Lindsey Mitzel reviews Catholic Mom contributor Anne DeSantis's new book about seeing Christ in everyone we meet.
Love and Care for the Marginalized is a beautiful and timely book of reminders to look at those around us and desire to truly see them in their humanity. It is a book about learning to put others first and take small but challenging steps to grow in selflessness and care for those who can sometimes be hard to care for. It is a book that idealizes Christ’s love and attention for those society looks down upon and seeks to overcome our tendency to want to impress and influence. I highly recommend this book to anyone feeling compelled by the Holy Spirit to grow in compassion and love for their neighbor.
Written by Anne DeSantis, M.A., Love and Care for the Marginalized is a short book broken up into paragraph long daily meditations, challenges, and prayers. In the current liturgical season of Lent, with a basic tenant of almsgiving and focus on caring for the poor, I was struck especially with the main theme of this book, which is to look for Christ in His distressing disguise among us.
I was privileged to speak with Ms. DeSantis about her book one afternoon. She explained that she formed the concept of her book during the beginning of the pandemic as she considered those around her and their needs. She realized that the marginalized are not always those we may see outright requesting help, but those we know very well. They may be that forgotten aunt in our family, a cousin no one speaks to for unknown reasons, a man or woman in church who tends to sit alone and is mainly left alone during the sign of peace or as they get up to leave. The marginalized amongst us may be an acquaintance or colleague that others talk about when their back is turned; they may be a friend we gossip about to others. The marginalized may sometimes even be our spouse or children.
“People like to compare and impress other people. [Jesus] wants us to be just like Him. How can we become more like Him? We might not value those who want to be our friend, especially if we’re seeking after power, popularity or pleasure. [However], the way we treat people makes a difference and God does care about that. Take a step further and be more sacrificial with your time. Stay on the phone longer or spend time with those who aren’t as popular. Active listening is so important for people to feel cared for. People don’t usually want to be fixed.”
I found this book to be very relatable. Initially I expected more of a how-to book; however, after a particular day of feeling rather “other” in some ways, I read day 13 and felt consoled in a way: “If you know what it is like to be forgotten, put yourself in [someone else’s shoes].” The action for that day calls one to think about someone you know who may be feeling left out, and to not worry about what others might think of you if you commit to trying to love and support that person.
At one point in our conversation, Ms. DeSantis said, “If we think about it, we may wish for that [ourselves]. The best way to [do that] is for someone else.” It is a good reminder that we are all part of the universal Church and humanity together. While we are each unique, our feelings and emotions are not. If we long for a friend who will listen to us or to feel understood, we can also choose to be that friend to those around us who may long for that too. If enough of us act in these ways, we will literally be acting as Jesus’ body by bringing Him further into the world. But as big things also swirl around in our newsfeeds and hearts, the marginalized can also feel far away.
As our conversation paused, I asked a question that had been forming in my heart for the past few weeks: How can we love and support those who have been affected by war, torn away from their loved ones and homes, made to feel less than, hated, and even that they are enemies in parts of the world?
Ms. DeSantis responded, “There’s so much war between all of us. We gossip and bully and do all these bad things to people and then wonder why there is [war]. Stop hating. Pray to bring peace to the world.” She continued, “We need to focus on Jesus. Sometimes spiritual works of mercy are more important [than corporal].”
While there are atrocious things happening right now abroad, there are also horrible things happening to people around us nearby. In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1979 St. Teresa of Calcutta said,
“And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor in the country we live, in the whole world.”
It can sometimes be easier to be horrified (absolutely justly) by terrible crimes against others, and yet fail to see our own crimes or sins against those closest to us. Maybe it’s as simple as ignoring an inconvenient call from a friend in need or brushing off that request for more time together from a child or spouse because we’re exhausted. Regardless, these actions, too, can contribute to the overall state of our world and society, which tends to glorify self and take advantage of those in most need of support. Ms. DeSantis states,
Our world is more me-centered. It’s possible for all of us to become more compassionate. If we think and pray about it even more, we can find and fulfill that mission He has for us, which is consoling people. There’s so much grief, and we can be there for them.
As Ms. DeSantis writes in her book, “Love is what breaks the cycle of violence. We can only break the silence of our enemies by standing for love in this world” (Day 7).
As we continue our individual journeys in Lent, I encourage all of us to think of those close to us as well as those far away and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in how we can love Him through loving and giving of ourselves to others. If this message inspires your heart, I recommend Ms. DeSantis’ book for prayerful guidance, suggestions, and support in this work to become more like Christ Himself!
Copyright 2022 Lindsey Mitzel
Image: Canva Pro
About the Author
Lindsey Mitzel is a nurse practitioner and mom to four littles. When not wrangling with or reading to her kids, she can usually be found doing something outdoors. She appreciates dry humor, a good pun, and strong coffee. You can read more about her at Eight and a Half Months. Lindsey also occasionally writes for Be Love Revolution's Tiny Thoughts blog.