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March 22, 2010

Joyful We Adore Thee

Re “God Is Ready,” by James Martin, S.J. (3/8): We often ask the people in our adult Christian initiation process, “Where did you experience God’s presence in your life this past week?” Over the years we have seen that this is particularly difficult for them. They tend to look for the big experiences, the happy times of life, and fail to appreciate God’s presence in the everyday, in the unexpected and in the challenges.

You have expressed this presence well, describing the joy that welled up in you merely looking back over your shoulder to the valley below. It is this joy, an inexplicable joy, that I have experienced at times and attribute to the abiding presence of God. I suppose other people may not connect joy to that presence, but for a person of faith, it is unmistakable.

Joan Torres

Dayton, Ohio

God Waiting on Us!

Thank you, Father Martin, for such a heart-touching commentary, with its beautiful illustration. I have often thought how wonderful it might be to publish a piece of writing with the title “While God Was Waiting.”

While it often seems that we are the ones waiting on God to reveal his presence in our lives or to be given a signal when we feel lost and confused that helps bring us back home, isn’t it God who waits on us? So let’s enjoy the sumptuous banquet God the prodigal father/mother lays before us, our loving, humble, generous servant-God, and know that out of sight does not have to mean out of mind or out of heart.

How can God be invisible when he shows himself in all things? We just have to show up at the table and not let the feast go cold.

Virginia Parker

Duxbury, Mass.

Just Say Yes or No!

Re “The Urgency of Now” (Current Comment, 3/15): Have the editors read the Senate health care bill? Do they recommend it or not? What is their position? We need to be more than mere critics of the politicians. If the editors support the bill that is being prepared for passage by “reconciliation,” just say so. We need more than criticism of the critics of this potential legislation.

Bob O’Connell

Lake Forest, Ill.

Saints at Work

If somebody would like to help the victims of the earthquake in Chile (Signs of the Times, 3/15), I suggest doing so through Hogar de Cristo (www.hogardecristo.cl), the Chilean charitable association founded by St. Alberto Hurtado, S.J. (d. 1952). They have the experience, the will and the organization to help. By helping in that way you also reduce overhead costs.

Julio Vidaurrazaga

Mayaguez, P.R.

The Fourth R

How is the United States going to get religion (Signs of the Times, 3/8), when that subject is forbidden in our early public school education and our young citizens are ignorant of the subject? In Norway religious instruction is given to all children in public schools unless their parents opt out. As they mature as students, they move beyond what is basically their Lutheran religious tradition and cover other major faiths, including secular humanism.

Germany permits students to have religious education in the area that the majority of the students of the school/district request, currently mostly Catholic and Lutheran.

But we have excluded such religious education from our public schools. The result is the dysfunctional culture we now see.

Walter Mattingly

Jacksonville, Fla.

War Beyond Law

Re “Flying Blind,” by Mary Ellen O’Connell (3/15): It is most unfortunate that the rules of war so often referred to in this article are not being observed by any of the parties involved. But this is nothing new, and to use the words law and war in the same sentence and apply one to the other is nonsensical. There are no longer any rules of engagement, given the nature of the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, with the added negative ingredient of a declared “holy war” (another oxymoron). The adversary of the United States has made it so.

Rarely do we hear of or see an acceptable (by the author’s definition) pitched battle between uniformed, organized entities. It is a deadly, inhumane business, but to call for greater law enforcement is also nonsensical.

Milton McMullen

Seattle, Wash.

Remote-Control War

Re “A Troubling Disconnection,” by Maryann Cusimano Love (3/15): War is now one giant video game. Targets are acquired, blasted and the hunt moves on. The operators never have to witness their destruction from up close. Now the hardest part: How many deadly mistakes have been made? How many innocent women, children and men have been killed and terribly injured by this remote-control firestorm?

We once decried saturation bombing. We recognized the fallacy of so-called smart bombs. Will we finally understand that war waged from many thousands of miles away by armchair operators is unjust and totally immoral?

(Deacon) Mike Evans

Anderson, Calif.

Just the Facts, Please

Your statement in Current Comment on March 15 that the Elgin Marbles were “pilfered” or “spirited away” is at best dubious and at worst a serious misrepresentation of the facts.

While the details may be uncertain, it is generally recognized that Lord Elgin, at the time British ambassador to the Sublime Porte, did obtain some form of permission from the Ottoman government to remove artifacts from the Parthenon site. To portray Elgin’s actions as blatant skullduggery, as you appear to, is to malign his character.

James Kane

Oxford, U.K.

No Bail-Out Possible

Thank you for the excellent editorial “Administering Justice” (3/15). In addition to probation and parole, there is another aspect to the issue of incarceration that is rarely talked about: the pretrial detention of suspects who have been arrested and are awaiting their court appearance. Two-thirds of our nation’s inmates are petty, nonviolent offenders who are there only because they cannot afford bail. The bail bonds industry has immense power and has created a system where those arrested are held in prison even before they have been convicted of anything simply because they cannot pay. This puts public safety in the hands of private interests.

Bail associations make campaign contributions across the country and have successfully lobbied to reduce or eliminate county-run pretrial release programs, which give the arrestee the opportunity to return to their jobs and families, and which, in many cases, have lower fail-to-appear rates than bondsmen can claim.

Four states in the United States currently ban commercial bonds because of the inappropriate influence they have had over the justice system and the disparity they cause between rich and poor defendants. Any comprehensive reform of our corrections system needs to include a reform of pretrial detention.

Jon Kraus

Denver. Colo.

What About S for Service!

Re “Antidote for Anomie,” by John Kavanaugh, S.J. (3/15): Amen! The dreaded S words—sacrifice, sharing (which for some equals socialism), solidarity and selflessness—have pretty much been eliminated from the American lexicon. Without using the labels left or right, I must agree with Father Kavanaugh that we hear very little from the media, elected officials or church leaders that challenges people to step out of their own world to consider the needs of others now or in the future.

Mary Therese Lemanek

Allen Park, Mich.

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