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Reflections: Catholic Life Section (Wealth/Pvrty.)

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Wealth / Poverty

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The Poor / Poverty

Riches / Wealth

Social Classes

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The Poor / Poverty

"Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Lk. 6:20)

"Don't be anxious about what you have, but about what you are." (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Believe me, he who does not think of the wants of the poor is not a member of the body of Christ. For if one member suffers, all suffer." (St. Elphege)

"No one should commend poverty unless he is poor." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church)

"God loves the poor, and consequently He loves those who have an affection for the poor. For when we love anyone very much, we also love his friends." (St. Vincent de Paul)

"To desire to be poor but not to be inconvenienced by poverty, is to desire the honor of poverty and the convenience of riches." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"My brother, when thou seest a poor man, behold in him a mirror of the Lord, and of His poor Mother. In the sick, in like manner, consider that He bore our sicknesses." (St. Francis of Assisi)

"[T]he rich should be merciful and munificent, and the poor content with their lot and labor; and since neither was born for these changeable goods, the one is to attain heaven by patience the other by liberality." (Pope Leo XIII, "Auspicato Concessum", 1882)

"Lack of resources lessens pride and leaves the way open to the holy virtue of humility. It disposes the heart to receive new graces, and makes it climb the steep path to perfection with remarkable facility. Those fluids which are lighter are the ones which rise to the top, while the thick, heavy fluids cleave to the bottom." (St. Anthony Mary Claret)

"I wish you to be the friend of the poor, but especially their imitator. The one is the grade of beginner, the other of the perfect, for the friendship of the poor makes us the friend of kings, but the lover of poverty makes us kings ourselves. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of the poor, and one of the marks of royal power is to do good to friends" (St. Bernard)

"Christian charity towards our neighbor absolutely demands that those things which are lacking to the needy should be provided; hence it is incumbent on the rich to help the poor, so that, having an abundance of this world's goods, they may not expend them fruitlessly or completely squander them, but employ them for the support and well-being of those who lack the necessities of life. They who give of their substance to Christ in the person of His poor will receive from the Lord a most bountiful reward when He shall come to judge the world; they who act to the contrary will pay the penalty. Not in vain does the Apostle warn us: 'He that hath the substance of this world and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him?'" (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930)

"As for those who possess not the gifts of fortune, they are taught by the Church that in God's sight poverty is no disgrace, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of in earning their bread by labor. This is enforced by what we see in Christ Himself, who, 'whereas He was rich, for our sakes became poor'; and who, being the Son of God, and God Himself, chose to seem and to be considered the son of a carpenter - nay, did not disdain to spend a great part of His life as a carpenter Himself. 'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?' From contemplation of this divine Model, it is more easy to understand that the true worth and nobility of man lie in his moral qualities, that is, in virtue; that virtue is, moreover, the common inheritance of men, equally within the reach of high and low, rich and poor; and that virtue, and virtue alone, wherever found, will be followed by the rewards of everlasting happiness. Nay, God Himself seems to incline rather to those who suffer misfortune; for Jesus Christ calls the poor 'blessed'; He lovingly invites those in labor and grief to come to Him for solace; and He displays the tenderest charity toward the lowly and the oppressed." (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum", 1891)

"The fundamental point of the social question is this, that the goods created by God for all men should in the same way reach all, justice guiding and charity helping. The history of every age teaches that there were always rich and poor; that it will always be so we may gather from the unchanging tenor of human destinies. Worthy of honor are the poor who fear God because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven and because they readily abound in spiritual graces. But the rich, if they are upright and honest, are God's dispensers and providers of this world's goods; as ministers of Divine Providence they assist the indigent through whom they often receive gifts for the soul and whose hand - so they may hope - will lead them into the eternal tabernacles. God, Who provides for all with counsels of supreme bounty, has ordained that for the exercise of virtues and for the testing of one's worth there be in the world rich and poor; but He does not wish that some have exaggerated riches while others are in such straits that they lack the bare necessities of life. But a kindly mother of virtue is honest poverty which gains its living by daily labor in accordance with the scriptural saying: 'Give me neither beggary, nor riches: give me only the necessaries of life' (Proverbs xxx: 8). Now if the rich and the prosperous are obliged out of ordinary motives of pity to act generously towards the poor their obligation is all the greater to do them justice. The salaries of the workers, as is just, are to be such that they are sufficient to maintain them and their families. Solemn are the words of Our predecessor, Pius XI, on this question: 'Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage sufficient to meet adequately normal domestic needs. If under present circumstances this is not always feasible, social justice demands that reforms be introduced without delay which will guarantee such a wage to every adult working man. In this connection We praise those who have most prudently and usefully attempted various methods by which an increased wage is paid in view of increased family burdens and special provision made for special needs.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Sertum Laetitiae", 1939) 

Also See: Riches / Wealth | Social Classes | Private Property | The Poor / Good Works (Volunteers' Corner Reflections | St. Francis of Assisi on Poverty (St. Francis Section Reflections) | Poor (Topical Scripture)

Note: Categories are subjective and may overlap. For more items related to this topic, please review all applicable categories. For more 'Reflections' and for Scripture topics, see links below.

