It’s St. Vincent’s feast day. By coincidence, I was talking with my daughter Abbie last night about charity toward the poor, and I tried to explain to her the difference between the “relatively poor” and the the poor in absolute terms. It’s a conversation we’ve had frequently. She’s finally beginning to understand that we have no absolute poor among us in the United States (a jaw-droppingly rich country, “awash in money,” to use the words of Charles Murray). We do, however, have the relatively poor, and right now, those are probably the Mexicans, just as they were the Irish in the nineteenth century, and we should try to help the Mexicans, hence my efforts to patronize their little groceries around town.
But if you look at the words of St. Vincent, he’s talking about serving the absolute poor (or so it seems to me), and there were plenty of them in the early seventeenth century. I’m particularly struck by these words: “If you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.”
What does that mean for our rich country? If we have no poor (in absolute terms), where is the Son of God? Is he absent from our society? Does the absence of poor–in some crazy way that I can’t explain, much less prove–give us a culture stripped of Christian values (as seen in our obsession with sex, fame, and wealth)?
They’re questions worth pondering on this somewhat anachronistic feast day.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList