December 28th, the fourth day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents. This day has its origins in Matthew’s gospel account of the birth of Jesus and Herod’s reaction to rumors of a newborn king.
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
~Matthew 2: 17
It is a call to reflect on the children and families — the Innocents — who even today are so often the first victims of our wars, our politics, our way of life.
Extreme wealth in one part of the world means extreme poverty elsewhere. While we throw away our leftover food, somewhere else a child starves. Every war, every military action, results in “collateral damages” — our modern euphemism for Holy Innocents sacrificed on the altar of national pride.
The goal of a just society should be to look first after its most vulnerable. Our calling is to bring about, as much as we can, this vision here and now. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless; these are the first steps toward that vision. It is, quite literally, the least we can do.
For Additional Reading:
Faith, Fear, and the Politics of Mercy. National Catholic Reporter
To Honor the Innocents. Theology is a Verb
Saint of the Day: Holy Innocents. AmericanCatholic.org
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a statement for Labor Day, 2015, detailing the importance of work and the current state of labor in the US.
The majority of jobs provide little in the way of sufficient wages, retirement benefits, stability, or family security, and too many families are stringing together part-time jobs to pay the bills. Opportunities for younger workers are in serious decline.
Labor has become one of the more politicized issues in the US, and as usual Catholic teaching straddles both sides of our political spectrum. It stresses what conservatives like to call the “Right to Work” …
Labor is one important way we honor our brothers and sisters in God’s universal human family. In the creation story, God gives us labor as a gateway into participation with Him in the ongoing unfolding of creation. Human labor, at its best, is a deeply holy thing that ought to honor our dignity as we help God “maintain the fabric of the world” (no. 124, citing Sir 38:34).
… while also demanding the dignity of a fair and livable wage for all.
In demanding a living wage for workers we give hope to those struggling to provide for their families, as well as young workers who hope to have families of their own someday. Unions and worker associations, as with all human institutions, are imperfect, yet they remain indispensable to this work, and they can exemplify the importance of subsidiarity and solidarity in action.
Labor Day is a time to reflect, and in reflecting to take action toward improving the labor situation in our country and in the world.
USCCB Labor Day Statement 2015
Christian Democracy: Labor’s Day
Dorothy Day on Work; March, 1947. CatholicWorker.org
Among the richest nations of the world, the United States has one of the worst child poverty rates. A 2014 UNICEF report ranks us 36th among the 41 countries studied. Some reports say as many as 44% of our nations children currently live in low-income or poverty situations.
Poverty in this context refers to living at or below the Federal Poverty Threshold (FPT), or $23,850 for a family of four. Low Income is defined as at or below 200% FPT — research has consistently shown that families in the US need about twice the FPT to meet their most basic needs. This Low-Income threshold is currently estimated at $47,700 for a family of four. See this link for more details.
To make the numbers a little less abstract, consider the following. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. At that rate, a person working a full-time (forty hour per week) job will make $15,080. A two-parent household, if both parents work full-time at the federal minimum wage, will bring in $30,160.
In fact, at the current federal minimum wage a family of four would need to work approximately 136.5 hours per week, or 3.16 full-time jobs, just to reach the low-income threshold. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of child-care while Mom and Dad are working all those hours.
For Additional Reading: