IN OUR MIDST
Our Path to Joy
Bishop Robert F. Morneau
Jesus taught by word and deed. In the Sermon on the Mount we are given
words that point to the path of happiness. Blessed are the poor in spirit...blessed
are the peacemakers...blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice...blessed
are the merciful.
Beatitudes sketch out in exquisite detail the Christian map for happiness.
the Gospel of John we are given a deed—a humble, simple, hospitable deed of
washing feet. After the deed is done, Jesus—knowing that the disciples lacked
full understanding—urges them into action: —blest will you be if you put them
[washing of feet and Jesus— other teaching] into practice— (13:17b).
have here a path to happiness that is highly pragmatic. In doing the loving
thing, in reaching out to others in genuine service, we participate in the inner
life of Jesus. By doing what Jesus did we enter into a blessed way of life.
wisdom finds this absurd. The cultural message we are given through slogans
and advertising would have us believe that happiness lies in —doing it my way.—
We are often told, —You only go around once, so grab as much as you can get—
and —He/she who dies with the most toys wins.— Biblical wisdom proclaims that
blessedness lies in self-surrender to God—s will, in self-forgetfulness as we
serve others, in washing another—s feet.
do we do this? How do we venture onto this path, this way we call discipleship?
How are we to put on the mind and heart of Jesus and thus experience God—s sanctification?
wash one another—s feet by volunteering to teach the 10th-grade CCD class, stopping
to help a stranded motorist, holding the hand of a dying person. We wash one
another—s feet when we attempt to change unjust systems, when we strive to end
world hunger, when social justice and the gospel become our priority. The happiness
and blessedness that Jesus proposes is not living well, feeling good, finding
and staying in our comfort zone. It is risky business, this gospel living. It
will demand our lives.
Missing the Point
It is somewhat consoling to see that the disciples often struggled to understand
what Jesus was about. Peter saw suffering as inappropriate to
Jesus— life; James and John would have God send down fire upon
an inhospitable Samaritan town; Thomas didn—t —get it— in hearing
reports that Jesus had risen. We should not be surprised if
we, too, find it difficult to equate blessedness with a life
of service, a life of total self-giving. Every day we should
pray for two things: the grace of knowledge to understand Jesus—
teaching and the grace of courage to put it into action.
we are to become mature disciples, it is not sufficient simply to give a portion
of our time, talent and treasure to God. The cost of discipleship involves the
giving of self. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God—a God who
is self-giving love—our vocation is to strive in grace to image the God who
One expression—one simple, concrete expression of this self-giving
love that leads to blessednessis the washing of feet.
It is a symbol of a larger reality, God—s Kingdom: being totally
for others, whatever their needs might be. In serving one another,
we serve the Lord. In serving one another, we become like Jesus.
—Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God,— according
to Ladislaus Boros, the contemporary Christian theologian. Those
who serve as Jesus did experience an indescribable joy because
through that service—be it the washing of feet, the giving of
a cup of cold water, a word of affection—we are bonded to Christ
and the community. In that bonding, in that —communion— lies
happiness, and from it flow two by-products: joy and peace.
Prayer: Lord, sometimes we just don—t get it. Help us to understand that through
loving care for others we further your Kingdom. Do not let us pursue a false
blessedness through a life of self-seeking. Rather, draw us into your life and
ministry. Therein we will do your will and come to know your peace.
Robert F. Morneau is an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese
of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is the author of numerous books,
to Prayer (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and two children—s
books, The Gift and A Tale from Paleface Creek
Next: Believing Without Seeing
How do you wash the feet of others? How do you
Why are joy and peace the by-products of a life
of service? How have you experienced these gifts?
this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
Blessings in Serving
By Judith Dunlap
One of the last times I visited my Dad he had a bad infection in his
big toe. Since he was a diabetic it required taking special precautions, including
no showers until the toe healed. Much to Dad—s chagrin, he had to ask for help
with his daily sponge bath. It was an incredible lesson in foot washing and
a blessing I have never forgotten.
I washed Dad—s back, my mind flashed to when I was a little girl. I could picture
him lifting me to his shoulders and carrying me. As I washed his feet, I shared
the memory and we reminisced about Sunday dinners at Grandma—s house and the
long, tired walks home. Over a basin of water and a bar of soap my Dad and I
reconnected, and I got a chance to say —thank you.—
that is why the washing of feet in John—s Gospel is a part of his first Eucharist
story. Eucharist is about saying —thank you,— and so are acts of loving service.
(The word Eucharist comes from the Greek meaning —thanksgiving.—) We
are blessed when our giving helps us reflect, in gratitude, on who we are and
how we are connected to those we serve.
Thanksgiving, talk about your family—s gifts but remind each other about being
part of God—s family. Talk about sharing with brothers and sisters who are in
need. Then share your gifts in person. Rather than just donating a can of vegetables,
have your family distribute baskets, work at a food pantry or serve (and eat
with) folks at a soup kitchen. Such acts of service not only offer a chance
to say —thank you— for what we have, but also remind us of who we are, offering
an opportunity to be in communion with others. There is the blessing.
