One of your correspondents (Letters, 1/6) was outraged that the severe penances practiced by Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha were described in a favorable tone in the Of Many Things column on Dec. 2, 2002, by George M. Anderson, S.J. I think the correspondent is forgetting that things were viewed in a different light 300 years ago. Among us, pain is practically a dirty word. We do not wish to suffer a minute of it, and we believe that our doctors should immediately find medications and treatments to relieve us of it. But years ago, pain was simply a fact of life. This was well known to Blessed Kateri. But her deep faith enabled her to understand that the pain Jesus suffered was not a necessary part of our divine Lord’s life; she knew he had suffered pain willingly for our salvation, and she was grateful for that. And her love encouraged her to be like him; since he had suffered, she wished to suffer with him.
Furthermore, saint that she was, she had a much keener comprehension than we do of her human failings, and saw them as more grievous than they really were, or than we would be willing to acknowledge. Her faith made her want to suffer in order to resemble her suffering Savior, but also to make reparation for her failings and those of people who had not responded to the love Jesus poured out for us.
In speaking as he did of Kateri’s penances, I don’t believe Father Anderson was saying, Go thou and do likewise. Rather, he was presenting this indication of the depth of Kateri’s love and devotion that we might admire it and be moved, in our own modern way, toward a similar devotion to him who has loved us so much.
John J. Paret, S.J.
Vice-postulator, Cause of Blessed Kateri
Pro-Choice About Schools
William A. Proefreidt, in his article on educational opportunities in inner-city schools, Opening Doors (12/2/02), concludes, The American middle class does not wish to spend its tax monies on other people’s children, most especially the children of the poor.... Not true! American taxpayers refuse to spend more and more money on failed schools where money will not do any good. The Washington, D.C., district is one of the worst in the country. Yet they spend over $10,000 per student and have average class sizes of fewer than 15. What could a Jesuit high school do with that kind of money?
We need competition and alternative choices in inner-city schools. Mr. Proefreidt comes right up to the answer but can’t quite make himself say it. Help for these students is held hostage by a coalition of teacher’s unions and liberal Democratic politicians. The unions will not change; it is against their nature. So Mr. Proefreidt and other liberals need to persuade Democratic politicians to forego the campaign contributions from the unions and do what is right or, horror of horrors, they should vote for conservative Democrats or Republicans. I will support substantial increases in tax dollars for schools when and where it will do some good, if he will take on liberal Democrats to make meaningful reforms.
James E. Collins
Farmington Hills, Mich.
Stopped by a Poem
Just a note to express how much the poem and the icon, Shadow of the Father, in the issue of Dec. 23, 2002, meant to me. It truly stopped me in my tracks. I have read the poem and looked at the icon many times, and through that St. Joseph has given me peace, forgiveness and hope. I could not ask for a better Christmas present. My thanks and prayers go out to all at America, especially to Paul Mariani and William Hart McNichols.
Edward J. Dixon
Thomas McCarthy (1/20) seems to present a position somewhat similar to Dorothy Day’s, who wrote in The Long Loneliness: I loved the Church for Christ made visible. Not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me.
Romano Guardini said, The Church is the Cross on which Christ was crucified; one could not separate Christ from His Cross, and one must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.
Fortunately for Dorothy Day, Romano Guardini, Thomas McCarthy, myself and a host of others, there is no disappointment in Christ!
I always enjoy the Ethics Notebook column, and Five Moral Crises (1/6) was helpful. But reflections on American moral exceptionalism and the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001, do not offer an ethical guide for our elected leaders. One of the lessons of 9/11 is that acts of terrorism can and will occur without warning and without proximate provocation, and that those terrorist strikes will attempt to be as lethal as possible.
While I agree that dialogue will be the only route to peace, that can be plausible only in the long term. The conflict between our nation and some Islamic faction has its roots in a much broader historical and cultural context, predating our nation’s founding.
In the meantime, the president has a grave moral obligation to protect the citizens from lethal acts of terrorism. What ethical guidance can you offer to those entrusted with this responsibility? Does one wait until terror strikes again? Does the president constrain himself to attempt dialogue with an enemy who cannot even be found? Does he build roads, schools and hospitals in Islamic nations, raising good will among sworn terrorists, and in the meantime bite his lower lip hoping that no terrorist strikes?
This is all far more complicated than glib moralizing.