Ministry of Social Action
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (mission) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.” (CCC 1332). The celebrant may say, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in Peace, glorifying the Lord with our life.”
When the celebrant sends us forth from the Mass with this commission, it is to live our lives in a special way. We are commissioned, to go beyond the walls of the church buildings and to be “salt and light” in our neighborhoods and communities. This is social ministry or action, a way of evangelizing the Good News. Our baptisms called us to live the teachings of Jesus and the Church and to transform society by expressing our love in service to others.
This is social ministry. Our work is to embody Christ-like love toward those in need, the marginalized, the enemy, and those whom we love even when we expect no love in return. It responds to the words of Jesus about the final judgment when we will be asked what we did for the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry.
Living our faith in social ministry does not stop with direct service or the corporal works of mercy. Catholic social teaching prepares us to go out and “create a society with more just laws and social structures” (US Catholic Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching, 1998) . Fr. Marvin Mottet explains this in his “Two Feet of Social Justice.”
In this model, we are called to both charity and justice. Charity is the work we do to respond to the immediate needs of others – feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless. Justice requires community action. It works to change structures, laws and policies in society, so that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” To provide both charity and justice, we need both feet. We cannot ignore the urgent needs of people while we struggle for justice in our society. We must feed the hungry, but justice demands the extra step of asking why they are hungry, and what needs to change in order to relieve the sources of their hunger.
“When we live a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our eyes are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes are opened to the knowledge of the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God.”
Pope Francis, 11/24/2013
“Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.”
Sharing Catholic Social Teaching
US Catholic Bishops, 1986
CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING
Catholic Social teaching is the combination of Scripture and the writings of the Church and her leaders that speak to establishing a just society and living a holy life in today’s society. The key themes are:
LIFE AND DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON. We believe in the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person. This is inherent in our belief that God is the creator of us all, and thus we are all brothers and sisters. We measure proposals, laws, policies and ordinances by the degree they support human life and dignity.
CALL TO FAMILY, COMMUNITY, AND PARTICIPATION. How we organize our society (in all aspects) directly affects our human dignity and our ability to grow and prosper. We believe that marriage and family (including single persons) are the foundation of community and our larger society. We depend directly and indirectly on each other and thus we have both a duty and a right to participate in society, together seeking the well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES. Responsibilities accompany the rights we have. Just as all have a right a life of dignity, we will maintain that right and live in a healthy community only when we respond to our responsibility to protect the rights of one another, of families and the larger society.
OPTION FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE. The basic moral test of an idea, policy, law or the health of a nation is how it treats the most vulnerable members. Our tradition rests on the words of Jesus in Mt 25:31-46 about the treatment of the “least of these.”
DIGNITY OF WORK AND THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS. The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to earn a living so that we can live with dignity. Preserving the dignity of work calls for protecting the basic rights of workers—the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property and economic initiative.
SOLIDARITY. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they live. Solidarity means we recognize we are one human family, whatever our physical, economic or ideological differences. For Catholics, “loving our neighbor” has global dimensions in an interdependent world.
CARE FOR GOD’S CREATION. Our stewardship of the earth shows our respect for our Creator. We cannot ignore the moral and ethical aspects of protecting people and the planet, and must respect the intricate inter-dependencies between and among people and the planet.
Summarized from Excerpts from Sharing Catholic Social Teaching
- Parishes well versed in Catholic social teaching seek to have parish-wide full and active participation in the Gospel message of good news to the poor and the marginalized. They emulate St. Francis in using action to convey the “…person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom…” (John Paul II, Redemptorus Misso, 1990) They are evangelists through their lives and actions.
- Parishes know the needs of the parish community and the needs of the larger community and respond with compassion to those needs.
- Parishes strike a balance between action and compassionate presence, knowing there are times and conditions when being with another in their sorrow or pain is action enough.
- Parishes work in collaboration with other organizations to address common issues, knowing that in collaboration there is strength.
- Parishes assist all parishioners in finding a ministry, knowing that living according to our faith is a responsibility of all Catholics.
- Parishioners and parish groups are in constant communication with the parish as a whole, the pastor, the pastoral council, other areas of ministry and with each other. They receive information from and share information with other organizations in the community. They collaborate with the Diocesan offices and other parishes.
- Create a social ministry committee or other focal point for the parish that will seek and empower leaders within the parish allowing the passion of these leaders to guide the efforts for particular issues Social ministry is way life for all, not responsibility of just a few.