18 October 2010
Feast of St. Luke
29th Week in Ordinary Time
A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Camden, NJ,
DeSales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join
in service, prayer and learning in our struggling neighborhood.
- Service Word
- Last Week in Camden
- Upcoming Events
- Salesian Peace and Justice Blog
1. Service Word Luke18
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time, the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me, I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she come and finally strike me.’”
This parable deals with an issue that I have been wrestling with for a while: what is the value and effectiveness of persuasion, calm, and kindness (powers Francis called “little virtues) compared to sternness, force, and enforcement of consequences. We can imagine that the widow may have begun her case calmly, with civility, presuming good will on the part of the judge. But over time, as it became apparent that the judge was not playing fair, she must have become more steely in her persistence. We meet her in the parable at a point where she causes the unjust man to fear for his safety.
This issue is important because we keep asserting the power and effectiveness of little virtues that St. Francis de Sales’ valued so much —even, and especially, in the very tough environment of Camden, NJ. Do they really have power? Is there a point when they have to be put away and kept safe for a better world, in order to “really get things done?”
I am working on a reflection that tries to explore this topic in depth; look for it this week or next on Pat Kennedy’s blog. Here I would like to share two key points. First, the powers we choose create an atmosphere. Francis observes that “nothing calms the rage of a elephant more that the sight of a gentle lamb.” Our choices contribute to the tone and volume of encounters. They affect expectations and influence the way others come to encounters with us—ready for conflict or ready to understand and cooperate.
Second, little virtues are not passive or weak. “Nothing is a strong as gentleness, nothing as gentle as real strength.” There is a way to be gentle, humble, patient, and kind even while being angry or firm, in an argument or upset. It has to do with commitment to treating the person as God does, deserving of dignity and respect. To put it another way, the power of little virtues rests on intention not to destroy, degrade, delete or discard anyone. Without a doubt, common human passions: anger, lust, fear, can eclipse awareness of others’ worth at times. But again virtues: forgiveness, understanding, and putting up with people, can bring us to the hard work of healing and restoring a foundation of respect for “any human being.”
What is your experience of the power of little virtues?
How do you maintain your values in the face of human passions or when dealing with “unjust judges”?
2. Last Week in Camden
Seniors from Salesianum worked here Tuesday and Thursday helping with food service, New Visions, and Holy Name School. Graduates of our grade school, Holy Name Scholars, served here Saturday, helping with projects across the street at Hopeworks. Service fairs at Catholic University and at Loyola in Baltimore went well. It is great to see the many service corps that flourish in the Church and great to see many students considering this type of work.
3. Upcoming Events.
Father Judge freshmen and Sallies seniors will be back for daylong service retreats. This week, Matt Hillyard and I will attend a workshop sponsored by the Camden Diocese called “Preaching the Just Word.” Thursday & Friday DeSales University student government comes for reflection and service. They overlap with a group from Georgetown Visitation here on the first of their five visits.
4. Peace and Justice Blog
Check out the Salesian peace and justice blog.
Thanks, Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS