Below are excerpts from the September 2016 issue of The Long Island Catholic Magazine.
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Scroll down for Bishop Murphy’s Faith and New Works column
By Dr. Cathleen McGreal
How can I invite my kids back to Mass?
Q: My son and daughter showed a strong commitment to our Catholic faith throughout childhood and adolescence. But after graduating from college and beginning careers, both have left the Church. How can I invite them back to Mass?
A: One challenging aspect of being a parent is realizing that adult children forge their own paths. St. Jane de Chantal shared her desires for her children with her spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales. He responded by saying, “As much as possible, we must touch the hearts of others as do the angels, delicately and without coercion. … ‘Gentle inspirations’ sums all I have to say on the subject.’”
Inviting them back by example. Do you live a faith-filled life that draws others to you through the fruits of the spirit? Galatians (5:22-23) notes that “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These are attributes that are nurtured not only by individual prayer, but also by active participation in the eucharistic celebration. Instead of stressing that Mass is an obligation, let your children see how it satisfies your deep hunger for relationship with God.
Offer a spoonful of honey. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “… remember that more flies are caught with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar.” Approach your children in a welcoming manner, rather than adopting a confrontational approach. Your warmth may be planting a seed that you cannot see — but one that God will nurture.
St. Francis de Sales recommended that St. Jane de Chantal read Book VIII in Confessions, the autobiography of St. Augustine. “There you will see St. Monica … and her care for her son Augustine; you will find other things too that will encourage you.” (Letters of Spiritual Direction, Oct. 14, 1604). Pour out your deep longings for your children in prayer, knowing that God has plans for their spiritual journeys. Pray Jeremiah 29:11-13.
Faith and new works
By Bishop William Murphy
THE FAITHFUL CITIZEN ALWAYS VOTES
After Labor Day, the election season switches into (very) high gear. The conventions are over. The polls multiply. The candidates contend. The cacophony increases. By now, many are tired of it all and some are asking when it will end. At least that last statement has an answer: It will on Nov. 8.
All of us between now and then have a very important role to play. We have to decide who will get our vote. If you think you are confused and slightly battered by all the noise, public protests and private misgivings, you have every reason to be so. But as responsible citizens and faithful men and women of God, we have to exercise our right to vote in a way that is serious, well-informed and reflective of who we are as Americans and Catholics. For that reason, the U.S. Bishops published once again a new version of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (FCFC). I urge all of you to use it as you go through the process of deciding whom you will support with your vote. Our task as bishops, namely to help you have an informed conscience, is why we publish this booklet. It is all worth reading, but I want to call your attention to a few things that seem to me to be of special importance.
The first is not found in FCFC. It is a word on the tone and atmosphere of our American society today. I am not saying anything you do not know when I lament the division, the mean-spiritedness, the intolerance toward those who do not agree with candidates and positions that do not fit their world-view. When people turn to shouting and demonstrating against a candidate, accusing her or him of hate crimes or positions unacceptable to their world-view, we run the risk of becoming a society where the goal is not the victory of defending a position but the defeat of the other, which results in a defeat for our society. “Occupy Wall Street” is not and should not be a model for politics in our country. The “sit ins,” whether they be in Congress or in gatherings of citizens for a candidate, are, frankly, Bolshevist. They are not democracy in action. They are pressure groups trying to impose their own will by denying freedom of assembly and freedom of speech to those whom they have decided are “enemies.” There is no justification for these mindless outbursts. They strike at the root of a civilized society of open and respectful public discourse.
In the U.S. Bishops document, FCFC, please pay attention to pages 14-16, “Making Moral Choices.” To do that, we have to be able to prioritize specific issues, noting the importance of each, but also not treating them all as equally of the same moral significance. For example, as a pro-life person I am opposed to abortion and to the death penalty. These are both important, but morally distinct. Abortion is the direct killing of innocent life; the death penalty is aimed at persons who are guilty of heinous crimes. I am opposed to both, but they are not of equal gravity. There are many aspects of the challenge of recent immigrants that has become a very sticky issue in our society. There is need of comprehensive reform that addresses all of the elements in a complex social, political and human problem. But we can never treat the persons as non-persons, and we must respect the human dignity and human rights of all who are in our country or who seek to come here.
Finally, may I point out something that lies at the heart of Catholic social teaching? It is the relationship between the person and society. We have become a society of individuals, each one demanding his or her “rights.” Very often, what they insist upon is not even a right in the real sense of the word. Often they are calling for personal privileges they want society to guarantee to them individually or as a “special class” within society. In too many situations, they use the language of victimization. While their issues are real and deserve a serious hearing and a reasoned response, the proponents of a particular “cause” should not feel free to label others negatively or use rhetoric that denies the rights of others who do not fully support all that they want.
At this point, Catholic social teaching reminds us that the person is at the center of civil society, which, in turn, is made up of many “intermediate” groups. The person and the group have legitimate goals but, at the same time, they have a real responsibility to the common good. In the act of seeking one’s personal goals, or the goals of a group, labor union, university, etc., those legitimate goals of the person or group always must be achieved within the context of whether or not their goals are compatible with the common good of the whole society. In other words, it is wrong to look out only for myself and those who want the same things I want, if what I want or what my group wants is destructive of the common good of the society, which the state has the duty always to serve and protect. This calls us to practice the virtue of prudence, the most important virtue for every nation and people, the most important virtue to regulate political life and activity, the most important virtue to guarantee a peaceful and ordered society for the good of one and all.