Posts Tagged ‘Responsibility’

“Our Lord wants us to be both very human and very divine”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2015/05/29 at 12:00 AM
Many years ago now, I saw most clearly a truth which will always be valid: the whole web of society needs to live anew and spread the eternal truths of the Gospel, since it has departed from Christian faith and morals. Children of God at the very heart of that society, of the world, have to let their virtues shine out like lamps in the darkness — quasi lucernae lucentes in caliginoso loco. (Furrow, 318)

If we accept the responsibility of being children of God, we will realize that God wants us to be very human. Our heads should indeed be touching heaven, but our feet should be firmly on the ground. The price of living as Christians is not that of ceasing to be human or of abandoning the effort to acquire those virtues which some have even without knowing Christ. The price paid for each Christian is the redeeming Blood of Our Lord and he, I insist, wants us to be both very human and very divine, struggling each day to imitate him who is perfectus Deus, perfectus homo.

I don’t know if I could say which is the most important human virtue. It depends on the point of view from which they are considered. In any case, this question doesn’t really get us anywhere, for it is not a matter of practicing one or even a number of virtues. We have to try to acquire and to practice all of them. Each individual virtue is interwoven with the others and, thus, our effort to be sincere will also make us upright, cheerful, prudent and composed.

At the same time, we must bear in mind that decision making and responsibility derive from the personal freedom of each individual. Virtues are therefore also radically personal, they pertain to the person. Nevertheless, in this great battle of love no one fights alone. None of us, I like to say, is a floating line of verse. In some way we are always either helping or hindering each other. We are all links in the same chain. Join with me now in asking Our Lord to grant that this chain may anchor us to his Heart until that day comes when we shall contemplate him face to face for ever in Heaven. (Friends of God, 75-76)


Sin, An Act of Personal Freedom

In 14 Book Corner on 2014/01/10 at 12:00 AM

A true humanism must recognize that sin is “an integral part of the truth about man” because human beings are moral actors.  Men and women can, and do, commit evil acts, and those acts open up a double wound in the sinner, and in the sinner’s relationships with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers. (13.1., 13.2, 15.4)

To take sin seriously is to take human freedom seriously, John Paul suggests, and that is why the personal character of sin can never be diminished.  Psychological, cultural, and social factors condition the way people make their moral choices.  those factors, if strong enough , can constrain freedom and limit moral responsibility.  But these facts of life could not be understood in ways that erode a deeper truth – that sin is a result of an act of personal freedom, which is a crucial dimension of human dignity.  (16.1)

John Paul II : “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” signed on December 12, 1984 as a  Post-Synod inspired document.

Cited in Weigel, George WITNESS TO TRUTH (biography of Pope John Paul II)

Our Obligation to the Less Fortunate

In 07 Observations on 2012/08/11 at 9:11 AM


Two stories in the news recently caught my eye. The first was an economic piece stating that after World War II there were many good paying jobs for blue collar workers in the United States because demand for goods was strong. Today, however, those jobs are not so attractive because we are now a more service oriented society and those with a college degree are typically much better compensated than those without. Also, the unemployment rate is significantly higher for those with less education. The second item was the announcement that in 2011, there were more births to what we typically call “minorities,” than to the “majority,” the latter meaning non-Hispanic whites. Minority here refers to those who are black, Latino, Asian, or mixed race. This is a remarkable development but it is also sobering, because in the aggregate minorities attend college at a far lower rate than Anglos, and thus their economic prospects are generally not as good.

Demographics are very predictable, and we know that given current birthrates, there will be more and more “minorities” in the future and fewer Anglos. Given that, and a continuation of the college education disparities, we will likely see a large segment of the population facing economic difficulties. As a society, and especially as Christians, what is our obligation to help remedy this economic inequality? The broader question is, how should we work to remedy social problems in general?

