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May 23, 2011

‘Small’ Sacrifices Count Too

I thank America for its reflection on the homely (as the Irish mean it) spirituality of fatherhood depicted in Of Many Things (5/2), in which Kevin Clarke writes about his choice between a nice car and a larger family. These reflections on the father’s role reach me in a way that helps me appreciate the profound impact of the small choices we all make day in and day out.

I don’t regret a single “sacrifice,” as they were, that I have made for my family. And they have prepared me for the larger sacrifices of my life. There has been nothing as heroic as the choices made by the power plant workers in Japan, God bless them, but these small sacrifices have been significant too, in their own quiet ways.

Thomas McGrath

Chicago, Ill.

Death and Snow

Reading Karen Sue Smith’s Of Many Things on snow (4/11), I reflected that my own biography could be constructed around snows that I remember.

Her words on Whitman’s “Manahatta” reminded me of the day 13-year-old Teddy was buried. The casket handlers worked diligently to get their charge down the three tenement flights and then out to the front steps, already engulfed in drifts. The only vehicle on the street—no cars, no streetcars, no trucks, no snowplows—was the hearse, engine throbbing, exhaust filling the air. How that thing ever moved I’ll never know. What was done at the gravesite I cannot imagine.

Then there was the seagull I found in Atlantic ice in February. The sun was far too late and too weak to help this creature. That brings thoughts of “A Child’s Christmas . . .” where young Dylan Thomas finds his inert robin, “all but one of his fires expired.”

Deckhands leaning, hawsers at the ready, as the monster from Staten Island crunched into the slip, the piles shouldering flakes aside, salt oblivion.

My old man, beret and heavy woolen jacket, bending to the task of sidewalk cleaning, knowing the drifts that would encircle his arithmetically drawn paths.

Brian Winston McCarthy

San Diego, Calif

It Could Be Worse

I am troubled with the emphasis on the sufferings of Jesus depicted in “Contemplative Passion,” by Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J. (4/18). Death by crucifixion, while horrible, is not significantly more horrible than what many suffer today, especially in the developing world. People infected with AIDS or tuberculosis suffer terribly and for a prolonged time. If Jesus’ story had ended with his death, his message would not have been more important than the messages of Gandhi, the Buddha or Muhammad. The Easter experience validates the authority of Jesus’ message. In my house I replaced the traditional crucified Jesus with a crucifix with the risen Jesus. The risen Christ, for me, rather than the dying Jesus, is a better reminder of why I am a Christian.

Larry Donohue, M.D.

Seattle, Wash.

I Went Through the Same

As I read “Fatherless Son,” Ron Hansen’s review of Townie, by Andre Dubus III (4/25), I am overwhelmed with admiration for Andre Dubus III, as I am for everyone who has the resilience to overcome extreme childhood deprivations of whatever kind. It reflects, in a way, my own rehabilitation, and “Love one another” had a lot to do with it.

Eileen Quinn Gould

Montgomery Village, Md.

How To Talk Tough

Thank you for publishing “Tough Talk From Dublin” (4/18). Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, exemplifies the pastoral response to survivors and the truthful admission that the church covered up for predator priests.

The contrast between the Dublin response and that of our U.S. bishops is striking. Archbishop Martin voluntarily released 70,000 documents to the Murphy Commission, which examined how the diocese responded to clerical abuse, while many of our bishops hired high-priced lawyers to stonewall against turning over predator priests’ files. The archbishop stated categorically that “the sexual abuse of children was, is, and will always be a sin and a criminal act,” although many of our bishops claim they should not be judged by today’s standards.

Archbishop Martin has listened to survivors’ pain, and that empathy is the source of his openness, honesty and call for accountability. We need more bishops like that, but don’t look for them in the U.S. church.

Patrick T. Darcy

Columbia, Mo.

Be Really Clear

In response to “Let’s Be Clear on the Budget” (5/2): the problem is that we as Catholics should be reading the papal encyclicals, be aware of our moral obligations as Catholics and then figure out how to weave this into our worldview. But many people—even in this country and in churches across the land—are more tied to and fervent about their political ideologies and keeping their taxes low than they are about being good Catholics and following Christ’s teachings. It’s that simple, folks.

Jeanne Marie Dauray

Round Lake, Ill.

Popular? Yes. But Saint?

Every once in a while a very good commentator like James Martin, S.J., bumps his head. In Of Many Things (5/16) he defends church action apart from the norm on behalf of someone about whom many questions still exist—sainthood for Pope John Paul II. Sainthood, if it means anything, should not be for popularity nor to bolster a shaky institution like the papacy. Was John Paul II a saint? Too early to tell. Did he leave the church better off than he found it? Questionable. Did he have charisma? Sure. Is that what makes a saint? Will I pray to him for intercession? I’ll stick with Ignatius.

Bob DuBrul

Asheville, N.C.

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