Integrity Requires Candor
Americas Current Comment Conversion/Covenant (8/13) seems to me to stress unduly the difference between the prayer for conversion of the Jews in the 1962 Missal, and the prayer in the 1970 Missal for the Jewish people, the first to hear the Word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.
Your argument suggests that the issue comes down to choosing between the view that the covenant with the Jewish people is not revoked, or that their salvation requires their formal conversion to Christianity. St. Paul, in Romans 911, made quite clear his view (also endorsed by John Paul II) that the covenant with the Jewish people, far from being revoked, is the same covenant that reaches its goal or purpose (telos) in Christ. For this reason Paul can even refer to the church as the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). According to Paul, the covenant that Jesus renews is one and the same covenant as that made with Abraham and Moses. In praying for the conversion of Jews (or of anyone else for that matter) Christians are praying that they may come to benefit from full faithfulness to Gods covenant.
Your statement that The 1970 Missal underscores the distinction between salvation and conversion in the case of the Jews, seems to me misleading if it implies that the distinction does not similarly apply to all human beings. The Second Vatican Council taught that Christ died for all (Rom 8:32), and since all human beings are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being associated in a way known to God, with the paschal mystery (Gaudium et Spes, No. 22). In other words, salvation is certainly possible for all human beings in a way known to God without formal conversion, but if salvation is achieved it is only through the paschal mystery, the grace of Jesus Christ.
Your suggestion that supplanting the conversion text with the one in the 1970 Missal is certainly a good one if it helps Catholic-Jewish relations, but the integrity of our Catholic faith requires that we also proclaim our belief that all salvation is through Jesus Christ. I think our Jewish elder brothers in faith surely deserve that candor from us.
Vincent M. Cooke, S.J.
I am always weeks if not months behind in reading my America issues; but I never, ever throw them away without reading them, as I always find treasures in each issue, no matter how dated.
So it was that I was just reading the April 2 issue with its wonderful article on joy, humor and laughter in the spiritual life, The Most Infallible Sign, by James Martin, S.J. A joy it was to read, too! It reminded me that I have for some time wondered if it might be possible to create a collection of humorous prayers. I have exactly two in my collection at the moment, which I would like to share with you. Perhaps asking readers of America to share other examples would make a delightful future feature. It certainly would delight me!
I found this one on the bulletin board of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem with whom I had worked on a study-abroad program there. (I have no idea who the original author was.) Dear God: So far today, Ive done all right. I havent gossiped, havent lost my temper, havent been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or over-indulgent. Im very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Im going to get out of bed, and from then on, Im going to need a lot more help. Amen!
The second is one that has been widely circulated. Dear God: Please help me to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am! Amen.
Keep laughing, and keep publishing such consistently entertaining, educating and enlightening work in America!
Humility and Sincerity
Your May 21 issue had two articles about the alarming statistics regarding the sacrament of penance. I am back in the United States after almost a half-century as a missionary in Brazil, and I have strongly felt the meager number of confessions. At my last place in Brazil we had Perpetual Help novena devotions all day every Wednesday. We filled the church 13 times each week, and there are confessions all day. The line almost never stopped. And the penitents oozed with humility and sincerity. The priest confessor gets more grace from hearing these confessions than the penitent does from confessing. One of the priorities of Redemptorist missionaries is hearing confessions, after the heart of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, our founder. Great work, and I miss it here. Lets pray for our U.S. Catholics, that they return to an appreciation of this great sacrament.
Gerard Oberle, C.Ss.R.
As a longtime and enthusiastic reader of America, I would like to applaud the profound and so wise article entitled Accessible Holiness, by William J. OMalley, S.J., (7/30). It was solid spiritual nourishmentmanna from heaven.
(Rev.) Maurice Chase
Los Angeles, Calif.
The Rev. Andrew Greeleys remarks about the nonsense spoken to berate secularization as the cause of the evils that appear to undermine the church in contemporary Ireland are funny and refreshing. I would have loved (and loathed, I suspect) to have been a fly in someones soup at that university dinner. Had the conversation become too unbearable, I might have taken comfort in the knowledge that I stood a good chance of not making it past the first course!
Progress in various fields, especially in education, and the prosperity that eventually came has changed Ireland. The ending of the conflict in the north has also contributed to a fundamentally changed environment throughout the country, to such an extent that the community that understands itself as the Catholic Church in Ireland simply finds itself in a new era.
For over 10 years, I have been a member of a team of laypeople and priests that conducts parish missions. Missions in Ireland now are often part of a wider celebration in the life of a parish, like the centenary of the building of the parish church. During such celebrations a parish will hold any number of different events, but it is always striking to hear parishioners explain that they envision a mission or a novena as the element that celebrates the tradition of prayer and worship in the community.
It is also notable how eager people participating in a mission are to talk and turn over the questions they have regarding their faith and handing it on. Some of the most worthwhile and enjoyable moments for me personally in any mission have been the town hall-style meetings that take place apart from the mission liturgies, in which the conversation (at which we are supposed to be so good in Ireland) airs and articulates what people are holding in their hearts. It is always possible for these conversations to veer toward the morose, as Father Greeley experienced, but because they are integrally part of the evangelizing work of the mission itself, we try to keep sight of the faith and hope and love that have us discussing things in the first place. The key here is that people might appreciate in themselves the grace of encouragement. If nothing else, these meetings may fulfill what Father Greeley wishes would happen more often, that we shut up and listen.
To paraphrase one of our patriots, the development of Ireland and its people has allowed us to take our place more confidently among the nations of the world. We have not become Shangri-La, though. Challenges remain, but we have the means and the ability now to address them. Our task will be to engage our means, our ability and our will.
In the epilogue to his book Clashing Symbols, Michael Paul Gallagher, S.J., speaks of encountering young people in Rome. He says, I imagine them lonely in surprising ways; I sense them drifting on the surface of themselves; I picture them, spiritually, as uncalled, unawoken, unreached by the Truth. He goes on to say that if his musings on Roman youth are too pessimistic, then, like St. Paul before the Areopagus, he must wait until his eyes are opened and he can see the signs of searching beyond the appearances. In a sense the Irish church is approaching an Areopagus of its own. We are called before the bar of true faith and right religion, and we will have to give an account of the hope that is in us. Moreover, unless we exercise the imagination of St. Paul and recognize the Spirit moving in the lives of the gentiles, our hearing will fall short.
Paschal Scallon, C.M.
Belfast, Northern Ireland