Even a casual reading of the scriptures shows many, many passages in which God tells us to serve the disadvantaged, including the poor, outcasts, prisoners, the sick, widows, and orphans. Looking at the Old Testament, Psalm 41 says “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak”; Psalm 72 states “May he [the king] defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy”; 1 Samuel 2 says “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.”

How did Jesus address the social problems during His time on earth? In Matthew 19, He says to the rich young man “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Luke 14 tells us what Jesus said to the Pharisee: “… when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” Jesus spent much time with people who were looked down on in that society. So, it’s clear that He is ordering us to help the less fortunate and He set an example of doing so.

What about Church teachings? The modern Catholic tradition of social ethics has consistently insisted that the needs of the poor must take priority. The encyclical Rerum Novarum, written in 1891 by Pope Leo XIIIwas perhaps the first Church document in the industrial age dealing with our obligations to those less fortunate. The document stated, “there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner.” Rerum Novarum was written as a result of the problems resulting from the industrialization of the United States and workers taken advantage of by unscrupulous business owners.  While it spoke of the obligations of workers, it condemned unrestrained capitalism.

Closer to our own time, in Octogesima Adveniens (1971), which marked the eightieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Pope Paul VI told us of our obligation and the spirit in which we should give. “In teaching us charity,” he wrote, “the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the most fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods generously at the service of others.”

So, Sacred Scripture and Catholic teaching consistently stress our obligation to help the disadvantaged, but don’t say specifically how to do it today. There are two general methods: government programs and private giving. Almost all would agree that some combination of the two is justified, but the difficult decision is, what should be the proper proportion of each? Some say the best way to meet these needs involves adopting tax policies designed to stimulate economic growth, along with increased amounts of private charity. Others emphasize public programs and increased government intervention. Political parties fight sometime savage battles over a difference of a few percentage points in tax rates and spending and increases over time.

There are good points on both sides: overly generous government programs reduce the incentive to work and can undermine a society’s values. This is evident in some cases in the wealthier countries of Europe and even in the United States. On the other hand, while in the ideal world enlightened business practices and private charity would be the best way to remedy all social ills, they cannot always cover all those in need and some people slip through the cracks. So, a balance is required.

One thing is clear: there are no easy solutions and anyone who claims they have one is mistaken. This is certainly true regarding the difficulties facing many of those with less than a college education. Nevertheless, here are some suggestions for us as Catholics in dealing with social issues:

1.      Stay well informed. Be aware of issues regarding the less fortunate in our community, our country, and our world.

2.      Participate in the political process by supporting candidates and policies in line with Catholic teaching regarding the disadvantaged. Bring your faith to your politics, not the other way around.

3.      Donate generously to worthy charities, commensurate with your financial situation. Give until it hurts, following the example of the widow in the scriptures. Ten percent of income is a good goal.

4.      However, don’t just give money, volunteer. Follow Jesus’ example of personally serving the less fortunate.

5.      Do the right thing in your personal life and set a good example for others. Don’t underestimate the benefit of living a virtuous life and the effect it would have on the disadvantaged if all of us who are more fortunate would do that.

Deacon John Kopfle serves at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Re-printed with permission from the Catholic News Herald of the Diocese of Charlotte.

The Holy Family By Fr. Timothy Reid

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2012/01/07 at 1:09 AM

Holy Family

• On the first Sunday after Christmas, Holy Mother Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, and She does so to remind us that – at least ideally – family life is one of God’s most precious gifts to mankind.

• Perhaps after spending Christmas with your family members some of you beg to differ! But hopefully not.

• In celebrating this beautiful feast, the Church holds the Holy Family out to us as a model for all families. The Holy Family is a family founded upon love and virtue, and we are called to imitate them to the best of our abilities in living with our own families.

• As we consider the nature of family life and how we live amongst our own family members, we should naturally turn our minds to the 4th Commandment, as it is the primary guide to governing the relationships in a family.

• The 4th Commandment, of course, is that we must honor our father and mother. It is a commandment that teaches us that families have a certain hierarchy that requires love and respect for them to operate as they should.

