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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving. Sorry blogging has been light. I'd like to get back into the swing of things, but I want to be able to offer new stuff. Not just my same tired old thoughts. Our homeschool breaks for all of December (one of the many perks of homeschooling) so hopefully the Advent season will lend itself to some fresh insights and meditations.
In preparation of Advent, my husband and I are once again trying to figure out how to incorporate works of charity into the season; something beyond passing on a choice parking space for another driver or dropping a few quarters in the Salvation Army pail. Charity is the work of Christians. It is what we are called to do through out the year, although opportunities abound this time of year. But how many Christians have forgotten what charity really requires? We've grown into a society where 'handling' the poor, the sick and the mentally ill is the work of the government. Today's charity opportunities consist of feel good monetary donations, once yearly soup kitchen visits with friends and or awareness ribbon purchases. We've turned over our duty to the government and what have they done with such a great responsibility? How many people are helped by social programs versus those who've come to rely on the system?
Doing works of charity is good for the soul, it's spiritually uplifting when done right. The end result should not be a bursting sense of pride or an emotional pick me up. True charity leaves you humble, you are the servant not the master. You're not coming down out of your ivory tower to mingle with the commoners. (I'm talking to you celebrities/politicians and your staged photo ops.) Are you worthy to bow before them and wash their feet? If you didn't get the point; charity is not about you.
But the problem with a government run system is you don't have humble people meeting the needs of the less fortunate with compassion and love. And how can you have charity without love? The recipients of government handouts certainly don't love the government agencies that 'serve' them. But yet many have come to rely on the handout and to expect government assistance with every pitfall. Christian charity in a crisis has become a bonus. We couldn't expect fellow Christians, neighbors, church members, friends and family members to shoulder all the responsibility of serving the needy could we?! The suggestion to most people seems preposterous. By why should it be?
We look at our prosperous country and still see homelessness, poverty, hunger, troubled youth, abused children and we sit in our cushy homes, begrudgingly pay our taxes and wonder why the government hasn't used our money to take care of these problems. Is the solution to these problems really higher taxes? How many committees and special dialogue sessions do we need to pay for before we realize WE are the solution. Christians helping everyone, serving one another and making sacrifices for the good of mankind. Stop passing the buck. Stop expecting Uncle Sam to play Christ for the country's less fortunate. What a lousy substitution.

"But who is to take care of them if the government does not? That is a question in a day when all are turning to the state, and when people are asking, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Certainly we all should know that it is not the province of the government to practice the works of mercy, or go in for Insurance. Smaller bodies, decentralized groups, should be caring for all such needs.

The first unit of society is the family. The family should look after its own and, In addition, as the early fathers said, "every home should have a Christ room in it, so that hospitality may be practiced." "The coat that hangs in your closet belongs to the poor." "If your brother is hungry, it is your responsibility."

"When did we see Thee hungry, when did we see Thee naked?" People either plead ignorance or they say "It is none of my responsibility." But we are all members one of another, so we are obliged in conscience to help each other. The parish is the next unit, and there are local councils of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Then there is the city, and the larger body of charitable groups. And there are the unions, where mutual aid and fraternal charity is also practiced. For those who are not Catholics there are lodges fraternal organizations, where there is a long tradition of charity. But now there is a dependence on the state. Hospitals once Catholic are subsidized by the state. Orphanages once supported by Catholic charity receive their aid from community chests."

"More About Holy Poverty. Which Is Voluntary Poverty."
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, February 1945

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The degree of separation

"And we are part of it all, part of this whole movement throughout the country, but of course we have our own particular talent, our own particular contribution to make to the sum total of the apostolate. And we think of it as so important that we are apt to fight and wrangle among ourselves on account of it, and we are all sensitive to the accusation that we are accenting, emphasizing one aspect of the truth at the expense of another. A heresy overemphasizes one aspect of the truth.

But our unity, if it is not unity of thought in regard to temporal matters, is a unity at the altar rail. We are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and so we are closer to each other, by the tie of grace, than any blood brothers are. All these books about discrimination are thinking in terms of human brotherhood, of our responsibility one for another. We are our brother's keeper, and all men are our brothers whether they be Catholic or not. But of course the tie that binds Catholics is closer, the tie of grace. We partake of the same food, Christ. We put off the old man and put on Christ. The same blood flows through our veins, Christ's. We are the same flesh, Christ's. But all men are members or potential members, as St. Augustine says, and there is no time with God, so who are we to know the degree of separation between us and the Communist, the unbaptized, the God-hater, who may tomorrow, like St. Paul, love Christ."

On Pilgrimage
By Dorothy Day

Rational, emotional, spiritual or hormonal?

Back from a blogging break. The failure to close on yet another house plus another recent surprise have resulted in several weeks of asking, 'what are we supposed to be doing?' My husband and I feel we have two paths before us, both with their pluses and minuses, it's a matter of choosing the right one. I don't think either would be wrong per say, but which is best for right now. Everyday one of us changes our mind. We're praying, maybe pleading, at this point for a clear sign but past experience leads us to believe we won't be seeing angels in our sleep. My concern is making a major decision based on emotion rather than rational thought and genuine spiritual direction. We pray for what we want, knowing that maybe God has something else in mind instead. So then, do we spring for option one because it's what we want now for our family, even if we have to sacrifice some principles or do we charge headfirst into option two because it's closest to our religious ideas but, in all honesty, it would be crazy and impossible to explain to everyone.
At what point do you just want something so bad you rationalize everything about it to fit into 'what God wants' or 'it's the answer to our prayers'? How do you know when the crazy option on the back burner is really the crazy leap of faith God wants you to take?
And like all our life changing decisions, we're on a deadline. I don't want elaborate too much, but where we are now is not going to be suitable in say, nine months. Like I wasn't emotionally charged enough...
God calls everyone and the static of the world can make receiving the message so difficult. Some people miss the call entirely and others are there screaming into the receiver, 'I can't understand what your saying!' It's only the saints who get visions, have conversations with divinity and suffer gladly with whatever comes their way.
Somewhere along the way, I've lost the zeal for the mission, for the Movement. Charity for others is scarcely mentioned now. The focus is squarely on the family and there is simply no energy or time for worrying about others when everything here is in such disarray. And because if I remind myself of the Movement, I only remember how little I've done and I'd rather not feel dismayed over yet something else.
Intelligent decisions, emotional decisions, spiritual decisions; or just are they all just the same decisions with different consequences?