Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Praying for the Rich

A few days ago was the feast of St. Henry, a German noble who lived at the turn of the first millenium and who was elected Holy Roman Emperor. He lived a life of personal piety and encouraged holiness and moral virtue within his realm during his life, which is why the Church has recognized him as a saint.

Some of my favorite saints are those who were royalty or nobility: St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Louis of France, St. Wenceslaus, etc. I appreciate their lives because they had an extra degree of difficulty in taking the straight and narrow way. We usually envy the rich and powerful because we think they've got it easy, but we're only thinking in terms of material comforts or leisure. But when it comes to the most important matters, the state of one's soul and one's eternal destiny, all that money and power can be a hindrance.

For any of us, what keeps us from attaining eternal glory is our doing what we want instead of what God wants, or rather, refusing to make what God wants into what we want. And it's a lot easier to do whatever we want when we have the means to do whatever we want. How easy it is to take revenge on my enemies when I'm the sovereign and nobody can arrest me for it. How simple it is to take my neighbor's wife for my own pleasures when my soldiers can kill my neighbor if he objects. As I exercise my power, I begin to think that there is no power above me. "In their insolence the wicked boast, 'God does not care. There is no God.'" (Psalm 10:4) That's why Jesus said that camels get through eyes of needles before rich men enter heaven. (Matthew 19:24)

We should each thank God every day that we are not subject to the same temptations as those who are in such places of privilege. And perhaps worst of all, they must not only battle the desire to exercise their passions when it would be oh-so-easy to do, but they then face the terrible despair of realizing that all the power and pleasure in the world can't fill the God-shaped hole in their hearts. Do you ever wonder why rich countries have higher suicide rates than poor ones?

How many of those who wield power today would we consider candidates for canonization? Power of any sort: political, economic, media.... how many of the well-to-do and influential would we peg as the sort to have a halo 'round their head in pictures? These people need our prayers, not only for their own sake, but because they sit at the fountainhead of the world's affairs and affect all of our lives. We cannot have a just world without just leaders.

I've known many people in the Church who have taken their passion for and love of the poor and turned that against the rich (or even at times the middle class), casting them as irredeemable demons and losing sight of their humanity. But rich people have souls, too. Souls in need of saving.

3 comments:

  1. Very good. I especially love the last two lines.

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  2. Marion (Mael Muire)December 12, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    The Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, T.O.P. (1901-1925) was a member of the international elite, belonging to a very wealthy and prominent family in Turin, Italy. He dedicated much of his free time to visiting and caring for the city's needy, sick, and orphaned, sometimes refusing to accompany the rest of his family on their summer vacations away, because, he asked, "if everyone leaves Turin, who will look out for the poor?" On the eve of his death, nearly paralyzed with polio, he asked a friend to take much-needed medicine to a poor sick man whom he had been visiting.

    When he died, his family was astonished to see hundreds of mourners lining the streets; notably among them were the city's poor, whom Pier Giorgio had personally and directly assisted with alms and other deeds of kindness.

    Pier Giorgio is a fine example of an affluent person who made himself a servant of the needy.

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    Replies
    1. A great example! Thanks for sharing!

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