April 25, 2019
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DR#: 22 Solidarity: The Call of the Church


One of the challenges to the brothers of the Institute by the General Chapter of 1994 was that of “secularism,” an all-pervasive attitude resulting from the fact that “we live in societies which are growing more indifferent to Christianity and less receptive to religious values.” (Feed Them with the Finest Wheat, p. 4)  In A Year of Favor from the Lord, a letter which convoked the General Chapter of 2000, the General Council presented an approach to combat this secularism:  staying more in touch with the world, opening ourselves as individuals and as local communities to a conversion that embraces gospel criteria, developing a greater sense of church, and making the primary beneficiaries of our works young people who are poor and without hope (cf. #42).  In a word, the General Council called the brothers and their lay collaborators to greater solidarity throughout the Institute.

This call of the Institute echoes the universal call of the Church to all Christians.  Papal encyclicals and other Church documents, including those of the Vatican Council II, challenge all men and women of good will to look through faith beyond their own life, culture, and society to the physical, spiritual, and moral needs of the poor throughout the world:

All must consider it their sacred duty to count social obligations among their chief duties today and observe them as such. For the more closely the world comes together, the more widely do people's obligations transcend particular groups and extend to the whole world. This will be realized only if individuals and groups practice moral and social virtues and foster them in social living. Then, under the necessary help of divine grace, there will arise a generation of new women and men, the molders of a new humanity. (The Church in the Modern World, #30)

Through this reading, the participant will:

  • gain a better understanding of “solidarity” as expressed in Church documents;
  • appreciate that solidarity involves more than financial assistance; 
  • deepen their commitment to solidarity within the Institute.
  • Gaudium et Spes:  Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World; Second Vatican Council, 1965:  nos. 30-31.
  • Economic Justice for All:  Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy; U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986:  nos. 363-365.
  • Solicitudo Rei Socialis …in everyday language:  On Social Concern; Pope John Paul II, 1987: nos. 38-40.
Options for Additional Readings
  • Economic Justice for All:  Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy; U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986
  • Solicitudo Rei Socialis …in everyday language:  On Social Concern; Pope John Paul II, 1987
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. “Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion nor a shallow sadness but a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good.”  Why is it difficult to translate the Church’s and the Institute’s call to solidarity into a personal and concrete commitment?
  2. As an educational leader, how can I help faculty, students, and parents see that solidarity is more than financial assistance to those in need?
  3. In a culture that values independence, self-sufficiency, and the importance of the individual, the promotion of solidarity with young poor without hope is counter-cultural.  As an educational leader, what resistance do you experience in yourself?  How can you respond to the resistance which some may offer to your efforts?

Reflection and prayer of Pope John Paul II

     Now is the time for a new “creativity” in charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective but also by “getting close” to those who suffer, so that the assistance given is seen not as a humiliating handout but as a sharing between brothers and sisters.

     There is also a need to create a new culture of international solidarity.  There should be no more postponement of the time when the poor Lazarus can sit beside the rich man to share the same banquet and be forced no more to feed on the scraps that fall from the table (cf. Lk 16:19-31).

     We must, therefore, ensure that in every Christian community the poor feel at home.  Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the Kingdom?

Father, by the power of the Spirit, strengthen the Church’s commitment to the new evangelization.  May Christ’s followers show forth their love for the poor and the oppressed; and may they be one with those in need and abound in works of mercy; may they be compassionate towards all, that they themselves may obtain indulgence and forgiveness from You.  Praise and glory to You, Most Holy Trinity;  You alone are God most high!


Gaudium et Spes – (Part 1)
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World
Second Vatican Council, 1965

30. Profound and rapid changes make it more necessary that no one ignoring the trend of events or drugged by laziness, content himself with a merely individualistic morality. It grows increasingly true that the obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and private institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life. Yet there are those who, while professing grand and rather noble sentiments, nevertheless in reality live always as if they cared nothing for the needs of society. Many in various places even make light of social laws and precepts, and do not hesitate to resort to various frauds and deceptions in avoiding just taxes or other debts due to society. Others think little of certain norms of social life, for example those designed for the protection of health, or laws establishing speed limits; they do not even avert to the fact that by such indifference they imperil their own life and that of others.

Let everyone consider it his sacred obligation to esteem and observe social necessities as belonging to the primary duties of modern man. For the more unified the world becomes, the more plainly do the offices of men extend beyond particular groups and spread by degrees to the whole world. But this development cannot occur unless individual men and their associations cultivate in themselves the moral and social virtues, and promote them in society; thus, with the needed help of divine grace men who are truly new and artisans of a new humanity can be forthcoming.

31. In order for individual men to discharge with greater exactness the obligations of their conscience toward themselves and the various groups to which they belong, they must be carefully educated to a higher degree of culture through the use of the immense resources available today to the human race. Above all the education of youth from every social background has to be undertaken, so that there can be produced not only men and women of refined talents, but those great-souled persons who are so desperately required by our times.

