A word from our sponsor . . .
This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.
Earlier this year, someone sent me an e-mail that asked the question, "Are we having a discussion or an argument?" The gist of the e-mail was that, if we are having an argument, I don’t need to listen to you because you are just concerned with telling me that I am wrong. However, if we are having a discussion, I need to listen because that indicates that you are willing to listen to my side.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the document Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples, bishops, priests and deacons help Christians imitate Christ’s mission of love and justice. Here are some excerpts from the section about Holy Orders on pages 22-23:
As co-workers with their bishops in teaching and carrying out Christ’s mission, priests and deacons proclaim the Word of God to his people. This includes education about the social teaching of the Church, which is based in both Scripture and Tradition, and helping community members become aware of their “right and duty to be active subjects of this doctrine” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 539).
. . .
Pastoral ministry requires that ordained ministers develop competency in “social analysis and community organization” and cross-cultural ministry (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB], The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, 29). Priests should “animate pastoral action in the social field,” especially assisting lay Christians who are involved in political and social life (Compendium, no. 539).
. . .
Because the Church’s social doctrine is an “essential component” of the “new evangelization” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 54), those preparing for the ordained ministry should develop a “thorough knowledge” of Catholic social teaching and “a keen interest in the social issues of their day” (Compendium, no. 533).
. . .
Bishops, assisted by priests, deacons, and religious, must “evangelize social realities” (Compendium, no. 539) by being “articulate spokesmen for and interpreters of Catholic social teaching in today’s circumstances” (USCCB, Program of Priestly Formation, no. 345).
We continue our exploration of the sacraments and social mission with a look at marriage, as discussed in this document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here are some excerpts:
The Nuptial Blessing especially highlights how the couple is called to care not only for each another but also for children, family, and the wider community.You can read the entire section on marriage on pages 20-21 of Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples.
. . .
They help each other live their vocation as lay people, seeking God’s Kingdom in their daily lives by working for justice, peace, and respect for the life and dignity of all (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 220; Familiaris Consortio, no. 47).
. . .
In particular, we should preserve the rights of the family in civil laws and policies and work to ensure “that in social administration consideration is given to the requirements of families in the matter of housing, education of children, working conditions, social security and taxes” (Apostolicam Actuositatem, no. 11). We should also work to ensure that migrants’ right to live together as a family is safeguarded.
In the document Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops links the Anointing of the Sick with the social mission of the Church, writing, in part:
We care for the sick because we see them as children of God and part of our human family. When one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer (1 Cor 12:26). The suffering of one impacts everyone. Thus, we are called to solidarity, which is responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone (Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [On Social Concern], no. 38; Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate [Charity in Truth], no. 38).
. . .
Caring for those who suffer is not a burden, but a gift. Those who care for the sick do holy and important work; they walk with Christ’s suffering people and in doing so, serve Christ himself (Mt 25:31-46). Those who minister to the sick and who work to secure decent health care for all become “the living sign of Jesus Christ and his Church in showing love towards the sick and suffering” (Christifideles Laici, no. 53).
. . .
The sacrament reminds us that each person is made in the image of God and has dignity that remains unchanged, whatever the body suffers. The ministry of those who are sick is a powerful witness to the fact that human dignity is intrinsic and does not increase or decrease based on a person’s physical state or abilities. This is why the Church works to protect the life and dignity of the person at every stage of life—the embryo, the person suffering from AIDS, the family in poverty, and the person nearing death—and why she works to secure access to decent health care for all.
By examining our consciences to identify those ways in which we are not in right relationship with God and with others, we are challenged to recognize our own participation in the “structures of sin” that degrade others’ lives and dignity.
The collective actions (or failures to act) of individuals create “structures of sin,” which “grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins” (Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [On Social Concern], no. 36). For example, widespread poverty, discrimination, denial of basic rights, and violence result from many peoples’ actions (or failures to act) because of greed, racism, selfishness, or indifference (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, nos. 2, 16). We are all called to consider how we contribute to structures of sin in our personal, economic, and public choices. For example, do we take into account the treatment of workers when we make purchases? How do our consumption choices contribute to environmental degradation? Are we aware and informed? Do we take the time to educate ourselves about issues that affect the community and advocate on behalf of those who are poor and vulnerable?NEXT: Anointing of the sick
. . .
Reconciliation absolves us of our sin, but it does not repair the damage that was caused. We must do what is possible to repair the harm.
. . .
We must work to repair the relationships with God and our neighbors that sin has impaired. We must also consider how we can work to transform the structures of sin that threaten human life and dignity. By making amends and working to build a more just community, we can repair the damage and also restore our own spiritual health.
. . .
Having received the undeserved gift of forgiveness, we are called to extend the same forgiveness and mercy to others. We take up the task of being instruments of reconciliation in our communities and world, working for peace, justice, and love.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Confirmation enriches the baptized with the strength of the Holy Spirit so that they can better witness to Christ in word and deed (No. 1285). Thus it should be no surprise that in discussing Confirmation and social mission, our bishops tell us, “At Confirmation, we pray for an increase of the gifts of the Spirit in our own lives in order to serve the cause of justice and peace in Church and world.”
. . . the Spirit sends us as workers in the vineyard and instruments of the Holy Spirit in renewing the earth and promoting God’s Kingdom of justice and peace.
. . .
The Church’s missionary activity includes a “commitment to peace, development and the liberation of peoples; the rights of individuals and peoples, especially those of minorities; the advancement of women and children; safeguarding the created world,” and many other areas of action in the world (Redemptoris Missio, no. 37).
In addition, action inspired by the Holy Spirit calls us to “bear witness to Christ by taking courageous and prophetic stands in the face of the corruption of political or economic power.”What gifts have you been given? How are you called to use those gifts to benefit others?