The article A Veteran Remembers, by James R. Conroy, S.J., (8/1) offers an excellent perspective on the war in Iraq. By calling attention to the disproportionately large number of African-Americans and Hispanics who are serving and dying there, he asks us all to consider whether or not this really is our nation’s war. In addition, his reflections on his experience in Vietnam (first as a soldier and recently as a pilgrim) are the clearest examples I have seen of an Ignatian perspective on one’s own experience. If we are immersed in the work of living in the present, it will always be messy. I appreciate Father Conroy’s reminder of this.
Thomas J. Brennan, S.J.
Torn From a Heart
The painful memories of a previous war resonate with a current war in Iraq (8/1). Young soldiers, far from home and familiar surroundings, fight a war in which there is no front or rear area. They suffer the physical and psychological wounds of war. Our Iraqi friends by day have night jobs that take a heavy human toll. Perhaps in 30 to 40 years, these young veterans may have the opportunity for reconciliation and travel back to Iraq to visit observation posts, forward operating bases and heavily defended logistical areas. There are lessons to be learned from my generation’s war in Vietnam. And there are other lessons torn from a soldier’s heart that never change.
(Chaplain) Jim Johnson
Camp Liberty, APO, Iraq
Trying to Cross
It was like being in New York City again as I read Of Many Things on July 18. Although I have been out of the country for many years since I have been on mission in the Philippines, I could easily identify myself in youthful days walking (running) from Grand Central Terminal to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I remember being chided by another pedestrian for trying to cross 42nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue, and not at the street corner. Congratulations to George M. Anderson, S.J., for his fine description of Manhattanites’ walking tempo.
Mary Clare Henry, M.M.
Quezon City, Philippines
Loss of Solidarity
The editorial The Vanishing Dream (7/4) analyzes why the American dream is vanishing. Part of the fault is the loss of solidarity and the common good on the part of corporations and their desire to maximize profits at the expense of the workers. Later in the same issue, Terry Golway talks about a soup kitchen and how the corporations have been like godparents to the men and women who are served.
I mean no disrespect, but the world is full of rich people and corporations who will give funds and encourage volunteers to help in the soup kitchens. What they won’t do is change their policies to make soup kitchens unnecessary. They remind me of how the produce growers in Florida are amazed when anyone accuses them of exploiting the migrant workers. After all, they give Christmas baskets every year to the workers.
Giving donations makes the rich and powerful feel goodand allows them to do write-offs on their taxesand it is so much easier than paying workers better wages, refusing to outsource jobs and supporting increases in minimum wages, as well as providing health benefits and pensions.
Soup kitchens are fine, but there is something definitely wrong with a country, with the incredible resources that this country has, if such soup kitchens are necessary for decades without an end in sight.
When are Catholic parishes around the country going to hear about and implement Catholic social teachings?
The Vanishing Dream editorial (7/4) is excellent and addresses issues that must be taken up more vigorously by the church, because they are central to bringing about Jacques Maritain’s vision of economic humanism. The editorial correctly draws attention to Laborem Exercens and Matthew 25. There is in addition a rich body of Catholic philosophy and social thought that is badly neglected.
Your What can we do? list omits what is very probably the single most important thing to be done in the near term: removal of the formidable legal impediments in the United States to union organizing and bargaining.
I was amused by the view of a recent subscriber that the editorial is nothing more than socialist propaganda. Clearly he is not very familiar with socialist propaganda. I wonder what his reaction was or would be to the minister’s peroration in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
John T. Joyce
Swans Island, Me.
What a refreshing and interesting article by Greg Kandra, Between Newsroom and Sanctuary (7/18). Here’s a fellow who combines the best of both worlds, in my opinion. He is both an experienced writer and producer at a major news studio and a candidate for the diaconate in the Diocese of Brooklyn. As an English teacher, closet journalist and vowed religious, I can identify with both callings.
Mr. Kandra records with characteristically good writing the reactions of fellow workers to his many expressions of his obvious and unabashed claim to his Catholic religion. Indeed, I agree with him when he says that part of his ministry and perhaps future work as an ordained deacon might be continuing to stand astride two disparate worlds: to be a living example and, somehow, a contradiction.
It is good that Mr. Kandra is so respected in his field there in the studio, for he has a rare opportunity to be real in an often unreal place. I wish him well. I’m just a little bit envious, because I, too, love to write and I love to share my faith. In a somewhat sheltered environment, I cannot hope to enjoy such captive audiences as Greg Kandra can reach.
Barbara Bradley, S.S.J.
I welcome the challenge to priests and deacons in exploring with their congregations the church’s identity and mission as peacemakers in The Diaconate of Peace, by Drew Christiansen, S.J., (7/18). I would also agree that preaching peace from our parish pulpits is a most difficult task. However, in light of our country’s ongoing war in Iraq, can’t we at least ask how this war is affecting Iraqi Catholics in their parish life? Can’t we raise questions about why our church teachings have traditionally been apprehensive of preventive wars? Can’t we ask how our country could better resolve future conflicts within our world family? It is not too late to preach peace when war is at hand. As Catholics and American citizens, we have the twin gifts of faith and citizenship. Asking the tough questions in our parish churches could be our most important task as U.S. Catholics today.
David J. Suley
Silver Spring, Md.
I enjoyed reading New and Ancient Beauty, by Emilie Griffin (7/18), which recommended spiritual books to inspire our everyday lives. But I would advise Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I., to rethink his advice to young parents that an hour with babies in their playpen is a worthy substitute to an hour of private daily prayer, and that young children, and their way of interrupting, can create a true spiritual environment. Obviously, Father Rolheiser never raised a houseful of children. If he did, he would realize that allowing the interruptions to create a spiritual environment is possible only when parents make time for daily private prayer. There is no substitute!
Angela M. Belsole
Mt. Vernon, N.Y.
What Goes Up Can Also Go Down
I am flabbergasted by this statement in Tony Ensenada’s letter (8/1): There is no systematic, structural or societal impediment to anyone improving his financial situation in the United States. I have assisted former prison inmates who have gone through more than 100 job applications before landing even a minimum-wage position. I have seen solidly middle class and upper-middle class people in their late 40’s or early 50’s lose their good jobs because of a business closing or moving or consolidating and struggle for up to a year to get a job at much less than they made beforenot to mention people and their families who suffer serious physical or mental health problems. With their best efforts, people not only go up economically, they also go down. Bad things still happen to good people. Capitalism has always been a chancy economic system, more so in recent times. That’s why we will always need a social safety net of some kind in order to provide for a measure of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Ken Smits, O.F.M.Cap.