Make a Thanksgiving poster for your refrigerator
by listing your family's gifts along with ways you can
share them with others.
this month's FAMILY CORNER.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
The popular success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding is phenomenal.
Here is a low-budget, independent film that word of mouth has brought from small
art theaters to box office success in the major theater chains. Everybody who—s
seen it has a favorite scene. It—s a movie for the whole family.
Big Fat Greek Wedding is above all about family and about the acceptance that comes
from loving other people. In this case it—s a Greek family, but substitute Italian,
Polish, Mexican—whatever you want. The particulars would change but not the
story about rich ethnic traditions struggling with modern cultural realities.
Watching this movie is like sitting around at a family reunion remembering the
faults, idiosyncrasies and irritating habits of relatives that have over time
morphed from conflict to affection.
(Nia Vardalos), plain and 30, still works in the family restaurant dreaming
of something better, while her family clucks about her lack of marriage prospects.
Things change when she takes a job in her aunt—s travel agency, spiffs herself
up and starts computer courses at the community college. And falls in love.
And it—s with a non-Greek.
(John Corbett), the man she starts dating, is tall, handsome and very WASP.
But Greek girls have just three duties in life, Toula says: marry Greek boys,
have Greek babies and feed everyone till the day they die. So, by dating Ian,
she—s not measuring up.
father (Michael Constantine) is adamantly opposed to this relationship with
a non-Greek that is headed for marriage. Her mother (Lainie Kazan) tells Toula
that she—ll see that he comes around, and so he does. Ian is baptized in the
Greek Orthodox Church, and the marriage is set. This brings together Ian—s strait-laced
parents with the rowdy extended family Ian is marrying into.
story is predictable. It—s the telling of it that is entertaining. Once the
wedding is on, Toula—s family takes over. When Ian—s parents are first invited
to —meet the family,— they are horrified to find a party going full tilt in
the front yard of a house decorated with blue and white statuary and classical
pillars, complete with lamb being barbequed.
is embarrassed by her family—s excess of traditions at the same time she loves
them. And the movie is able to poke fun at such —strange— behaviors at the same
time that it is never mean-spirited. By the end, the WASP and Greek cultures
have learned to accept each other as they are, and to even enjoy one another.
And Toula—s father learns that people are okay even when they—re not Greek.
Toula—s wedding brings together one big, happy family fueled by love and acceptance
of differences. There—s no better message.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639)
From all we know of him, Martin de Porres would surely be
embarrassed to be revered as one of the Church's greatest
saints. His whole life was about serving God and God's people
without fanfare, without notice. But his holiness, his kindness
and his generosity were so remarkable that he could not escape
notice during his life and canonization afterwards.
Life could have turned out quite differently for the young
boy. The illegitimate son of a freed slave from Panama and
a Spanish nobleman, Martin was born in Lima, Peru. He was
raised primarily by his mother and knew poverty and deprivation
from an early age. As a mulatto, he also knew the sting of
But Martin was blessed with an extraordinary number of skills
and a heart so large that he could not limit his love to the
poor, the hungry, the sick, the slaves newly arrived from
Africa, the orphaned children he encountered. He even befriended
the rodents who, he reasoned, were hungry and entitled to
his concern as well!
After serving as an apprentice to a barber-surgeon, Martin
wished to enter the Dominicans in Lima as a donado,
a lay helper who would do menial work. Some years later the
members of his community, moved by his overflowing goodness,
invited himpleaded with himto make his full religious
profession as a lay brother. He was a beautiful blend of action
At his funeral, all of Lima mourned his passingnot
only its beggars but also the elite and the wealthy. When
he was canonized in 1962 Martin de Porres was also named the
patron of race relations and social justice. His feast day
is November 3.
Martin de Porres, S.N.D. de N.
Sister Martin de Porres had her name picked out even before
she became a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur in 1952. The other
young women who entered the California province with her that
year chose the names of more traditional saints such as Michael
and Thomas. But she had her mind set on taking the name of
the mulatto from Lima known for his tireless devotion to the
Since then Sister Martin has proudly carried his name and
sought to live and work in his spiritas a teacher at
a multicultural high school, as pastoral associate at several
urban parishes, as administrator of a housing unit for low-income
seniors. She now serves as coordinator of health care for
retired members of her community who reside at a care center
in Oakland. She lives in nearby El Cerrito.
"St. Martin loved everyone, regardless of color or station
in life. Whoever was poor and in need" got his attention,
she told Every Day Catholic. If he were alive today
he would be "standing with those who are underserved and ignored
by society." Sister Martin is also convinced that her namesake
would call for the Church "to be more inclusive" and appreciative
of the gifts and perspectives of racial minorities.
As the first black Sister of Notre Dame de Namur in the United
States and still the only black in its California province,
Sister Martin de Porres has seen changes and improvements
over the past 50 years. But she would like to see more progress
for and openness to people of color. In the meantime, she
lives out her vocation by making a daily recommitment "to
love God above everyone and everything else, and to love my
neighbor as myself."
The following material
is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:
of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October
products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
Oscar Romero: A Shepherd's Diary" (book)
From the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer Teaches
Us How to Live" (book)
Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking
Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
"Sermon on the Mount" (audiocassette)
Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)