In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI describes the “unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor” (no. 16). The experience of God’s love, he says, should move us to love our neighbors, in whom God is present. In the same way, Pope Francis notes: “A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother—the poor, the sick, those in need of help, a brother in difficulty—is a sterile and incomplete prayer.”
As people of faith, we are called to loving action. What does that action look like? The Catholic tradition recognizes two responses that we call the “Two Feet of Love in Action.” These responses are two different but complimentary ways we can act, in response to God’s love for us.
The first “foot” is Social Justice. Pope Benedict XVI called this the primary way of charity or love. We step with this foot when we work to address the root causes of problems facing our communities by advocating for just public policies, and helping to change the social structures that contribute to suffering and injustice at home and around the world. When we change unjust systems, we work, as Pope Francis describes, “to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth” and “to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.”
The second “foot” is Charitable Works. Charitable Works are “the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison, etc.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, no. 31). We do these every single day at Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
In order to truly bring about justice and guide people to self-sufficiency we need to be walking with both feet.
Lord of Wisdom, awaken us
to our duty to care for the basic needs of all people.
Strengthen with hope
people denied their human rights and freedoms.
Provide us all with the voice to cry out
for justice for the poor and the oppressed.
Which foot do you use most often: Social Justice or Charitable Works?
What is one way you can strengthen your weakest foot?
Sign up here for Action Alerts from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
What issues are going on in your community that affect people living in poverty?
Donate items that are needed (food, diapers, clothing, coats, backpacks, etc.).
Volunteer your time.