Surfing through friends' Facebook posts, I came upon a Halloween-themed editorial cartoon where the rich collected bucketsful of treats and the middle-class received nothing but tricks. I commented, "What about the poor?"

We talk about the shrinking middle class while avoiding mention of the poor. Yet what is central to Catholic faith but the poor? The U.S. Bishops remind us "our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first."

Yet rarely do we talk about the poor, welcome the poor, or challenge the structures that perpetuate the conditions of poverty.

The poor stand at the center of our faith. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, "The Eucharist and the poor we must never separate. The poor and the Eucharist are one. There is not one without the other." The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith; the Liturgy of the Eucharist is central to the mass. Therefore, the poor are present at every mass.

The Eucharist then requires us to go into the world and live our lives as Catholics. God gives us "Living Bread. God gives us Living Bread because we need it. We in turn must give our bread to those who need it. Then we must ensure that they have the resources to bake their own bread.

Sunday Nov.18 is the second World Day of the Poor, a day established by Pope Francis on which he asks us to hear the cries of the poor among us with open ears and hearts and to respond in faith as we work for justice.

Pope Francis invites us, particularly on this day, to become aware and begin to understand the material poverty in which some individuals, families, and communities live. Imagine what it would be like to lack access to the basic things needed to live and thrive: nutritious food, adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, good education, healthcare, and decent jobs with fair pay.

People of Faith know that the poor are at the center of the Church because we believe in the dignity of the human person; no individual is more equal than another.

We participate in Christ’s kingdom of service by caring for the poor and truly hearing their cries: "The crowds asked John the Baptist, 'What should we do?' He said to them in reply, 'Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none'" (Luke 3: 10-11).

Scripture unfailingly points us to the poor: The angel of the Lord proclaimed the birth of the savior to the shepherds – the poorest, and smelliest, of the poor. Central to the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is Jesus feeding the hungry. In the Last Judgment, Jesus unmistakably explains what is expected of us: to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

On this World Day of the Poor, the Church also takes up the collection to support the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). This collection supports the work of groups that empower low-income people to participate in decisions that affect their lives and break the cycle of their poverty.

The Lord hears the cries of the poor. Can we?

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.