Our Daily Bread: an Augustinian Perspective on Poverty and Hunger.
Poverty and hunger are two current problems, but not two new problems.
They have existed in other places and times throughout history.
They were certainly present in the north of Africa at the time of Saint Augustine.
As a person concerned with the major problems of his times, Augustine frequently referred to hunger and poverty in his preaching.
He constantly refers to these topics, relating them to three significant Biblical texts:
o The story told by Jesus of the rich man at his table and the poor man Lazarus -- Luke 16: 19-31
o The last judgment and the works of mercy -- Matt 25: 31ss
o The words of Paul to the rich about the dangers of avarice and the need of sharing our goods --1 Tim 6: 7-19
These texts indicate the basic lines of Augustinian thought on these topics. We will summarise them here in four points:
1. Knowledge of Social Conditions and Concern for people who are poor.
Augustine knew well the social circumstances of his people. As well as the rich minority, he knew the world of many beggars, the poor majority who suffered hunger and daily requested help from him. -- See Sermon 9: 19; Sermon 14: 1; Sermon 155: 5
God made the world for all, Augustine comments, but human pride seeks the accumulation of wealth. Although all have the same skin, all do not have the same dress. All were born naked, but now some swim in abundance while others do not have anything. -- See Sermon 39: 4; Sermon 61: 2; Sermon 177: 6-7
For that reason Augustine continually looked to the poorest. He even sold off the holy vessels of the church in order to be able to help the poor people.
They were his special guests on the anniversary of his appointment as leader of the church in Hippo. He interceded continually for them before the community.
He became the beggar for the beggars. -- See Sermon 66: 8 The Bishop of Hippo almost always included at the end of his preaching the same words: Do not reject the poor people, or Think of the poor people, or Give to the poor people what you have gathered. -- See Sermon 41: 6; Sermon 25: 8; Sermon 122: 6
(Continued on the next page.)