Announcing the 1st World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis invites Christians to “create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance. ”
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis is asking all Christians to welcome the poor into their homes for lunch on November 19, 2017, to celebrate the first World Day of the Poor, the Vatican announced today.
The announcement came this morning, as Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, presented the pope’s message for the First World Day of the Poor, called: Let us love, not with words but with deeds.
Asked during the press briefing how normal families can translate the pope’s message into a way of life, Archbishop Fisichella said the first step is to transform the way we think about the poor.
“The poor are not a problem; they are a resource from which to draw as we strive to accept and practice in our lives the essence of the Gospel,” he said, quoting the final lines of the pope’s message.
“When you give alms, do you give a coin with two fingers and move on, or do you take the hand of the poor person?” Archbishop Fisichella asked. We need to be ready to “grasp his hand” and “take interest in the other,” realizing that he or she is a “brother or sister,” he said.
The archbishop also said Pope Francis is calling Christians to concrete action for the poor.
“The Pope is inviting us to open our homes to the poor for lunch,” he said.
Archbishop Fisichella explained that, after celebrating Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, November 19, with the poor and volunteers, Pope Francis will host at least 500 poor people at a luncheon in the Paul VI Hall.
All those attending the Sunday Mass will be hosted around the city of Rome, he noted.
Pope Francis called Christians to make the poor their honored guests at table in his message for the World Day.
Addressing local Christian communities, he said: “It is my wish that, in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on November 19, the Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Christian communities will make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance. ”
“They can invite the poor and volunteers to take part together in the Eucharist on this Sunday, in such a way that there be an even more authentic celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on the following Sunday,” he continued. “The kingship of Christ is most evident on Golgotha, when the Innocent One, nailed to the cross, poor, naked and stripped of everything, incarnates and reveals the fullness of God’s love. Jesus’ complete abandonment to the Father expresses his utter poverty and reveals the power of the Love that awakens him to new life on the day of the Resurrection.”
“This Sunday, if there are poor people where we live who seek protection and assistance, let us draw close to them: it will be a favorable moment to encounter the God we seek,” the pope continued. “Following the teaching of Scripture (cf. Gen 18:3-5; Heb 13:2), let us welcome them as honored guests at our table; they can be teachers who help us live the faith more consistently.”
Learning from St. Lawrence
At this morning’s briefing, Archbishop Fisichella also noted the observance of the First World Day of the Poor will include an evening prayer vigil on November 18 in Rome, at the Church of St. Lawrence, for volunteers who work with the poor.
St. Lawrence of Rome was one of the seven deacons of the city of Rome under Pope St. Sixtus II who were martyred in the persecution of Christians ordered by the Emperor Valerian in 258. As deacon in Rome, St. Lawrence was responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor.
After the death of St. Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that St. Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. St. Ambrose is the earliest source for the narrative that St Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. He relates that after three days had passed, St. Lawrence brought forward the poor, to whom he had distributed the treasure as alms.
“Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you,” he told the Roman Prefect, “to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the Church’s crown.”
According to the ancient account, the prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared with hot coals beneath it, and had Lawrence placed on it. After the martyr had suffered pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he cheerfully declared: “I’m well done on this side. You can turn me over now!”
Popes in recent decades have established a number of World Days, inclucing the World Day for Peace, the Sick, Consecrated Life, Social Communications, and Migrants.
“To the World Days instituted by my Predecessors, which are already a tradition in the life of our communities,” Pope Francis said in his Message for the First World Day of the Poor, “I wish to add this one, which adds to them an exquisitely evangelical fullness, that is, Jesus’ preferential love for the poor.”
In his closing letter to the Church for the Year of Mercy, Misericordia et misera, Pope Francis explains the origins of the new World Day: During the “Jubilee for Socially Excluded People,” as the Holy Doors of Mercy were being closed in all the cathedrals and shrines of the world, I had the idea that, as yet another tangible sign of this Extraordinary Holy Year, the entire Church might celebrate, on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the World Day of the Poor.”
“This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe,” he said, “who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy (cf. Mt 25:31-46)”.
The Day, he said, “will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization (cf. Mt 11:5) which can renew the face of the Church.”