by Deacon Bill Scholl
Over the last 40 years a remarkable thing has happened so quietly, that hardly a newsgroup has noticed: The global absolute poverty rate has fallen from 42% in 1981 to 8.6% today.
As American Catholics, we can be proud that through our support of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and by the grace of God, we have helped humanity reach an unprecedented milestone. Most people no longer live in abject poverty for the first time in human history.
The yearly Lenten almsgiving done through the cardboard CRS Rice Bowls has empowered CRS to go to the poorest areas of the world and help families lift themselves out of poverty — by building wells, giving HIV treatments, providing hunger relief and teaching sustainable agriculture. The “Lord hears the cry of the poor” (Ps 34:18), and the Lenten giving of Catholics through Rice Bowl (see the website at: CRSricebowl.org) has been part of his answer.
Each Lent, we as a church meditate upon the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus by which we are reconciled with God. We spiritually enter into the 40-day desert with Jesus through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
It is a season in which God especially wants to give us the grace to personally transform us. How wonderful, then, to realize that as God was transforming us, he has also been using our “fiat,” our sacrificial “yes,” to quietly transform the world.
If you go online to: CRSricebowl.org, you will have a chance to connect with the stories of families who have experienced God’s help through our CRS efforts.
Stories such as the Padilla family of Honduras, who have learned new eco-friendly farming techniques. The mother Reina shares these words: “I think the people who are helping our community are touched by God because God looks at the needs of families of the communities.”
Certainly, much has been done to alleviate global poverty that secular news has hardly noticed, but still there is much to be done as the church strives to answer that cry of the poor by bringing people into economic conditions that enable human flourishing.
Lent starts Wednesday, Feb. 22. This year, we expect to reach more than 190 million people with life-saving support. So as you prepare for Lent, please be sure to bring a “rice bowl” into your home and utilize its resources for prayer, almsgiving and fasting.