Saturday, December 8, 2007

Our Lady of Good Counsel and Matthew Talbot

General Intention:

For all those pushed to the edges of human societies

Protect the poor and powerless -- listen, learn, educate, organize, empower participation, and respect life from the moment of conception to the time of natural death.

Saints Prayer:

Matthew Talbot, you were born into poverty, among a marginalized people, and you went right to the edge as an alcoholic. By the same grace that rescued you from alienation and despair, we ask your intercession today on behalf of all who are marginalized in this world. See how the strong prey upon the weak and the violence and despair and alienation and oppression which afflicts so many. We pray that your example of solidarity with the poor will be an inspiration for many to follow your holy example. Amen.

See how Our Lady carefully guides the steps of her Son. What did she advise the servants at the wedding at Cana? "Do whatever he tells you." Good advice; we can recall that this includes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, challenging unjust structures, speaking out against oppression and hypocrisy, loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

How many sins against solidarity there are in this world. The poor are not our sisters and brothers, they are degenerate misfits, with bad values and even worse morals. It is their own fault that they are poor. We should segregate our societies so that decent people have as little contact as possible with these wretched creatures. Thank God we don't live in one of those neighborhoods.

Matthew Talbot, whom we honor together with Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Seat of Wisdom in this novena, was born in a slum in Dublin, Ireland in 1856, and died in the same town in 1925. Along the way, in his youth, he became a confirmed alcoholic. By the grace of God, however, he experienced a true and lasting religious conversion, and spent his life among the poor, practicing evangelical poverty, working at labor jobs and giving most of his money as alms to the poor and for the benefit of missions. He helped many people find sobriety. His entire life was an evangelical witness to the power of the Gospel to transform the most alienated and to bring new life to community in the midst of despair.

We are in desperate need of his example, and the wise influence of Our Lady of Good Counsel, in this post-modern deconstructed world, where the bonds of solidarity and mutual obligation which once bound our communities together have gone the way of the horse and buggy. We resent the poor, we hate those who are different, and we express that by (among other things) segregating our communities by economic class.

But while resenting the poor, we can hardly resist the temptation to make money off of them. After all, what's the point of having a bunch of poor people around if somebody can't make some money off the deal.

We have forgotten a parable from the Old Testament, which a wise prophet once told to a king who had acted with great injustice.

There was once a poor man who had nothing in the world except for one little lamb, who was more of a pet than anything else. He had a neighbor who was rich (this was before planning and zoning commissions made it impossible for rich and poor people to live in the same neighborhood) and this neighbor had an unexpected guest. The rich man was determined to provide hospitality, but instead of taking from his own huge flocks, he stole the one little lamb from his poor neighbor, butchered it and gave it to his guest.

We sigh over this parable, but it happens every day. Our tax system, taken as a whole, is very regressive. We restrict the economic rights of the poor, limit the ways they can earn a living, and thus artificially create a large supply of cheap labor, from which the rich benefit tremendously.

May Our Lady of Good Counsel bring us to an understanding of the structures of sin that must be challenged. May Matthew Talbot inspire us by his example to live in solidarity with the poor and rejected. May we always work to protect the poor from those who would prey upon them.