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January 17, 1997     The Message
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January 17, 1997

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ry 17,1997 5 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Bishop's Forum --- that of my memory of CYO Camp in into all memories of past As I get older, I am of my to those impacted my life I was aware. In those experiences are lessons for those of us say: "Been there, done we, rather embarrassed aclowledgment,t- should be renewed in lye the morals learned in the many m which we have joyfully partici- Izzat so! By BISHOP GERALD A. GETTELFINGER w we are to handle reports can COme to us in other wavs So, in my COnsciousness, I remembered a very force- a  " " " " mission m my home parish . I can't recall how old I Was lrapressionable enough to remember a story told by the preacher about the evils of "passing on gossip." The preacher used images that I could understand. Here it is. A penitent came to the confes- sional one Saturday afternoon. As usual, the confession began with "Bless me father, for I have sinned, my last confession was .... Since my last confession I passed on a story about another person that I knew was not a fact. It made me look good and the other person bad. The confessor, having heard the self-accusation asked if there was anything else for which the penitent was sorry. There was none. He then proceeded to prescribe the following as a penance as a condition of forgiveness: During this next week at a time you find conve- nient do the following: Please find one of your pillows in your home that is filled with down -- duck feathers. Climb to the top of the bell tower of our church. Cut open the pillow and allows the tiny duck feathers to go with the wind. Next week come back and identify yourself as the person with this penance. The penitent was faithful and followed the instructions and returned to the confessor as direct- ed. Again, the formula for c5nfession and the identi- fication of the penitent was complete. The penitent explained that what had been prescribed the previ- ous week had been done. The confessor then gave the following directions: During the next week, please gather all the feathers that have been blown by the wind. The penitent protested: q'hat is impossible! There is no way that I can even find the feathers let alone gather them up!" The confessor then admonished: "So it is when you talk about others when it is not true. It is easy to report, but when the damage is done, there is no 'taking it back' for it is too late. This sin is passing on an untruth. " Is the lesson not clear?! A difficulty does arise when that which is spo- ken is true. How am I to manage this report of truth. Next week I will deal with : "So what?" Suppose that which is reported to me about another person is not ofily damaging but true. What am I to do? '. . . And the answer is . . .' :i iiiiii ,,iiii:ii ,!i ..... ' , i iiill lip fin- for into your relax for a a knock irritat- out of your and head sounds. door you a young man and woman stand- ing on your front porch holding a stack of magazines. Your eyes roll upward a s you mutter, "Oh, no," and prepare yourself for what is about to happen. You open the door, greet the young couple less than enthusiastical- ly, and hear them say: "Good afternoon, we're Jehovah's Wit- )) nesses... Most of us have had this expe- rience -- or a similar one. Each of us reacts to such vis- our own unique way. But we can all agree on one thing: very few Catholics -- if any -- would spend their Saturday afternoons going door-to-door to share their faith with total strangers! In fact, most of us Catholics are reluctant to talk about our faith even with peo- ple we know! Recently a few life-long Catholics were discussing what they, as Christians, might do to prepare for the approaching mil- lennium transition from the 20th to the 21st century. During the conversation, someone asked what appeared to be a very simple question that completely con- question was: "Why are you a Catholic?" Beyond the obvious "Because that's the way I was raised," each member of the group struggled to fashion a response that sounded more "adult." What is it that tongue-ties us Catholics when we have an opportunity to share our faith and beliefs with others? Why do so many of us Catholics have trouble using the name of Jesus even in conversations with other believers? Why do we feel awk- ward, unsure and even embar- rassed when others talk openly about what Christianity means to them? There are no simple answers to these questions. But the fact remains that many of us life- long Catholics find it very diffi- cult to speak with others about our Catholic Christian faith and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. An outside observ- er might justifiably wonder about the strength of our com- mitment as disciples of Jesus. A couple of years ago a book appeared on the best seller lists entitled: "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kinder- of us "cradle" Catholics have a faith that has never matured beyond whatever religious