Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of October 17, 2011!
Congratulations to Judith Kraft!
Judith will receive a copy of The Catholic Youth Bible®, a $26.95 value.
The Catholic Youth Bible®
General Editor: Virginia Halbur, MA
The Catholic Youth Bible® will be a true companion, helping you find the answers you seek and helping you make connections to Catholic beliefs and traditions.
Over 700 lively articles help you….
• Pray It! Use the Bible for personal prayer.
• Study It! Understand and make sense of what the Bible says.
• Live It! Apply the Bible to real-life situations you're facing now.
This New Edition Features:
•New 40 expanded "Catholic Connection" articles that provide a more complete presentation of those Catholic teachings that are scripturally based
• New 28 articles that address the seven principles of Catholic social teaching
• New 40 pages of 4-color inserts that help you pray, study, and live the Bible and Catholic teachings
• New Illustrations throughout to provide a visual context for the biblical stories
• New Over 275 articles updated to reflect contemporary issues and biblical scholarship
• Introductions to the major sections of the Bible and all the books of the Bible
• Biblical connections to many different cultures, illustrating the universality of the Catholic Church
• Insights into how the Church has interpreted key Scripture passages throughout history
• A glossary of Scripture-related terms
• Five special indexes; Sunday readings for cycles A, B, and C; 10 color maps; a four-page color timeline; and three pages of full-color biblical art
The Catholic Youth Bible®
ISBN: 978-0-88489-777-4, paper, 1802 pages
Focus on Faith
Service and Justice
Last week I was lucky enough to spend a day observing classes and visiting with teachers and students at Benilde–St. Margaret’s college preparatory school in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. While I was there, I bumped into Connie Fourré, who has twenty-two years of teaching experience and is now the wellness director at the school. Connie is an old friend and my “go to” person for all things social-justice related. In chatting with her, I was reminded of the numerous writing projects she has worked on. Connie has authored or coauthored several Saint Mary’s Press books, including the Leader’s Guide for Primary Source Readings in Catholic Social Justice, The Practical Guide to High School Campus Ministry, and Making the Hours Count: Transforming Your Service Experience. She has also written Journey to Justice: Transforming Hearts and Schools with Catholic Social Teaching, published by the NCEA.
In this week’s and next week’s Servant Leader, I would like to share with you a reflection Connie wrote for Saint Mary’s Press several years ago, exploring the five steps on the continuum between charity and justice. This week we will look at the first three stages: collections, direct service, and empowering activities. I hope you find this reflection beneficial as you invite youth to a life dedicated to service and justice, and as always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
Service and Justice: A Conversion of Heart (Part 1)
by Connie Fourré
We are standing on the brink, and our bishops are urging us to jump. Many of us don’t know where we’ll end up, and we aren’t sure whether we’ll land in one piece. Yet the sense of urgency is building, and our hearts keep tugging at us to make the leap.
The brink is social justice, and the bishops’ most recent call to Catholic educators comes through their document Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions. The dilemma was expressed clearly at a recent gathering of Catholic elementary and high school principals in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul–Minneapolis.
Most schools have outreach efforts, but when asked whether those programs work toward charity or justice, the majority of administrators decided their schools were involved primarily in charity. The principals were clearly willing to move toward action for justice, but they were puzzled and concerned about making the shift.
This hesitance is shared by many of us in Catholic high schools across the United States, and the concern about moving from charity to justice is legitimate. No one is likely to raise much dust by planning a Christmas-basket drive, but start talking about welfare reform and life quickly gets interesting. The complexity involved in creating structural change is daunting to all but the foolhardy.
The following reflections are the fruit of my work both as a lifelong volunteer and as an eight-year member of the faith formation department at Benilde–St. Margaret’s High School. I hope my thoughts will affirm the good work being done by so many of my fellow teachers and campus ministers, and perhaps provide some new insights.
When doing social-justice education, we commonly begin with the distinction between charity, or works of mercy, and justice, which seeks to address underlying causes of injustice. Though this division is valid, experientially I see five distinct steps on the continuum between charity and justice. These five stages seem to form a natural growth pattern for individuals and school communities.
The First Three Stages:
On the Way to Justice
The first stage focuses on collections: preparing Christmas food baskets, giving monetary contributions to faraway countries, gathering mittens or underwear for a local free store. Collections bring real relief of immediate needs, but they generally do not provide direct contact between students and recipients.
The second stage is direct service work: raking leaves, sandbagging during a flood, providing child care at a shelter, serving a meal at a soup kitchen. These activities push comfort zones and often put participants in direct contact with people whose worlds are very different from their own. It is hoped that the activities break open some stereotypes and widen the circle of compassion. Occasionally, without structured reflection, they reinforce students’ preconceived notions about the poor. For teachers and campus ministers, these can be grounding experiences that renew our awareness and commitment.
