GOD IN OUR MIDST
Believing Without Seeing
By Bishop Robert F. Morneau

One of the best-loved resurrection stories is that of Jesus appearing to the disciples when Thomas was absent. When told of the Lord—s visitation, Thomas doubted in a big way and boldly asserted that his belief would be contingent upon touching the risen Lord. The day came and, after an initial exchange, Thomas responded: —My Lord and my God.— Then Jesus gave us a glimpse of spiritual blessedness: —Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed— (John 20:29).

The people from Missouri (and far beyond) express a dominant trait of our culture: —Show me.— Doubt and suspicion are not unique to our times or culture. We all seek evidence and find faith to be problematic. Yet at the core of our following Jesus is that radical conviction that God is with, for and in us.

This is faith: welcoming God into our hearts, trusting in grace, saying —yes— to God—s will, giving our assent to God—s word.

St. Th—r—se of Lisieux (1873-1897) believed without seeing. In her long terminal illness of 18 months, she lived in darkness and wondered at times even if God existed. But below the darkness, pain and sense of abandonment was an ocean of light and love. Though she could not see or feel it, she was convinced that God was there in utter fidelity. The —Little Flower,— though not touching Jesus— hand or side, would utter her —My Lord and my God— and know the blessedness of faith.

But we need not turn to the great saints to see faith in the midst of darkness and doubt. We see faith in the inner-city catechist who, amid poverty, sees God—s presence in the children who have so little; we see faith in the youths, restless and sometimes lost, who come to a Kairos weekend and experience God—s gracious love in community; we see faith in our own lives as we each battle with our own demons and gain freedom through the working of the Holy Spirit.

What is the basic connection between faith and blessedness? And why is doubt as a way of life destined to lead to unhappiness?

Faith at Work

It—s all about relationship and trusting in the word of another. Without trust, happiness is impossible. We would be paralyzed into inactivity and depressed beyond belief. Thomas did not trust his fellow disciples— report. While they were free because of their faith, Thomas continued to live in the prison of fear. His doubt separated him from Jesus, the source of blessedness. It was only through faith that a —reconnection— was made, and the by-products were happiness and peace.

How do we grow in faith, in the blessedness that Jesus promises?

Again St. Th—r—se of Lisieux is of help. She writes in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul: —And my soul grew through contact with holy things.— Two holy things in particular will strengthen our life in Christ if we stay in contact with them: the sacraments and Scripture. Jesus comes to us in word and sacrament to deepen the bond of love and to lead us to lives of hope. Faith assures us that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and that God truly speaks to us in the Bible. Staying in contact with these holy things will foster our blessedness.

Nourishing Our Faith

A second means of growth in our faith life is to take on a lifestyle of —giving.— Those who believe know that all of life is gift—our health, our freedom, our family, our education. Faith leads us to deep gratitude and, if that gratitude is authentic, our response will be one of generosity. By being good stewards of God—s varied graces we express our faith and foster blessedness both for others and ourselves. This generosity also has its by-product: joy, the —infallible sign of God—s presence.— And joy is just another word for blessedness.

Robert Frost once said: —An ounce of faith is worth all the theology ever written.— Jesus once said: —Blessed are they who believe and do not see.— Faith leads to blessedness because, when lived, it fills us with hope and love.

Robert F. Morneau is an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is the author of numerous books, including Paths to Prayer (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and two children—s books, The Gift and A Tale from Paleface Creek (Paulist Press).

Next: Year III of Every Day Catholic will include reflections on 12 of Jesus— parables. Contributing writers will be Joyce Rupp, Gregory F. Augustine Pierce and Alice Camille.

Questions for Reflection:

•Who are the people who have enlivened and enriched your journey of faith?

• In what ways has doubt been a means of growth in your faith life?

Discuss this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."

FAMILY CORNER
Questions and Doubts
By Judith Dunlap

It—s not a sin to doubt our faith. Sometimes it—s a healthy sign of growth. Experts tell us we often go through three stages to reach a mature faith: belonging, searching and owning.

If searching faith is going to lead to an owned faith, it has to be rooted to a strong sense of belonging. Those roots are best planted young by helping our children feel as well as know they are Catholic. We can do this by making the parish a comfortable home for them and by making sure their Catholic faith is a part of their everyday life.

With searching faith (which often starts in adolescence) people begin to ask questions. They want to figure things out for themselves. It can be a time for serious doubts, but it is a healthy part of the faith journey. Searching faith, when earnestly followed, leads to a faith that is owned: personal and rock-solid strong.

Work with other parishioners to make your parish as child-friendly as possible. Take your youngsters to church often: to Mass as well as other parish-sponsored events. Along with the Sign of the Cross and other traditional prayers, teach them prayers from the Mass. Make your home as visibly Catholic as possible: Find a prominent place for your Bible and wall space for a crucifix. Show your youngsters the Advent wreath at Church and make one for your table at home. Let them see how important being a Catholic is in your own life.

Doubting the faith is like anger: It—s what you do with it that counts. Giving up or demanding irrefutable proof can be dangerous, but asking questions and seeking answers are part of the process of growing up and claiming the faith as our own.

For Family Response:

Take the whole family for a special visit to your parish church. Ask each family member what he or she likes most about your parish.

Discuss this month's FAMILY CORNER.