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Riches / Wealth

"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mt. 19:24)

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Lk. 6:24)

"Then [Jesus] said to the crowd 'Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.'" (Lk. 12:15)

"Then [Jesus] told them a parable. 'There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, 'What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?' And he said, 'This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, 'Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!' But God said to him, 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?' Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.'" (Lk. 12:16-21)

"Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment." (1 Tm. 6:17)

"Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire..." (Jms. 5:1-3)

"Wealth is of no avail unto the happiness of eternal life but is rather a hindrance" (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum")

"Our Lord is never found in pomp, pleasure, luxury, but in lowliness and humiliation." (St. John Vianney)

"Don't be anxious about what you have, but about what you are." (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"[T]he rich should be merciful and munificent, and the poor content with their lot and labor; and since neither was born for these changeable goods, the one is to attain heaven by patience the other by liberality." (Pope Leo XIII, "Auspicato Concessum", 1882)

"As for riches and the other things which men call good and desirable, whether we have them in abundance, or are lacking in them - so far as eternal happiness is concerned - it makes no difference; the only important thing is to use them aright." (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum", 1891)

"For it is not earthly riches which make us or our sons happy; for they must either be lost by us in our lifetime, or be possessed when we are dead, by whom we know not, or perhaps by whom we would not. But it is God who makes us happy, who is the true riches of our minds." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Why do you pile up the burden of your patrimony, that the richer you have been in the sight of the world, the poorer you may become in the sight of God? Divide your returns with your God; share your gains with Christ; make Christ a partner in your earthly possessions that He also may make you co-heir of His heavenly kingdom." (St. Cyprian of Carthage)

"Thus it becomes necessary for every one to guard manfully against the allurements of luxury, and since on every side there is so much ostentation in the enjoyment of wealth, the soul must be fortified against the dangerous snares of riches lest straining after what are called the good things of life, which cannot satisfy and soon fade away, the soul should lose 'the treasure in heaven which faileth not.'" (Pope Leo XIII, "Exeunte Iam Anno", 1888)

"Not everything that can be done ought to be done... If you think that God gave you riches for the sole purpose of enjoying them thoroughly yourself - without using them for the purposes of salvation - they you're sinning against God. For God gave us a voice, too, but that doesn't mean we must use it to sing indecent love songs. And God willed that iron be mined from the earth, but not so that we would murder one another with weapons crafted from it." (St. Cyprian of Carthage)

"Why do sinners have an abundance of wealth and riches, and feast constantly and sumptuously, knowing no pain or sorrow, while the just are in want and are punished by the loss of spouse or children? The parable in the Gospel must supply the answer. The rich man was clothed in purple and fine linen and gave great banquets every day; but he poor man, full of sores, gathered the crumbs from his table. After the death of each of them, however, the poor man took his rest in the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man was in torment. Is it not evident from this that rewards and punishments according to merits await us after death?" (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 391 A.D.)

"For the more perfectly the sovereign good is possessed, the more it is loved, and other things despised: because the more we possess it, the more we know it. Hence it is written (Ecclesiasticus 24:21): 'They that eat me shall yet hunger.' Whereas in the desire for wealth and for whatsoever temporal goods, the contrary is the case: for when we already possess them, we despise them, and seek others: which is the sense of Our Lord's words (John 4:13): 'Whosoever drinketh of this water,' by which temporal goods are signified, 'shall thirst again.' The reason of this is that we realize more their insufficiency when we possess them: and this very fact shows that they are imperfect, and the sovereign good does not consist therein." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"The rich should not place their happiness in things of earth nor spend their best efforts in the acquisition of them. Rather, considering themselves only as stewards of their earthly goods, let them be mindful of the account they must render of them to their Lord and Master, and value them as precious means that God has put into their hands for doing good; let them not fail, besides, to distribute of their abundance to the poor, according to the evangelical precept. Otherwise there shall be verified of them and their riches the harsh condemnation of St. James the Apostle: 'Go to now, ye rich men; weep and howl in your miseries which shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten; your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be for a testimony against you and shall eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up to yourselves wrath against the last days...'" (Pope Pius XI, "Divini Redemptoris", 1937)

