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Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

‘In His Eyes, I See the Heart of Christ’

On December 17, 2016, Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday. He began the day by sharing breakfast with eight homeless people at the Vatican hotel where he resides. His guests included four Italians, two Romanians, a Moldovan, and a Peruvian. They were chosen from those staying around Saint Peter’s Square and from showers for the homeless established by the Pope’s almsgiver. His guests gave him a bouquet of sunflowers, and Francis spoke individually with each one of them as they ate breakfast together.

                What a powerful witness Pope Francis gives us in reaching out to those on the margins of society. During his 2015 visit to the United States, he stopped by Catholic Charities in Washington D.C., and there he said, “The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person. The Son of God knew what it was to start life without a roof over his head.”

Catholic Charities is a leader in offering outreach to our nation’s most vulnerable people. Stories abound about lives transformed through the good that is done by those involved in Catholic Charities. For instance, the story of Bob Carter has been featured on a local Pittsburgh television station in a segment called “Proud to be from Pittsburgh.”

Bob had been living on the streets of Pittsburgh for two years when he was approached by Catholic Charities volunteer Brian Tarquinio. Brian sat down on a bench beside Bob and asked if he needed help. Bob said, “I need a job.” Brian got him some food and helped him get cleaned up. Then he made phone calls to see if any restaurants in the city could use Bob’s cooking talents in their kitchen. Within a day Bob had a job, and soon after he had a room of his own.

In a Catholic Charities write-up on their story, Bob says of Brian, “When I look into his face, I see the face of Christ. In his eyes, I see the heart of Christ.” They remain friends and Bob now dreams of helping others in the same way that he was helped.

In the Jubilee for Socially Excluded People held last November at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis listened to two homeless men speak about their experiences before offering his own off-the-cuff remarks, saying, “We must always look to the one poorer…giving the hand to the one suffering more.” Then thanking homeless people for showing the world how to live in solidarity, he said, “The ability to have solidarity is one of the fruits that poverty gives us.”

With the poor and homeless seated in VIP seats for Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis said, "We should be worried when our consciences are anaesthetized and we no longer see the brother or sister suffering at our side, or notice the grave problems in our world, which become a mere refrain familiar from the headlines on the evening news."  

Christ calls us to live by a spirit of poverty so that we might always enjoy solidarity with our fellow man. In this way, we can share in the only riches that really matter in life. As Pope Francis said in his Jubilee Mass for the homeless, “Everything else – the heavens, the earth, all that is beautiful, even this basilica – will pass away, but we must never exclude God or others from our lives.”


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