Media Watch
Moonlight Mile
By Frank Frost

The truth shall set you free: That—s the worthy message of Moonlight Mile. While the movie—s premise deals with the way a father, a mother and a young man deal, respectively, with their grief over the death of their daughter and fianc—e, the movie is really about truth and honesty.

At the start of the film Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps out of bed and into a shiny black limousine. Behind the reflections of the car window Joe is trapped in a dream world as he rides to the funeral of his murdered fianc—e, Diana. Also caught behind the glass of this unreal world are Diana—s mother, JoJo (Susan Sarandon), and father, Ben (Dustin Hoffman). With the funeral over, they try to draw Joe into their family permanently. Joe has been living with them for three weeks leading up to the wedding, and now they want him to become a replacement member of their family. JoJo: —You—re all we have left.— Ben: —This is always the way I saw it: a son-in-law as a partner.—

Despite the discomfort this causes Joe, he can—t bring himself to say no to them.

The problem with Joe is that he wants to please everyone. (In the course of the movie, every major character tells Joe at some time, —I need your help.—) He doesn—t know what he wants to do with his life or who he is. The path of least resistance leads to filling the expectations of others. —I don—t know what I want,— Joe tells Bertie. —Why not give them this?—

Bertie (Ellen Pompeo) is a postal employee and bar owner Joe meets shortly after the funeral, and she becomes a complicating factor when he starts to fall in love with her. He feels guilty about his romantic feelings and takes to sneaking out to see her to avoid offending JoJo and Ben.

To this point the movie is essentially a story about grief complicated by guilt. JoJo, Ben and Joe all feel responsible for Diana—s death in some way. But this changes as the layers are peeled back, revealing that each of them is in denial about a secret he or she is unwilling to face. And the story becomes one about the difficulty of facing and admitting the truth.

The catalyst for change is the trial of Diana—s murderer. Asked to testify, Joe blurts out his real feelings under oath and under pressure. His honesty calls forth the same in JoJo and Ben. Released by the truth, each of them is able to let go of the grief that has left their lives skewed and to begin to reclaim their true selves. Visually the movie ends as it begins—with Joe getting dressed in the morning—but this time he rides away in a car open to the world. The truth has set him free.

In Moonlight Mile, comedy becomes an apt vehicle for exploring the unexpected dimensions of grief.

For Media Watch:

What values did you find in the film Moonlight Mile
?

Discuss Frank Frost's film review
in this month's MEDIA WATCH.



SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball

Blessed Adolph Kolping (1813-1865)

His long days doing repetitive work in a shoe factory in Cologne, Germany—sometimes for 12 hours straight—gave young Adolph Kolping an appreciation for the burdens faced by other workers of his era. So did his familiarity with poverty, which he had known since his earliest days.

Determined to improve himself, Adolph studied at night for many years and finally graduated from high school at age 24. He went on to study for the priesthood and was ordained in 1845. The young priest was also determined to improve the lot of others, particularly the young single men who were relocating from Germany—s rural areas to its cities in search of work, just as he had done years before. Father Kolping was concerned that they keep their Catholic faith, as well as find dignified working conditions.

He served as spiritual leader of the Young Workmen—s Society, a forerunner of today—s Kolping Society. Within 10 years there were more than 400 such groups in Europe and in America. Today, Kolping has more than 500,000 members in 55 countries around the world.

Members of Kolping Families, as they came to be known (and still are), were also encouraged to better themselves by education. Father Kolping also emphasized the importance of family life, —the first thing that a person finds in life and the last to which he holds out his hand.—

At Adolph Kolping—s beatification in 1991, Pope John Paul II praised the priest and social reformer for his early defense of workers— rights and called him one of the Church—s —mystics in action.— He is buried in the local Franciscan church in Cologne, where he was pastor at the time of his death. His feast day is December 4.

Laura Mahrenholz

It makes a great hostess gift for the holidays, it—s only $7 a bag and it—s really high quality,— says Laura Mahrenholz, sounding every bit the professional salesperson. Which is what she becomes when the cause is right.

And the Kolping Coffee Project is just that for Mrs. Mahrenholz. She and her husband, William, coordinate the effort by Kolping Families in the U.S. to help struggling workers at plantations located in Chiapas, Xalapa and Juarez, Mexico, by buying the coffee beans grown by workers. Four years ago, the idea was tested among Kolping Families in the U.S. For the past two years, the project has been in high gear.

The raw beans are shipped to Chicago, where they are roasted and bagged not far from the Mahrenholz home in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. From there the processed beans are labeled and shipped around the country. —The people at UPS recognize my husband and me,— laughs Laura, a German immigrant who met her husband through Kolping years ago. The retired couple has two sons and three grandchildren.

In the past 18 months, 1,200 pounds of Mexican-grown coffee beans have been shipped, often to members of the dozen Kolping units in the United States. Countries in Europe are also regular customers.

—I so believe in this project,— says Mrs. Mahrenholz, who attended an international Kolping convention in Mexico last spring and visited Chiapas. —I would go back tomorrow if I could. I don—t count the time I put in.— She is delighted that 100% of profits are returned to the workers who, she now knows firsthand, use it for essentials like food. —This is a self-help project if ever there was one!—

The following material is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:

"Community of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
"The Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October 2000

The following products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications (1-800-488-0488):

"Archbishop Oscar Romero: A Shepherd's Diary" (book)
"Lessons From the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
"Jesus' 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)

"The Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)



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