Thank you for subscribing to Emmanuel, “The Magazine of Eucharistic Spirituality,” in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Glenn Beck, the conservative radio host, television personality, political commentator, and author, once famously advised his listeners: “Look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can!” Given the diversity of the political landscape these days, it is safe to say that a good number of American Catholics either heard Beck mouth these words themselves or subscribe to his views about social justice and economic justice. These are topics which inevitably hit home, especially in a presidential election cycle.
Behind the catchphrases “social justice” and “economic justice” is a long tradition of modern Catholic social teaching dating back to Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical on capital and labor. Brandon Vogt, a 2008 convert to Catholicism and the author of Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World, published in 2014, approaches the subject through a unique lens, examining the lives of saints who practiced the corporal and spiritual works of mercy heroically.
In an interview with blogger Elizabeth Scalia, Vogt comments: “The fact that these terms are politicized shouldn’t worry us, either. Catholic social teaching is political. It deals extensively with governments, social relationships, and structures of power. Yet while political, it’s not partisan. It transcends any party, ideology, or political grid. That’s why it’s Catholic social teaching and not Republican/Democrat social teaching.”
In his November 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis writes of the social dimension of the Gospel: “I would now like to share my concerns about the social dimension of evangelization, precisely because if this dimension is not properly brought out, there is a constant risk of distorting the authentic and integral meaning of the mission of evangelization” (176).
“An authentic faith, which is never comfortable or completely personal, always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters.
“All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world. This is essential, for the church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change, and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus” (183).
The Gospel and the personal encounter with Christ, the Holy Father reminds us, alone are life-giving and saving. The deeds of justice and holiness and compassion we undertake on behalf of others flow from the loving heart of Jesus and the merciful hand of the Father through our hearts and hands.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard, the Apostle of the Eucharist whose feast is August 2, was equally at home in the sanctuary, celebrating and preaching the mystery of God’s love in the Eucharist, and in the streets of Paris, catechizing the young and rekindling the faith of his fellow Catholics in nineteenth-century France. He and so many others teach us to love God deeply and to do justice perseveringly.
In This Issue
The summer issue of Emmanuel focuses on the relationship between the Eucharist and justice, something we have done now for many years.
I suggest you begin with Jesuit Peter Schineller’s take on those with whom Jesus spent time and to whom he ministered. The Gospel of Luke is our point of entry into the world of Jesus’ preaching and ministry. Owen Cummings, deacon and academic dean at Oregon’s Mount Angel Seminary, shares a very powerful reflection on the meaning of mercy. And Victor Parachin writes of the determination of the late Cesar Chavez to ensure better working conditions and pay for the thousands of field laborers who harvest the fruits and vegetables and crops we enjoy so abundantly, in season and out of season. These, and so much more, await you!
Anthony Schueller, SSS