St. Isidore
St. Isidore

Everyone — from individuals to the organizations of civil society, States and international institutions — needs to give priority to one of the most urgent goals for the human family: freedom from hunger.

" Pope Benedict XVI

As Moses’ companion wanderers made clear, each of us needs food and water, daily bread to satisfy our hunger and to survive.

On May 15, we celebrate the feast day of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers. St. Isidore and his wife St. Maria always kept a pot of stew on because she knew that her husband would often bring home anyone who was hungry. Money was scarce for these farmers, but that did not prevent them from breaking bread and sharing a corporal work of mercy to feed the hungry. What motivated them to choose this as a daily way of life?

Perhaps St. Teresa of Kolkata’s perspective says it best: “If we recognize him under the appearance of bread, we will have no difficulty recognizing him in the disguise of the suffering poor.” Isidore and Maria recognized the Lord in the hungry because they trained themselves at the altar.

The Last Judgment will be based on whether or not our faith and love for Jesus manifested itself in the works of mercy in our lives. That is worth a moment of reflection; every hungry person is a hungry Jesus in disguise.

Pope Benedict insisted, “Poverty, underdevelopment and, therefore, hunger are often the result of selfish behaviors that, born in the human heart, manifest themselves … in the lack of access to food.” What steps do we take, daily, in order to be authentically animated by love?

We don’t need another miracle of loaves and fishes but a miracle of the converted heart to accept our moral responsibility to form our lives according to truth and justice.

“In our service of charity … we must care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible. … In helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned … we have the opportunity to serve Jesus."

Like the Israelites wandering through the desert, many Oregonians do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. One in eight Oregonians don't always know if the next meal is coming. Each month, roughly 615,000 Oregonians receive assistance through SNAP (food stamps). That’s almost the entire population of Portland.

Feeding the hungry can mean donating weekly to your parish food collection. It can mean volunteering at your parish St. Vincent de Paul. It can mean serving meals to hungry neighbors.  It can mean always having something to give someone in need. It can mean being ready to say, “Yes, here’s how I can help” rather than defaulting to “No” and ignoring the real need of a neighbor.

Feeding the hungry may also mean changing the systems that perpetuate hunger, whether intentional or not because as Pope Benedict also wrote, “Responding to need means not only giving bread to the hungry, but also asking ourselves about the reasons for their hunger, using the gaze of Jesus who could see the profound truth of the people around him.”

We pray that we follow the example of St. Isidore and St. Maria and live our lives by feeding the hungry, Jesus in disguise.

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Fr. Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.