• In learning to live out this requirement of love and respect within our own families, we are ultimately prepared for the life we will have in Heaven as the adopted children of God the Father.

• In learning to honor, love, and respect our earthly parents, we are better prepared for living out our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our readings today are really wonderful because they speak of these concepts of honor, love, and respect.

• Our first reading is from the Book of Sirach, which is truly one of my favorites books in all of Scripture. In a beautiful yet practical way, Sirach wisely counsels us in the proper ways to govern our familial relations.

• Sirach reminds us of the authority that parents necessarily exercise over their children, an authority that lasts as long as the parent lives. Yet Sirach also reminds us of the spiritual benefits that come with recognizing and heeding the authority of our parents.

• Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother.

• Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard.

Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

• They are beautiful promises, are they not? And yet it is all true.

• You see, our earthly parents – especially our fathers – are the first representatives of God in our life. They exercise authority over us in God’s stead.

• This is why we are called to honor, love, and respect them. And this is why Sirach says that the kindness we show our fathers will not be forgotten.

• And because we know God as a Father, our earthly fathers have the primary responsibility for teaching us about the nature of God.

• Generally we do this more through our actions than through our words. Obviously, this is an incredibly important responsibility, one that is too‐often neglected in our society today.

• We can easily see that when fathers fail to live up to their God‐given responsibilities of protecting, providing for, and educating their children, they inflict not only emotional and psychological wounds upon their children, but spiritual wounds as well.

• Much is being written and said today about the profound effects that the absence of a father has upon a family. Sociological and psychological data shows us that children who grow up fatherless suffer emotional and psychological consequences that make them more prone to crime, poverty, and educational failure.

• But the worst consequences are the spiritual wounds. When fathers fail to live up to their responsibilities, they can distort the image their children have of God the Father, thus impairing their children’s relationship with their Heavenly Father.

• Of course domestic bliss doesn’t depend solely upon fathers. All members of the family must take on their share of responsibility in maintaining peace and harmony within the home. And this is where we must turn to our second reading.

• St. Paul reminds us today of the importance of exercising compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience with one another. He reminds us of the importance of bearing with one another and forgiving one another.

• St. Paul also reminds us of the proper structure of family life: that men are called to be the head of the family – leading and directing the family, while wives – placing themselves under their husband’s leadership and protection, are called to be the heart of the family.

• Moreover, he reminds us of the duty children have to be obedient to their parents in all things, always respectfully trusting in the authority of their parents.

• At the same time parents must make sure to treat their children well, not provoking them or causing them to be discouraged in any way.

• But most importantly, St. Paul reminds us that we must in all things put on love. True love must govern all of our familial relationships.

• To love someone means that we will, that we desire, what is best for that person. But true love is also sacrificial, meaning that we must be willing to give of ourselves, to sacrifice our own wants and desires, for the sake of those whom we love.

• When it comes to family life, showing love for one another ultimately requires that each family member put aside all selfishness in order to care for the needs of the others.

• In practical terms this means that children should always share with their siblings, giving deference to their brothers and sisters. It also means that kids should be quick to obey their parents without complaining or hassling them.

• For parents true familial love requires seeking first the salvation of your children, placing that as the highest good. This in turn requires that you protect them from the evil and harmful influences that are so prevalent in our society, especially in the various forms of media.

• It means that you teach them our Catholic faith, ensuring that your children go to Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, and that they receive the Sacraments. It means that you teach your children to pray, and to love and honor God.

• For spouses, true familial love is best expressed in constantly looking for ways to serve your spouse, caring for their needs above your own. It means praying for and with your spouse. It requires warm affection and a ready forgiveness when necessary.

• Ultimately, true familial love demands that we be willing to undergo any suffering whatsoever to help ensure that our family members go to Heaven.

• My dear brothers and sisters, family life is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Let us strive to live it well, not simply for the natural pleasures that can be derived from it, but so that we can better prepare ourselves for eternal life with our heavenly family.

Copyright 2010 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC