US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Think and Act Anew

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Think and Act Anew
By Father Larry Snyder (Orbis, 2010)

“If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day,” goes the old saying, “but if you teach him to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities U.S.A., knows firsthand the truth of that saying, and his insight and experience dealing with poverty and social justice offer much to his book, subtitled How Poverty in America Affects Us All and What We Can Do About It. For his reader it is a “fishing pole” of information and action.

What began as a blog to ensure a broad discussion on human development became a book that explores, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, “love in truth.” Snyder begins by explaining the pope’s message in Veritas in caritate, quoting it throughout the remainder of his book. He then takes us on a journey through structural injustice by engaging in topics such as “Defining Poverty,” “How We Live in Relationship to Each Other,” and “The New Poor,” whom he describes as people we know, “our neighbors, or family, or friends,” people who never had to ask for help before. He challenges an economic model that puts the profit of shareholders over the sustainability of employees’ lives.

Snyder then hands us our fishing poles as he explains a need to change our measure of poverty “from a body of statistics to the human person.” He suggests using a new American Human Development Index that includes health, education, and income to promote “a more informed, reasoned debate using objective facts and comparisons.” He also highlights model programs such as Step Up Silicon Valley, which aims to cut poverty by “increasing awareness, building partnerships, shaping public policy, increasing private and public funding, and integrating services to better meet the needs of the poor.”

Snyder sends us out “to fish” with an appendix full of information to help his reader “be the change we wish to see in the world.”