Pope Francis surprised the social media world this week with an inspiring TED Talk that has been virally bouncing around Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter timelines since its release.
Delivered to a largely secular audience at the TED2017 Conference, the Pope’s words are a stirring call to action that should be familiar to Catholics: Every individual has value, and we are called to help those we encounter throughout our lives. When individuals support one another, we can collectively inspire a hopeful future—even in the direst of circumstances.
The talk is filled with uplifting ideas, and many of these messages are evident every day in Catholic Extension’s work building up faith communities on the margins of society. Let’s examine five of Pope Francis's most memorable quotes.
"Why them and not me?"
Pope Francis opens his talk by addressing a question that everyone has asked at some point, but perhaps not frequently enough: “Why them and not me?” With non-stop news reports examining the plight of migrants and refugees, victims of violence, the terminally ill, the unemployed and others for whom life is a daily struggle, it’s easy to grow complacent inside the safety of our blessings. The Pope urges us to realize that we easily could be “one of the ‘discarded’ people,” and this realization should spur us to gratitude, action and outreach.
This quote shows that an emphasis on compassion is essential to the mission of Catholic Extension. The day-to-day reality of the Catholics living in the 90 poor mission dioceses we serve is often unimaginable to those who have not encountered it—from physical poverty and other unmet social needs to a lack of spiritual care and an inability to even attend Mass every week. By virtue of where they were born, Catholics in non-mission dioceses have thriving parishes with ample resources and large networks of support. Without Extension’s assistance, Catholics in some rural mission dioceses would go without a church or even the once-a-week visit of a priest.
As our fellow Catholics, these communities are practicing the same faith and deserve the same opportunities to do so. Our faith is meant to be shared, but many who already share our faith are still in need of our support so that their faith may flourish. To quote Pope Francis, “none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I,’ separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.”
“When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?”
Pope Francis’ talk stressed the need for solidarity, and his wish that it could become “the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.” Extension has been building churches and the Church for more than 111 years, which gives us a uniquely long view of how the Church has stood in solidarity with those in need throughout history—and how the saving power of faith perpetually moves communities from desolation to hope.
The generous support of Catholic Extension donors creates a network of solidarity among Catholic communities across the United States. For generations, our donors have found meaning and purpose in building up the faith of their fellow Catholics. Even when it is easier to ignore the pain and suffering of others, our faith compels us to do good. The generosity of our donors is a beautiful witness of those with more giving freely to those with less, recognizing that they can use their resources to do good for another.
"In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity… Remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The ‘you’ is always a real presence, a person to take care of.”
Many of the initiatives supported by Catholic Extension are successful because of the courageous and creative leadership of individuals who dedicate their lives to serving the Church and their fellow Catholics. They see the face of Jesus in the poor and use their talents and energy to minister accordingly.
From missionary priests to dedicated religious sisters to passionate lay leaders, the ability of an individual to bring a community together is undeniable. Many of these leaders provide loving service in the name of the Church to “discarded” communities—immigrants, Native Americans, the Appalachian poor, the incarcerated, those struggling with addictions and other marginalized groups. The issues and challenges change over time, but the Catholic Church is always present to reach out in love and compassion.
"To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow."
Despite working in diverse situations and communities, Extension’s mission has always left a wake of hope in these troubled areas. This hope comes directly from our Catholic faith in Christ’s love and mercy for all people. By building up communities of faith, we are active participants in what Pope Francis calls “the revolution of tenderness”—to help those in need to recognize the hope that comes from Jesus, and to realize that they are more than their life circumstances would lead them to believe.
Pope Francis stresses that hope begins with one individual—you—and eventually it becomes an “us” capable of starting a revolution of faith, hope and love. Throughout our history, Catholic Extension has been in the trenches, advocating for the marginalized and offering hope through our faith—whether that means building a church in an area where Catholics are a minority or funding priests and seminarians who bring the Eucharist to migrants working in the fields. The revolution of tenderness is already at work in the Catholic Church.
"The future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a 'you' and themselves as part of an 'us.' We all need each other."
As Catholics, we are all part of the worldwide Church. Within that Church, however, there are communities that feel excluded from the rest of “us” and in need of our solidarity, love and support. This quote from Pope Francis reminds us that tenderness is “being on the same level as the other. God Himself descended into Jesus to be on our level.”
We can respond to the Pope’s call for solidarity by being aware of the blessings in our lives and seeking to share those blessings with our community and the world—especially the least among us who have yet to recognize the saving love and unending hope found in Jesus.
Please consider partnering with Catholic Extension to promote “a revolution of tenderness” in struggling Catholic communities across the country.