Daily Riches: Testing Christianity in Harlem (Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck)

“Few Catholics stop to think that Communism would make very little progress in the world, or none at all, if Catholics really lived up to their obligations, and really did the things Christ came on earth to teach them to do: that is, if they really loved one another, and saw Christ in one another, and lived as saints, and did something to win justice for the poor. For, she said, if Catholics were able to see Harlem, as they ought to see it, with the eyes of faith, they would not be able to stay away from such a place. Hundreds of priests and lay-people would give up everything to go there and try to do something to relieve the tremendous misery, the poverty, sickness, degradation and dereliction of a race that was being crushed and perverted, morally and physically under the burden of a colossal economic injustice. … If Catholics, she said, were able to see Harlem as they should see it, with the eyes of faith, as a challenge to their love of Christ, as a test of their Christianity, the Communists would be able to do nothing there. But, on the contrary, in Harlem the Communists were strong. They were bound to be strong. They were doing some of the things, performing some of the works of mercy that Christians should be expected to do. If some Negro workers lose their jobs, and are in danger of starving, the Communists are there to divide their own food with them, and to take up the defense of their case. If some Negro is dying, and is refused admission to a hospital, the Communists show up, and get someone to take care of him, and furthermore see to it that the injustice is publicized all over the city. If a Negro family is evicted, because they can’t pay the rent, the Communists are there, and find shelter for them, even if they have to divide their own bedding with them. And every time they do these things, more and more people begin to say: ‘See, the Communists really love the poor!'” Thomas Merton, loosely quoting Catherine de Hueck

“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them
receive many curses.”
Proverbs 28:27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Would anyone say of your church, “They really love the poor!”?
  • Is “loving the poor” central to your life of faith? (It was for Christians at least up to the time of the Reformation.)
  • Do you know any Christians who live like the Communists Merton describes? I do. It’s not a fantasy.

Abba, teach us to love.

For More: The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

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Thanks for reading/sharing this blog! – Bill

2 thoughts on “Daily Riches: Testing Christianity in Harlem (Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck)

  1. Bill Stringfellow would love this post. So would Josef Hromadka, the father of Christian-Marxist Dialogue, who returned to Prague from his cushy position at Princeton to engage the conversation. Hromadka’s position was that Communism was a Christian heresy forced by the church’s own abandonment of the poor.

    Like

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