Sister Emmanuelle of France

There appears to be growing terror on the right that the upcoming presidential election may lead to policies that reduce the fortunes of multimillionaires in order to provide basic necessities for the poor and health security for all. I don’t have it in me to argue for the moral necessity of such redistribution–check out Thomas Pogge’s website for an encyclopedic and compelling collection of works on the topic. But I do find some inspiration in the parable of Lazarus and Dives. And I find consolation in the story of the recently departed Sister Emmanuelle of France, who counseled herself with words that reflect that great Christian teaching:

In [her] book, mischievously titled “Confessions of a Nun,” Sister Emmanuelle wrote seriously of a life of faith and service. “Remember the simple soul of your brothers and sisters in rags,” she counseled herself. “Do not turn yourself to the ‘beautiful world’ unless it is useful for the slums; do not let your original vanity carry you off to the heights.” . . . [She was] an outspoken advocate for the rights of the poor.

The whole obituary is beautifully written, and a nice respite from the bizarre posturing and vapid rhetoric that so many anti-Obama scare tactics have degenerated into. Though now is an occasion for political struggle, she is a vivid reminder of what a person brimming with kindness and good will can achieve regardless of the political environment.

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