Staying the Course
The problem with your latest editorial on Iraq, A Diplomatic Surge (10/8), is that like many Democrats and some Republicans, you have embraced defeat. The template of the media and liberals in general at the very beginning of this war was and is defeat: This is Vietnam, and we cant win.
This is nonsense. The surge is working. We need to embrace and promote victory. This war has to be fought and won; otherwise we will have to fight again an emboldened and more ferocious terrorist enemy.
(Rev.) Leonard F. Villa
The Price of Security
America is to be highly commended for The Presidents Man (9/17), which points out how much this administration has sought to establish an imperial presidency that wants no checks and that has its own control of things, both domestic and foreign, uppermost in its mind. A further danger to democracy seems to me to be its desire to thwart freedom of information. All this is done while increasing fear in the people by such images as that of the mushroom cloud. It is not difficult to see why masses everywhere have often turned to a so-called strongman in time of national crisis, one who promises security at the price of freedom. In our history we have paid a great price for liberty. It is a shame that many are willing to pay even a higher price for freedom from fear.
Diversity of Opinions
Bravo for your issue on Who Is Jesus? (9/17). What a breath of fresh air. Thank you, editors, for taking this approach to the issue. How much more enjoyable it would have been had you included some female scholars, like Sandra M. Schneiders, I.H.M., Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., or Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, to name a few.
Paul Donohue, M.C.C.J.
I was most grateful for the insights of James Martin, S.J., regarding Mother Teresas letters (Mother Teresas Dark Night, 9/24). Such reflections not only serve as a preparation for reading Come Be My Light; they also address the key issue, the dark night of the soul, which is being misinterpreted by the secular press.
Some people think that it is unbelievable that her struggles would not be kept confidential. They are more comfortable remembering her as a woman whose remarkable deeds appeared to be connected to a closeness with God. Perhaps these people are caught in a society that accents success, quick solutions and the accumulation of wealth.
In Mother Teresa we have a woman who should be an inspiration to all of us. In the midst of experiencing deep spiritual struggles and serving people living in extreme poverty, she exemplified perseverance and deep trust in the mystery of our God.
Desolation Versus Darkness
Mother Teresas Dark Night was valuable, but I have the impression that the author did not fully appreciate the wisdom of Joseph Neuner, S.J., which enabled Mother Teresa to come to love the darkness. He evidently explained to her St. Ignatius understanding of consolation and desolation. Her painful sense of the Lords absence was not desolation, but consolation. For Ignatius, consolation is not simply feeling good and desolation feeling bad. This is part of the discernment of spirits. What is the source and what is the direction of the movement of the spirit? What St. John of the Cross calls the dark night of the soul is not desolation, in Ignatian language. It may well be consolation.
The painful longing and darkness she experienced was the feeling of the absence of the Lord, the deep desire for the presence of the Lord. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, not of the Spirit of Darkness.
Father Neuner gave her the advantage of the wisdom he had learned from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and his teaching on the discernment of spirits. This is what she was talking about when she explained how it was that her sisters could leave a life of privilege and go out into the streets and minister to the poorest of the poor.
There was direct continuity between her experience of anguished longing for the presence of the Lord and her loving outreach to the dying in the streets of Calcutta.
Gordon Moreland, S.J.
Thanks to James J. DiGiacomo, S.J., for Educating for a Living Faith (9/10), which presents challenges and helpful considerations regarding the religious illiteracy of many young (and not so young) people. It was heartening to find encouragement for having students ask: Why? How do we know that?
But as a teacher, I must disagree strongly with one admonishment: If you let students ask questions, you had better know the answers. Certainly this would restrict much questioning in any discipline. And when it comes to religion and the great mysteries of life, can any of us be audacious enough to really claim all the answers? Would it not be better to admit the far-from-startling fact that we, too, are still searching and then do our best to help students explore the questions by culling the best that theology, philosophy, science, psychology, sociology and other fields have to offer?
I can appreciate the frustration of James T. Keane, S.J., with individuals who describe themselves as spiritual in Of Many Things (9/24). The term is sometimes code for an unexamined and/or noncommittal faith life, but I believe this occurrence is an exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, the writer has unintentionally reinforced what he describes as an unfair characterization of religion: the province of all things narrow-minded, dogmatic, intolerant, fanatical and old fashioned. He prematurely dismisses his students interest in The Secret and Eat, Pray, Love as an example of beliefs and practices that cheapens the meaning of both religion and spirituality rather than examining why they are embracing these messages.
As an alternative to speaking from a defensive soapbox, we self-described religious people need to ask two questions: first, what kind of faith are we practicing if popular culture continues to characterize it as narrow-minded and dogmatic; and second, why have movies like The Secret and The Da Vinci Code continued to capture the imagination of the public?
I have often wondered how we would have responded to a certain rabbi 2,000 years ago who spread a message about the kingdom of God and used stories, images and symbols of his day to communicate his message. Would we have accused him of a religious/spiritual approach that hijacks the authority of spiritual traditions thousands of years old and dismissed him?
Democracy Is Messy
The editorial Restoring Worker Choice (8/27) advocates removing a workers secret choice. The secret ballot is sacrosanct in America for good reason. The Employee Free Choice Act, purposely misnamed, would remove the safety of the secret ballot in deciding whether or not to organize a union. The Taft-Hartley law required secret ballots in union organizing because of many abuses. The proposed law would return to the world of those abuses. Democracy is messy, expensive and time-consuming; but, as Winston Churchill once quipped, it is a lot better than the alternative.
Restoring Worker Choice (8/27) was extremely disappointing. Surely the N.L.R.A. and its reform deserve thoughtful and thorough consideration. But your remarks did not provide this.
Pointedly and repeatedly, your editorial made the following assumption (in substance, though not in terminology): signed cardsgathered in an array of public settings with neither oversight nor due processbetter capture the genuine will of workers about a volatile, contested issue than do secret-ballot elections supervised by a public agency.
Replacing private voting with public voting and urging that it become the law of the land goes counter to common sense, the literature of union organizers themselves, the practice of unions in calling for elections and opinion polls of union members and the general public. I would like to see America move beyond this shoot-from-the-hip approach and offer a series of substantial articles that match in density and detail the magnitude and urgency of this subject matter.
The first thing that struck me when I looked at the photo of Latin American bishops in the article Good News From Brazil (8/27), was that there was not a brown face in the bunch.
The Importance of Worms
Horace McKenna, Apostle of the Poor (9/17) brought back memories of the day in the mid-1940s when Father McKenna was invited to address us Jesuit novices and devoted a good bit of his talk to explaining the importance of earthworms for the growing of plentiful crops. Earthworms! We didnt know what to make of him. Only later did we realize to what extent this testified to his identification with the struggling farmers to whom he ministered.
Thomas L. Sheridan, S.J.
Jersey City, N.J.