Lay Franciscans told: Like St. Clare, see Christ in the poor

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QUEZON City, Aug. 12, 2015—With the Year of the Poor in mind, the new head of the Franciscans in the Philippines has enjoined the laity, particularly devotees of Clare of Assisi, whose feast was celebrated yesterday, to embrace the virtues of the saint by pursuing simpler lifestyles, by doing acts of mercy, and most especially by seeing Christ in the poor.

Mercy, simplicity

“Let us have mercy on the poor, by simplifying our lifestyle, by cutting down our spending habits as well as our producing and consuming habits. The pope is emphatic on this. Unless we undergo this ecological conversion, we will not be able to reduce disasters. We will not be helping the poor. Instead, we will be producing more poor, new poor,” notes Fray Cielito Almazan, minister provincial of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM)-San Pedro Province, in a recent statement.

“We can help the poor and the earth by imitating the simple lifestyle of St. Clare and her mentor, St. Francis of Assisi,” he adds.

Victimizing the poor

According to Almazan, everyone is guilty one way or another of “victimizing” the poor.

Agreeing with Pope Francis, he explains that stronger disasters predicted to hit the country sooner or later due to global warming can be blamed on the wasteful lifestyle of the many, by producing and consuming more than what they need.

Quoting a contemporary theologian, Almazan shares how everyone is encouraged to contemplate the face of Christ in order to see in it the faces of people who suffer.

Seeing Jesus

“We can see Christ face to face when we are face to face with the poor of flesh and blood, with those whose houses are demolished, the children crying because they are abandoned or abused by their parents,” he explains.

Moreover, Almazan points out the Lord is also present among the countless youth roaming the streets for food, in the faces of worried parents, laborers who get less than they should, as well as those lining up for medical treatment, those who sleep hungry, victims of scammers, injustice, neglect, discrimination, and violence.

Poor Christ

Aware of the countless poor around, the Filipino Franciscans have chosen for the fiesta the theme “St. Clare Mirroring the Poor Christ.”
“For St. Clare, the poor are not just the literally poor. First of all, the poor is Christ. it is Christ who is poor,” the friar stresses.

“For us now, we, Franciscan religious and lay who are active in the world, do not stop gazing at the image of the Crucified Christ of San Damiano Cross, or any other image of Christ, like image of Christ of the Cursillistas or the Divine Mercy image, Nazareno, etc. We still retain these symbols in our churches,” he adds. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

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