Another Minority

I was tipped off to Cardinal Dolan’s brief essay on “a new minority.”

I am thinking of … Couples who … approach the Church for the sacrament; Couples who … have persevered through trials; couples who welcome God’s gifts of many babies; a young man and woman who have chosen not to live together until marriage; a gay man or woman who wants to be chaste; a couple who has decided that the wife would sacrifice a promising professional career to stay at home and raise their children — these wonderful people today often feel themselves a minority, certainly in culture, but even, at times in the Church! I believe there are many more of them than we think, but, given today’s pressure, they often feel excluded.

I was thinking of another minority, the one-third of Luke 15:11-32 who, while keeping faithful, made it a mission to disapprove of how another third was treated. It was unsatisfactory to know of one’s own faithfulness and celebrate that. It was the fact that the act of mercy was the subject of derision and anger.

Elsewhere in the chapter, an even smaller minority was the object of joy–more joy than when the faithful numbered 99%:

I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. (15:7)

Does this bother us? Should it? It is the way God works. Are we strong enough to adopt this attitude?

Bishops strike me as those who kept themselves faithful, loyal, and obedient. How many have had experiences of mercy after pre-marital sex, after making oodles of money in a pre-seminary career, after abandoning the Church for a decade or so, or after soliciting an abortion for a friend?

My sense is that many self-styled faithful Catholics these days have the internet and other venues for support. Is it as stark as Cardinal Dolan suggests:

Where do they receive support and encouragement? From TV? From magazines or newspapers? From movies? From Broadway? From their peers? Forget it!

Who is seriously looking for support from a little screen in their living room? The same screen that sells them all sorts of things from cars to insurance to toothpaste to male enhancement pills.

My sense is that people are encouraged by real life persons who can present the Gospel with joy. And when needed, a merciful welcome.

Is the Lord impressed by people who look to themselves and their needs? The impulse of the Gospel is always outward, other-centered. The Lord came to seek and save the lost. Not to comfort and reinforce the saved.

An illustration from the book Rebuilt. Christmas is coming pretty soon. What would be the reaction, do you suppose, if you announced to the parish on the 4th Sunday of Advent:

We will be inundated with visitors on the coming holiday. Let’s show them a welcome. Let’s walk to church if we are able. Let’s park in the spots fathest from the door, if we can walk a little bit. If the church fills up early, let’s give away our seats to somebody coming late.

How many people would find such a suggestion preposterous? Hopefully another minority. Do you think?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Another Minority

  1. Jenny2 says:

    a couple who has decided that the wife would sacrifice a promising professional career to stay at home and raise their children

    I wonder what the Cardinal would have to say to or about couples who’ve decided that the husband will sacrifice *his* promising career to stay home and raise the kids? ::Slaps forehead:: Oh, silly me… that’s not a scenario which ever seems to occur to the self-proclaimed “orthodox”. In all the traditionalist Catholic parenting blogs or websites I’ve come across – mainly from the USA – it’s always mommy at home with the five kids under 10 (and #6 on the way), while hubby’s out in the big bad world, forced into profane activities like continuing to learn and develop, interacting with other adults, and being financially independent.

    Which, come to think of it, might also explain why quite so many of those mommies appear to be going quietly insane.

    (Not joking there, guys. The frequent mentions of the writers’ anxieties on these blogs, tensions in the marriage – often caused by welcome[ing] God’s gifts of many babies – and the “crucifixion” or tears, pain and endless sacrifice of motherhood do leave me seriously worried about the psychological wellbeing of both the women and children in these households).

    • Melody says:

      I’ve noticed the same thing about the “….writers’ anxieties on these blogs, tensions in the marriage – often caused by welcome[ing] God’s gifts of many babies – and the “crucifixion” or tears, pain and endless sacrifice..” I rarely comment on these blogs, because I figure they wouldn’t find what I had to say helpful, and it’s not my intention to add to anyone’s angst or burdens. If they are really happy about their lives, fine, we all have a different path to walk. But if they’re going quietly, or not so quietly insane, I feel like saying, “Sometimes you have to put on your big-girl pants and own your decisions, even if they don’t get the imprimatur of the traditionalist family crowd.” Pope Francis speaks of mercy, maybe some folks need to learn to extend mercy to themselves.

      • Jenny2 says:

        Indeed, Melody. It’s a sign of maturity to accept that accomplishing something worthwhile will involve effort, hard work, thinking in a new paradigm, maybe difficulties and heartburning. It’s a form of masochism – often, I suspect, fuelled by guilt and unacknowledged depression – to believe that something isn’t worthwhile unless it’s painful, lonely, engulfing sufferers in a swamp of despair. And all too often that’s what comes through on blog after site after webjournal. (Even worse, a number of priests in particular seem to pile on the agony, offering prayer and piety as the only solution, despite the obvious and real damage to the women, their families / children, and – ultimately – probably a lot of marriages, too).

        On a sidenote, I came across an old copy of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique – published in 1963 – the other day. It was genuinely frightening to see how much of it would still apply to these women.

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