Monday, January 18, 2010


Giovanni Guareschi’s short stories about Don Camillo, a priest in post-World War II northern Italy, are classics. In the little town in the Po River valley he is frequently opposed by Peppone, the communist mayor. But when tragedy strikes their village, they find themselves side by side working to counteract the disaster.

This lesson from literature is being lived out right now in Haiti: side by side, Iranians and Americans are working to rescue people buried in the rubble of the earthquake; Israeli soldiers are there, as well, pulling people to safety.

The old ecumenical slogan Doctrine Divides; Service Unites is ultimately flawed, I believe, but in the short term (and that’s where most people live) we can see the truth and the beauty of it—in the face of overwhelming suffering, Christians, Jews and Muslims—who regard each other as enemies-- can stand together to serve others.

Today being the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, it seems good to include here a quote that is apropos the situation (which I freely admit I found as the solution in today’s Celebrity Cipher crypto-quote): “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

At Our Savior parish this past weekend, at parishes in our Archdiocese and throughout our country, collections are being taken up to provide relief efforts and supplies through Catholic Relief Services. It’s what we can do, at a distance and without specific and essential hands-on skills. We can enable those who do have the skills, to keep the rescue and relief efforts going.

I remember a comment made in one of my theology classes at Notre Dame when I was an undergraduate. In response to the question, “What kind of God would require His Son to die such an agonizing death to redeem us?” the answer came, “What kind of people require such a display of love to be shown that forgiveness and love are the way to live?”

Pat Robertson’s idiocy to the contrary notwithstanding, this is the answer, in a way, to the suffering in Haiti: what kind of people are we that it takes a crisis of this magnitude to pull together? Why does it take such a “wake-up call” to get us to see that nothing should divide us when there is so much in our humanity, as children of God, to unite us?

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