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Solidarity

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November 23, 2009

TY 255 – Catholic Social Teaching

            Solidarity is the idea that we should work together for the common good.  We are all called to be in unity.  We are made one in Christ.  We have each individually been given gifts by God.  We are called to use these gifts for the betterment of society.  Solidarity is a very important part of society.  It takes the society and makes it a community.  It helps us to become more fully ourselves.  We are able to learn from others as well as share with others.

            Solidarity is also an idea that we are all individuals made one through Christ.  We are all on a journey together.  We have each been given gifts that we are called to use for the betterment of the community.  We are all called to work for the common good, using the gifts God has given us.  We each, individually, have different gifts to contribute.  We are made one; we are unified, through Christ, in a group.  Being one in a group should not take away from our individuality.  Neither should being an individual take away from our being as part of a community.

O’Neil quotes Pope John Paul II when he describes solidarity as “‘a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all’” (O’Neil 254).  This emphasizes the fact that we are all one big family.  We are all able to learn from each other, and should therefore listen as well as share with one another.  We are all responsible for each other, and should therefore help one another.  We are all called to care for and to be in communion with each other.

            This concept of solidarity is written on our hearts.  We seek to love and to be loved.  This is an essential part of a community, to love each other.  With love comes commitment.  We should commit ourselves to the betterment of society.  O’Neil again quotes Pope John Paul II by saying that solidarity is “‘a commitment to the good of one’s neighbor with readiness, in the Gospel sense, to “loose oneself” for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to “serve him” instead of oppressing him for one’s own advantage’” (O’Neil 254-255).

            Solidarity includes the well-known idea called the Golden Rule.  We should treat others the way we would like to be treated.  Solidarity is an important virtue that I believe should be focused on more.  O’Neil in part quotes Pope Paul VI when he says, “Solidarity is at work when society’s ‘members recognize one another as persons’… ‘[E]veryone should look upon his or her neighbor (without any exception) as another self’” (O’Neil 255).

            In The Essential Moral Handbook, O’Neil emphasizes the point that we are all dependent upon each other.  Ultimately we depend on God.  God has given us each gifts of our own in order for us to use them in society.  We cannot all have every gift.  We therefore rely upon others for those gifts that we do not have.  We are called to give and to receive and to be made more fully human in community.  We are all family and are called to contribute as members of such.  O’Neil says it nicely when he says, “Solidarity presumes a mutual interdependence among the members of the human family” (O’Neil 255).

            The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church describes solidarity this way:  “Solidarity highlights in a particular way the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights and the common path of individuals and people towards an ever more committed unity” (Pontifical Council 84).

            The Compendium emphasizes the part of solidarity that says that humans are social beings.  We are all individual and uniquely different, yet at the same time, we are all one in Christ and equal in dignity.  Because of our individuality, we each have something different to contribute.  God has blessed us each with different gifts.  Because of our directedness toward community, we are called to share these gifts with the group.  We are all on a path, a journey toward the same goal: unity in Christ, heaven.

“Solidarity is seen… under two complementary aspects: that of a social principle and that of a moral virtue” (Pontifical Council 85).  Human beings are social beings.  We are therefore not only directed toward community, but we are called to serve the community.  We are called to look beyond what we want and to serve others, for the common good.  We are called to share with others as well as to learn from others.  We are one in this journey of life toward eternal life.  As one, we assist each other as individuals, helping one another in this journey.

Solidarity is closely linked to charity.  We are one, and are therefore called to love.  We are made one through love; we are made one in God who is love.  Both solidarity and charity look beyond the self and toward others.  They seek to serve others because we have all been made in the image and likeness of God.  We are called to love everyone, including our enemy, as God loves them.  We are called to treat everyone with respect.  We are called to assist others.

Massaro says, “Solidarity is a single word that captures a complex of meanings…  We cannot realize our full potential or appreciate the full meaning of our dignity unless we share our lives with others and cooperate on projects that hold the promise of mutual benefit.” (Massaro 84).  We are all dependent upon each other.  We rely on each other for our needs, both material and spiritual.  We become more fully ourselves and more fully who God calls us to be, when we are in community, when we share with others, and when we learn from others.

Solidarity, as with other virtues, begins with the attitude of an individual.  It becomes visible through the individual’s actions.  Solidarity takes form through actions that “demonstrate a person’s commitment to the well-being of others” (Massaro 85).  We all must first have the attitude that we are one in Christ and that we are all on a journey toward the same goal.  We must then take that attitude and put it into action, serving others and working for the common good.

Without solidarity, we become too focused on the individual.  We can become more selfish and less focused on the needs of others.  “The Catholic social encyclicals teach that to be human is to experience not only rights but also obligations to others” (Massaro 84).  We are individuals but not without being a part of a community.  We have certain rights, but with these rights come responsibilities.  We have a responsibility to be a part of and to serve the community.  We are to use those gifts that God has given us in order to benefit the community.

“Solidarity is thus the fruit of the communion which is grounded in the mystery of the triune God, and in the Son of God who took flesh and died for all.  It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need” (John Paul II, Ecclesia).  Pope John Paul’s encyclical, Ecclesia in America emphasizes the part of solidarity that says that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  Since we are such, we are called to serve each other using the gifts we have each been given by God.  We are all reliant on each other for our needs.  We are able to love because we have been loved first.  God has gifted us with love that we are to share with all around us.  We share this love by helping others.  Also, by using the talents God has given us, we are able to show our love more fully for him and for others.

Not only are we brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are called to be one with Christ.  Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).  The more we become aware of Christ in others and our connectedness to each other, the more likely we are to serve the community.  We are called to serve others because in others is Christ.  Once we see this and once we feel connected in some way to others, we are more likely to have that desire to help them.

Solidarity is the virtue for the vices of individualism and selfishness.  Pope John Paul II words it nicely when he says, “Solidarity helps us to see the ‘other’ – whether a person, people or nation – not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbor,’ a ‘helper’, to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God” (John Paul II, Sollicitudo).

Through the attitude of solidarity God calls us to look at others through His eyes.  The human race is on a journey together toward God; this desire has been instilled in our hearts.  We each have been given gifts individually by God.  These gifts we have been called to use for the betterment of society.  We are each individual as well as one; neither aspect should be undermined.

Works Cited

John Paul II, Pope. "Ecclesia in America." The Holy See. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Web. 13 Dec 2009.

John Paul II, Pope. "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis." The Holy See. 30 Dec 1987. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Web. 13 Dec 2009.

Massaro, Thomas, S.J. Catholic Social Teaching in Action: Living Justice. Classroom Ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008. 84-87. Print.

O'Neil, Kevin J., C.Ss.R. and Peter Black, C.Ss.R. The Essential Moral Handbook: A Guide to Catholic Living. Rev. ed. Liguori, MO: Liguori, 2006. 254-255. Print.

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing, 2005. 84-87. Print.