Thank you for the April 30 issue, with “Why They Left,” by William J. Byron, S.J., and Charles Zech, and “The Convert’s Tale,” by the Rev. John Jay Hughes. I found them relevant, refreshing, insightful and hopeful. Despite being a religion teacher at my parish and working at a Catholic hospital, both of which I love for their realization of the Catholic faith in real life, I find the current relationship between the body of the church and the hierarchy of the church to be in distress. The recent controversies over the censure of religious sisters in the United States and the archaic Mass translation have been very disheartening to me as someone who still believes and wants to see our church grow.
Who is speaking for us, the people of the church, nowadays? I see how we are alienating ourselves from the population, rather than evangelizing it. What would Jesus do? I hope that you will continue to speak with this kind of prophetic voice in the future.
The results of Byron and Zech’s survey are not surprising. The Rev. Andrew Greeley has reported that the largest percentage of Catholics no longer go to church because of “poor homilies” (44 percent). All the other reasons given in the study ring true to me, based on my longstanding involvement with the institutional church since beginning my ministry in the 1960s. I must say, however, that I share Father Greeley’s conclusions. I have taught homiletics in many settings and find that almost all priests and deacons do not have a clue about what is needed to communicate the Gospel. The very few who do are rare, and I treasure their homilies when I hear them. My statistics on poor homilies: about 95 percent to 98 percent. Sorry this number is so high, but it is the unvarnished truth.
Robert Bela Wilhelm
After reading “Why They Left” and all the online comments about it, I have the feeling that I live on another planet, or the church critics do. As an 80-year-old active Catholic who has been part of several parish communities, including military duty overseas, I do not relate to the whining. So maybe the priest appears arrogant. Did you ever invite him over for dinner? Are his homilies so bad because he doesn’t have time in a day to prepare adequately? Do you know his schedule? Do you visit the sick and take Communion to those in nursing homes? How many functions in your parish do you participate in?
The church is not only the priests and bishops, the church is you. The church is not perfect, and neither are we. I can only suggest that people take a more active role in their parish. Then they may understand some of the problems affecting their satisfaction.
Wichita Falls, Tex.
I know the Byron-Zech survey will change nothing at all in any parish in Trenton or anywhere else. That’s the problem. Like many other lay Catholics, I have a sense that we just don’t matter—complaints don’t matter, even scandal doesn’t matter—because the bishops will stonewall and outlast the laity’s concerns. It has always been thus, and so it will be. Pity that.
Thank you, Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., for your excellent portrayal of Tony Judt (Of Many Things, 4/30). The courage he displayed, not only in his opinions but in the last few years of his life battling A.L.S. while dictating his last book, is inspiring. I loved his dislike for arrogant nationalism and his honest appraisal of intellectuals who were slow to condemn what they once praised when the truth became evident.
His recommendation for a bi-national state in Palestine is perhaps too late, given the increasing acrimony caused by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it stands out as transcendent compared to the blare of fear, hate and ethnic prejudice that rises from this region and from our own Congress. His belief in universal health care, public transportation, public investment in citizens and equitable taxation was well reasoned and informed. Father Schroth was right, that after reading Judt you realize how much you did not know. Most of all, his passionate humanism is a value so much needed in this time when market values have replaced conscience, and privatization substitutes for public responsibility.
Spring Hill, Fla.
Comfort and Peace
No article has affected me as overwhelmingly as “Our Risen Selves,” (4/9) by Gerald O’Collins, S.J. As we get closer to our own death and resurrection, the profound questions of our future after death become very real and important. This article helped me to envision a reality that, while difficult to fully understand, brought me a great deal of comfort and peace. While not planning to leave this earthly life in the near future, I will try to have the article available for reviewing whenever I start to grow anxious about the afterlife.
East Hampton, N.Y.
Not a Threat a Gift
“In Thy Wounds, Hide Me” (4/9) was a beautiful editorial. Thank you for it. Women indeed work tirelessly to build the church, minister to God’s people and keep a sacramental life alive in their own families. Very few of these fiercely faithful women, however, would tell you that they believe their voices are being heard by those in leadership positions in the Catholic Church.
Perhaps this is why these faithful people identify so closely with Jesus, especially during Easter week, as Jesus’ message of expansive love and compassion is shut out by powerful religious authorities whose preference for order makes Jesus seem like a threat, not an ally. Many women, the church’s greatest allies, wait for the day when their voice is not considered a threat, but a gift. The enduring hope is that such a day will come.
Comfort the Suffering
Andy Otto’s essay, “In the Garden” (4/2), provides helpful insight into the challenges of caring for people who are suffering. Those in health care who view their work as a vocation and ministry make Christ present to those whom we serve because we have learned to see the face of the suffering Christ in them. True self-donation often requires that we make ourselves vulnerable in the presence of our patients. Vulnerability provokes compassion, and compassion brings our patients comfort, hope and encouragement, and reminds them that they still reside within God’s point of view.
By bringing the face of Christ to our patients, we bring the kind of hope that helps them cope with their suffering and persist in their Gethsemane prayer, on the ground with Jesus, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). In verse 43 Luke tells us that “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”
Andre F. Lijoi