The first groups I pledge to keep in mind are the desperately poor of our nation and our world. It may seem odd that amid today’s serious recession, with unemployment at 10 percent or more, such a vow is necessary at all. Yet, like so many Americans who live in relative comfort, my day-to-day experience is highly buffered from the brutal realities of grinding poverty.

Working as I do on a college campus and spending many hours in comfort- able offices, classrooms and libraries effectively shuts me off from the realiity of unmet human needs.

One need not live in Beverly Hills or a gated suburban community to miss out on the struggles of low-income Americans. Living in any first-world setting insulates the most portion of humanity from the daily struggles for material sustenance endured by the vast majority of humankind. News coverage of January’s earthquake in Haiti brought horrifying images of death and destruction to our eyes; but horrendous suffering is a constant presence in the global South, if only we have the stomach not to avert our attention from ongoing crises that unfold in slow motion.

The point of my New Year’s resolution is not to feel guilty about the human suffering I am missing, but to raise the level of cognizance that I do achieve.  I might start by committing myself to keeping abreast of relief efforts in Haiti, even as public attention fades. Or to reading all the way to the end of the latest article describing the plight of the record 35 million Americans receiving food stamps. I might spend some time praying for benefit-eligible families and imagining the particular deprivations they face.
At this stage, you might be wondering what is the other category he intends to remember this year.  However, a more important question is: what other category of people tends to fall off your radar screen far too often for comfort?

 An even more important question is: what are you intending to do for Lent?
Fr Massero’s full text is available in America, 15 February 2010.
Andrew McNally