Tag Archives: society

10 November: This Wreck.

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Henry James’s true country, Azar Nafisi assures us, was the imagination, in a Blakean sense, meaning the life of the spirit.  At the start of the Great War, James wrote to Rhoda Broughton:

Black and hideous to me is the tragedy that gathers, and I am sick beyond cure to have lived to see it. You  and I, the ornaments of our generation, should have been spared this wreck of our belief that these long years we had seen civilisation grow and the worst became possible.

From ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ by Azar Nafisi, Harper Perennial, 2007, p216.

We must remind ourselves of the danger of anaesthetising the imagination too much, to the extent where those caught up in fighting are merely ‘little brown men killing little brown men’, as one US General memorably said. No doubt he was making the world safer, in his own mind. But as Blake reminds us:

Caiaphas was in his own mind

A benefactor to mankind.

The Everlasting Gospel.

We are brothers and sisters of the same dust, the dust of Earth, the dust of the stars, formed by the breath of God.

WT.

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September 2: L’Arche and Care VII -The roots of L’Arche.

Larmes de silence: Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier’s Tears of Silence (DLT, 1973) is the earliest book about L’Arche that I know, As an appendix he has a speech given at Church House in 1972, from which this is an extract.

This is the problem. We have created a society that rejects the weak. This is a terrible indictment of any society. It is a wonderful thing when you put your arms out in a welcoming attitude to a handicapped person; then something happens: his eyes begin to believe and his heart begins to dance and he begins in some way to become our teacher. . .

I begin to discover something: that this wounded person, a distorted face, a crippled hand, that the way the handicapped person looks at me, approaches me – all this does something to me, the wounded person calls me forth. And being called forth, I discover that I can bring him up some tiny little way.

The vocabulary has changed over forty years, but the message is clear. And although big subnormality hospitals are largely consigned to history, our society still rejects the weak, to the extent that parents will be put under tremendous pressure to abort a baby known to have Down’s syndrome.

We need to return, not so much to the 2oth century roots of L’Arche, but to the 1st Century roots of L’Arche, the Joyful Good News we are sent to proclaim to all nations.

(Tears of Silence is on sale in French and English through Abe Books.)

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June 9: Justice V: The Fruits of Justice

 serre eyraud

Because ‘the object of justice is to keep men together in society and mutual intercourse’, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, then when justice succeeds the result must surely be that society enjoys the blessing of peace. And on the personal level, holiness must be one of the fruits of this virtue. There is even an element of voluntary self-sacrifice in the virtue of justice, according to St. Thomas. He says justice ‘disregards its own profit in order to preserve the common equity’ (Q 58:11).

Perhaps one wouldn’t expect ‘justice to ‘disregard its own profit’. Doesn’t self-sacrifice go beyond justice? Wouldn’t it make more sense to place sacrifice under the virtue of charity, maybe? But, no. Not in St. Thomas’s thinking. For him, since justice deals with the rights of others, all the virtues pertaining to life with others are part of justice and enable one to exercise justice. So kindness, mercy, liberality, succouring the needy and so on are all ascribed to justice. The good person is above all the just person, says Josef Pieper, commenting on St. Thomas. ‘Justice reaches out beyond the individual subject’, he says, in order to ‘pour itself out, to work outside itself, to be shared with others, to shine forth. A thing is more eminently good the more fully and widely it radiates its goodness’ (see Josef Pieper’s book, The Four Cardinal Virtues, part 2:3). Yet, we were not wrong in seeing the close connection between the outpouring of justice and the outpouring of charity. The Catechism underlines this in the remark, ‘It is characteristic of love to think of the one whom we love’ (no. 2804). It is likewise characteristic of justice to think of the other, whom we love.

SJC.

Photo MMB, 1970, Le Melezin, Serre Eyraud.

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1 April: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: VII – the Human and Christian Vocation.

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Dear BBB,

I’m sure you’ll feel your questions have not been answered this week. Do the crowds on the street, as here in Warsaw, no longer believe? Is the faith dying? Are we looking in or looking out? I was wondering if the Synod preparation document would acknowledge the vast majority of us who are not priests or nuns or ‘official’ Catholics, but trying to live our lives with God.

Well, it does. And it encourages us to look out.

Many Catholic teachers are involved as witnesses in universities and schools in every grade and level. Many are also ardently and competently involved in the workplace. Still other believers are engaged in civil life, attempting to be the leaven for a more just society. Many engaged in volunteer work in society devote their time for the common good and the care of creation. A great many are enthusiastically and generously involved in free-time activities and sports. All of these people bear witness to the human and Christian vocation which is accepted and lived with faithfulness and dedication, arousing in those who see them a desire to do likewise. Consequently, responding generously to one’s proper vocation is the primary way of performing pastoral vocational work.

