By Rosemary M. Thompson, Director, P. Francis Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace
I grew up in the Catholic Worker tradition, so for me this national holiday has taken on a deep and holy aspect. I grew up believing that hard work was to be respected. I was taught to be aware of those who labor for me; everyone from the garbage collectors to the varied individuals who touched our lives. Dorothy Day created the Catholic Worker as places where it is “easier to be good.” She said we were to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
I believe the working poor are especially loved by God. God has, we are told by our Church, a preferential option for the poor. The Beatitudes call us to elevate the meek (the Biblical word for poor) for “they shall inherit the earth.”
Sometime I worry that we know that God loves the poor and that is enough, but it is not enough. As we watch politicians vie for more and more space in our newspapers and on our televisions and their rhetoric becomes increasingly more distasteful I wonder who is protecting God’s beloved poor.
Budget cuts to the very entities that are meant to offer assistance to the poor are at terrible risk. Until we stand up to say loud and clear “I care,” these most vulnerable and marginalized will suffer.
According to the most recent government statistics, there are 12 million Americans officially unemployed, millions more are underemployed or have simply given up looking for work. There are 10 million “working poor” families and 46 million people—including 16 million children—living in poverty.
These facts are heartbreaking and yet there is hope. Every time we celebrate the human spirit and trust in God with our whole being we are working towards a new world.
“May God guide our nation in creating a more just economy that truly honors the dignity of work and the rights of workers.” So wrote Bishop Blaire on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
I think Dorothy Day would agree!