Monthly Archives: May 2018

Saint Rita and the cycle of violence

saint ritaToday is the feast of Saint Rita of Cascia, a saint of impossible cases, like Saint Jude. I recall that devotion to her was strong in the Italian-American Catholic community of my youth.

But there is something about Saint Rita that I think is much more important for our world than her miracles or even the mark of a thorn on her forehead, recalling Christ’s crown of thorns.

Saint Rita was married to a man who did not share her piety. He was brash, a womanizer, and a brawler. Together they had two sons who shared their father’s character.

Rite persisted in prayer and her husband experienced a conversion, but shortly after he was killed by members of a rival family.

She forgave those who killed her husband, but her sons wanted to avenge his death. Saint Rita prayed that they would die rather than murder their adversaries. They finally ended up giving up their desire for revenge. But they died.

Rita was then free to pursue her earlier dream of being a nun and applied to the local Augustinian convent.

They rejected her, supposedly because she was not a virgin. But the real reason might have been that there were sisters in the convent who were members of the family that killed her husband. They were afraid of the consequences and the potential conflict.

Not one to be easily dissuaded, Rita started talking with members of her husband’s family as well as with the family of the man who had killed him. Her efforts resulted in an agreement between them to not pursue any violence or retribution.

That done, she was accepted into the convent.

I discovered this story when I went one Sunday to preside at a village church dedicated to Santa Rita a few days before her feast day. They were going to have a Mass and a celebration for that whole sector of the parish, in which there had been a death a few months ago as an act of retribution, not uncommon here in Honduras, where the “justice” system does not function and so people take the “law” in their own hands.

Saint Rita is one of those who broke the cycle of violence, seeking reconciliation. I pray that she may intercede here in Honduras, as well as in other prats of the world where revenge causes deaths.

I especially pray for two men killed a few days ago here in our parish – probably as acts of retribution.

 


Photo taken from this site.

Visionary of a community of deacons

8045070f79739d7323d3e25632fb966b1723479598-1302025774-4d9b562e-620x348May 9 is the feast of Saint George Preca – Dun Gorg – a Maltese priest who died on July 26, 1962.

Devoted to the life of all the faithful, he is the founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine which was to include lay celibate members devoted to teaching the faith to the young, beginning with a small group of young people in 1907.

But, even before he was ordained, he also had the idea of establishing in every parish groups of seven permanent deacons who, with lay helpers, would be responsible for the formation of the parish. Even though he wrote a rule for them, the idea never came to fruition. He died before the Second Vatican Council opened the opportunity of the permanent diaconate.

In “The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church,” paragraph 16, , the bishops at the Second Vatican Council wrote:

Where Episcopal Conferences deem it opportune, the order of the diaconate should be restored as a permanent state of life, according to the norms of the Constitution on the Church. For there are men who are actually carrying out the functions of the deacon’s office, either by preaching the Word of God as catechists, or by presiding over scattered Christian communities in the name of the pastor and the bishop, or by practicing charity in social or relief work. It will be helpful to strengthen them by that imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles, and to bind them more closely to the altar. Thus they can carry out their ministry more effectively because of the sacramental grace of the diaconate.

Saint George Preca was truly a visionary priest who can help us recover the role of deacons and all the people in faith formation. I do not know of any community of deacons as he envisioned, but it might be a new direction for the permanent diaconate, especially for those of us who are celibate permanent deacons.


Image from The Times of Malta.

Despising the manual worker

“Isn’t this guy the carpenter’s son?”
Matthew 13: 55

All too often the world looks down on manual work and on those who work in our fields and factories, those who clean our buildings or service our cars. White collar work, intellectual work, and business savvy are valued more than the sweat of those who clean our schools and hospitals or grow and harvest our food.

josephEven Jesus experienced this dismissal of the value of manual work. They tried to dismiss him and his wisdom since he is only “the carpenter’s son.”

Yet today, as the world celebrates the Day of the Worker, a national holiday here in Honduras and other countries, the Church celebrates Saint Joseph the Worker.

I see this around me here in Honduras. Shortly after I got here I read the president of the National Congress referring to the people who work in the countryside in our part of the country as “gente del monte,” which (because of the ambiguity of the word monte as either hill or weed) can be translated as “hillbillies” or “hayseed.”

But this is not only here. I remember how the university students who came from the farm or were studying agriculture seemed to be seen as less important than those studying engineering who came from a big city. And this was at a land-grant university.

But it was only a few years ago when I realized why I am so sensitive to this. My parents were blue collar workers. Though my dad eventually worked in the office, he began working on the floor of a steel fabrication plant. My mom had several jobs in offices but also spent several years working in a supermarket distribution center, candling eggs and going through fruit and vegetables.

There is a dignity in manual work that it is so easy to ignore. There is also a tendency to over-value intellectual work, to esteem thinking over doing.

Thus it is interesting that today is also the anniversary of the death of Thomas A Kempis who wrote in The Imitation of Christ:

“A humble countryman who serves God is more pleasing to Him than a conceited intellectual who knows the course of the stars, but neglects his own soul.”

Today is also the anniversary of the initiation of the Catholic Worker, distributed at the May Day rally in 1933.

Today I also recall the death of Monsignor George Higgins, a strong advocate of the worker and of unions, in 2002, and the death on the same day of Ade Bethune, the artist whose work has appeared prominently in The Catholic Worker for decades.

It is good that today we honor Saint Joseph the Worker by honoring all those who work, especially those who work with their hands. Where would we be without them?