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September 26, 1997     The Message
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September 26, 1997

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4 The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana September 26, 1997 i Ordinary words, extraordinary meaning i By PAUL R. LEINGANG Editor t  i - \\;, : A good story is always fun to write. But often in an ordi- nary week, only ordinarv things happen. Or so it seems. One of my sisters called up the other night. We talked for a short while, catching up on some news from each of our households. She told me about a chance meeting she had had with a couple -- rela- tives of ours m who wanted to invite me to their upcoming fiftieth wedding anniversary. I had been the ring-bearer in their wedding, and they wanted to invite me to celebrate again at their anniversary. I told my sister about an e-mail message I had received, from a high school classmate. The two of us had not talked or written to each other since our sophomore year together. Now, after all these years, we had connected once again because of the Internet. He had spotted my name on the web site of the Christian Family Movement, and he sent a brief mes- sage to me. It seems funny to me that phone calls and letters and e-mail messages are the means by which we "keep in touch." At first, I thought, "keeping in touch" can't be taken literally -- but further reflection soon con- vinced me that I was wrong. The e-mail message from an old friend shattered barriers of time and space in an instant, and touched me deeply. The written word on paper or printed on a com- puter screen has incredible power. Voices on a tele- phone cover hundreds of miles, with simple spoken words powerful enough to keep intact the familv bonds between brother and sister. And a 10-minute conversation can evoke the connections of a family through several generations. Spend some time today reflecting on the ordi- nary ways in which your life touches another's. If there are children in your home, talk with them about their friends, and how they nourish those ,friendships. You might talk about phone calls and e-mail and computer-connected "chat rooms" and any other means by which we all stay in touch with each other. Spend some time, too, in discussing how we stay in touch with our faith community. And what might hinder or block the possible connections. I saw a person working through the pages of a daily planning calendar during the homily at Sun- day Mass recently. Perhaps there was an urgent need for that person to rearrange daily life, perhaps because of a funeral or another overwhelming event. Or perhaps the reasons were less important. To be sure, though, both the extraordinary and the ordi- nary can block the word spoken to us. Ordinary words in the books we call our Sacred Scriptures can bring us closer to our God. Through Jesus -- God's Word -- humanity is in touch with divinitv. Ordinary life is holy. Take the time to enjoy ordinary life. Send a mes- sage to someone in your family. Re-connect with someone distant. Help a child to enjoy safely the pleasures that can come through the use of modern communicati0r tools. Take the time to pay a little more attention to someone in your neighborhood or circle of friends perhaps someone who has withdrawn a bit because of personal tragedy or other circumstances. Leave extraordinary interventions to the experts, but prac- tice a little ordinary communication. Examine resources in your community for per- sons who have "lost touch" with reality. Volunteer your time or talent to be an ordinary friend. Visit a nursing home. You don't have to wait for a holiday season to bring the small gift of ordinary conversation. And don't forget to call your sister or your . brother, just to say hello. t Comments about this column are welcome or the Christian Family Movement, P.( Box 272, Ames, Iowa 50010. Preachers and politicians: Linldn00g justice and politics By PATRICIA ZAPOR -Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The two Catholic priests were rather atypical presenters for a forum in the U.S. Capitol. But then, the program topic, "Preaching the Just Word," wasn't the sort of thing most people expect to find being dis- cussed in rooms where politi- cal posturing, party strategy and. lobbying are usually on the agendas. In addition to the main audi- ence of folks who work at trying to bring social justice to the world  social workers, activists for the poor and the environ- ment, other clergy -- the early September session attracted several members of Congress, at least one of whom was gen- uinely seekirg an education on the subject. 