Now a man can scarcely arrive at the needed sense of responsibility, unless his living conditions allow him to become conscious of his dignity, and to rise to his destiny by spending himself for God and for others. But human freedom is often crippled when a man encounters extreme poverty, just as it withers when he indulges in too many of life's comforts and imprisons himself in a kind of splendid isolation. Freedom acquires new strength, by contrast, when a man consents to the unavoidable requirements of social life, takes on the manifold demands of human partnership, and commits himself to the service of the human community.

Hence, the will to play one's role in common endeavors should be everywhere encouraged. Praise is due to those national procedures which allow the largest possible number of citizens to participate in public affairs with genuine freedom. Account must be taken, to be sure, of the actual conditions of each people and the decisiveness required by public authority. If every citizen is to feel inclined to take part in the activities of the various groups which make up the social body, these must offer advantages which will attract members and dispose them to serve others. We can justly consider that the future of humanity lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping.


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Economic Justice for All
Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy

U. S. Catholic Bishops, 1986

D. Commitment to a Kingdom of Love and Justice

363. Confronted by this economic complexity and seeking clarity for the future, we can rightly ask ourselves one single question: How does our economic system affect the lives of people - all people? Part of the American dream has been to make this world a better place for people to live in; at this moment of history that dream must include everyone on this globe. Since we profess to be members of a "catholic" or universal Church, we all must raise our sights to a concern for the well-being of everyone in the world. Third World debt becomes our problem. Famine and starvation in sub-Saharan Africa become our concern. Rising military expenditures everywhere in the world become part of our fears for the future of this planet. We cannot be content if we see ecological neglect or the squandering of natural resources. In this letter we bishops have spoken often of economic interdependence; now is the moment when all of us must confront the reality of such economic bonding and its consequences and see it as a moment of grace -a kairos- that can unite all of us in a common community of the human family. We commit ourselves to this global vision.

364. We cannot be frightened by the magnitude and complexity of these problems. We must not be discouraged. In the midst of this struggle, it is inevitable that we become aware of greed, laziness, and envy. No utopia is possible on this earth; but as believers in the redemptive love of God and as those who have experienced God's forgiving mercy, we know that God's providence is not and will not be lacking to us today.

365. The fulfillment of human needs, we know, is not the final purpose of the creation of the human person. We have been created to share in the divine life through a destiny that goes far beyond our human capabilities and before which we must in all humility stand in awe. Like Mary in proclaiming her Magnificat, we marvel at the wonders God has done for us, how God has raised up the poor and the lowly and promised great things for them in the Kingdom. God now asks of us sacrifices and reflection on our reverence for human dignity - in ourselves and in others - and on our service and discipleship, so that the divine goal for the human family and this earth can be fulfilled. Communion with God, sharing God's life, involves a mutual bonding with all on this globe. Jesus taught us to love God and one another and that the concept of neighbor is without limit. We know that we are called to be members of a new covenant of love. We have to move from our devotion to independence, through an understanding of interdependence, to a commitment to human solidarity. That challenge must find its realization in the kind of community we build among us. Love implies concern for all - especially the poor - and a continued search for those social and economic structures that permit everyone to share in a community that is a part of a redeemed creation (Rom 8:21-23).

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Solicitude Rei Socialis   …in everyday language
On Social Concern
Pope John Paul II, 1987

38. It is a long and difficult path, 
but we have to set out on it.
We have to be converted.

We have to change our spiritual relationship 
with self, with neighbor,
with even the remotest human communities, 
and with nature itself,
in view of the common good
of the whole individual and of all people. 
To use the language of the Bible, we have to be converted.
The growing awareness of our interdependence 
among individuals and nations, 
the growing concern 
for the injustices and violations of human rights 
even in far-off countries, 
can help in that conversion.
This felt interdependence is a new moral category, 
and the response to it is the "virtue" of solidarity. 

Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion 
or a shallow sadness 
but a firm and persevering determination 
to commit oneself to the common good.
It is an attitude squarely opposed 
to greed and the thirst for power.


39. The exercise of solidarity is valid
when members of each society
recognize others as persons—
the more influential feeling responsible for the weaker, 
the weaker doing what they can for the good of all, 
and the intermediate groups respecting the interests of the others.

Positive signs in our world
are the growing awareness of the solidarity 
of the poor among themselves
and their efforts to support each other,
even to the point of nonviolent demonstrations 
to present their needs and rights
to oftentimes corrupt and inefficient authorities.

The same yardstick can be used in international relations. 
Interdependence must be transformed into solidarity, 
grounded on the principle that 
the goods of creation are meant for all.
Avoiding every type of imperialism, 
the stronger nations must 
feel responsible for the other nations, 
based on the equality of all peoples 
and with respect for the differences.

Solidarity helps us to see the "other" 
as our neighbor, as a helper, 
to be made a sharer in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.

Solidarity is the path to peace
and at the same time to development.
Interdependence demands
the abandonment of blocs,
the sacrifice of all forms of economic, 
military, or political imperialism 
and the conversion of distrust into collaboration. 

The fruit of solidarity is peace.

40. Solidarity is a Christian virtue.
It seeks to go beyond itself
to total gratuity, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
It leads to a new vision of the unity of humankind, 
a reflection of God's triune intimate life;
it leads to communion.

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