Reflections: Social Justice Activities for the Time of Easter

We have an early Easter this year March 31, 2013. As the Catechism tells us:
“The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life.” [1]

Now that can mean the life in heaven with the Trinity or it can begin here on earth in a more transitory way. We believe as Catholics that we have a foretaste of heaven when we celebrate the liturgy in Mass, when we help someone else, or when we work with the grace God gives us. One important way to do this is to take the 7 weeks of Easter season and consider one of the seven themes of our Catholic Social Justice Doctrine.

The First week in Easter, the octave of Easter (March 31st through April 6th), we could consider the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. This theme considers the life of the person from conception to natural death. A very important aspect for Catholics is the right of the unborn and would be a great time to address the evil of abortions. This could be done through prayer and actions. Some actions could include helping a mother at risk of aborting their child, protesting in front of an abortion clinic, or calling a congressman to encourage pro-life legislation.

I would also like to encourage other action to encourage life and dignity of the Person. Anti-death penalty or anti-poverty actions would certainly qualify. I would encourage considering a wide variety of actions, though protecting the unborn would have pride of place.

In the second week, April 7th through April 13th, we consider the theme of Call to Family, Community, and Participation. What a wonderful week to celebrate family. Perhaps we could have special prayers as a family, or, maybe, start a tradition of praying together if you don’t have one now. As well as praying we could do some activity as a family, perhaps visiting a homeless shelter or food pantry. Another possibility would be to call your representative for family friendly legislation like family leave and equal pay for equal work.

In the third week of Easter, April 14th through April 20th, we consider the theme of Rights and Responsibilities. I would encourage you to read the great encyclical Pacem in Terris by Blessed Pope John XXIII. To give you the flavor of the encyclical, here is John XXIII on some very basic rights:

“Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of illhealth; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood.” (Paragraph 11) [2]

On responsibilities he writes:

“28. The natural rights of which We have so far been speaking are inextricably bound up with as many duties, all applying to one and the same person. These rights and duties derive their origin, their sustenance, and their indestructibility from the natural law, which in conferring the one imposes the other.

“29. Thus, for example, the right to live involves the duty to preserve one's life; the right to a decent standard of living, the duty to live in a becoming fashion; the right to be free to seek out the truth, the duty to devote oneself to an ever deeper and wider search for it.”

Perhaps this week could be best used in reading and praying with Pacem in Terris.

During the fourth week of Easter, April 21st through April 27th, we would consider the theme of Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. A good preparation for this theme would be to read Matthew 25:11-46. [3] This passage lays out the responsibility we have to the poor. Pray with this passage, and then find some action you can do that will make the lives of the poor better. Call your representatives to get poverty fighting measures such as raising the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work enacted into law, if need be.

The theme of the fifth week of Easter, April 28th through May 4th, is the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. Read the social encyclicals like Rerum Novarum [4] or Caritas in Veritate. [5] If you are an employer prayerfully consider if there is more you can do to make the workplace a dignified and good place. Call your representatives to encourage good employment laws and to foster good unions.

On the sixth week of Easter, May 5th through May 11th, consider the theme of Solidarity. Solidarity is the realization that we are all brothers and sisters. Reflect prayerfully on the diversity of the human race, maybe the diversity of your area. Make a point to visit a group that is different then your group. Call your representative and urge comprehensive immigration reform.

On the seventh week consider the theme of Care for God's Creation. A good reflection and impetus to prayer is St Francis’s prayer Canticle to Brother Sun:
            Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
            Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
            and all blessing.
            To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
            and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
            Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
            especially through my lord Brother Sun,
            who brings the day; and you give light through him.
            And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
            Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
            Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
            and the stars, in heaven you formed them
            clear and precious and beautiful.
            Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
            and through the air, cloudy and serene,
            and every kind of weather through which
            You give sustenance to Your creatures.
            Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
            which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
            Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
            through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
            and playful and robust and strong.
            Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
            who sustains us and governs us and who produces
            varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
            Praised be You, my Lord,
            through those who give pardon for Your love,
            and bear infirmity and tribulation.
            Blessed are those who endure in peace
            for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
            Praised be You, my Lord,
            through our Sister Bodily Death,
            from whom no living man can escape.
            Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
            Blessed are those whom death will
            find in Your most holy will,
            for the second death shall do them no harm.
            Praise and bless my Lord,
            and give Him thanks
            and serve Him with great humility.

You could, perhaps, start a garden, or plant trees. You could go through your house to see what you could do to make it more green. You could also encourage your representatives to vote for conservation measures.

The 19th of May is Pentecost, when we can review what we have done for Easter, and, maybe, make some resolutions to change.

These are my ideas. I would welcome other ideas on what we can do to celebrate the time of Easter.

Father Mike Van Cleve

Father Mike is a priest for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston