We seek the good on one another, aware of our inter-dependence on one another. Pope St. John Paul II said: ‘solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good’ (The Social Concern of the Church 38). Peace flows from this. We are called to live honestly with one another, working together in love for the good of all. This is what will lead to true peace. Leave no person out-every person matters.
It is a simple fact that we cannot live and exist well independently of others, we are interdependent beings. Solidarity looks upon this interdependence as something good, something positive, a thing to be cherished. The image Saint Paul gives us of the Body of Christ (that we are all individual parts that together make up the Body of Christ) gives us a visual way to think of this.
Before the modern age it has been almost impossible to connect so easily with people around the world. Modern technology has made it possible to build relationships and help and support those in different parts of the world, in many ways making the world a lot smaller.
In his social encyclical Pope Benedict pointed out that “As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers (and sisters)”. Solidarity is simply the demand of fraternity, that we treat each other as brothers and sisters.
For some people ‘solidarity’ is linked with the trade union movement, with strike action and especially with the Polish Solidarność, the free trade union federation led by Lech Walesa which ultimately led to the fall of the Communist regime in Poland. While this is not the core meaning of solidarity for Catholic Social Teaching, it is certainly part of it and gives a strong clue. It is for this reason that we are ‘all in this together’, and that we are all responsible for each other. Solidarity is the glue that binds together, the common good, the universal destination of goods, equality amongst people and nations, and peace in the world. In some sense solidarity includes all the other principles and values that are necessary to create and sustain a truly good society.
In fact it is not too big a claim to say that solidarity is at the heart of what it means to be human; and with Catholic Social Teaching we can take this further and say that solidarity is also at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic Christian.
Link it to scripture readings
Genesis 12:1-3 God blessed Israel so that all nations would be blessed through it.
Zechariah 8:16 These are the things you should do: Speak truth, judge well, make peace.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:21-24 Be reconciled to one another before coming to the altar.
Romans 13:8-10 Living rightly means to love one another.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 If one member suffers, all suffer. If one member is honoured, all rejoice.
Jesus himself warns us that the path he proposes goes against the flow, even making us challenge society by the way we live and, as a result, becoming a nuisance. He reminds us how many people have been, and still are, persecuted simply because they struggle for justice, because they take seriously their commitment to God and to others. Unless we wish to sink into an obscure mediocrity, let us not long for an easy life, for “whoever would save his life will lose it” (Mt 16:25).
Link it to key Church documents such as Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Papal documents etc.
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1939 – 1948
“Today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed by both our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.” (Pope Pius XII, Summi pontificatus, 1939)
In living the Gospel, we cannot expect that everything will be easy, for the thirst for power and worldly interests often stands in our way. Saint John Paul II noted that “a society is alienated if its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer this gift of self and to establish this solidarity between people”. (Centesimus annus). In such a society, politics, mass communications and economic, cultural and even religious institutions become so entangled as to become an obstacle to authentic human and social development. As a result, the Beatitudes are not easy to live out; any attempt to do so will be viewed negatively, regarded with suspicion, and met with ridicule.
Summary: To affirm democracy the excesses of capitalism must be condemned, as well as the ‘idolatry of the market’ and the ‘insanity of the arms race’. Private property is deemed acceptable but for the first time the world’s goods (including intellectual property) are stated as having a ‘universal destination’.
Backstory: The Berlin Wall had just collapsed; arms expenditure globally hovered at around $1,000 billion (one trillion) and there was also the emergence of the super-rich individual.
Whatever weariness and pain we may experience in living the commandment of love and following the way of justice, the Cross remains the source of our growth and sanctification. We must never forget that when the New Testament tells us that we will have to endure suffering for the Gospel’s sake, it speaks precisely of persecution (cf. Acts 5:41; Phil 1:29; Col 1:24; 2 Tim 1:12; 1 Pet 2:20, 4:14-16; Rev 2:10).” Pope Francis Gaudete et exhultate, 2018
The Theology of Solidarity: http://www.catholicsocialteaching.org.uk/themes/solidarity/resources/theology-solidarity/
World Day of Migrants and Refugees: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration.index.html
(NB – This last link will only take you to Pope Francis’ messages. If however you click the tab called (Holy Father) on the top you can access other Popes’ messages.)
Link to a particular Saint whose charism is linked to this particular principle
St Damian of Molokai – example of solidarity https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/a-leper-for-christ-st-damien-of-molokai-and-solidarity/2274/
St Elizabeth Ann Seton: https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=180
Link to local/national groups associated with this principle
Fair Trade: https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Fairtrade
The Grail prayer
I give you my hands to do your work
I give you my feet to go your way
I give you my eyes to see as you do
I give you my tongue to speak your words
I give you my mind that you may think in me
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me
Above all, I give you my heart
that you may love in me
your Father and all mankind
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me
so that it is you Lord Jesus
who live and work and pray in me
Questions for personal /group reflection
If there was a major disaster here in my community – a serious weather incident, or a terrorist attack and you lost everything, and you were forced to flee what response would you hope for from other communities? What help would you need? How would it feel if they did not meet your hopes and needs?
Are your needs purely material? What about your spiritual needs? Or maybe you need an advocate? Or maybe just a sympathetic and kind listener? What can we do for our brothers and sisters in Christ in our own communities and those out of our line of vision who are suffering through hunger, loneliness, persecution, war, disease, terrorism, drought or famine, extreme weather, homelessness and displacement, imprisonment or enslavement?
Maybe you can go to an extra Mass or Holy hour of Adoration on behalf of somebody who is not able to go themselves?
Aid to the Church in Need https://acnuk.org/ support Christians who are living with persecution. There are many resources and ideas to show solidarity on their website.
What about taking part in an organised ‘sleep out’ to gain some understanding of how our brothers and sisters who have no place to call home live? More details can be found at https://stgeorgescrypt.org.uk/?page_id=1483
Could your parish host a night shelter over the winter months to provide destitute asylum seekers with a roof over their head? West Yorkshire Destitute Asylum Seeker Network are always looking for communities to get involved so as to expand their capacity. http://wydan.org/
Maybe you have a spare bedroom in your home. Could you welcome a destitute asylum seeker to your home? Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers are always looking for volunteers. There are different roles available.