That we are a Church of the poor was dramatically evident to me in Paris, where we stayed two days at the convent beside the great basilica of Sacre Coeur. The Holy Eucharist has been exposed for adoration there continuously since 1885. It is the one place in Paris where the poor in spirit can find comfort at any time of the day or night. I went in by day and by night to do my prayers, and whom did I see inside this church? I saw lots of people with dark skin. I saw the city’s serving class, hotel workers, the street cleaners, the waiters and security guards and taxi drivers of the city, that whole Mass of forgotten and invisible immigrant class. Some white people came too, some with expensive hair and chic dress, some with briefcases and high-quality shoes. But we were a minority. We are a church of the poor, already. At least it is they who fill our parishes and shrines, they who still send their children to catechism classes and make their confessions to a priest.
Whether we are a Church for the poor is another question. Do we listen to their requests for simple devotions and access to the sacraments? Do we keep our church doors open to them, to whom so many other doors are closed? It is not the poor who are demanding the Church change her teachings on marriage and abortion and suicide. Is our Church listening to the poor, or is it being driven by the demands of the wealthy? A Church full of money will die, but life and joy are found in a Church of and for the poor.