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Believe in Goodness

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If you believe it, you will see it.

I am sure that you have heard this saying before. A person’s mindset does much to direct their words and actions. I happen to have a rosy disposition. I prefer to think optimistically and positively. I prefer to see the good. I have a trust in the goodness of humanity. As a result, I often believe in good so I see good. Unfortunately, this burns me from time to time. Each time I have been burned, I have grown wiser. In pondering where this Pollyanna view of life comes from, I believe it comes from growing up in the Catholic Church. There is so much richness in our faith tradition that guides us and directs us in how to “be”, all of which is very positive and loving, dare I say charitable. There is Jesus, His teachings like “The Beatitudes”. There is Mary, her fiat and modelling of devotion. There are the lives of the Saints.

Of late, I am growing more and more connected to Catholic Social Teachings due to the many issues testing our Catholic presence in the world during this post-Christian era in history. I wish to share them with you as a means to appreciating our role as the hands of Jesus in the world. They are so beautifully written. They are the basis of my leadership practices and the practices of our school.

  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person – The Catholic Church proclaims that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
  • Call to Family, Community, and Participation – Persons are sacred but also social. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened. 
  • Rights and Responsibilities – Every person has a fundamental right to life and to those things required for human dignity. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families, and to society at large. 
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable – Catholic tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgement (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
  • The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers – Work is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, the basic rights of workers must be respected.
  • Solidarity – We are one human family, brothers and sisters created in the image of God, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences may be. The Gospel calls us to be people of love and peace.
  • Care of God’s Creation – We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation in all forms.

Even God Made the Clouds

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The recent cloudy days remind me of an encounter I had with a homeless man four years ago. I had just completed three years of college seminary and was helping at the Milwaukee Cathedral's Outdoor Café. The Café serves lunch to the city's homeless. Having returned from college seminary, I was feeling pretty proud of myself and contracted the contagious graduate "know-it-all" disease. I was ready to go out to the world and evangelize with the vast knowledge I had acquired.

After serving the food at the Café, I sat with one of the men. I made small talk with him while seeking for an opening when I could impart the theology I learned. The opening never came and I began to get frustrated and lose interest. As the man continued to eat, I absently said, "I wish it was a sunnier day." The man paused in between eating and replied simply, "Even God made the clouds."

Even God made the clouds. In one short sentence I learned more lessons from this homeless man than a theology class could have taught me and I was humbled. One of the lessons I learned was what it meant to be grateful. Here was a man who found what true gratitude looks like. That no matter the circumstances, there was always something to be grateful for, especially when things do not go out way. Whether it be a sandwich on a hungry day, an opening for theology not appearing, or clouds in the sky, there is always something to be grateful to God for. Sometimes that means even being grateful for the things we wish were different.

I think about that homeless man every time the sky is dark with clouds. Yes, even God makes the clouds.

Blessed

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The Scriptural account of the encounter between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, is celebrated on the Feast of the Visitation. The meeting of the Old and New Testament represented in these blessed women gives us a glimpse  of the power of God, who brings new life to them in their anticipated sons to be born. It was difficult to envision the tremendous joy that the two experienced until I came across this more recent image. Their joy is contagious. Jesus is in their midst, and these two women truly know they are blessed.

Have you ever thought about the word blessed and its meaning? I have recently meditated on it. For me, it is the belief that we are chosen by his love and surrounded by his presence every moment. When we realize how we are blessed, each of us in our own ways, we begin to see the hand of God in our lives and how his love sustains us. At times this can be challenging.

While the prayer after communion invites us to recognize the presence of Christ among us in the Eucharist, we must remember that the presence of Christ is also discovered in others. He asks us to serve him by serving others. Mary's service to Elizabeth by her visit remains a model for the Christian who wishes to meet Christ in daily life. This is a wonderful challenge for you and me; namely, to seek Christ in others, to know that Christ is living in them, and to become aware of how Christ is transforming them. Let us make each day extraordinary by Mary's example. You are blessed. I am blessed. Let us live that reality.

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