The third stage engages students in action that empowers them by providing new skills or experiences. Students may volunteer to tutor in ESL, mathematics, or GED skills. They may coach a team of developmentally challenged adults, or be mentors for children who lack positive role models in their lives. This work enables people to take greater charge of and pride in their lives, and has a natural impetus toward breaking down the distinctions between “giver” and “receiver.” Action toward empowerment invites a greater level of commitment and engagement on the part of students and teachers, and it usually requires a higher level of skill. Yet it does not risk controversy, and it does not tackle the structures that do so much to create and sustain the inequities in our world.
Some people criticize these first three stages as being somehow second-class engagement, but I believe they are both valid and necessary. They are valid because urgent needs cannot wait for structural change to happen. They are necessary because they provide the pathway of conversion most of us follow in becoming committed to social justice. Our culture, our media, and our human nature do not seem to bring us naturally to the awareness and passion required for social-justice work. The experiences in these first three stages provide the spark that starts most of us on the journey.
Challenges of Stages One,
Two, and Three
Each stage carries its own questions, and I will mention some of these before moving on to the last two stages. The hidden challenge of collections, which can creep up on us and catch us unaware, is compassion fatigue. As faculty and staff members volunteer and develop loyalties to organizations, the number of causes grows. As the school comes to be seen as a resource by social service agencies, it receives more and more requests for help. With collections, there is usually minimal opportunity to form a bond with recipients; contact is generally limited to information distributed via posters and announcements. At Benilde–Saint Margaret’s, we are finding that response to some of our traditional collections is beginning to drop off due to the large number of new drives during the school year. We may need to monitor the number of causes we adopt in order to maintain the generous response our students have shown in the past.
Direct service can be geared toward short- or long-term commitments, and in large- or small-group activities. Analyzing the differences between these approaches can help us plan our programs more effectively. The shotgun approach—one-time service opportunities in a variety of settings—is a good method for introducing students to service. It allows them to dip their toes in the water and see how it feels. Sustained programs, involving consistent sessions over an extended period, increase students’ familiarity with and commitment to a community or agency. Developing an ongoing relationship with selected populations or agencies improves the likelihood of personal investment. Both approaches have merit, and ideally a school would be able to sponsor both types of opportunities.
Awareness of personality styles is also important. Introverts and extroverts have different preferences. Some introverts like working in tutoring programs because they foster long-term relationships with a relatively small group of people. Extroverts thrive on meeting everyone who walks through the door of a large soup kitchen, and on learning to handle unexpected challenges. What may look like a lack of generosity in student response may simply be the result of service opportunities that do not match personalities.
Just as in teaching we need to avoid teaching only to our own learning style, in service it helps to be aware of others’ serving styles.
The challenge in programs that empower people is that they require more skill and commitment and therefore tend to be time consuming. The ESL programs I have worked with recently have had very limited resources and materials, and I have only basic training in teaching English as a second language. My students and I have struggled to provide services for which we are not well trained and with materials that are inadequate. An effective program thus requires a significant investment of time and money; the corollary is that there is then less time and money available to work on other programs. To be effective we need to set priorities and often invest our own personal time and resources—a perfect opportunity to model the commitment we ask of our students.
Make It Happen
Act: Moving from Word to Witness
From Total Youth Ministry: Ministry Resources for Justice and Service
1. Begin by reading the following quote:
- “Our faith calls us to work for justice; to serve those in need; to pursue peace; and to defend the life, dignity, and rights of all our sisters and brothers. This is the call of Jesus, the challenge of the prophets, and the living tradition of our Church.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Century of Social Teaching, p. 1)
Then make the following comments:
- This quote comes from another U.S. bishops’ document, A Century of Social Teaching, and it challenges us to take the strong words we have just heard about justice and service and put them into action.
- The themes of Catholic social teaching are just empty words unless we take them to heart and move them into action, as individuals and as a society.
2. Invite participants to join you in exploring what it would look like to respond to an issue of local concern in a way that is consistent with the Church teaching they have just explored. Ask them:
- What social justice issues do you feel strongly about?
List their ideas on newsprint. Ask the participants to come to consensus about one issue they are most interested in studying further.
3. Organize the participants into groups of three or four, and distribute a sheet of newsprint and a marker to each group. Ask the groups to list as many options as they can for responding positively to the problem or concern that they have identified. To help them with this brainstorming activity, offer the following thoughts:
- Think about what you can do as individuals and families—and also as members of a church, school, or community group.
- Think creatively about ways to share not just what you own (possessions) but also your talents and time.
- Think about what needs to be done right now to assist with immediate needs (service) and what you can start doing to erase the problem in the future (advocacy).
Write the italicized words on a sheet of newsprint as you share them. Then post the newsprint where everyone can see it. Allow ample time for group discussion.
