Faith Focus: Love must be active

Anne Myles

Anne Myles - Credit: Archant

Pope Francis, the world-wide leader of the Catholic church, last week published the third encyclical or teaching letter of his papacy, called ‘Fratelli tutti’, Italian for Universal Fraternity or fellowship.

It has a message for people in St Albans and Harpenden, and across our world.

Central to this document – the Pope’s thoughts on the world’s present situation – is the story of the Good Samaritan, as told by Jesus.

A traveller is attacked, robbed and left wounded by the roadside. Various people walk by, ignoring his plight, until a foreigner from a different religion takes pity on him and helps him to a place of safety. He tends to him and leaves him with money for care until he returns.

Those who ignore the wounded man include religious and upright members of society who have busy tasks to fulfil.

Pope Francis asks us to place ourselves there. Are we today’s victim: homeless, lonely, sick, an immigrant, discriminated against because of skin colour, gender or religion? Or are we the upright church attender with a place in society and so busy with our lives?

Pope Francis began writing before the Covid-19 pandemic, for people of all faiths and none. He sees a rise in populist leaders and nationalism across our materialistic world. There are greater divisions between nations, and the building of more walls and barriers across this common earth.

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We are all affected by the pandemic but not equally and in different ways. In my church of St Alban & St Stephen, the need for social distancing goes against the usual sharing that happens in our parish. Most of the groups no longer meet and we can’t give lifts to church, and indeed we discourage the most vulnerable from attending, but we can do some things.

These include making more phone calls, delivering bulletins, doing shopping, ‘Zooming’ Masses and prayer meetings, meeting up in the park, and giving money online. We are now, with careful preparations, able to take Holy Communion to the housebound again.

Pope Francis says that love must be active, with greater need to welcome the stranger, because God is in everyone.

Anne Myles is a parishioner at St Alban and St Stephen Church in St Albans, and a retired teacher.