In addition to being President’s Day, tomorrow is also “World Day of Social Justice”, marked around the world as proclaimed by the United Nations. For Catholic families, the UN’s commemoration makes this a terrific day to share with our families some of the hallmarks of Catholic Social Teaching. Let’s look together at a few basic resources I’ve compiled from a variety of online sources, and how to bring this day to life in our homes:
Q: February 20 is “World Day of Social Justice”, which was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2007. What is this day all about?
The General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice in 2007, inviting Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all. (Source)
Q: Why is a day such as this relevant for Catholics?
Social justice is embraced across religious and secular traditions as an underlying principle that promotes peaceful relationship between people. Social justice is also central to Catholic Social Teaching, placing sin and grace in their social context. Today we call to mind those who are kept from full human flourishing by the injustices of society and how we are all called to work for solutions. (Source)
Q: How is Catholic social teaching truly consistent with the Church’s ardent pro-life commitment?
Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment. (Source)
Q: What are the seven key themes of Catholic social teaching as conveyed in papal and episcopal documents?
1. Life and Dignity of the Human Person
2. Call to Family, Community, and Participation
3. Rights and Responsibilities
4. Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
5. The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
7. Care for God’s Creation
Q: What are some ways that Catholic families can bring this day to life in our homes, helping our children to understand and appreciate the Church’s teachings on social justice?
This last question is perhaps the most vital for our Domestic Churches. In looking at each of the seven key themes above, it seems unimaginable to think that tomorrow, in one day, it will be possible for us to comprehensively teach our children these themes. This being said, tomorrow is a great “jumping off” point – a day to intentionally study and pray over the themes ourselves.
I’ve been happily surprised this year during my various outings to elementary schools to discuss my Chime Travelers project that children even as young as Kindergarten age organically “get” the fact that a daily commitment to social justice is a big part of being a “saint in the making”. Looking again at a few of the seven themes, I want to offer just some simple family-oriented ideas for our homes:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person – Share with your child some information about the time before they were born, when you learned that you were pregnant, how it felt to anticipate their birth, and your excitement as you awaited the big day. Alternatively, think about your family’s oldest living relative. Together, write that loved one a “love letter” or make a visit to them. Chat with your child about how much this elder has blessed your life.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable – Discuss those most in need in your community and how you as a family might contribute to their wellbeing. Offer chores for your children, providing them the opportunity to earn some money to make a small donation to your parish or to Catholic Charities. Declutter “gently used” items such as clothing, toys and books and make a donation to your local St. Vincent de Paul outlet.
Care for God’s Creation – Chat with your children about the steps we take to protect God’s creation: using less water, properly disposing of refuse, recycling whenever possible, and consuming no more than what is needed. Work out a family conservation plan that respects both the natural and human resources in your community. Commit to days of decreased consumption, planting of a garden, or other measures to care for the world around your home.
For more information on Catholic Social Teaching, please visit the USCCB’s terrific resources.
A question for you: How are you bringing Catholic Social Teaching to life in your home and parish?
Copyright 2017 Lisa M. Hendey