The Greatest Profession
Re “Teacher, Heal Thyself,” by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. (1/18): Father Schroth has captured the nuts and bolts of the teaching vocation and the spirit of its mission. As I read his words, I was reminded of William Watters, S.J., the founder of St. Ignatius Prep in Baltimore. As with many Jesuits, he shared first and foremost a passion for people and carried out that passion in his ministry.
Many have bemoaned the lack of value of the high school diploma, as so many with that document lack sufficient skill to read at the college level or to write persuasively. The Jesuits are again testimony to the fact that this just does not have to be so. Yes, they teach the “privileged” in a good number of schools (and there they do an unmatched job of disturbing the privileged to action on behalf of others). But the Society has also made a solid commitment to the less fortunate with its Cristo Rey program, another ministry spearheaded by Father Watters.
My experience of 40 years in Catholic schools has been one of meeting students where they are and pushing them beyond that point—all the time loving them as Father Schroth’s novice master advised. Without the “openness and sincerity” of our students this endeavor lacks all meaning. But with it—no greater profession exists.
In “Teacher, Heal Thyself,” Raymond Schroth, S.J., quotes a young teacher who wrote to him, “I think it is wonderful that a 17-year-old girl from the upper West Side and a 17-year-old from Bed-Stuy would both be entitled to read and explore in class a treasure like Jane Eyre.” Does Father Schroth seriously think Common Core is about reading Jane Eyre? Here is what a five-step assignment on Jane Eyre would look like under the Common Core: 1) Read Jane Eyre; 2) Explain how you read Jane Eyre; 3) Calculate the number of letters in the title of Jane Eyre; 4) But not by counting them; 5) Explain how you calculated the number of letters in Jane Eyre. Common Core homework assignments are pure torture for parents. Father Schroth should have done his homework before calling on readers to “support the Common Core.”
I was reading “City Under Fire,” by Judith Valente (1/18), and was struck by the lines, “Susan Johnson, an American Baptist minister, heads Chicago Survivors. Ms. Johnson was pastor at a church....” Why does the author not refer to her as the Rev. Johnson? Is she not ordained? I wondered if it had been a reference to a Catholic priest, would America not have printed “Father so and so”? I only needed to read a few more lines to get my answer: “David Kelly, a Precious Blood priest, is one of those who are trying to walk that walk. Father Kelly....”
I find the references here denigrating to the Rev. Johnson. I spent four years in study after college, just like most Catholic seminarians. I am fully ordained to the ministry. Why should references to me and my fellow Lutheran colleagues be different from references to my Roman Catholic friends? When Pope Francis seems open to the possibility that all of us are headed for the same goal, and we are all members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, this seems very backward.
In “Saudi Suffragettes?” (Current Comment, 1/4), the editors conclude, “There is a long way to go before Saudi women can claim the rights that men have in running the affairs of their country.” It is thought-provoking how effectively that final sentence invites the reader to substitute “Catholic” for “Saudi” and “church” for “country.”
Wife, Mother, Feminist
I enjoyed Sidney Callahan’s review of Keeping the Vow, by D. Paul Sullins (“For Better or Worse," 1/4). I find her definition of feminism limited, however. She states, “These marital models [priest’s wife, corporate business leader’s wife] were not much influenced by feminism.”
I can attest from personal experience that I have drawn on all my Notre Dame and Harvard education, feminism and Catholic faith in my chosen vocation to nurture my husband’s and my marriage, raise our children, manage our home and serve the community in a variety of ways. And yes, I have also supported my husband’s vocation as a lawyer, just as he has supported my vocation as described above and now, with our children grown, the second career I am building.
Solidarity Without Borders
In “The Rights of Refugees,” by David Hollenbach, S.J. (1/4), there is no mention of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have fled from violence and poverty in Central America. Families and children, many unaccompanied, have made the dangerous journey from El Salvador and Honduras through Mexico and then crossed into the United States. A comprehensive, compassionate immigration policy and the closing of detention centers are responsibilities of the White House and the U.S. Congress. Solidarity has no borders and it should never be forgotten that people who are forced to cross borders because of threats to their lives should be welcomed across the borders of the United States not as strangers but as our sisters and brothers.
Not the Worst Thing
I am grateful for “A Vibrant Vocation,” by Karl A. Schultz (1/4). My hope is that one day we in the church come to truly value the preciousness of life in everyone, not only in the married person. Marriage and procreation have been glorified and held up as examples of God’s favor far too persistently and ubiquitously to the exclusion of other states in life. The result for many single people, as well as for many married people without children, is feeling diminished, judged, condemned, unwanted. Salvation for them can be found outside the church only.
Recently, I saw a post on my Facebook page with the picture of the actor Robin Williams saying: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It is not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” I can relate to his words. In my case, I have been able to listen to a God who keeps convincing me that I am wanted and loved even though I have not been able to conceive children, even though I may find myself with people “who make me feel all alone.” So I have stayed in the church and cherish it, but it is not surprising to me why so many people have left. They feel like lepers. I pray that one day we can welcome and listen to one another with love, without conditions and without expectations.
Single, Not Sidelined
I want to thank Karl A. Schultz for his well-considered and timely article, “A Vibrant Vocation” (1/4). In my practice of spiritual direction, I often hear from those in the single life a desire for “more” from their local church community. These singles are not sideliners; they are well-educated, generous, contributing members looking for a missing piece. America is to be commended for noticing and affirming the too often overlooked vocation of the single life—permanent or temporary. My next step is to send this article to several of these beautiful people.
Re “An Unnoticed God,” by Benjamin John Wilson (12/21/15): As I was walking once to Mass at the campus where I lived, there on a banister I spotted a praying mantis in its usual position, kneeling as if in prayer. Feeling dank because of a period of apparently fruitless prayer, and seeing the praying mantis apparently always at prayer, the following words of Jesus came to mind: “Pray always and do not lose heart.” Immediately my spirit lifted and I recognized Jesus speaking to me in my need, through a humble insect, the work of his hand! Yes, Jesus is an equal opportunity provider, clueing all to the workings of the unnoticed God, which he truly is! We all like to be noticed—God, too—and paradoxically he does unnoticed things to catch our attention.
On God’s Team
Thanks for printing “On Being and Becoming,” by William J. O’Malley, S.J. (11/16/15), an awesome article that I’ve pondered much. I would add to Father O’Malley’s parallels between natural and divine attributes that scientific discovery today is a team enterprise. For example, the Atlas and C.M.S. collaborations (experiments into the Higgs boson particle) at the Large Hadron Collider amount to medium-size universities. It is similar, I think, with discovering and understanding Yahweh. It takes at least a village, perhaps even a whole church, to approach some understanding. Could another divine attribute be that God gets, revels in and may even need such relationships?
In “Abortion and its Critics” (Current Comment, 12/21/15) it seems highly ironic and disingenuous that the editors contend such a direct correlation between the attacks at a Planned Parenthood clinic and the “need” for additional gun regulation. The assumed correlation is no more factual than the assumed correlation between pro-life advocacy and domestic terrorism. Their advocacy for additional gun regulation may be well-intended, but they are guilty of the same blame-shifting rhetoric denounced in the comment.