We must also acknowledge that other people bear witness to the human vocation with faithfulness and dedication. This afternoon I met a group of volunteers clearing rubbish from a path. One is a professed atheist, two never darken the doors of a church, the fourth represents a political party I could never vote for.

And there entered a thought into them, which of them should be greater. But Jesus seeing the thoughts of their heart, took a child and set him by him, And said to them: Whosoever shall receive this child in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth him that sent me. For he that is the lesser among you all, he is the greater.

And John, answering, said: Master, we saw a certain man casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said to him: Forbid him not; for he that is not against you, is for you.

Luke 9:46-50

We are not greater than others because we call ourselves Christian but we have to take care of how we witness the Gospel in our lives. Preaching in the workplace is likely to be a breach of contract as well as annoying and counter-productive, but hiding our Christian faith is not necessary for survival, as it was not so long ago in much of Europe.

If our pastors are not inspiring us to call others to Christ through living our own vocation, through devoting time to the common good and the (Franciscan)  care of creation, they are letting us down and emptying the pews. Without vision the people perish.

Vision is for the whole people, not just for me or you who may have received it. We hope some of what we share in Agnellus’ Mirror reflects a true Christian vision. And we are not afraid, deep down, of what changes the future may bring to God’s church.

RoodEngMartyrsCamb (495x700)

This is my Son, Listen to him.

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January 7: Jesus was a Refugee.

hughes-cwl-picture2-el-tahagPhoto from Catholic Women’s League

This hut stood at the edge of a World War II army camp in Egypt called El Tahag. There were training grounds there for Allied troops as well as Prisoner of War camps housing Italian and German soldiers. The Catholic Women’s League ran a club for the Allied troops, with a small chapel which is marked by a cross above the right-hand window facing us. The women who served there were volunteers, mostly from Britain; they worked in other places in Egypt, including Saint Joseph’s Church in Cairo.

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

The sailors, soldiers and airmen they served may not have been refugees but they were far from home and were glad of the refuge offered by the women from home; a comfortable armchair and the secret weapon  of a cup of tea, with female company, even if they, too, were in uniform.

It’s believed that the Holy Family stayed somewhere near Cairo when they were refugees.

Unlike many refugees in Britain today, Joseph was able to work to support his wife and son, once others had helped him set up a new business. Joseph and Mary must have been a good team, working together to ensure Jesus was not traumatised by the experience.

I recommend this  article:

Jesus was a refugee

Dr Joan Taylor links Jesus’ experience as a refugee with the mission he set his followers to carry nothing, to accept what they were given, to shake the dust of enmity from their feet.

God Bless your family this year!

MMB

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10 June, Year of Mercy: What is freedom and what does it mean?

It is God and his merciful justice that compels us to face these very real issues. The Church’s social teaching rests totally on the inalienable dignity and freedom of the human person. What is freedom and what does it mean? Certainly not individualistic free licence. Licence in fact makes itself dependent on the current moods, interests and emotions. Individual licence is also politically dangerous, making itself vulnerable to propaganda and advertising.

Freedom that is aware of its own dignity will always respect the freedom of others. It is freedom for others, not freedom from. Freedom becomes real when justice gives each his/her due. Freedom presupposes that others respect their own freedom and bring about a justice that is at the same time freedom regulated. So – what is justice, what is a just society? The ancient Greeks’ [Aristotle] is the midway between too much and too little. Law cannot legislate for all diverse situations, so justice is dependent on goodness as the higher value.

LAW

Natural Law is the foundation for justice – which persisted late into the modern era – which abandoned it, and yet a consensus is not yet apparent. Some see the concept of justice and talk about as dealing with empty formulas if not cliché suited to political propaganda to use and abuse for the sake of power games. Democracy without values soon descends into tyrannical governance. Democracy lives on presuppositions – that it cannot guarantee – but if we lose them or displace them as stating the obvious we end-up with relativism, which doesn’t accept absolutes but makes decisions according to market and/or power structures. If in the end there is no final truth, no absolute value then even the noblest expressions of democracy are without foundation; and tolerance gives way to its opposite against all disagreement.

As human being we are damaged goods, whilst having an inbuilt leaning towards good, we interpret good as what we see as goo: I did it my way. All our relating is infected with injustice which preceded us and which we inherited. This means our healthy survival makes pardon for the injustices we have given and received a sine qua non. We need to pardon past injustices and be reconciled again and again. Reconciliation is the only way out of the vicious circle of guilt and retribution.

Justice flourishes where there is forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy. Reconciliation and mercy do something seemingly impossible – it pardons what from the standpoint of justice is unpardonable. Forgiving the unpardonable violates a sense of justice that seeks retribution. It is by acting against the demand for retributive justice that forgiveness becomes the rock foundation of the new way of being human. I am the way…

AMcC.

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