edu- cation we experienced in our childhood? How many of us can identify a defining moment in our lives when, with our entire hearts, minds and souls, we made a truly mature, conscious, and public commitment to be Catholic Christians? How many of us regularly take advantage of opportunities to learn more about our religion and grow ever closer to Jesus Christ? Furthermore, there is mount- ing evidence that we Catholics are falling behind many of our non-Catholic brothers and sis- ters when it comes to living our faith as good Christian stew- ards. The percentage of time, tal- ent and treasure Catholics give back to God in gratitude for God's gifts continues to shrink while members of several other Christian denominations are increasingly generous. The U.S. Bishops were cer- tainly aware of these phenome- na when they wrote in their 1992 pastoral letter on steward- Window a founded the entire group. The garten." Is it possible that many ship, "Stewardship, a Disciple's grow in your faith? Catholic Social Teaching and violence or SO, zng has clarity. of quotes Bishops" With vio- of the quotes Bishops' ace violence order to make defense st, bear charity, so Without obliga. societies. witness to and to rio. of the fact; if the social question has acquired a worldwide dimen- sion, this is because the demand for justice can only be satisfied on that level. To ignore this demand could encourage the temptation among the victims of injustice to respond with vio- lence, as happens at the origin of many wars. Peoples excluded from the fair distribution of the goods originally intended for all could ask themselves, "Why not respond with violence to those who first treat us with vio- lence?" Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 10.1 The United States should lead an international effort to reduce and ultimately ban the use of anti-personnel landmines, just as was done with chemical and biological weapons. The current "-moratoflumon U:S: exportsof landmines is commendable; it should be made permanent and should be extended globally. Sowing the Weapons of War, p. 6 The Church cannot accept violence, especially the force of arms -- which is uncontrollable once it is let loose -- and indis- criminate death as the path of liberation, because she knows that violence always provokes violence and irresistibly engen- ders new forms of oppression and enslavement which are often harder to bear than those from which they claimed to bring freedom. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 73 The vision of Christian non- violence is not passive about injustice and the defense of the rights of others; it rather affirhis trod eieih'plifies whit" it means to resist injustice through non-violent methods. In the twentieth century... the non-violent witness of such fgures as Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King has had a profound impact upon the life of the Church in the United States. The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response, 116 National leaders bear a moral obligation to see that non-vio- lent alternatives are seriously considered for dealing with con- flicts. New styles of preventa- tive diplomacy and conflict res- olution ought to be explored, tried, improved and supported. As a nation, we should promote research, education and train- ing in non-violent means of resisting evil. Non-violent ' stritegieg'ndd greatehtfen. " Response," that Catholics are ]n need of a profound conversion. They stated that mature disci- ples of Jesus -- those who would be good stewards --"make a conscious, firm decision, carried out in action, to be followers of Jesus Christ, no matter the cost to themselves." What is the nature of this con- version -- and how does it begin? The U.S. bishops call it a conversion to the stewardship way of life, and it begins with a recognition on our part that "God is the source of all." We are the stewards to whom God has given everything -- even our lives. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are responsible for God's gifts: to nourish them, to increase them, to use them wise- ly and well, and to return a por- tion in gratitude. How would you answer this question: "Why are you a Catholic?" When did you make your decision to follow Jesus? When is the last time you spoke openly and proudly about your Christian discipleship and your relationship to Jesus? What steps have you taken recently to When God inquired after the missing Abel, Cain asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" "Your brother's blood," the Lord rejoined, "is crying out to me from the ground." (Gn. 4:9-10) This prompted early Christian writers to list similar deeds that "cry to heaven for vengeance.  They included violating resident foreigners, mistreating widows and orphans, and cheating laborers of their wages. What gave each of these sins voice before God was not only the exploitation of the vulnerables by the powerful, but the misuse of the helpless by those who should have been their protec- tors. Faithful for  A Moral Reflection, P. B " tion in international affairs. The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, P. 5