The National Catholic Review
Broken Connection

Your editorial and the interview with Patriarch Michel Sabbah (12/23) brought back memories of my childhood in Bethlehem and my student days at the College des Frères in the Old City of Jerusalem. The majority of Christian Palestinian towns, such as Bethlehem, Nazareth, Beit Jala and many other smaller towns, are losing population. The native Christian community that has maintained for almost 2,000 years a living presence in the cradle of our faith is slowly being forced to seek refuge in other lands. Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter are festivals that I recollect vividly and wistfully. They were celebrated as community and family festive occasions. The processions of pilgrims and Arab Christians from the local congregations as well as the neighboring countries were a visual demonstration of a living church.

The Christian right pours in millions of dollars in support of the oppressive Sharon regime and lends it moral support, while the Catholic Church and other mainline churches take very timid steps in support of the Palestinians. Is it fear of being branded as anti-Semitic, or is it a lack of connectedness to the Holy Land, our Promised Land?

Gabriel John Batarseh
Florence, S.C.

Behemoths on Demand

Terry Golway’s attack on the Humvee phenomenon (An S.U.V. on Steroids, 12/23/02) hits close to the mark. But while (rightfully) criticizing the makers of S.U.V.’s and their enablers in Congress, Mr. Golway unfortunately neglects the demand side of the equation: U.S. consumers who have been happily buying these vehicles in large numbers for the last decade. That includes U.S. Catholics. Check out the parking lot of your average suburban parish on any Sunday morning. Needless to say, if consumers stopped buying these behemoths the market would disappear, and Detroit would get the message in good time.

Peter J. Kennedy Jr.
Glastonbury, Conn.

On the Mark

Wonderful work, Sister Dianne Bergant! Your reflections in The Word are great homily starters for me. A lifelong friend, Bob Waznak, S.S., professor of homiletics at Washington Theological Union, recently lost his battle with leukemia. In one of our recent conversations, Bob said, Bergant is good! Notice the woman’s perspective. I have, and Sister’s got it for me! She’s sharp and right on the mark, and just enough!

(Rev) David M. Carey
Baltimore, Md.

Light Reading

Thank you for your great magazine. I have one question: Why has the print gotten so light on some of the articles? Take a peek at the last issue, starting with the column Of Many Things, which I always read. It is so light, sometimes I have to bring it up to my nose! And I have no eye problems; I get my checkups at the Mayo Clinic. Are you able to do something about this, I hope?

Ramona Kruse, O.S.F.
Rochester, Minn.

Deacons Are Clergy, Too

I have subscribed to America for the past six months or so, and I read every issue from cover to cover. Your presentation on the various topics covered is always very fair and well supported. I enjoy the magazine very much.

There was one small error in the editorial on Dec. 16, 2002, to which I wish to call your attention. In support of the position that the laity should have a voice in church affairs, you list a number of ministry positions as examples of the laity’s involvement in church functions. In that list you include deacons. I am sure this was an oversight, as deacons receive the sacrament of holy orders and are members of the clergy.

Ordinarily, I would not mention the error, but my experience is that the diaconate is misunderstood by most Catholics I meet. Recently I was asked by a friend who learned that I was in formation: Why do we need deacons? They just stand around on the altar and take up space. Given the current crises facing the church regarding the clergy (abuse scandal, perceived shortage of priests and religious, celibacy, among others), might I suggest an article on the permanent diaconate and its role in light of these crises?

Thank you for publishing a wonderful magazine. I look forward to reading it for many more years.

Martin E. Wolf
Baltimore, Md.

Accessible Epiphanies

In the issue of Dec. 9, 2002, you have two articles about experiences of the presence of God: The Religious Dimension of Life, by Randall S. Rosenberg, and Waiting on Church Street, by Joanna M. Shea. Mr. Rosenberg speaks of the epiphanies (my word) of high-school students awed at the manifestation of the ineffable mystery of incomprehensibility whom we call God. Ms. Shea speaks of a slower process of meeting the incomprehensible. Her story describes the heroism of people struggling with the deaths of beloved relatives. Karl Rahner would have appreciated both articles. But perhaps he would have seen more universal relevance in Ms. Shea’s stories.

Rahner insisted that we Christian moderns had to see the secular as always infused with grace, which simply is God’s involvement with us every minute. He wrote, If we want to get rid of the impression of a secular world, then we have to stop looking for him, under explicitly religious labels. We should look for him in the colorless daily round, in the thankless performance of our duty. There we meet the cross of Christ, which deals death but also generates eternal life. As Rahner said, Christ’s cross is always present in the mute presence of death throughout our life. Our life is a series of opportunities: to die to ourselves or to aggrandize ourselves. If we opt for unselfishness, the dying to self is potentially endless. But in it God is present, silent but loving us into life. The kind of epiphany happening here is slow, almost unfelt, universal and unceasing. And we are not always faithful; but God is mercy. And in our attempts to be people of agape, the presence of God becomes a deep-seated, unconquerable confidence that in the ultimate mystery of God all good is found. Not a spectacular epiphany but one as accessible as the next time we’re asked to die to our selfishness, and one each of us can experience. It is universal, because life and death are common to us all.

(Rev.) Walter J. Paulits
Pasadena, Md.

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