During a Catholic Messenger Conversations podcast last week, Bishop Thomas Zinkula responded to an observation that the year 2020 lacks a sense of clear vision because of the present crisis. “We can look through the lens of our faith, hope and love and we can see things more clearly,” he said. Our vision is “always going to be limited,” but “we can see through it with the Lord’s help.”
The challenge: what we see, with the Lord’s help, compels us to look beyond ourselves and to respond to the needs of others, most particularly the poor and vulnerable within and outside our peripheral vision. The Letter of James reminds us that faith and works go hand in hand. “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14).
Hope inspires our activities and purifies them. Buoyed by hope, we are “preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity” (CCC, No. 1818).
Love flows from charity. We are called to “love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God … Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love” (CCC, No. 1822, 1827).
The coronavirus crisis has dished out suffering in heaping portions to senior citizens, front-line workers and laborers, farmers, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, immigrants, many of whom struggled to make ends meet before the crisis. A recent lunch and learn video conference on the impact of the pandemic on workers in our diocesan community prompted a thoughtful debate about where to direct advocacy efforts.
Workers at meatpacking plants have a right to safety in the workplace, adequate protection and to feel valued for their essential labor. Farmers also deserve support as they deal with the possibility of financial ruin caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus in meatpacking plants.
Both workers and farmers are at the mercy of “giant meatpacking plants” fueled by deregulation. One of the things we can do is to hold industries accountable for actions that adversely affect both workers and farmers. Support congressional efforts for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee to take up the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act, “which would create competition and diversify the meatpacking industry,” according to The American Prospect (https://tinyurl.com/yc2k7cbw).
Among the principles of Catholic Social Teaching is the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, which states that “a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring.” The needs of the poor and vulnerable come first (https://tinyurl.com/lbv6xn8). Those needs have mushroomed as more than one out of every six workers is without a paycheck because of the coronavirus crisis. Roughly one out of every eight or nine Americans struggled to stay fed prior to the pandemic. “Now as many as one out of every four are projected to join the ranks of the hungry,” according to a senior policy officer with the Robert Wood Foundation for public health (Quad-City Times, May 9, 2020). We can bring hope to these people by addressing immediate needs first:
• Support your community’s foodbank, food pantry or meal site with a monetary donation.
• Urge your members of Congress to strengthen SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the next COVID-19 relief bill, as requested by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (usccb.org). Contact Sen. Charles Grassley at Grassley.senate.gov, Sen. Joni Ernst at Ernst.senate.gov, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack at loebsack.house.gov, and U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer at finkenauer.house.gov.
• Pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, the suffering it has caused, and for the people who make it possible for each of us to survive in this interconnected world.
• Continue to practice social distancing and other precautions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
• Finally, reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s section on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, No. 1812-1832.
We may not see clearly what lies ahead, but looking through the lens of our faith, hope and love, we can help one another see our way through.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor