Having been a lay missionary, I much appreciated the article The New, Lay Face of Missionaries, by Vincent Gragnani (7/30). I would certainly encourage anyone who can to spend some time doing mission work, either in the United States or abroad. While we all hope and try to help the persons with whom we work in the missions to improve their lives both spiritually and physically, it often seems that the ones most to gain from the mission experience are the missionaries themselves.
When we joined the Incarnate Word Missionaries, connected to the Incarnate Word Sisters (Texas), one of the things that attracted us was the requirement listed on their brochure: a willingness to be evangelized by the poor. We found that the poor really did have much to teach us. We began to see how other values, not material things, dominated their lives: family, faith, sharing, caring, conversation, appreciation of small things. When we arrived home, the first thing we noticed was how much, how very much we all had.
Another important aspect of our living in Latin America was the opportunity to see the United States through the eyes of Latinos. It was often not a pretty picture, even though many persons in Latin America would like to have some of the privileges we had. We came home eager to do what we could to change American attitudes toward those who live south of us.
Brandon, Fla.Radical Change
Thank you for the article Treatment, Not Prison, (5/28) by Peter Ninemire. Peter is absolutely right. Our approach to drug and alcohol addiction is another case of a long overdue need for a radical change in direction. Thousands of lives are irreparably damaged and billions of dollars are wasted each year by laws and penal practices that are not sufficiently restorative.
Katonah, N.Y.National Interest
When politicians and diplomats speak of our national interest in the Middle East, they avoid mentioning that this interest is due to the fact that the life blood of our commerce and of almost everything that moves in our landoilflows mainly there. Since fighting for oil does not evoke popular support, rather the reverse, a series of reasons is given for having troops there. Even though it is no secret that terrorism is spawned by the presence of infidel troops in Muslim lands, this too is not mentioned, lest policy be undermined.
Those like Bishop Ibrahim (Signs of the Times, 7/16), whose thinking is not conditioned by our Mideast needs, can speak candidly and objectively. Iraqi imams agree with the bishop that it is our occupation that sets Sunnis and Shiites against each other. Salman Furaiji, a Shiite, said, We shall continue our demand for the withdrawal of the occupation forces. Sheik Ibrahim Nima, a Sunni, said, It is the occupation forces that are responsible for what has happened and what is happening. Sunnis and Shiites co-exist in other Muslim countries, and though not friends, they are not engaged in openly hostile activity.
Instead of using the gun, we can assure our share of oil by friendly relations, diplomacy and the dollar. Otherwise, we will live with hatred and terrorism permanently.
(Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla.Tradition of Our Charism
The article Bless Me, Father, by James Martin, S.J., and the delightful musings of George Wilson, S.J., (5/21) offer a timely framework for discussions about the sacrament of reconciliation. These articles contribute a thoughtful analysis as to why confession is a floating sacrament nowadays, and they give helpful pointers for its renewed cate-chesis in our lives. Our experience hearing confessions here at St. Francis of Assisi may shed some light on this discussion.
We are located just steps from Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. The lower church serves as a chapel for eucharistic meditation as well as a reconciliation chapel made up of four comfortable and welcoming rooms. The general effect is an atmosphere of silent prayer, a place of calm and peace.
The schedule of confessions is daily, generous and accommodating, with 14 friars sharing this ministry. We have monthly meetings that touch on how well we are ministering to the people as confessors. We share our understanding of the issues our people face and how best to help them. Increasingly we take the view that reconciliation is a healing ministry.
We are aware too how much the grace of penitence invites the confessor to healing conversion in his own life. Sometimes we welcome a person to contact our counseling center or to consider a 12-step or self-help group, of which we host a large number. Our location and the peace tradition of our charism help draw people from far and wide. Christ is here in silent intimacy.
Kevin Tortorelli, O.F.M.
New York, N.Y.Hear Ourselves Confessing
Many thanks to James Martin, S.J., for his article, in the May 21 issue, on the sacrament of reconciliation, written with his accustomed clarity and economy of phrase.
Might I suggest another possible reason for the decline in its usage since the Second Vatican Council? It may have been a carry over from a defective sacramental theology that predominated in the years before the council, in which the sacraments were viewed principally as causes of grace, with little importance attached to their sign value. In the sacramental economy established at the Incarnation we can see a certain pattern in Gods dealings with us, whereby God reaches us and we reach God through human realities and gestures.
As Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl was quoted as saying in the article, Its a human need to hear from the other side.
Yes! And we need to hear ourselves confessing our sins; this is our gesture of sorrow and repentance as well as hearing Gods word of forgiveness spoken by the priest.
Thomas L. Sheridan, S.J.
Jersey City, N.J.