Monday, September 12, 2011

Hopeful signs in a cynical world

It has been an event filled summer, with the surgery mentioned earlier, and a little traveling. Hope everyone had a chance to rest and get re-energized going into the new year of school and work.

A couple of things struck me in this brief pause. Here they are.

Two areas get my attention the most as I relate to the world around me: the attacks on the Church and the attacks on the family. Related to the attacks is the plain deterioration in the numbers of people participating in either.

I hear people say that it is really important to just be a good person. Religion is not necessary for that. And so they stay away. I hear people attack the moral teachings of the Church, and support the attacks by referring to the scandals in the Church.

Similarly, the family unit is seen as a 'conservative' value now. People who truly live in the modern world are emancipated from constraints of marriage structure, and so just move in together. Heart-breaking it is to see children you know who have grown up in practicing Catholic/ Christian families so easily throwing over those values. What goes with them of course is stability for children in a family unit. Yes, some partnerships are stable. But the cultural ethos has shifted. It says here that the pragmatic, entitlement-based values that emerge, are in fact destructive for our society.

I don't think we need go around wearing black over all this. Indeed we need to be hopeful people if we believe and trust the Good News of Christ.

It surely helps to see signs of the hopefulness.

Over the summer, my faith was given a shot in the arm on August 15. You may know that this day is still a holy day of obligation in the US, since it is the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. Well this year August 15 fell on a Monday. It had been made clear that Monday was not a day of obligation, because the Solemnity of the feast was celebrated at the Sunday liturgy. Wouldn't you take the day off on Monday? Well there we were at the noon Mass on our vacation in Guardian Angels Cathedral, on Monday August 15. I looked around, and said to my wife, 'Get a load of this!' The place was full! Thank you thank you to those people. I walked out of there very refreshed and renewed just on the participation I witnessed. Practice of the faith is alive and well.

Back home, we went to one of those great feast dinners at the Portuguese parish hall. We were there early enough to see the families streaming in from the parking lot. Dinner is served by parishioners, and we see people working who used to be little girls and boys at these events. Now they are contributing. Teenagers and older! While we are eating dinner, the next generation of little kids is on the dance floor - before the music has even begun. Then the music starts, and adults have to be patient - because the little kids are still there! As things settle in, you see little boys learning to dance by being carried in the arms of their mothers. Little girls dance in a group, they have it down already, and they can't stop moving!

And the thought occurs, ohmigosh, this is all about family! They have problems like everyone else, I have no doubt about that. But what these kids are getting is a template for what support is all about. What being loved is all about. I trust that the stability will maintain for them - and may that community never lose it. It is not only good for them, but I need it. I need to see it and be strengthened in hope that what is dismissed as so yesterday, is in fact life-saving and life-giving. Thank you thank you, Portuguese community.

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