September 9, 2022

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

‘Comfort the afflicted,’ share God’s mercy with those in need

David Bethuram

I am sure many of you have seen a boxing movie where an underdog takes a brutal punch in the fight of his life and gets knocked to the ground. He hits the floor hard. The people in his corner are shouting, “Get up! Get up!” His opponent is on the ropes celebrating, thinking it’s over.

But while the underdog boxer is seemingly out for the count, his mind is scrolling through all he’s been through up until that point, and all the people who love and motivate him. Like a jolt, he’s up before the count of 10—and is back in the fight.

For many, these type of boxing stories seem to bear little resemblance to the lives of those who help with Catholic Charities. Though they encounter battles, they don’t train intensely for them, with dedicated professionals to put them through their paces and shore up their weaknesses.

We often don’t see it coming. It could be a health crisis, loss of a loved one, an employment shake-up, betrayal, or some form of persecution. Or maybe it’s something we’re aware of, something we thought was mild or temporary, but it “hits” when it morphs from hill to mountain.

The question is not whether we will find ourselves in a battle, but when. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials” (Jas 1:2). Paul likewise says it’s part of our privilege as believers. “For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1:29). We remember vividly the times we have been hit and suffered. Many of us are still recovering.

Catholic Charities is continually comforting the afflicted in violent and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, spreading God’s mercy and bringing hope to troubled communities. Often, “comfort the afflicted” is referred to as “comfort the sorrowful,” and we think of helping someone endure the storm of loss and grief.

It is difficult to find exactly the right thing to say to grieving friends, but sometimes the best comfort comes from just being there, of letting our friends know that they are not alone. We bring the sympathy of Jesus simply by being a compassionate presence and walking with those who are suffering.

“Comfort the afflicted” can also take on a more rigorous connotation. In its Latin roots, “afflicted” means to be struck down, weakened or injured. To comfort a person who has been weakened in the more literal sense means to restore him or her to strength and help them to build courage and skills so he or she can face life with renewed energy and vigor. This type of comforting often takes special skills and, perhaps, even professional expertise.

Catholic Charities’ programs provide both types of comfort to the afflicted. We compassionately walk with those who are suffering, and we provide professional and practical support to help them rebuild their lives.

Especially in distressed communities, Catholic Charities’ presence is a beacon of hope, reminding residents that they have not been abandoned or forgotten. We know that breaking the cycle of violence in turbulent areas often means breaking the cycle of poverty, and we use our professional expertise to address the many challenges of poverty head-on, improving and stabilizing communities—one person, one family at a time.

Catholic Charities is blessed to comfort and “raise up” those who have been “struck down” by violence, poverty, addiction, grief or other difficult circumstances. It is inspiring to see our staff bolstered by thousands of dedicated volunteers, donors and board members who are strongly committed to changing lives for the better.

Together, we are bringing hope to troubled communities and giving our brothers and sisters the strength, skills and opportunity to lead lives that are reflective of their essential human dignity.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. You can contact him at †

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