The expression, a canary in a coal mine, refers to caged canaries miners would bring with them into mine tunnels. These birds were used in Britain right up until 1999 as a way to warn miners if gases like carbon monoxide collected in the mine. Noxious gas would kill a tiny canary before miners even knew they were in danger. Now the phrase “a canary in a coal mine” alludes to someone whose sensitivity delivers early warnings to society. Our popes have often perceived subtle shifts away from Gospel values before most of us even notice.
The Culture of Prosperity
There ingrained attitudes in all of us which are not consistent with our Catholic faith but we tend not to question them. For example, our society tends to exalt those who are ruthless and therefore successful in business. Rich nations are often reluctant to provide aid to third world countries, waiting until war and famine have already devastated them. Pope Francis addressed world poverty:
The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. –Evangelii Gaudium,
We admire successful big businesses which look at the bottom line and are reluctant to spend profits on protecting the environment.
We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence. We have no such right. (Pope Francis)
Citizens in first world countries are becoming more suspicious of immigrants, fearful of those who are different. The Gospel urges us to act like the Good Samaritan, offering aid to the outcast.
Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great worry for all those concerned about the safety of every human being. (Pope Francis)
Pope Francis Speaks Out
We are often blind to the common good; we don’t even consider it because we are more concerned with an “America First” attitude. Whether we are liberal or conservative, black or white, rich or poor, young or old, North Americans tend to be self-absorbed, acting like we are the center of the universe. I see this preoccupation with our own concerns played out on US cable news because it focuses almost entirely on the United States. Canadian national news might briefly mention a crisis in a small, poor nation. Yet first world countries do not live in a vacuum; their actions affect third world countries.G20 in reminding them of their effect on and responsibility to poor nations.Pope Francis sent a message to leaders of the world’s economy at the
While it is reasonable that G20 Summits should be limited to the small number of countries that represent 90% of the production of wealth and services worldwide, this very situation must prompt the participants to a profound reflection. Those states and individuals whose voice is weakest on the world political scene are precisely the ones who suffer most from the harmful effects of economic crises for which they bear little or no responsibility.
This great majority, which in economic terms counts for only 10% of the whole, is the portion of humanity that has the greatest potential to contribute to the progress of everyone.
Let’s take courage from Pope Francis and speak and live out the truth as we try to live out the Gospel in our own lives, asking God to fill us with mercy and a heart of service for the poor and the outcast we encounter.
Copyright 2018 Melanie Jean Juneau