Monday, November 8, 2010

In All Things Charity

A problem we see often is the difficulty of showing charity to others we disagree with. Some avoid the difficulty by being uncritical and accepting of everything heard and read, provided it does not hurt another. This is not a Catholic way of seeing life, yet politeness and good manners are always called for, especially when dealing with others within the same faith community.

A priest writing for other priests reflects on the hundreds of talks he has heard on spiritual subjects and on retreats and the many spiritual books he has read. But admits that in his own life he has not lived in a loving way, even to his follow priests. Despite the talks and the readings and repeated efforts to be more open and loving, most of the time he has not been able to do so.

This lack of charity, of civility, is becoming more evident recently throughout the Catholic World. We hear words that express distain and negativity, verging on personal attacks against other Catholics. Disputes and disagreements are a part of living together but we should not forget the simple rules of civility. The priest mentions an incident that has remained with him that was worth hundreds of spiritual exhortations.

A number of priests in a diocese wanted to gather together for a Mass, to talk and pray with the Catholics of the diocese about the problems of the country and what could be done to solve them. They asked a priest for the use of his parish to say Mass. He gave his permission but was not present for the Mass. (Many Catholics and priests disapprove of this form of demonstrating opposition to the government.) When the Mass was over and the priests went into the sacristy, the pastor was there to greet them cordially, inviting them to partake of refreshments that he had prepared for them. He remembers this as a lesson in how to disagree and still be hospitable.

Here was a display of kindness toward others even though there was disagreement with their thinking. All Catholics who are united within the Church  have a basic understanding  of what being a disciple of Jesus means, but the method of attaining this  may be different; we may choose to disagree and vehemently, but respecting the other in the way we do it.  A good rule to follow in our community of faith: In essentials unity, in accidentals freedom, and in all things charity.

It is possible that what one thinks is essential is not so for the other. This does require discussion and at times strong disagreement, but respect for the other as a human being and as a Christian requires that we distinguish between what persons say and who they are.