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May 12, 1995     The Message
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May 12, 1995

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12,' lg95 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 i.: op's Forum-- Moms and Dads The months of May and June nostalgic for me. I not certain why, but I sense it has something to do with that I virtually left home The years of study in the did not end until June Being away from home Day was always a moment. Invariably each a pang of homesick- It is true today as then. tIom died in 1988 one year s day before my ordination as She had suffered for 28 resulting from a stroke clot following surgery. Her right S. Completely paralyzed, and her speech lrnpaired. Happily for her and for us her remained sharp through it all. She was 78 at Day comes in June. There was ape- in it for me during those seminary ordination as priest in 1961. I got for it. School had ended for another I could be home to celebrate it with Dad and the rest of the family. It was indeed ByBISHOP GERALD A. GETTELFINGER In 1970 I began what has now become a traditional practice in my life, that of taking an annual trek to the wilderness. In that year and the one following, I was in the wilderness of Canada for Fathers' Day. It was the June of 1971 that Dad was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage. It was three days be- fore Father's Day. Since there were no communications from the out- side possible, I did not learn of Dad's stroke until we emerged from the wilderness on Tuesday morn- ing. By evening I had traveled from northern Minnesota to Louisville, Ky., in order to be by Dad's bedside. He never re- gained consciousness and died on Thursday morn- ing. He was a few days short of living 65 years. I miss my parents. On the other hand, I would not wish for either of them to have suffered a moment longer to have them closer to me, I have come to realize that it must have been very difficult for them to "let go of me" as a very young lad of 13 to pursue something far beyond the imagination of a boy when they were aware of life's demands awaiting me. They risked "letting go" of a son. Recently a priest friend of mine wrote of a painful visit home at Easter. He related how diffi- cult it was to watch the health of his parents dete- riorate as they aged. I understood. Maybe we can find some comfort in realizing how hard it is for parents to watch an infant grow into childhood, a child to adolescence, an adoles- cent into adulthood and and adult into the un- known. What gift our parents are for us. Parents do not wish us to reverse roles and be- come their parents. We are, and will always be, their children. They do desire simple filial love. Its expression does not have to be complicated or ex- pensive. Simple presence is the greatest gift we can offer them. Our presence is the life they gave us. Moms and Dads wear out. Their bodies will die, as will ours. One of the greatest acts of filial love any of us can give a dying parent is permis- sion to die. A parent does not want to abandon a child. How terrifying that pending moment of sepa- ration from children must be to a loving parent. It is then that a filial word or sign of reassurance that all will be well can bring freedom and peace to a dying parent. Although our parents will die their love for us children and ours for them lives on into eternity! tionships ,,00RAHAM JR. ..... '-,narities Bureau about re- and the im- play in society to ask my wise this subject and find him. It was a afternoon and I found him sit- log in the tating on those wise men I approached, to sit down for some wise ut relationships. pause he and I settled of relation- known since of time. Whether reason such as ther to acquire or for a more I such as YOung, humans a need to be to- so much more I and be- depended on it, became the With this impera- In group activi- to learn to each other in an anner. Since os- the group meant death, individu- to subordinate personal wishes eater good of the of this basic are born. are able to suc- relational be- those that sful decline and out. This should and reflect on relationships in of our major Lhe country today of a breakdown religions recog- tance of rela- m tionships and this is reflected in their dogma. In 500 B.C., Confucius was promoting har- mony in the social order and better relationships among all men for the general good and he felt that the key to the meaning of things lies in human relationships. His view was "happiness among friends, harmony in the home and peace in the State" as ex- pressed by his book of poetry. When wives and children and their sires are one, Tis like the harp and lute in unison. When brothers live in con- cord and at peace, The strain of harmony shall never cease. The lamp of happy union lights the home, And bright days follow when the children come. The story of the Jewish peo- ple as told in the Old Testa- ment is very much an account of the people's relationships with their God and with one another. The emphasis is on maintaining right relation- ships, and when this isn't the case, the sins of the fathers are passed on to the succeeding generations (Exodus 34:7). In a like manner Muhammad ex- horted parents to provide for their children and children to be good to their parents and Christians are to love one an- other. (John 13:34) In reality, all of Christianity is based on relationship. For example, people speak of hav- ing a personal relationship with Jesus, and we are encour- aged to live in community with each other. We know that when all other things such as possessions and power have