President of Catholic Charities USA urges Americans to open eyes to poverty
ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In his Lenten blog this week, Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, urges Americans to use their God-given sight to become more aware of the poverty that is all around us but that we tend not to see.
In Eyes Wide Shut, Fr. Snyder refers to the Biblical story of the man born blind in recounting the decision by Mark Bittman, a food writer with The New York Times whose whole life is devoted to cuisines and recipes, to join a nationwide fast to advocate for better food policies.
"Hunger," Fr. Snyder writes, "is one of those conditions we tend not to see." He points to a recent study by Hart Research that finds nearly two-thirds of Americans rated hunger as a serious national problem, but far fewer see it as a serious problem in their own community. He continues:
"Consumed by the responsibilities of our own lives, we are in danger of walking through life with eyes wide shut to those who are truly in need. But Jesus asks us to open our eyes and look at the world in the brilliant light of truth.
"In a few weeks we will observe Good Friday, a day of fasting observed around the world. Can we think anew about the hungry in our midst while we fast? In his Message for Lent 2011, Pope Benedict XVI observes that 'by rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation – and not just what is in excess – we learn to look away from our 'ego,' to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters.'"
Fr. Snyder started his blog, Think and Act Anew, to raise awareness of poverty in America and to engage those in the Catholic community and members of the public to think in new ways about how to prevent and reduce poverty in this country. He will post three blogs based on the three great baptismal Gospels that are read during the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. His previous blog, The Woman at the Well, construes John 4:5-42 as calling us to continue God's work on earth. "That includes literally providing the water of life to our brothers and sisters who are poor – people who normally would not cross our paths in daily life," Fr. Snyder writes. He is working on a blog rooted in John 11:1-45, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, for posting next week.
Catholic Charities USA's members provide help and create hope for more than 9 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. For almost 300 years, Catholic Charities agencies have worked to reduce poverty by providing a myriad of vital services in their communities, ranging from health care and job training to food and housing. In 2010, Catholic Charities USA celebrated its centennial anniversary and introduced new federal legislation – the National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act (NOCRA) – to transform the nation's approach to poverty.