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47711 " " " - Weekly newspaper ,_ of the Diocese of Evansville /a week kl Decemb by the Catholic Pre of Evansville P.etew ............. BP, c.e A Ge.0 r: ................................. Pa R.Le Produ TechniOan ............... Jos 13tet .................................. Pad Nedatl SWt ........................... Mary o Hofaes Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169. Evansville, IN 47724-0169 Subscription rate: $17.50 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 E as per rrW at e posl oe  E,msv, IN 47701. Pultn number 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 to Office d 1997  Press of Evansve As sponsored by the interfaith and nonpartisan Faith and Pol- itics Institute, the forum was part of a regular series of ses- sions meant to link public poli- cy and religious values. This was their first audience in the Capitol, but in the last six years, Jesuit Father Walter Burghardt and Father Ray Kemp of the Washington Arch- diocese have conducted hun- dreds of retreatsand workshops on preaching about social justice for priests around the world. Father Burghardt, author of a book, "Preaching the Just Word," and Father Kemp are both fellows at the Woodstock Theological Center at George- town University. "When are we in a 'right rela- tionship' with God, God's peo- ple and God's earth?" is the question they focus on in those sessions, said Father Burghardt. A theologically "right" rela- tionship to God demands that humans follow Jesus' command "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul," he explained. SL, nilarly, a "right" relationship with other people demands a "no man is an island" approach, where one relates to others in respect for the interdependence of people, he continued. And a right relationship to the earth is one of respect and rev- erence for the food, water, shel- ter and other necessities it pro- vides, Father Burghardt said. What keeps the two of them busy running retreats is the dif- ficulty many priests have with linking those principles with issues important to their parish- ioners, explained Father Kemp. "If you want to know how this hits home, go to California," he said. Father Kemp. described the trouble many priests there had in reaching their parishioners when the state's Catholic bish- ops urged them to address xenophobia and other fears that seemed to be giving rise to anti- immigrant legislation such as Proposition 187. The 1994 law, parts of which have been overturned by state courts, would have prohibited illegal immigrants and in some cases, their U.S.-citizen children, from receiving such tax-sup- ported benefits as education and medical care. When California priests tried to preach on the subject,nany were overwhelmed by thehos- tile response from parishioners who insisted the subject was out of line for the Catholic Church, Father Kemp said. Upon analyzing those reac- tions, he noted, it became apparent that what was missing was groundwork in Catholic protect depressed or men- those who are suffering from untreated pain, -- U.S. Supreme Court, Washington v. Glucksberg teaching about racism, respon- sibility to neighbors, and the right to immigrate, to have housing and jobs. Years of focusing on individ- ual ethical and moral choices and "feel-good homilies," had the effect that "in the process, the larger picture had been lost," said Father Kemp. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., slipped into the Capitol session for a while as Father Kemp described some specific local concerns that come up around the country as they try to help priests link the Gospels to polit- ical and social issues. Moran, a Catholic, said later that he went to the session because he was intrigued by the prospect of Catholic priests encouraging people to turn their religious beliefs into polit- ical action on subjects beyond abortion. "I was hoping to hear a little bit about spirituality and how it affects activism," he said. he continued. Father Kemp would seem agree. And he believes th mostly has to do with priest perception that such subjec are too complex to keep tlf with while they also have ti handle the ongoing workloa of a parish. "They don't feel they c a_ wrap their brain around number of different justi issues," he said, listing, fft example, capital punishme racism, welfare and other ec nomic pressures, disappeari job benefits, gangs and drugs subjects too rarely address:':1 from the pulpit.  "It's a combination of fati 4 and being chicken," he said.  "But the notion of biblical Jt tice gives us a starting point; human values and godly Pl ciples," said Father Kemp. q That perspective is one t 1 Moran, as a politician, finds  too rare at the churches he  i his constituents attend. ; q the cot "What you heard from those "There are places in two priests is different from try where priests do talk ab what you hear in most subur- the broad-based Christian n ban Catholic parishes," said sion, but you wouldn't hear it q Moran, whose Northern Vir- Northe_rr,Virginia .... mayl I t ginia district lies just across the Chicago, Moran said.  1 Potomac River from Washing- A key to bringing the so t I ton. justice message to parishes "You just don't hear much in in the next step, however, nol regard to participating in the Father Burghardt. In there :] social mission of government," See WASHINGTON pa 1 t00nnp"'s'-o' schedule S " , . ' Mass, 150th Anniversary, St. James Church, Haubstadt;ii Sunday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m. ( Youth Day Workshop and Mass, Catholic Center, Sundayil t Sept. 28, 3:15 p.m. Meinrad Archabbeyd . Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2 p.m.  t