizing Christians and Catholics when using the word blessed to describe a positive event that occurs in our lives, such as a cure for cancer or an engagement or wedding. Their comment said, “What about the millions that are poor or starving in other countries, why aren’t they fortunate enough to be blessed?” I had many reactions to their comments, the first being, “What are you doing to make a difference in their lives? Rather than complain about Christians and Catholics feeling entitled to call themselves blessed, why aren’t you using your blog to reach out to help these unfortunate souls with so much need?” I think there are many ways we can reach out to help the less fortunate with their suffering across the world. We have proven how good we are within the United States to help provide food for people in need in our own country through establishing of food banks and making food available all the time. We have school lunch and dinner programs for impoverished kids year 'round. We have the knowledge and the ability to help when called upon to do so.
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10:21-22)
There are many organizations in the United States and all over the world whose goal it is to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty and offer programs for aid and assistance. What if we all committed to help at least one group? Just imagine the impact we could have in making a difference in so many people’s lives.
“To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete; it means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served, and to serve him concretely.” (Pope Francis)
It may not mean you will have people waiting to thank you at your funeral, but Jesus assures us that our rewards will come in heaven. That is certainly something we can look forward to.
Copyright 2019 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh