In the introduction to “Fratelli Tutti,” the 2020 encyclical on fraternity and social friendship, Pope Francis discusses the simple life of St. Francis of Assisi.
In particular, he tells the reader about the saint’s sense of oneness with all things — from the sun and the wind to his human brothers and sisters.
His heart, the Holy Father writes, “knew no bounds.”
It “transcended differences of origin, nationality, color or religion,” he writes.
Our faith calls us all to emulate St. Francis.
And, not just with a nod of the head, but in concrete ways.
Pope Francis continues in the first chapter of the encyclical to note the treatment of migrants in countries where they are unwelcome.
“No one will ever openly deny that they are human beings, yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human,” he writes.
“For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of our faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love.”
Put simply, our faith compels us to put the human person before politics.
Pope Francis reiterated this point in a June 10 statement on Central American migration.
“The centrality of the human person obliges us to always put personal security before national security,” he said in the statement.
In both the encyclical and the June statement, Pope Francis affirmed the rights of nations to secure their borders. But, he said, nations must also place the dignity of the person at the center of their policies.
Political maneuvering and national policy aside, Catholics have a duty to form their consciences to recognize the dignity of every person — to emulate St. Francis.
It’s a radical love that transcends all borders and differences.
Sisters Kathy Neely and Yuli Oncihuay, Ursuline Sisters of Louisville who served asylum seekers last month in El Paso, know that love.
Moved by a call to help migrants seeking help at the southern border, they spent a month volunteering at a shelter where they encountered traumatized children and parents desperate to give them a better life.
Sister Neely later said that while the asylees were all fleeing in the same way, each family’s situation was unique.
“If we could only see the humanity” in them, she said.
Once we recognize their humanity, we are called to put our faith into action.
And there are ways to help.
Local organizations that assist migrants and refugees include Catholic Charities of Louisville and La Casita Center.
Of course, we aren’t limited to offering formal, organized help. Offering a helping hand to someone who seems lost or in need of assistance, is important, too.
Kindly correcting a friend who makes an uncharitable remark about a vulnerable person is also part of honoring a person’s dignity.
The ways to live the faith and honor human dignity are large and small and as unique as each individual. They are rooted in a heart without borders.