What a pity that your otherwise intelligent, if somewhat idealistic editorial Migration, the Larger Picture (1/7) was marred by a final bit of unworthy wordplay. Of course there are no such people as illegal people, but there are millions of noncitizens who are in this country illegally, and no amount of obfuscation can obscure that fact. As to what to do about the situation, that is up to the representatives of the American citizens, acting, one hopes, with a fair share of charity. However, come what may, illegal is illegal.
Searching for Holiness
Our Broken Parish (2/11) is a reminder that parish priests have personal failings that easily spill over into their work. But for Catholics, the parish is the one key place where we look for holiness. What we might endure and tolerate in a workplace, we find intolerable in the parish. Why?
So much of what happens in a parish goes to the heart of our deepest identity. If the Eucharist is celebrated with intelligence, awareness and self-forgetfulness, one feels the presence of God in and with and through the priest and the congregation. Blessed is the parish where a priest has these gifts and puts them at the service of a community. And blessed is the parish where the priest loves his people and helps them grow.
Willing but Unable
Our Broken Parish (2/11) describes one of the most serious results of the priest shortage. In the origins of Christianity, Christian communities sought the charism of leadership in those being presented for ordination to the presbyterate. In a time like our own, where the shortage of leaders grows worse, we do not have the luxury of searching for this charism, so we settle for willingness. The sad truth, however, is that sometimes the willing are not able. Many of these leaders would not be retained, let alone promoted, by companies concerned about profitability and customer service.
We are living with a pastoral situation where loyalty to the institution has taken precedence over pastoral sensitivity and competence in the choice of leaders.
I appreciate the candor with which John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., expresses his preferences and voting history in Hope and Change (2/11), but I think that his statement that I could vote for either of them is at best premature at this point, as if Barack Obama and John McCain really represent equal, if different, attributes and liabilities. While it may come down to this choice, I do not feel so sanguine that we can expect the same kind of country and governance from either one. We would be served quite differently by these two and the party priorities they would bring to power.
Sending a Message
Regarding Hope and Change, by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., (2/11): In the past, Father Kavanaugh has written eloquently and passionately about abortion and embryonic stem cell research, including the intersection of these issues with politics. I know that Father Kavanaugh continues to be an ardent supporter of a consistent ethic of life, so I was very surprised to read that he could vote for Barack Obama, who as an Illinois legislator was strongly pro-choice. His views did not change when he joined the U.S. Senate, and to the chagrin of this lifelong Democrat, neither have those of the Democratic Party as a whole.
If enough pro-life Democrats vote as I do, and the Democrats lose the November election, perhaps the message will finally get through that the party has to move away from the pro-choice political and financial influence that has made it one-dimensional on the abortion and embryonic stem cell research issues.
I hope Father Kavanaugh will reconsider his statement.
I was heartened to read in Vocations and Crisis, by James T. Keane, S.J., (2/4) that the application process for young men seeking to enter the Jesuits included a letter of recommendation from a young woman of the same age. I am sure that psychological testing and interviews with current priests can be helpful in figuring out a mans suitability for the priesthood and his motivations for pursuing a calling that so few seem to hear these days. More important, though, may be an honest assessment of a mans ability to form healthy relationships and to have lifelong friends. These friendships will not only support him in life as a priest but will give him firsthand examples of how lay people see the world and what they need from their clergy.
Years ago the churchs model for training men and women to work in the world was one that today seems quite counterintuitive: keep young vocations locked up and cloistered for as long as possible, then send them into ministry with people whose experience of life is completely different. We all know many holy people who were trained in that system, but sadly we also have seen its failings reported in our media over the past few years. Today, older vocations with a more typical experience of life in the church and in modern society might give us new priests with a better understanding of the lives of the folks in the pews.
El Segundo, Calif.