September 23, 2013 — Jesuit Father Thomas J. Massaro, dean of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, Calif., advised parish social ministers to “look into their own hearts” during his keynote talk at Catholic Charities USA’s Annual Gathering in San Francisco this month.
“This is my main point here today,” Fr. Massaro said. “None of us can be of much service to others unless we are at peace within ourselves and understand the priorities that guide us.”
The gathering brings Catholic Charities delegates from around the country together each year to share knowledge and exchange ideas on reducing poverty in America.
Fr. Massaro, author of “Catholic Social Teaching in Action” and other books and articles on Christian social ethics, believes that parish ministry workers who do not know where their heart is will lack the interior structure to act effectively. “Your strategies will be off-kilter,” he said. “The work of our hands depends upon the state of our soul.”
But becoming an instrument of God’s peace doesn’t happen magically, according to Fr. Massaro.
“We must be grounded in the values of our faith,” he said. “I firmly believe that the peace we develop within ourselves is what we will have available to communicate outward to others.”
Fr. Massaro said this is especially true when working with youth. “Teenagers and young people in general seem to have a ‘malarkey meter’ — they know when you are not walking your talk,” he said.
According to Fr. Massaro, Pope Francis serves as a near-perfect example of the kind of “servant leadership” that comes naturally when actions are rooted in the values of our Catholic faith.
“Our pope has walked the talk of Catholic values and inclusiveness in an unprecedented way,” he said. “Saints and sinners are walking together in locked step, letting God sort things out along the way.”
Reaching out with authenticity and inclusiveness to immigrants, prisoners, the poor, nonbelievers and even gays, the pope doesn’t insulate himself from the marginalized populations, according to Fr. Massaro.
“It is important that we enter into solidarity with the poor,” he said, something that the modern world tries to insulate us from with gated neighborhoods and skywalks built that insulate from the world of the needy. “It is counter-culture to reject this national obsession with insulation,” he said.
“Love people first,” he said. “Reserve judgment until after we have met a person’s needs. There should be nothing narrow about a faith-called Catholic.” [Catholic San Francisco]