Loving our neighbor: Following in the footsteps of St. Francis and Pope Francis Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

When Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio received the 77 votes to become pope during the conclave on March 13, his friend, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil, told him, “Don’t forget the poor.”

Pope Francis took the words of his friend to heart and chose to be named after St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”

Respect for all human life

Time and time again, Pope Francis has emphasized the need for respect for all human life at all its stages, but especially for children (pre-born and born), the poor, the disabled, the sick, and the elderly.

In his October 4 visit to Assisi, the home of his namesake, Pope Francis  — as he often does — took time to meet personally with sick and disabled persons. Man of them reached out to him, clasped his hand, and talked with him.

I couldn’t help think that St. Francis would have been so happy to see Pope Francis — the Vicar of Christ on earth — living out the Gospel message he preached in Assisi.

Living the corporal works of mercy

St. Francis and Pope Francis embody the core message that Christ gave his followers: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

Christ taught his disciples about what we call the corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit and ransom the captive, and bury the dead.

As followers of Christ, we should try to live out the corporal works of mercy in our lives today. We can start by showing mercy within our own families, especially helping  our disabled, sick, or elderly family members.

In addition, where we have the time and opportunity, we should reach out to those in need in our neighborhoods, communities, and parishes. There are many ways to help, from assisting our neighbors with yard work, to donating food to community pantries, to giving disabled or older persons rides to church.

Catholic Charities serves those in need

We can extend our corporate works of mercy by working with organizations that help those in need locally and around the nation and world. One of those is Catholic Charities, which is celebrating 67 years of service to those in need in the Diocese of Madison.

This Sunday, Oct. 13, is being observed as Catholic Charities Sunday in our diocese. As Bishop Robert C. Morlino reminds us (see Page 3),  “Catholic Charities fulfills the Church’s role in the mission of charity by providing compassionate, caring services to all God’s people. It is important for us as Catholics to put our faith into action, where our Lord’s command to ‘Love our Neighbor’ is carried out.”

Last year, Catholic Charities served close to 30,000 people through over 35 programs and services to aging persons, children, persons with developmental disabilities, persons with drug and alcohol addiction, individuals, and families.

What better way is there to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis than by supporting the work of Catholic Charities? Donations are always welcome. For more information call 608-821-3100 or go to the website at www.ccmadison.org You can also follow Catholic Charities on Facebook and Twitter.