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May 1, 1998     The Message
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May 1, 1998

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana What is the unforgivable sin? By FATHER JOHN DIETZEN Catholic News Service turn to your column first, and that has plagued the minds of the Holy Spirit," Gospels: What is it? Accord- is the only sin that will never be If so, what is it? (Delaware) . how many minds have question or how many people at night wondering about it. It is interesting, however. (12:31) and Luke (12:10) all r blasphemy, against the Holy Spirit. the sin shall not be forgiven either the next. from the con- text in Matthew. Jesus, with the power of the Holy Spir- it, has just cured a blind and mute man. Pharisees near- by claim the cure happened by the power of a devil. Jesus responds with the words we're discussing. To attribute to the devil an action done by God's power is, he seems clearly to say, a sin, a mockery, of the Spirit of God. Many Christian commentators have tried to delve further into the subject. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, for exam- ple, believe that Jesus meant the sin of final unrepen- tance, a refusal to repent of one's seriously sinful rejection of God even at the moment of death. This probably remains the most common view, since it is total, final rejection of all helps the Holy Spirit offers to turn away from evil and toward God. Another way of saying the same thing is that anyone who consciously and maliciously refuses the helps offered by the Holy Spirit to keep us from sin in the first place sins against the Spirit. Many helps of the Spirit, says St. Thomas, are available in our lives to help us avoid sin. The gift of hope keeps us from despair, the gift of fear of the Lord keeps us from presuming in the wrong way on God's mercy and love, and so on. All these gifts, according to Thomas, are effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. When we refuse to hope, when we refuse to acknowl- edge the majesty and power of God in our lives, we in effect tell the Spirit we don't need him. Repentance can be impossible, since in that frame of mind there cannot be enough humility for us even to admit we have sinned, that we need repentance at all. Whatever these Gospel passages may mean, there is finally one all-essential truth to remember. If we have sinned, our merciful and loving Father is always there with open arms, ready to receive us back. And the Holy Spirit is always present, ready to help us go there. A free brochure, in English or Spanish, answering questions Catholics ask about baptism practices and spon- sors is available by sending a stamped self-addressed enve- lope to Father John Dietzen, Box 325, Peoria, Ill. 61651. Questions for this column should be sent to Father Dietzen at the same address: bishop forgives debt in 20 St. Louis parishes Arch- Rigali of St. in mid-April about $1.3 the arch- its 227 parishes. from unpaid archdiocese for and coverage, and a fee each COVer costs of is only able ' and laity throughout the archdiocese who worked hard to overcome our past financial problems and to strengthen the financial condi- tion of the archdiocese," the archbishop said in announcing his decision. In recent years, parishes have made determined efforts to repay old debts, Archbishop Rigali said. Parishes whose debt is to be forgiven have been asked to make a donation when they become financially able in the future to provide similar assis- tance to other parishes. The archbishop's action for- r honored in Princeton ored Father Bernard Etienne as Religious Leader" during the organi- annual Distinguished Service Awards April the honoret was Marie LePage, "Outstand- She is a member of St. Joseph Church, Etienne is the pastor. were honored at the program. to meet American Conference of Separated and hold its annual conference at the Uni- June 25 through 2K The conference is separation and divorce as r leaders. contact the NACSDC office, EO. OR 97870, or call (541) 893-6089; e-mail nai l Tribunal some of the most impor- work in the Diocese of Evansville. review the documents necessary for the prop- of failed marriages and the Church's Contributions to the Catholic Parishes work of the Tribunal. at Monte Casino Shrine is the title of a reflection to be given by Davis, at Monte Casino Shrine, services are held each Sunday in May, The shrine is located one mile east of St. (812) 357-&r85. gives all debts owed before the start of the current fiscal year, according to Auxiliary Bishop Joseph E Naumann, vicar gen- eral for finances. It does not cover loans from the archdiocesan trust. This fund provides loans to parishes for such projects as building or ren- ovating their churches. In some cases, the debt for- giveness will enable parishes to focus their attention on retiring debts from loan, according to Bishop Naumann. But most of the parishes do not have a loan from the trust and so are now debt-free, he said. Though many of the 20 parishes have been in financial difficulty in the past, most are now able to pay current assess- ments, Bishop Naumann said. "There are some that are still struggling and are behind on this year's assessments as well," he said. "We evaluate these as we go along, There are a few parishes, because of their importance to the mission of the church, that we need to subsidize. But for the vast majority, paying the assess- ments is essential to being a viable parish community." Demographic shifts have reduced the numbers of Catholics in some parishes but their presence in these neigh- borhoods remains important, the bishop said. Steps taken by the archdio- cese in recent years to boost the central administrative fund made forgiving the debt possi- ble, Bishop Na id, 'iWe do have moi;iey "6fidsit ' ...... now," he said. "The interest works in the diocese's favor as opposed to when we were doing internal borrowing." Visitors, flowers, rocks honor 'rescuer' By JUDITH SUDILOVSKY Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNs)  The cemetery caretaker points to two heaping piles of rocks near the grave of Oskar Schindler in Jerusalem's Catholic cemetery. Every day, says caretaker Amjad Jabber, he has to clear the rocks off the tombstone. He has to clear off memorial can- dles and flowers, too, Jabber says. According to Jewish tradition, placing a rock on a grave is a symbol of respect and remem- brance. Schindler's tombstone, which bears the legends "A righteous man among the people of the world" in Hebrew and "The unforgettable rescuer of 1,200 persecuted Jews" in German, is marked from all the rocks and stones that have been left on the smooth surface over the years. When he died in 1974, Schindler, a Catholic who had made more than 17 trips to Israel to visit many of the Jews he saved, was buried in Jerusalem as he had requested. The actions of the German businessman, who has for many people become a symbol of righteousness during the Holo- caust despite his personal overindulgence, were drama- tized in Steven Spielberg's movie, "Schindler's List." "In a place where there were no men, he tried to be a man," said Natanel Baram, quoting a Talmudic saying. The 18-year- old religious Jew had come with two friends to pay his respects to Schindler on April 23, Holo- caust Memorial Day. "All the high and powerful people.., were silent. It was somebody simple, a regular per- son like Schindler who did something. Jesus also came from the simple people," he id. By placing a rock on the grave, said Baram, he was sig- naling that Schindler belonged to the land here, that he was a part of the Jewish people. Sometimes, said Jabber, up to 100 people a day  mostly in tour groups  come to visit the grave. Some days there are only one or two people, but Schindler's grave is the most- visited in the cemeteD; he said. One woman who was rescued by Schindler comes to the grave almost every Saturda); said Jab- ber, 20, who took over the care- taker job from his father and older brother two years ago. "My father told me about Oskar Schindler and what he did, but this  r, he lold me how he helped her and how he saved 1,200 Jews," said Jabber, a Palestinian from the village of - Silwan. "They still remember him and tell their children. Schindler will continue living in this world." losef Bau, today 77 years old and living in Tel Avi,; Israel, is too frail to visit the grave of the man who saved him from the hands of the Nazis. But all around him in his crowded art studio where he hasdrawn and made animated films for over 40 years, he has daily reminders of the man to whom he owes his life. Bau, who worked as a drafts- man in one of Schindler's facto- des in Czechoslovakia, still has the little" brown case where he kept his pens andpaints during the war. He also has a map he drew of the Nazi concentration camp of Plaszow and a tiny book where he clandestinely wrote poetry and sketched drawings. After the war, Sehindler returned all three to - :" him. Bau, whose concentration ca was ished version in the movie, won't let a bad word be said about Schindler. He doesn't even like to recall that Sdfindtet at the time was nick- named 'Schindler-Swindler."