As staff theologian for Cardinal Joseph Bernardin from 1985 until his death, I commend the editorial A Culture of Life (9/25) for reminding us once again of Cardinal Bernardin’s efforts with regard to a consistent ethic of life. In particular I applaud the observation that no one image or idea can bear the weight of the whole conversation. No one was more aware of this than the cardinal.
As regards images, for example, the cardinal spoke of his dying as his most important homily. The photos of the frail, dying cardinal anointing the sick, after having been anointed himself, and the stories of his ministry to fellow cancer patients evoked a sense of peace that only God could give and no homily could explain.
As regards ideas, the vocabulary of consistent ethic was complemented by other proposals such as the Common Ground Initiative. A church torn by acrimony could not be a credible witness or effective partner in public discourse about protecting and enhancing human dignity.
What held so much of this together was a hopefulness that was captured, in a small measure, in his pastoral on Catholic health care, A Sign of Hope, a hope sustained by the conviction that because of God’s love for us we can live with confidence in the midst of alienation and chaos. I would suggest that without hopefulness our attempts to explore symbols and stories, as you helpfully propose, will be less than effective. Bernardin’s hopefulness was quite personal: as inviting as his blue eyes and as robust as the operas he loved. But it also reflected his appropriation of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, in particular the image of the church as leaven. Redemption was possible in a sinful world.
As this conciliar perspective is replaced by a profound pessimism about what some consider to be the moral bankruptcy of the United States and western Europe, Bernardin’s hopefulness is viewed as being outdated, if not dangerous. Without hopefulness, it is understandable that the complexity of a consistent ethic or the labors of Common Ground-type dialogue can seem to be a waste of time.
In a few weeks we will celebrate the ninth anniversary of Cardinal Bernardin’s death. Perhaps it is time for us to ask what does the Christian virtue of hope mean today. Is it naïve to trust in that which is unseen, or is this the confidence that is an appropriate platform for God’s grace?
(Rev.) Michael D. Place
Michigan City, Ind.
I am encouraged by the article, Our Daily Bread, by Bishop Donald W. Trautman, (10/3) concerning the World Synod of Bishops on the subject of the Eucharist.
I hope that the bishops will be receptive to the sensible tone set by Bishop Trautman in his article. Our access to the Eucharist is more important than the trivial considerations often put forth, such as who pours the wine, what is the material of the cup or where should the tabernacle be located.
It is important that we have enough priests to preside over the eucharistic celebration. Current practice is counterproductive and unjust to the faithful, who are denied access to the Eucharist because of a shortage of priests.
John L. Coakley Jr.
Kansas City, Mo.
I read Our Daily Bread, by Bishop Donald W. Trautman, (10/3) with interest and growing enthusiasm. It is most encouraging to know his thoughts on prayer as both essential and crucial to any human issues that challenge us as church members and travelers on the road to God. I agree that the Eucharist, our daily bread, is both our sustenance and an impelling force.
One of many possible ways to address the dilemma of increased membership along with decreased response to a vocational call to the priesthood is to modify the permanency of the diaconate and to raise those men to priesthood. However, this is but one responseand one that bears its own problems, both theologically and educationally.
Somewhat disturbing to me, though, is the broad statement regarding the secularity of our times and its loss of mystery. I would suggest that surveys have shown a different reality. Instead of declining, spirituality is on the rise. Even the new television programs are witness to that. Ghost Whisperers, Surface, Medium, each in its own way, are promoting the idea of something/someone beyond our reachmysteries that can be felt but not touched. People are probing the unknown, entering the mystery of life, in the way they can. Why negate it because it is not the way of statues, wall-facing altars, sky-reaching cathedrals and more? Why not use the reality to go forward? Why not ask people how they view God and go from there? Why not ask more questions and live them, instead of telling us the problem and solving it?
Why not seize the opportunity to engage the laity, invite them to join with the episcopacy in its synods and enter into honest dialogue? Why not listen more than speak? Why not listen to those who are in opposition to our viewpoints and learn from them?
Thanks to Bishop Donald W. Trautman for his insights in Our Daily Bread (10/3). The World Synod of Bishops certainly needs to focus on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist with the faith community present. It does not need to start changes in the Mass.
What it needs to address, as the main agenda, is the lack of priests to celebrate the Eucharist with the people. In my humble opinion, it needs to consider the shortage of priests as its main topic and to discuss how to solve the problem. Let’s start by permitting deacons to be ordained to the priesthood.
Bethany Beach, Del.