The Catholic Catalogue recently posted the Pope’s Lenten message. In his reflection on Lent, Pope Francis urges Christians to pay more attention to the poor. The Pope explains, “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty.”
Katie Davis, author of the book Kisses from Katie, offers a powerful example of entering into your neighbor’s poverty. Davis graduated high school and moved to Uganda for a year to teach kindergarten. As she worked in the city of Jinja she took notice of the poverty her Ugandan friends suffered. People were starving, HIV and AIDS claimed lives every day, children lived in terrible poverty and were unable to attend school, and many families were broken. Davis’ response to this poverty aligns perfectly with Pope Francis’ Lenten call. She entered directly into it. She moved to Uganda permanently, bought a house and kept its doors open for the needy, worked to educate children, and honored the dignity of the women and children around her.
Many people hear Davis’ story and think she is fortunate to have found God’s purpose for her life. Rather, Davis asserts that she didn’t stumble upon a specific call. Instead she read the Bible, and it told her to love the Lord with all her heart and to love her neighbor as herself. “Myself doesn’t want to be starving, so I don’t want other people in the world to be starving,” she clarifies. Motivated by this simple and devout mindset, Davis has made great changes in the lives of her beloved Ugandan neighbors. Because of Davis’ nonprofit organization, over 600 Ugandan children are able to attend school and eat healthy meals each day. Davis has provided Ugandan women with life giving work. Instead of relying on picking through trash, brewing alcohol, or selling their bodies, women in Davis’ community can make jewelry to support their families. She has become a mother to thirteen orphan girls through adoption, and has given up her former life in order to enrich the lives of the people of Uganda. She has sought out poverty, entered into it, and allowed God to use her to help eradicate it.
We are not all called to move to Uganda and adopt 13 children. However, we all are called to love radically in the face of poverty. Reading Katie’s story may help you discern how to answer this call of love in your own life. Both Pope Francis and Katie Davis challenge us to look at what we can give up in order to give more to the Lord and to our neighbor. Both emphasize that it is in self-denial where we find true wealth.
Find more on Katie’s story at amazima.org.
– by Beth Kelleher