IN OUR MIDST
Believing Without Seeing
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).
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.
is faith: welcoming God into our hearts, trusting in grace, saying —yes— to
God—s will, giving our assent to God—s word.
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
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.
is the basic connection between faith and blessedness? And why is doubt as a
way of life destined to lead to unhappiness?
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.
do we grow in faith, in the blessedness that Jesus promises?
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.
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.
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.
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?
this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
this month's FAMILY CORNER.
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.
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.—
the discomfort this causes Joe, he can—t bring himself to say no to them.
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?—
(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.
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.
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.
Moonlight Mile, comedy becomes an apt vehicle for exploring the unexpected
dimensions of grief.
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.
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
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.
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.—
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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)