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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
November 13, 1987     The Message
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November 13, 1987

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, November 13, 1987 1 / L__/Faith Todav A supplement to Catholic newspapers published by NATIONAL CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE 1312 Massachuses Ave. N.W., Washingto,, D.C. 20005. wi grant assistance from  ,b- The Cathhc Church EXTENSION SOCl(t y ..  35 East Wadder Dr. Chicago. Illinois 60601 All contents copynght 1987 by NC News Sece. , By Father Herbert Weber NC News Service S everal years ago another priest and I went to the airport to pick up a family of Laotian boat people. A husband and wife, their three children and the man's father had just flown in from the camp in Thailand where they took refuge after fleeing their homeland. Needless to say, the new im- migrants were overwhelmed by the United States. They spoke almost no English and knew that their lives would be changed radically. As the family entered the ter- minal and looked for someone to help them, the two of us got their attention and walked up to them. I was ready to extend my arm to shake hands when the other priest joined his hands in front of himself and made a deep bow. I noticed the Laotian man's eye light up when he saw this gesture, a familiar one in his culture. He repeated it -- and communication had been established. It is an old maxim that you must speak the language of the people that you come to serve. But language means more than the mere use of words. The priest who accompanied me was aware of the culture of the newcomers and used their language of ritual to break through some barriers. []E]Fq On a larger scale, barriers often are broken when people of faith and conviction try to live in the world. But there is a language they need to know too -- the values and the preoccupations of the society in which they dwell. With the help of this language they can enter into communica- tion with the world. In the con- text of this interaction, the hope and challenge of the Gospel can be brought to light. There is always a temptation to become separated from society. Sometimes good people feel that they can preserve their faith only by ignoring the principles for liv- ing that are being proposed by the media, science, business or politics. But when the document on the church in the modern world was issued during the Sec- ond Vatican Council; it became clear that it is the church's role to interact with society in order to share an alternative way of living. A biogeneticist recently was giv- ing a talk to college faculty Why does the church make an effort to be in touch with all of society's institutions -- even though their principles, their preoccupations, may be surprisingly different? "You must speak the language of the people that you come to serve," writes Father Herbert Weber. Without such contact, the church will never come to understand the real concerns of the world; with it, dialogue can occur and "the hope and challenge of the Gospel can be brought to light." members about the speed with which his field was developing. He talked about the ability to do work in ways that only a few years ago were considered the stuff of science fiction. After discussing all that was happening, he grew quiet and said, "But we scientists are look- ing for help. Just because we know we can do something does not mean that we should." Not all scientists acknowledge the need for help, but whenever scientists and ethicists establish contact with each other, future possibilities are great. They share concerns, as the following conver- sations illustrate: eA graduate student in business administration stopped me on campus one day to talk about his need to examine business ethics. eA physician who was entering his internship came by to discuss patients' attitudes toward family planning. oA young high school graduate involved in a first job in marketing explained how she was fired for refusing to go along with what she felt was an unethical practice. DE]E] It is possible that Christians may feel like aliens in the world around, them. And they may find that its culture -- the viewpoint, the attitudes, the very fabric of the high-tech world -- is based on | I surprisingly different norms. But the interaction of the church and culture is important because without dialogue the church never will come to understand the world's real concerns. I recall a very faith-filled old priest who frequented most of the events in his small town. Often he was asked why he" "wasted" his time on frivolous activities like schoolyard football or library cof- fee klatches when he could be do- ing something spiritual. His answer was that he could not ex- pect people to be interested in what he stood for if he didn't show that he cared about what was important to them. The old priest, like the biogeneticist and the business ma- jor, represent an awareness that the church and the world have to listen to each other. As they begin to break through language bar- riers, dialogues and new relation- ships can be established. (Father Weber is pastor of St. Thomas More University Parish in Bowling Green, Ohio.) the church's doorstep I