What does an Albanian-Indian woman, an anarchist and a rich American heiress all have in common? On first glance, not a whole lot, but each of those people had a special love for the poor, the hurt and those in need.
Two of those people are saints and the third is on the way to beatification and canonization if all goes well. St. Mother Teresa, St Katharine Drexel and Dorothy Day.
I bring these three wonderful souls up because I just recently finished a Day of Reflection involving social justice and the teaching of the Catholic Church on the issue. Aka, how we are supposed to treat people and create change in the world.
And while I was one of the absolute youngest people there, it was incredible to take an indepth look at the concrete teaching the Church has created. Due in no small part to the examples of these three souls.
So let's break those examples down.
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
If there is a person who hasn't heard about Mother Teresa I would be shocked and appalled. This is the habited nun famous for her work founding the Missionaries of Charity and caring for the poor and the dying across dozens of countries.
From hospices and homes for those affected by HIV or AIDS, to soup kitchens, orphanages and schools her care for the poor was apparent.
Her name is synonymous with mercy for many millions around the world. She exemplifies the social teaching of the Catholic Church and the dignity of the human person (CCC 1700).
"By blood, I am Albanian," Mother Teresa said in one interview. "By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."
Mother Teresa's identity was rooted in Christ and in the need to satisfy the cry of Christ on the Cross. "I thirst" (John 19:28). She worked in the poorest places of the world and brought the light of Christ and the comfort of support wherever she went.
In each and every person she saw dignity. In each and every person she saw the image of God.
St. Katharine Drexel
I honestly didn't know much about Saint Katharine before today when my priest spent his homily praising her.
Wow, I've been missing out on this saint.
Katharine was born into a wealthy family. Like obnoxiously wealthy. Her family fortune, in contemporary terms, came in at about $400 million.
She was born into a life of privilege but decided to live in a radically different way, ministering to Native American and people of color who were neglected and mistreated.
Imagine that. Standing in solidarity with the poor, giving up a fortune and a life of ease for what?
For faith and for love of her brother and sisters in Christ.
"If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them,Let us open wide our hearts. It is joy which invites us. Press forward and fear nothing."-Katharine Drexel
Last, but most certainly not least, we have the still unsainted Dorothy Day, the founder of the the Catholic Worker Movement and a social activist/anarchist like you wouldn't believe.
Day is a fascinating example to me of a social activist combined with a faithful and traditional Catholic faith. She was Catholic in the fullest sense of the term. Her faith in Christ and His Church informed her actions to help the working poor.
For Dorothy Day the Church's words of fairness, justice and equality weren't just empty words. They were a mandate she couldn't avoid.
“Everything a baptized person does every day should be directly or indirectly related to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy,” Day said once.
Every day we go about our daily lives and our own comfort blinds us to the cry that is welling up from the poor, the dying and the simply lonely.
Our faith begins at the Mass and ends holding the hands of the dying. Let's live that out this Lent. Let our words sing the truth that unites us: God loves us and just as He does so must we love each other.