"No man, says our Lord, can serve two masters; and these two masters are, God and mammon. Mammon means riches. Riches are not, of their own nature, bad. When lawfully acquired, and used agreeably to the designs of God, riches help the possessor to gain true goods for his soul; he stores up for himself, in the kingdom of his eternal home, treasures, which neither thieves nor rust can reach. Ever since the Incarnation, wherein the divine Word espoused poverty to Himself, it is the poor that are heaven's nobility. And yet, the mission of the rich man is a grand one: he is permitted to be rich in order that he may be God's minister to make all the several portions of material creation turn to their Creator's glory. God graciously vouchsafes to entrust into his hands the feeding and supporting of the dearest of His children, that is, the poor, the indigent and suffering members of His Christ. He calls him to uphold the interests of His Church, and be the promoter of works connected with the salvation of men. He confides to them the keeping up of the beauty of His temples. Happy that man, and worthy of all praise, who thus directly brings back to the glory of their Maker the fruits of the earth, and the precious metals she yields from her bosom! Let not such a man fear: it is not of him that Jesus speaks those anathemas uttered so frequently by Him against the rich ones of this world. He has but one Master - the Father who is in heaven, whose steward he humbly and gladly acknowledges himself to be. Mammon does not domineer over him; on the contrary, he makes her his servant, and obliges her to minister to his zeal in all good works. The solicitude he takes in spending his wealth in acts of justice and charity, is not that which our Gospel here blames; for, in all such solicitude, he is but following our Lord's precept, of seeking first the kingdom of God; and the riches which pass though his hands in the furtherance of good works, do not distract his thoughts from that heaven where his heart is, because his true treasure is there. It is quite otherwise when riches, instead of being regarded as a simple means, become the very end of a man's existence, and that to such an extent as to make him neglect, yea, and sometimes forget, his last end." (Liturgical Year)

"The fundamental point of the social question is this, that the goods created by God for all men should in the same way reach all, justice guiding and charity helping. The history of every age teaches that there were always rich and poor; that it will always be so we may gather from the unchanging tenor of human destinies. Worthy of honor are the poor who fear God because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven and because they readily abound in spiritual graces. But the rich, if they are upright and honest, are God's dispensers and providers of this world's goods; as ministers of Divine Providence they assist the indigent through whom they often receive gifts for the soul and whose hand - so they may hope - will lead them into the eternal tabernacles. God, Who provides for all with counsels of supreme bounty, has ordained that for the exercise of virtues and for the testing of one's worth there be in the world rich and poor; but He does not wish that some have exaggerated riches while others are in such straits that they lack the bare necessities of life. But a kindly mother of virtue is honest poverty which gains its living by daily labor in accordance with the scriptural saying: 'Give me neither beggary, nor riches: give me only the necessaries of life' (Proverbs xxx: 8). Now if the rich and the prosperous are obliged out of ordinary motives of pity to act generously towards the poor their obligation is all the greater to do them justice. The salaries of the workers, as is just, are to be such that they are sufficient to maintain them and their families. Solemn are the words of Our predecessor, Pius XI, on this question: 'Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage sufficient to meet adequately normal domestic needs. If under present circumstances this is not always feasible, social justice demands that reforms be introduced without delay which will guarantee such a wage to every adult working man. In this connection We praise those who have most prudently and usefully attempted various methods by which an increased wage is paid in view of increased family burdens and special provision made for special needs.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Sertum Laetitiae", 1939)

"Therefore, those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles; that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ - threatenings so unwonted in the mouth of our Lord - and that a most strict account must be given to the Supreme Judge for all we possess. The chief and most excellent rule for the right use of money is one the heathen philosophers hinted at, but which the Church has traced out clearly, and has not only made known to men's minds, but has impressed upon their lives. It rests on the principle that it is one thing to have a right to the possession of money and another to have a right to use money as one wills. Private ownership, as we have seen, is the natural right of man, and to exercise that right, especially as members of society, is not only lawful, but absolutely necessary. 'It is lawful,' says St. Thomas Aquinas, 'for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.' But if the question be asked: How must one's possessions be used? - the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: 'Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. Whence the Apostle saith, 'Command the rich of this world...to offer with no stint, to apportion largely.'' True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, 'for no one ought to live other than becomingly.' But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one's standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. 'Of that which remaineth, give alms.' It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity - a duty not enforced by human law. But the laws and judgments of men must yield place to the laws and judgments of Christ the true God, who in many ways urges on His followers the practice of almsgiving - 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'; and who will count a kindness done or refused to the poor as done or refused to Himself - 'As long as you did it to one of My least brethren you did it to Me.' To sum up, then, what has been said: Whoever has received from the divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and material, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God's providence, for the benefit of others. 'He that hath a talent,' said St. Gregory the Great, 'let him see that he hide it not; he that hath abundance, let him quicken himself to mercy and generosity; he that hath art and skill, let him do his best to share the use and the utility hereof with his neighbor.'" (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum", 1891)

Also See: Almsgiving | Work / Wages [Pg.] | The Poor / Poverty | Social Classes | Give & Take Reflections | Volunteers' Corner Reflections | Riches / Wealth (Topical Scripture)

Note: Categories are subjective and may overlap. For more items related to this topic, please review all applicable categories. For more 'Reflections' and for Scripture topics, see links below.

Top | Reflectns.: A-Z | Catg. | Scripture: A-Z | Catg. | Help

Social Classes

"The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvelous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice." (Pope Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum", 1891)

Also See: The Poor / Poverty | Riches / Wealth | Work / Wages [Pg.] | Private Property | Socialism | Communism | Taxes | Government | Love / Charity

Note: Categories are subjective and may overlap. For more items related to this topic, please review all applicable categories. For more 'Reflections' and for Scripture topics, see links below.

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