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Who Says You Have to Fix the World?

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Who Says You Have to Fix the World?

Remember when, about four years ago, conservative Glenn Beck equated social justice with Communism, advising Christians to leave their churches if they ever heard the words uttered there? “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop.” Yet, the Church has had a body of teaching on social justice for almost 125 years. Evidently pundit Beck didn’t get that memo. 

People tire of hearing the words “social justice,” especially in connection with faith. Often they confuse it with social activism–protests, drives, or letter-writing campaigns. They’re afraid that if they don’t do this, they’re not real Christians. Others hear the call to justice as a threat to their cherished beliefs or lifestyle: They claim that the bishops shouldn’t “play politics” or breach the wall of separation between Church and state. They may not realize, though, that every social issue is, at its base, a moral issue. So the bishops have not only the right, but the duty, to speak out in faith on immigration, euthanasia, or the host of other issues facing us daily. 

We have the corresponding responsibility to become familiar with them, prayerfully reflect on their implications, and act accordingly. Citing a 1984 instruction by Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis writes: “…none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice: ‘Spiritual conversion, the  intensity of the love of God and neighbour, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone’” (Evangelii gaudium, n. 201). 

Sr. Margaret C. Kerry, FSP, wanted to reach out to the poor with the Gospel as her eight-month practicum toward a master’s degree in pastoral ministry. Taking her cue from our founder, Blessed James Alberione, who urged us to really know the people we evangelize, and suspecting that maybe she (and we) might not, she volunteered at Boston’s Horizons for Homeless Children. Interacting with the kids and their mothers changed her pre-conceived ideas, teaching her how to reach them with Gospel values through the Pauline mission, within the context of early childhood learning. 

Even though the ambient of a government subsidized program precluded any direct sharing of the Gospel message, she laid the foundation for eventually giving them that gift she had received. She read to them, began a newsletter and reading project for families, and organized a table for books on loan. This experience has enriched her other ministries, especially catechetical workshops and the training she provides for Pauline Cooperators. (These are laity who evangelize within various social strata.) Her enthusiasm is catchy. She shared many of her experiences with us in community and is exploring ways to do that in more structured settings. 

Sr. Margaret’s required practicum has ended, but her relationship with the program hasn’t. Recognizing the role that spirituality plays in fostering family stability, the director now wants to gently incorporate spirituality to reinforce the mothers’ existing support system, which often includes church. She hopes to work with Sr. Margaret to offer donor-sponsored Pauline activities. 

You might not be able to “fix” a social or cultural situation, any more than Sr. Margaret can “fix” homelessness. Can you do something, though, to bring the Gospel into it? Here’s a “recipe” to try:

  1. Fire your imagination. What social situation consistently tugs at you? In one or two sentences describe what change would look like. Then jot down ideas–even “crazy” ones–that could effect that change.
  2. Let it simmer. Setting it aside awhile, learn what you can. Pray to move from resisting God’s initiative to acceptance, then pray to find the way to follow his lead.
  3. Add advice. Talk with someone who knows your inner workings and is wise in God’s ways. Take that feedback to prayer.
  4. Skim off the excess. Now jot down objections to your ideas and, as dispassionately as possible, eliminate what may not work. Map out a tentative plan.
  5. Serve with love. Take the first step, then go from there. 

Dare to do faith justice in untried ways!

Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP

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Comments

  • By "social justice" Mr. Beck was referring not to the consistent historical reality of Catholic teaching on the subject (which goes back a bit farther than 125 years, sisters), but to the corruption of that teaching that has infected countless Catholic parishes and religious orders in the past half-century. Where it once meant thriving Catholic charities fueled by real individual charity motivated in turn by the Faith, Social Justice now usually means playing along with government programs funded with tax money, devoid of any Catholic content or context. Its adherents seem much too willing to delay or forego preaching the Gospel if they get to hand out government help. You said it yourselves: "Even though the ambient of a government subsidized program precluded any direct sharing of the Gospel message... ." This lays a "foundation" for sharing the Gospel "later", you go on to say. How? The people being helped aren't dimwits. They know the money's coming from the State, not the Church. They see a woman in a nun's habit, whose actions are interchangeable with the actions of dozens of other non-Catholic volunteers. What, even in theory, is going to lead those people to the One Who is Truth?
    6/4/2014 11:04:36 AM Reply
  • Thank you Sister Margaret . Always like trying new 'recipes" and this seems to be good advice. not rushing in with a whirl of activity but taking time to look from different perspectives. God bless all.
    5/11/2014 7:40:03 AM Reply
  • This article has great practical ideas about starting a project that I will follow. The article is also very inspirational. Thank you so much.
    5/10/2014 5:57:58 PM Reply

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