Other than in instances of dogmatically defined doctrine, the individual conscience holds sway.
Like all Christians, Catholics see the Ten Commandments found in the Hebrew Scriptures as the basic groundwork for moral action, which together with the life of Jesus provide a deep and abiding understanding for how to act with love and justice in the world. The Gospel of Matthew relates that upon being asked which commandment was most important, Jesus replied that all of the law is contained in the commandments to love God and love your neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40).
Catholics see this as going beyond the injunctions of moral law by drawing believers into a relationship with others as well as with God, and it is the foundation of the Church’s teaching on issues of social justice.
From the earliest days of the Church, Catholics have performed works of mercy to help those who most need it, but the Church’s current involvement in social justice issues really took form in 1891 with the promulgation of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum. In it, Pope Leo XIII called for workers to be treated with dignity and respect, protected by the state from exploitation, and allowed to form unions.
It touched off a flowering of social encyclicals that have become central to the Church’s work in the world. Catholic social teaching focuses on the dignity of the person as the linchpin for all discussions of ethics, politics, and justice. It is central to Catholic calls for the fair treatment of workers, for political systems that recognize individual rights, for responsible scientific research, for an end to attacks on human life in the form of abortion and the death penalty, and many other teachings as well.
‘Radiation’ may not be the first concept that comes to mind when thinking of chastity, but Pope John shows that chastity is not sterile egotism but a social virtue – in a similar way to how faithfulness in marriage provides stability in the family and society.
The Gospel tells us of all that Jesus suffered, of the insults that fell upon Him. But, from Bethlehem to Calvary, the brilliance that radiates from His divine purity spread more and more and won over the crowds. So great was the austerity and the enchantment of His conduct.
So may it be with you, beloved daughters. Blessed be the discretion, the mortifications and the renouncements with which you seek to render this virtue more brilliant.
Pius XII wrote about them in a memorable encyclical letter (Sacra Virginitas). Live its teachings. May your conduct prove to all that chastity is not only a possible virtue but a social virtue, which must be strongly defended through prayer, vigilance and the mortification of the senses.
May your example show that the heart has not shut itself up in sterile egoism, but that it has chosen the condition which is necessary for it to open itself solicitously to its neighbour.
For this purpose We urge you to cultivate the rules of good conduct—We repeat it—cultivate and apply them, without giving ear to anyone who would wish to introduce into your life a conduct less befitting the thoughtfulness and reserve to which you are bound.
May each of us, whatever our state in life, open our hearts to our neighbour, and not close in on ourselves.
This story turned out not to be about a beggar, but I have since seen the same woman walking by, talking to herself, but always wearing clean clothes. The last in this short season.
It was high summer, and what T and I saw lying on the grass was not a broken branch but a woman, who we thought might have been broken. More than once I have seen drunk and incapable people lying next to the cycle path. There was cause for concern.
T and I were indeed concerned but hesitated to approach the woman. She was warm and in a safe place after all. I said I would see if she was still there when I walked the dogs, Ajax and Alfie.
She was still there, but before we had done our round of the park, the Cathedral bell, Great Dunstan, announced five o’clock. The lady sat up, gathered her belongings and walked away.
T laughed when I told her the next day. It’s good when your fears are shown to be groundless. And no need to see the lady home, which would have been a challenge with two chihuahuas!
Thanks to NAIB for the photograph.
A small community in Alsace has been welcoming African refugees as they go through the processes of finding a safe home in France. The Franciscan sisters’ convent is the hub for this neighbourly work.
This link takes you to the UNHCR story about the people of Thal-Marmoutier and their guests: French village opens its heart to refugees.
Meet some of the ordinary people doing ordinary things to help the refugees find their feet in what volunteer Nicolas Ndoole (above) describes as another planet compared to Africa.
We know that Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders agreed that there were two great commandments, to Love God and to love your neighbour.
Jesus told a story to answer the question, Who is my neighbour? (Luke 10: 35ff) but he was, at root, giving the same answer as the Book of Deuteronomy, according to this article in Bible History Today by Richard Elliott Friedman: follow the link Love your neighbour .
Thoroughly worth reading!
