Lesser Love

Twice now during the past week, a squirrel has eaten away parts of my windowsill and gnawed four-inch holes in the screen to facilitate its entry to my house.

Yes, I have read with appreciation Mary Oliver’s poem Making the House Ready for the Lord (9/25). Come in, come in, she says to animals seeking shelter as winter dawns on a snowy world.


And what is my response? Unlike the poet, I have for God’s creatures who live out there in my yard a lesser and imperfect love that stops upon my doorstep. Beyond that boundary I offer a crust of last night’s pizza, nuts and suet, apples, whole wheat bread crumbs. To these you are welcome. Help yourself, I say, but keep your distance. This house is mine. For the limits to my hospitality, may the Lord forgive me.

And another thing: Stop digging up my daffodils.

Katharine Byrne
Chicago, Ill.

New Heart

Thanks for the very touching and deeply insightful article Rotten Fruit, by Mary Fontana (10/16). This story hit me deep inside, where I struggle with my feelings about helping the poor people who ask for help. The St. Vincent de Paul society has taught me some great lessons about reaching out to those who repeatedly make their appearance at our parish office. The author’s annoyance rang a bell. I am ashamed to admit I frequently feel that way myself. My heart wants to be loving and kind, but my unredeemed judgment acts as a brake on the impulse to give generously. So comparing the rotten fruit to broken human nature turned the focus on how broken I am. I keep praying for a new heart that will feel compassion and understanding of the needy who knock at our door.

Jeanne Voges, O.S.B.
Newburgh, Ind.


I wish to express my dismay at the Of Many Things column (10/16) in which Drew Christiansen, S.J., calls Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a religious man interested in dialogue with other religious people. That is, with the exception of the Jews, whose nation he has repeatedly called for the wholesale destruction of.

Dan Favata
Bronxville, N.Y.

Process of Creation

The interview by Jim McDermott, S.J., with the retiring director of the Vatican Observatory, George V. Coyne, S.J., (10/23) was absolutely delightful. Father McDermott raised issues I have followed and wondered about for years, and Father Coyne’s responses were poignant. I could listen to him all day! I was especially fascinated by his views that creation is process, a scientific and theological explanation proposed in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead. I would love to see a future article in America by Father Coyne himself on any of the issues Father McDermott raised.

(Rev.) Angelo M. Chimera
Buffalo, N.Y.

Moments of Prayer

As a father, I found Don’s Last Mass, by Ellen Rufft, C.D.P., (10/23) somewhat frustrating. I understand very well that our children’s behavior at Mass can be distracting. Parents know that, and we try to minimize the disruptions. Mass can be terribly boring and long to a small child. That is exactly why the boy’s mother brought cars and cookies.

But Sister Ellen seemed to miss some larger points. We are trying to raise our children in the church. If we wait until they’re 10 to introduce our children to the church, then we’ll have done them a great disservice. The children present do get things out of the service. My own young son can squirm during the service, only to come home and re-enact the Mass as altar boy, lector or priest.

Second, the communion of saints includes all of the players shown: the departing priest, the frustrated author, the mother, the gentle elderly woman and the boy. We all belong at Mass.

Third, parents need opportunities to worship but get little chance. For years while our children are wee, we parents settle for brief moments of prayer. We are well aware of the dirty looks sent our way, so we spend most of the Mass trying to keep our children in line. We hear snips of the readings, join prayer by sharing the Amen and gratefully receive the Blessed Sacrament. Please don’t ban us to cry rooms or listening to Mass on the radio at home.

Rex Rempel
Kirkland, Wash.

Taken Back

I agree that sexual abuse of children in any form is a heinous crime that demands strong legal action against the perpetrator. However, as a child and adolescent psychiatrist I am taken back by the histrionic and unsophisticated manner in which Marci A. Hamilton addresses the psychological issues in What Has the Sexual Abuse Crisis Taught Us? (9/25).

To compare sexual abuse to murder is going a bit too far on at least two counts. First, sexual abuse is not a clearly defined entity. The term encompasses the whole range of behaviors from fondling to attempted or actual penetration, with the effect on the child/adolescent depending on the particular behavior and the particular vulnerability of the child/adolescent at the moment.

Second, with the above in mind one finds that the effect fortunately tends to be a far cry from being murder of the victim’s very childhood and soul, her gut-wrenching conclusion that also ignores the psychologically complicated relationship, which is not so simple as the legitimate legal determination of perpetrator and victim. It also ignores the fact that fortunately, as has been shown across the board, the young are more resilient in dealing with horrendous stressors than people tend to realize.

Ms. Hamilton argues that statutes of limitation for sexual abuse of children need to be abolished, as she concludes that most have to become adults before they appreciate that childhood was stolen from them. Not only does the latter conclusion prove to be an exaggeration, but it may also be more appropriate to say conclude rather than appreciate. That is, there is also the well-known phenomenon of a chronically anxious/distressed adult being in search of a current or past traumatic experience to explain his/her condition, a phenomenon that lends itself readily to post hoc propter hoc reasoning as a substitute for more careful self-examination.

Donald J. Carek, M.D.
Bluffton, S.C.

Corpus Christi

I read the excellent article When The Church Calls, by Edward P. Hahnenberg (10/9); but I was disappointed in the accompanying photograph. While the photo depicts lay Communion ministers, an example of those referred to in the article, it also depicts liturgical gestures and practices that are far from renewed in accordance with more developed theology of Eucharist and more recent church liturgical guidelines. The photo only reinforces those who fail to form their church assemblies in renewed liturgical practices.

The photo shows that the bread used for the consecrated body of Christ does not look like bread. There is no knowing eye contact between minister and recipient acknowledging the fuller understanding of the communal relationship of Eucharist. One minister is holding up the body of Christ to view rather than giving the gift directly into the hand of the recipients while hearing an affirming Amen.

The other recipient is still receiving communion on the tongue. While legitimate and pious, it is a practice that shows a lack of formation in the dignity of our baptismal stature, the adulthood of our Christianity or the longer traditions of the church. St. Cyril described how to receive our Lord in the hand back in the second century. It is lackadaisical, if not negligent, to be forming and catechizing today’s assembliesespecially young peopleto the limited understanding receiving on the tongue reflects. It reinforces the wrong tradition and deprives us of full consciousness of our actions.

The boys are receiving with eyes closed. The assembly in the background is clearly still kneeling in private prayer before the Communion procession is complete. Both gestures say communion is private between God and me. Again, the understanding of the communal relationship of Eucharist, the gathered body of Christ, our unity in Christ, is not made visible. Private prayer is called for after communion, after the entire body of Christ has received. Standing and singing throughout the Communion procession is a better gesture of reality. Silent thanksgiving comes after completed Communion.

Renewed liturgy makes visible in form, gesture, words and actions, the best theology and understanding of the reality of our celebration. I hope you will choose photographs in the future that reinforce more appropriately.

Renee Healy
Cameron Park, Calif.

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