4. Invite group representatives to come forward to share their response lists. As they post their newsprint pages, comment briefly on the many different and creative approaches the groups have brainstormed.
5. Offer a brief summary of the session’s learnings about Catholic social teaching and the direction it provides for moving from awareness of a need to an active response. Invite participants to comment about what they have learned and anything else that particularly struck them during the session.
Break Open the Word
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 23, 2011
Jesus, in giving us the greatest commandment, you reveal the very nature of your relationship with God the Father. Love is the dynamic in which you dwell together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Help us to make that consuming love the nucleus of our lives. Amen.
In this Sunday's Gospel the religious elite continue to question Jesus in hope of tricking him into saying something that they can use against him. They are desperate to diminish his popularity. We learn that the Sadducees, while discussing resurrection with Jesus, fail in their efforts to trip him up. The Sadducees, who espoused only beliefs found in the Torah, did not believe in resurrection; they argued that the Law was silent on this subject. Resurrection was hotly debated in Jesus's time. The Pharisees, however, believed in resurrection.
Now the Pharisees ask Jesus this question, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" (22:36). This was not an unusual question. A great teacher (rabbi) was expected to give a short summary of the Torah. The Pharisees compiled a list of 613 commandments that they found in the Torah, and they wanted Jesus to identify which he considered to be the most important. Answers to such questions helped people to be more devout in their religious practice. Jesus's answer is very orthodox and traditional and helpful, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind!" (22:37). Here Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5, the very words that Moses enjoined Jews to pray four times a day. These words form a prayer known as the Shema, which Jews recite to this day. Jesus goes on to quote Leviticus 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus's answer to the Pharisees demonstrates both his fidelity to the Jewish tradition and his commitment to the spirit, or essence, of the Law. Following a list of commandments is not as important as living out their essence. Embracing the spiritual dimension of a religious tradition, which Jesus does, actually guarantees its survival. Jesus creates an inseparable unity between the command to love God and the command to love one's neighbor. These commands are of equal value for Christians. Jesus describes the second command (about the love of one's neighbor) as "like" the first command (about the love of God); in his view, their core is the same. Jesus goes on to provide a simple commentary on his words, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (22:40). Jesus says with confidence that the teachings of the Torah are contained in this two-part commandment.
Jesus reminds us that human beings are in a love relationship with God. Israel experienced the gratuitous love of God throughout its history. The prophets continuously reminded the Israelites of God's longing to be in a relationship with them and of God's faithfulness to that relationship. Jeremiah spoke of God's love in this way, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jeremiah 31:3). Jews use the word hesed to express the unending, faithful, and unconditional love of God for human beings. Isaiah writes of God's love in this way:
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.
God's love for Israel is compared to a father's love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother's for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son."1 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 219)
In the New Testament John writes extensively about God's love for us, who, as human beings, were created in the image and likeness of God. For John, the very essence of God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--is love, and God does not and cannot exist outside of this dynamic. God desires humankind to live in the same life-giving love that characterizes the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But St. John goes even further when he affirms that "God is love":2 God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret:3 God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. (Catechism, paragraph 221)
The Law of Jesus can be summed up in the statement that is the focus of this Sunday's Gospel: love God completely, and love your neighbor as yourself. This two-part commandment fulfills all the commandments of the Torah, or Law, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament, and it reminds Christians of their full potential as children of God. It is important to remember that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law (Old Testament), but to build upon the covenantal relationship of love between God and humankind, which was shaped by the Law.
The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord's Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure,4 where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity.5 (Catechism, paragraph 1968)
In a nutshell Matthew gives us the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the great rabbis of his day, Jesus summarizes the whole of the Law and the Gospel in a two-part commandment or in two succinct commands: love God fully and love your neighbor as yourself. The two commands are conjoined; they are of equal importance in Jesus's eyes. You cannot do one and not the other. You can neither love God and hate your neighbor nor show kindness toward your neighbor and ignore God, which can take the form of failing to offer praise and thanksgiving. Jesus tells us that if we love in this way, we will be living out his teachings. Love of neighbor, by the way, means love of everyone. The story of the Good Samaritan makes this same point. The work before us is ever so simple and ever so challenging. We must be mindful to undertake this all-important work in love!
The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.
The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.
The Lord's Prayer is taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Copyright © 1988 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Endnotes Cited in Quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. John 3:16; cf. Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 49:14-15; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 11.
2. 1 John 4:8,16.
3. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:7-16; Ephesians 3:9-12.
4. Cf. Matthew 15:18-19.
5. Cf. Matthew 5:44,48.
October 21 is the memorial for Saint Ursula.
Ursula was the daughter of a British king. She and her traveling companions were tortured and put to death for not renouncing their Christian faith. The Ursuline Order, which is dedicated to the education of girls and women, is named for her and she is one of the patron saints for students and teachers.
For more information about Saint Ursula, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-ursula/.