And the hour of breaking bread being come, they set themselves down together, Saint Francis and Saint Clare, and one of the companions of Saint Francis together with the companion of Saint Clare, and all the other companions took each his place at the table with all humility.
And at the first dish, Saint Francis began to speak of God so sweetly, so sublimely, and so wondrously, that the fulness of divine grace came down on them, and they all were rapt in God. And as they were thus rapt, with eyes and hands uplift to heaven, the folk of Assisi and Bettona and the country round about, saw that Saint Mary of the Angels, and all the House, and the wood that was just hard by the House, were burning brightly, and it seemed as it were a great fire that filled the church and the House and the whole wood together : for the which cause the folk of Assisi ran thither in great haste for to quench the flames, believing of a truth that the whole place was all on fire. But coming close up to the House and finding no fire at all, they entered within and found Saint Francis and Saint Clare and all their company in contemplation rapt in God and sitting around that humble board. Whereby of a truth they understood that this had been a heavenly flame and no earthly one at all, which God had let appear miraculously, for to show and signify the fire of love divine wherewith the souls of those holy brothers and holy nuns were all aflame; wherefore they gat them gone with great consolation.
Emmaus: another meal where Christ was present.
JESUS FALLS AGAIN
A Lawyer who tried to trip Jesus up in his teaching sees him fall on the way to Calvary. The story is told in Luke, 10, 25-37
I know this man, I almost wish I didn’t. I helped to bring him to this, but I never wanted it.
Look at him, covered in mud and bruises, he can hardly see for blood and sweat.
Remember the story he told when I was arguing with him? The traveller battered half to death, no-one to help him but the Samaritan.
Even with that big African helping to carry the cross, Jesus will not survive. No-one can do much for him.
At least that woman has wiped his poor face but still he falls.
And gets up and goes on.
Let us Pray :
Lord, never let us forget that you are there, even among the most desperate people, and those we seem unable to help : at home, at school, at work ; in the street and in the wider world.
Lord in your mercy, hear our Prayer.
This picture is too much fun to use but once, so I will say that again!
Thank you to all readers, followers, and contributors to Agnellus’ Mirror. Would you believe I only met Constantina and Sister Johanna in the last month? Yet they feel like old friends. And some of our friends ‘out there’ I’m unlikely to meet face-to-face in this life… The net is a wonderful thing!
So please do keep on reading, following and contributing; I like the kaleidoscopic reflections in Agnellus’ Mirror, and I gather that many of you do too.
God bless – and thank you again!
Fancy finding this at your garden gate!
We had been talking gardening with a neighbour, and ended by leaving a plant for her to rehome in her garden. When she returned to collect it she left this thank-you message. There are many ways to say thank you …
Even to people who would usually deflect any open acknowledgement of services rendered; this morning I’ve had smiles, a thumbs-up, a raised eyebrow, a few words about the weather. And a couple of explicit thank-yous.
A theme underlying the Catechism’s teaching on the virtue of justice, but which could easily be missed, is that justice is a virtue by which we focus on others’ rights and claims.
We are perhaps encouraged by our culture to be aware of justice or injustice in the political sphere. But apart from that, our culture today teaches us to be most aware of injustices done to ourselves. We are taught to ask “what about me?” rather constantly. Granted, in a world where we can easily be victimised by entire systems of injustice, this is an important and necessary question to ask. The virtue of justice does not require us to be victims. On the contrary, this virtue is about opposing injustice wherever we find it. But, it is possible to go overboard here. It is the justice of the nursery, of the two-year-old, and of the ghetto, that regards everyone as a potential robber and enemy. It is important to grasp that in the virtue of justice, its principal act is to honour the legitimate rights and claims of others.
So then, St. Thomas Acquinas tells us in his Summa Theologica (II.II, Q.58:1): ‘It is proper to justice, as compared with the other virtues, to direct man in his relations with others.’ The other virtues – prudence, courage and temperance – are formed within the mind and emotions of the individual. They may involve other people, but they may not. Justice, on the other hand, exists in relation to others. It works to maintain a certain equity between a need and the fulfilment of that need. The obvious example is in the payment of a just wage for a service rendered. But there are deeper and more subtle considerations relative to justice, which we shall explore in the coming posts.