August 18, 2008

Ministry at Home

The special issue on lay ministry (7/21) contained several interesting articles, but I was disappointed (though not surprised) that I found no reference to Catholic parenting as a lay ministry. I understand it is not recognized as such in any official document. Parents are neglected and taken for granted, even though the rite of infant baptism calls them “the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith.” Teach they do, by word, discipline and consistent witness of Christian values, responding to God’s call in the sacrament of matrimony. They need the support and encouragement of the church in their time-consuming and laborious task as parents in our modern age.

Jim Scrader, C.P.P.S.

Liberty, Mo.

Remember the Artists

I think the effort to scan digitally all 100 years of America that Maurice Timothy Reidy mentioned (Of Many Things, 7/7) is a wonderful idea. At the same time, a little chiding: you did not mention if you would be digitizing the art, photographs and drawings that have appeared in the magazine over the years. Some very fine American artists practically donated their talent to illustrating some of these historic articles. I shall always remember John Hapgood’s evocative illustrations. These should not be lost or reduced to vague recollections.

Mary Keelan

Millbrook, N.Y.

Editor’s note: The PDF file format mentioned in the column includes graphics.

Good Habits

I would like to respond to the letter (5/26) criticizing America on the use of a photo of religious sisters in full religious habit (5/12): How sad that for some, a religious habit continues to be a polarizing, divisive item, even in 2008! On the contrary, all professed religious of the church, of whatever “political” persuasion, deserve our courtesy, love and support—habit or regular dress notwithstanding. People who do not grasp this basic truth will not “produce much fruit,” as the Gospels would say.

The author hypothesizes about the magazine’s motivation in selecting this photo for publication; perhaps the editors simply wanted to acknowledge an element of religious life that is out there, and also growing—attracting young people in our day and age. Rather than being “insulting” or “ominous,” I would describe it as newsworthy.

(Rev.) Joseph Devine

Hartford, Conn.

Jesus in Starbucks?

Margaret Silf writes in “Mind Where You Go” (7/7) that her “guess is that if Jesus were walking our sidewalks today, he would walk right past the fast-food outlets” and head for a coffee shop. I’m not so sure. A little red flag goes up in my sensibilities whenever I notice myself being pretty certain that Jesus would probably spend his time these days in the places where I prefer to spend my time. Maybe, maybe not.

Nick Battaglia

Park Forest, Ill.

Taking Exception

In “Human Dignity and the End of Life” (8/4), Cardinal Justin F. Rigali and Bishop William E. Lori overlook an important legal and moral exception to the obligatory use of medically assisted nutrition and hydration. If the patient beforehand or the proxy for an unconscious patient determines that such a procedure offers no hope of benefit or imposes an excessive burden, the assisted hydration and nutrition may be abandoned. No other person has the legal or moral right to make that judgment—certainly not the local diocesan bishop.

Robert M. Rowden, M.D.

San Rafael, Calif.

Open Invitation

I found “Religious Life in the Age of Facebook,” by Richard G. Malloy, S.J. (7/7), to be right on. As a vocation director working with young adult Catholics and college students, I am inspired by their eagerness to serve and to ask the hard questions and by their openness to considering religious life.

They often have not had much real-life engagement with sisters, brothers and priests. We need to continue to invite them into our homes, listen to them and mostly let them get to know who and what we are about—the reign of God. Organizing a blog or getting on Facebook also can help to get into their world.

Cathy Beckley, S.N.J.M.

Seattle, Wash.

Worlds Apart

“Religious Life in the Age of Facebook” contains excellent insights into the church’s vocation crisis. As a 30-year-old diocesan priest ordained for just over a year, I have experienced many of the issues Malloy mentions. He is also right to notice the generation gap caused by technology. The fact that I have 247 Facebook friends and 821 songs on my iPod might not be too impressive by the standards of a typical 30-year-old, but they are signs that I live in the same cultural world as most college students and young adults to an extent that most priests don’t.

But Malloy seems to accept the views of those who say the church’s teaching on sexual issues is “narrow-minded and prejudiced” and that the refusal to ordain women “enshrines sexism as a practice supposedly instituted by Christ.” It doesn’t matter how well cultural differences are overcome or how successfully the generational technology gap is bridged by a diocese or religious community if that group has compromised its Catholic identity. The only thing that is bringing young people into the priesthood and religious life is the full teaching of the Catholic Church.

(Rev.) Ryan Larson

Naperville, Ill.

Numbers Do Not Lie

In “Religious Life in the Age of Facebook,” the author asks why young men and women are not entering religious life today. He might instead have concentrated on where today’s vocations are flourishing. Right now, over 32,000 people are employed and over 18,000 more are being trained in professional lay ministry. More than 10,000 Catholics are currently volunteering with member organizations of the Catholic Network of Volunteer Services; and the Catholic Worker, which is only one “lay apostolate” out of dozens, currently claims over 200 communities.

There is no vocation crisis in our church; our only crisis is in recognizing and acknowledging the vocations in front of us.

Karen O’Brien

Clearwater, Fla.

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