Dignity of the Human Person: God is love. Every human is created in God’s image. Every human person is a unique expression of God’s love.
Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all of the principles of our social teaching.
Our focus point this week is:
Humans Are Social by Nature
What Does Scripture Say?
“For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.” (Romans 12: 4-5)
What has the Church said over the years?
“God, who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all (persons) should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. For having been created in the image of God, … all (persons) are called to one and the same goal, namely God Himself. For this reason, love for God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment. Sacred Scripture, however, teaches us that the love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor:” (Gaudium et Spes, #24)
“Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.” (Gaudium et Spes, #28)
“True, all men are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent … For excessive economic and social differences between the members of the one human family or population groups cause scandal, and militate against social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international peace.” (Gaudium et Spes, #29)
Beginning in Latin America after the Bishops’ Synod in Medellin, the Church has gradually been recognizing and promoting the communal nature of human beings through the establishment of Small Christian Communities. These small communities do not replace the local parish or the larger Church community. Instead, they are crucial to strengthening the parish and the larger Church. The Church has recognized that we all need to reflect on our daily lives – our troubles, our joys, our struggles – with those close to us. We are social by nature and we need others in our lives. No one goes it alone.
What was St. Vincent’s response?
Saint Vincent knew well this aspect of Catholic Social Teaching, for he learned at an early age as a peasant farmer that not only do we need to depend upon God, but as Gaudium et Spes notes, it is vital to humanity that we learn to deepen our love and respect for each other by true “interdependence”. Paragraph 26: Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good…involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. (Gaudium et Spes)
Vincent began many different ministries in his lifetime, but one that became a clear example of his understanding of the social nature of humans was the preaching of Missions in the poor villages of rural France. Along with his many lay collaborators and donors, Vincent would send teams of Vincentian priests and brothers to the rural areas for several weeks at a time to offer an intensive period of preaching, catechizing and sacramental ministry. Along with this spiritual nourishment, a plan was put in place to serve the physical needs of persons living in dire poverty in the village. These included food for the hungry, medicines for the sick, assistance to the children and elderly, as well as an organized plan for the people of the village to continue these services once the missionaries had left the village. It truly was a work that honored the dignity of the human person for it encompassed all aspects of the person’s life. Of particular note is the way that Vincent employed the women of the village. At a time when women were restricted to the role of housekeeping, Vincent saw their potential as leaders in the ministries of the church to the most abandoned poor.