gone, these relationships will remain. There is nothing quite so important as cultivating right relationships. To maintain good relation- ships is sometimes very diffi- cult mainly because other peo- ple don't act like we would want them to. Every commu- nity has individuals who are truly difficult to interact with the importance they play when forming relationships. The key in this situation is to let that difficulty transform us intobeing a better person. When we must truly try harder and are stretched beyond our human limits and rely on God's grace to act in a supernatural way, then we can be trans- formed. It is easy to form rela- tionships with people who are kind and loving, but for us to grow we need a real challenge. This is what it means to truly live the Gospel. Many of these transforming relationships are present in our daily lives. In most cases, children can never repay their parents for the time, energy and money that went into rais- ing them. The real reward that the parents get is the spiritual growth that follows from being challenged in those relation- ships. Growth in patience, self- lessness, understanding and unconditional love can result from the challenge of raising children. Likewise, a marriage rela- tionship can transform us if we allow it. It is not unusual for both persons in the marriage to feel like they are "doing it all" and the other person is not doing their fair share in the re- lationships: In spite of this feeling if the individuals are kind, patient, faithful and ready to make the first move to reconcile, then the marriage can transform them into being the people that God wants them to be. This potential for transformation is present in eany relationship including those we form in work, society, church and community. In all of these relationships only God's grace can enable us to act in a super human way in order to be transformed. In some relationship situa- tions, it is extremely hard to act in a way that allows this transformation. In order for this to happen, we need to treat the person with whom we are having difficulty as having been alreadytransformed. Maybe this is why God can love us so much -- because he sees us as already trans- formed. When we read that Jesus died for our sins and made atonement for us (Ro- mans 4:25, 5:11), that we shall be washed as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18); and that God will remove our sins as far away from us as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12), then we can have some idea that God sees us in our future potential state rather than in our pre- sent sinful state. If we can see others in this same way, it is much easier to want to establish a relation- ship with them. While attend- ing a pro-life meeting, I heard the speaker say that he thought that the individuals who would really speak out against abortion and help change the way Americans perceive this evil will be the ones who are now working in the clinics and doing the opera- tions. He said that they will re- alize that what they are doing is wrong and they will be transformed into pro-life ac- tivists. Seeing the abortionist as a person who will eventu- ally become an ally makes it easier to treat that individual with love, kindness and com- passion. And when people are treated as though they have al- ready been transformed, it makes it easier for both per- sons to change and encourages them to be open for relation- ship. Treating people as though they are the best they can be is the key to helping change come about in relation- ships. Relationships are more im- portant than tasks. In fact, without right relationships, tasks are almost impossible. When people try to work to- gether to complete a task and there is tension, distrust, fear, jealousy, and feelings of being unappreciated or being taken for gra, the task can't be completed in an acceptable manner. However, when there are right relationships, tasks are done almost automatically, because it is easy to gain con- sensus, people respect and ap- preciate each other, they see each other as already trans- formed and they are thankful and grateful for the relation- ships. Although the task be- comes secondary in importance to the relationships, it still gets done better and faster. A pastor rntly,said about. : a parish council meeting that "we are really there to form re- lationships and the tasks we accomplish are secondary." He said that what was really im- portant was what was in peo- ple's hearts and not in their heads. Or as John Maxwell said, "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." The older you get, the more you realize that the only really important thing in life is rela- tionship. This is true inyour relationship to God and your relationship with everyone you interact with thrdughout the day. When people are in the last days of their life, the things they think about aren't related to money, things or power, but they revolve around relationships. If you ask them what they could change if they could live life over, they will say things such as, "I would spend more time with m fam- ily,  or "I would have made more of an effort to reestablish a relationship." In all of our interactions with others, we are challenged to see beyond the present cir- cumstances of a person's life and see God's vision of "how they will be when they are transformed. The relationship asks the question allow can I help this person become the person God created them to be." After saying this, my wise friend became silent and I could tell it was time for me to go. I thanked him for his in- sight into relationships and left still thinking about all he had said.