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Our readersFebruary 24, 2003

Knows Our Needs

I appreciated the article The Delight of Sunday, by Robert A. Senser (1/6). He offered some good insights into the observance of the Lord’s Day. One aspect he did not touch upon explicitly was one that I have been preaching about for years: the Lord’s day of rest is a gift, something that God gave to us because of the need we have for rest. It should not be a day to anguish over just how much work we can or should do. Rather, we should recognize the rest as a wonderful gift from God who loves us and knows our needs.

(Rev.) Phil M. Tracy
South Portland, Me.

Diaconal Service

In Catholic Women Deacons (2/17), Phyllis Zagano has presented the arguments superbly. The question, Why not ordain women deacons? seems unanswerable. But is this really the future we want for the church? As the article points out, women are already doing diaconal service. So what’s the rush to ordination? Representing the church is the function of the people who are the church. Since the Second Vatican Council, we realize it does not take ordination to do this. The most telling principle, what the church had done in the past the church may do again, should lead us, not to a further opening of the sacramental orders, but to a restriction. We have more than enough clerics now. Why not look to a time when presbyters, for instance, were true vicars of the bishopsharing in his supervisory rolenot tools in gathering all power, liturgical and governance, into the hands of central authority? Why not look to a time when priesthood itself was limited to Christ alone, and we all do the work of the church, in charity and worship, by being Jesus?

(Deacon) Richard Warren
Toledo, Ohio

African Catholicism

I read with great interest, but from an African background, the article by the Rev. Peter Phan, The Next Christianity (2/3). It was obvious that the writer corrected perceptions of emerging Asian Catholicism that he felt, and with reasons, were misrepresented by Philip Jenkins. In this way he contributed to assuring a measure of balance in the way the West inadequately talks and writes of the so-called third church. Indications are that there can be massive ignorance of the actual situation on the ground in these areas and, therefore, unhelpful overgeneralizations of the scenario outside the Western cultural zone.

In the same spirit of assuring equal treatment of the experiences of ecclesiastical areas, this brief footnote should be seen as a summons to look again and attentively at the situation of the church in Africa.

It could be misleading to dismiss the situation of the church in Africa as being more comfortable with notions of authority and spiritual charisma than with newer ideas of consultation and democracy. Granted a Nigerian military dictator once said that democracy is understood differently in Africa and in the West, yet this strange elucidation does not wipe away the palaver culture that predated colonial Africa, by force of which communal decisions were participatory. Africans then felt that a decision to which they did not contribute their ideas was not binding on them.

Indeed it is the resurgence of this primal value at the end of colonial rule that has been partially responsible for the political instability that has marked that burgeoning continent. Each ethnic group wants to opt out from a country created by foreign powers without the vote of the people themselves. This dynamic of being consulted or not is already at work in the resistances to bishops being appointed who do not come from the ethnic groups where the dioceses are located. But as a non-self-financing church, the faithful endure such appointments. But for how long?

What is presently incubating in Africa is the recovery of that self-confidence that existed before a more powerful and aggressive culture enslaved and colonized the continent. Indications are that in both church and state, this confidence to take their destiny into their own hands is increasing and flourishing. In the fullness of time, Africa intends once again to take up the theological and administrative leadership in the church that existed in the time of Clement and Origen, of Augustine and Cyprian. The vibrations of this goal are palpable to people who follow closely the emerging consciousness of being the church in Africa.

Luke N. Mbefo, C.S.Sp.
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Witness to Love

Christian joy is not tied to a particular object, but to the experience of God’s unconditional love for us. I read these words of Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P., in the wonderful interview by Daniel Hartnett, S.J., (2/3), yet I was unable to move to joy. Like many of your readers, I am finding it increasingly difficult to find hope, let alone joy with our reckless rush to war. I know that many who read America are part of the larger Ignatian family, and I cannot help but recall Ignatius’ radical rejection of violence when he knelt before Our Lady of Montserrat, leaving his sword at the altar. Ignatius was certainly following the rites of chivalry and chose a new way of life. I take great comfort in his example, his repudiation of the lie that protecting his way of life could ever mean killing his enemies. In that dramatic act, he became a nonviolent soldier, using every gift at his command to draw others to Christ, the Prince of Peace. So often it is said that the first casualty of war is truth; and no matter how distorted things may become in the coming months, I am grateful that the founder of the Society of Jesus began his witness to the unconditional love of God in the paradigm of peace by laying down his sword.

Joseph P. Carver, S.J.
Bronx, N.Y.

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