Economic Conditioning

Economic factors also condition us. I may think nothing of eating meat today, whereas a slice of meat might be a real feast for someone else. Some people still do not realize that there is real hunger in Argentina, that people are suffering from malnutrition and an inadequate diet. Our economic situation is part of our social status, and it makes us part of a class. The notion of class was not new with Marx. It goes back to Aristotle and it is evident in the Bible also. People on different social levels live differently, work differently, and possess different cultures to a greater or lesser extent.

Saving money, for example, is a virtue for the middle class. People of this class want to "be in the money." In the eyes of someone like Francis of Assisi, however, saving money would not be virtuous at all. He wanted to be holy, and grace, not saving money, was the means to that end. One man's virtue is another man's vice.

This whole matter of membership in a certain class is a very serious one. I cannot help but think of the plight of many priests and religious in Latin America at the present time. They came from a working-class background, and it, was there that their Christian vocation developed. Then they went through a period of training and formation in the seminary or the religious order, finding themselves ushered into a new social and economic milieu in the process. Some of them also went to Europe for further studies. When they returned to work among the laboring class, they found that they no longer spoke the same language or lived in the same mental framework. Today they are unable to relate to their own original background and milieu. How much better it might have been if they had not been torn away from their native milieu in the process of "forming" them.

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