“Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the ‘other’ is not a statistic, or a number. We all need each other,” said Pope Francis in a surprise TED Talk delivered directly from Vatican City. Watch his full TED talk here:
My wife and I were blessed to be able to attend the World Meeting of Families conference back in 2015. The wonderful Professor Helen Alvaré gave one of the keynote talks during that week that stuck with me.
Professor Alvaré was talking about how the love we give and receive within the family grows and overflows into the wider world. Specifically, she spoke on how a parent’s unconditional love for their child “organically and divinely” grows into the unconditional love of strangers. She said:
“Eventually, if you have asked God day in and day out to work His will with you, you begin to see every child as if they could be your child…You won’t be able to look at the homeless, the sick, the depressed, the fatherless, without remembering how they are someone’s child or sibling or mother and then converting that co-suffering, maternal and paternal selves into action.”
In other words, the virtue of solidarity is fostered within the family. By loving my own family and suffering with them I can learn to love and truly recognize the suffering of strangers. This comment resonated with me at the time and still resonates with me now.
Just a few weeks before this conference started, there was a picture of a little boy that was circulating online. The boy was three years old in this picture, just a little older than my eldest son, Simon. In the picture he was lying down with his knees tucked under him, his arms off to his sides, and his head full of light brown hair turned sideways. It looked just like Simon when he slept.
Except this little boy wasn’t sleeping in this picture, he was lying on a Mediterranean beach after drowning in the Aegean Sea. His name was Aylan Kurdi, and his family were refugees fleeing Syria.
I remember staring at this picture when it came across my newsfeed and it totally captivated me. This little boy reminded me so much of Simon. I realized at that moment that this little boy, Aylan, was loved by somebody as much as I love my own son. Aylan smiled and laughed and cried and played like my own son. Aylan drowned in the Aegean Sea along with his brother and mother because his dad wasn’t able to hold onto them. I just sat in front of my computer and cried.
We’re supposed to see Christ in others, because all of us bear the image of God. We are especially supposed to see Christ in the poor and the hungry and the homeless and the refugee because He said, “Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me.” But the best I can muster up when I see someone suffering is pity, not the love and respect due to our Lord. Yet God is so wise. He knows that it’s hard for us to see His image in the stranger, so He gave us our families to be training grounds for unconditional love. He lets us first see every child as if they could be our child so that we may eventually learn to love the outcast like we love our own children. He gave us our family as the school of solidarity.
As a Christian, I must resist looking at the poor, the homeless, and the refugee as “people,” as an abstract group or “issue.” I must see every human person for the unique and valuable individual that he or she is. I must see the poor as I would see my own family. I must love the homeless as I would my own family. I must treat the refugee as if they were my own family.
As Professor Alvaré put it, “We start with family and end with strangers…whose only link is our common humanity.”
Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and parish director of religious education. A version of this post first appeared at his blog, The Porch. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Facebook.
Pope Francis: “No one can be excluded from the mercy of God. The Church is the house where everyone is welcomed and no one is rejected.”
Pope Francis is profiled by Cardinal Blase Cupich in this year’s Time 100:
Before being elected Pope, Francis gave a speech to his fellow Cardinals warning against becoming a “self-referential” church, rather than one that goes out of itself to the margins of society to be with those who suffer. That is where God is working in the world and where he calls us to be. This has rung especially true this year, as Francis has spoken out on the need to welcome refugees amid a global crisis.
For a brief, fleeting moment, the Democrats looked as if they were about to do something very, very smart.
Tom Perez, Democratic Party Chairman, along with Bernie Sanders, endorsed Heath Mello, a pro-life Democrat, for mayor of Omaha.
Sanders, despite having one of the most consistently pro-choice records of anyone in Congress, defended this move, saying, “The truth is that in some conservative states there will be candidates that are popular candidates who may not agree with me on every issue. I understand it. That’s what politics is about.”
And he’s right. The Democrats are currently at their weakest point since the 1920s. The Republican Party dominates every level of government across the country, and until we open the big tent and allow room for more ideological diversity, things aren’t going to change. That’s why this endorsement was such a big deal. It seemed like the party was finally starting to come around.
And then Perez buckled.
Under pressure from big money pro-choice special interests like NARAL, Perez went above and beyond to reassert his absolute allegiance to abortion by drawing a line in the sand and demanding ideological purity from any Democrat who hopes to make it to office.
Perez stated that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” and—after Mello himself released a meager statement saying he’d never restrict a woman’s access to abortion—said he was happy that Mello was now more in line with the Party’s position and that “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”
For pro-life Democrats like myself, this wasn’t just disappointing—it was infuriating. We simply cannot afford to define ourselves based on a singular issue, especially one as divisive and alienating as abortion. As stated above, the Republicans have the majority at every level, and they are actively attempting to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance, roll back any progress we’ve made on combating climate change, cut benefits for the poor, and demolish public education.
Yet, in the face of all this, Perez made it abundantly clear that under his leadership, all of these issues, and more, will come second to abortion. “Sorry, middle and lower class Americans. We could have stopped the Republicans from taking your healthcare, but we decided to implement an abortion litmus test instead.”
What’s even more frustrating is our inability to move past this binary of for/against. In doing so, we completely ignore any middle ground where we can actually work together—and there’s a lot of it. For example, you’d be hard pressed to find someone on either side of the debate that wants to see an increase in the abortion rate. So rather than shutting people out, Perez could be inviting pro-life advocates to the table for a discussion on how we can collectively reduce abortions, as well as reduce economic and social stressors that drive women to abort their children in the first place. But he chose to do the opposite. This is the hill he wants the Democrats to die on, and if things don’t change, he just might get his wish.
Despite all of this, there are still some glimmers of hope. Sanders doesn’t seem to be backing down from the idea of working alongside pro-life Democrats. And Nancy Pelosi (known for her strong pro-choice credentials) seems to be in agreement. In a recent Meet the Press interview, Pelosi stated that “of course” you can be pro-life and Democrat, and what really unites the party is our dedication to helping working families. Both understand that purging pro-life Democrats from office means continued Republican rule and sacrificing economic justice in the process. We can only hope that the two of them will pass that message along to Perez and encourage him to build a more inclusive party.
In the meantime, I’ll be working to do the same with my state party, and I highly suggest pro-life Democrats and progressives do the same. Discouraging as all this may be, now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fight.
Matthew Tyson is a Catholic writer and marketing strategist from Alabama. He is an advocate for pro-life ideology on the Left and a co-founder of The New Pro-Life Movement.
Check out these recent articles from around the web:
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What does it mean to be a Christian rapper? A conversation with Sho Baraka by Olga Segura: “Many find it difficult to balance an affinity for rap, with its provocative themes and often profane language, and a life of faith. Baraka says, “I became so religious, I even stopped listening to secular music.”Eventually, he learned to reconcile these two parts of his identity. Hip-hop became a way to express his faith.”
How a Warming Planet Drives Human Migration by Jessica Benko: “Climate change is a threat multiplier: It contributes to economic and political instability and also worsens the effects. It propels sudden-onset disasters like floods and storms and slow-onset disasters like drought and desertification; those disasters contribute to failed crops, famine and overcrowded urban centers; those crises inflame political unrest and worsen the impacts of war, which leads to even more displacement.”
How Child Care Enriches Mothers, and Especially the Sons They Raise by Claire Cain Miller: “A powerful new study — which demonstrated long-term results by following children from birth until age 35 — found that high-quality care during the earliest years can influence whether both mothers and children born into disadvantage lead more successful lives.” Read More
Pope Francis: “Lord, bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.”