March 21, 2014

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Peg McEvoy

A Lenten challenge: Confront destitution

Pope Francis provides us with a challenge this Lent: “In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual.”

Pope Francis calls us to confront poverty and destitution. How? Here are three ideas:

  • Celebrate the sacrament of penance;
  • Provide tangible care for the poor;
  • Share the Good News beyond those we see regularly in church.

Penance provides much to help us on our faith journey. We cannot participate in the sacrament without confronting our own sin. This is not popular in a culture that worships comfort because it is “uncomfortable” to face up to our own shortcomings, immorality and sin. Penance is about standing before and receiving the mercy of God. What a crucial message of humility for ourselves and our culture.

When we celebrate the sacrament of penance regularly, we become more aware of our own sinfulness and God’s incredible mercy and longing for us that overcomes it. Celebrating it regularly also keeps us telling the truth to ourselves and has a preventative effect. Lent should help us “take off the blinders” and change our attitude from seeking comfort to seeking and sharing God’s mercy and salvation.

When we consistently tell ourselves the truth in faith, we cannot ignore the material destitution that exists in our communities, country and world. As disciples, we must open our eyes and hearts to the needs that exist. Finding “tangible ways to care for the poor” is not as difficult as you might think. Every parish has outreach efforts, and Catholic Charities has a database to help us find ways to offer help. Find it online at

The final type of poverty and destitution is spiritual. When we move deeper into moral destitution, we are also drawn deeper into spiritual destitution. This is not a time for pointing fingers. We must focus on the cure: The Gospel—the Good News—is the cure for spiritual destitution. We have a responsibility to reach out. Share your faith with people who don’t know or have forgotten Jesus Christ.

As a start, we have in the archdiocese the “10 Things We Want You to Know About the Catholic Faith.” There are many uses for this resource. Pastors recently received some cards that can be shared with friends, neighbors and family members who have questions about or have forgotten the faith.

It may be tempting to focus on more comfortable uses of this resource among parish groups that already exist. Despite that, I challenge you to look beyond the comfortable. Use the “10 Things …” to share the good news with folks who are unfamiliar with Catholism or have forgotten its beauty; with people in the neighborhood; and with family members who aren’t going to church anymore. Put some in your purse and/or briefcase and on your coffee table to give away if the opportunity arises. There may be an uncomfortable moment or two, but those times leave room for the Holy Spirit to work.

Finally, let us return to the Holy Father’s Lenten address “… may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ.”

(Peg McEvoy is the archdiocesan associate director for Evangelization and Family Catechesis. For questions and/or help starting a parish evangelization team, contact her at

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