20 February 2012
7th Week in Ordinary Time
A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Camden, NJ,
De Sales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join
in service, prayer and learning in our struggling neighborhood.
- Service Word
- Last Week in Camden
- Upcoming Events
1. Service Word Mark 2:1-12
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?’
It is not even Lent yet and the Sunday’s gospel and this newsletter are bringing up sin— evidence that this religion is all about guilt? “Catholic guilt” has become a standard phrase in popular culture, it seems. I do not want to suggest that there are not excesses. Without doubt there are teachers and preachers who seem to want to make us feel bad about any pleasure or enjoyment in life, who use guilt to motivate moral action, and want us never for a moment to lose sight of the passing nature of this life.
Apparently there is enough of this unbalanced attitude to allow “Catholic guilt” to be a widely recognized term. I would like to suggest that a healthy, balanced attitude is more genuinely Catholic. Guilt can be an effective motivator, but Christ always aims deeper, for a motivation that comes from our beliefs and our heart—from a mature love.
Jesus first forgives the paralyzed man’s sins simply because he knows that, as a human being, he has sins. AKA: people make mistakes; we do not always measure up to the values and behaviors we hold for ourselves and that God has for us—a simple fact. And sin can paralyze. God wants more for us.
Serving in Camden often touches people very deeply. The experience can evoke a lot of feelings and thoughts; we do hope that people come here and are changed. How can life be the same when you not only know, but also feel how difficult some people’s lives are? I want to use the word “guilt” to describe a feeling that goes nowhere. “Responsibility” and, even better, “compassion” describe the deeper feeling or reality. Hopefully service anywhere shapes a bigger heart that crowds out sin and inspires balance and generosity. We hope the awareness that is fostered here does not cause guilt, ruining fun and pleasure, but deepens all aspects of life with gratitude.
-What is your experience of “Catholic guilt?” —or maybe, Catholic compassion or responsibility?
-Do you experience anything you could call paralysis—procrastination, avoidance, melancholy?
-Who or what carries you at times of paralysis?
2. Last Week in Camden
Friday afternoon five juniors from Salesianum School arrived for service. Right away they went to play with the kids in our after school program. Around 5:00 members of the youth group of Holy Family Parish in Newark, DE, arrived and joined the Sallies guys for a “bodega meal.” Friday evening, each group got a turn at the night shelter. Saturday morning we divided up: Holy Family serving lunch at New Visions, and Salesianum visiting Tent City. The Sallies guys will assist with their school’s faculty retreat that will take place here March 16th.
Our bodega meal involves breaking up into “family” groups, each member able to spend 2.00 shopping together at a different corner store, bodega in Spanish. The city has no standard grocery stores like those familiar to middle-class people. So this meal intends to approximate what it is like to shop with a small budget, with limited choices. I love observing the wide range of meals groups come back with: from rice and beans, to hot dogs and pasta, to a meal of brand-x potato chips, cherry soda, cookies, and fruit-loops. Sometimes the families share, other times they hoard or compete with the others. There is a lot to be learned.
Last week I forgot to mention that friends of Mike Morgan, Mr. & Mrs. Randall, Sarah Roberts, Beckey Randall and Steve Randall, visited last week with a U-Haul truck full of warm clothes. Mrs. Randall teaches kindergarten at Mike’s alma mater, Williamsburg Christian Academy, and organized the very generous collection that gathered 68 boxes of clothing for Joseph’s House. Thank you!
3. Upcoming Events
Students from Maine in a mentoring program called “Trekkers” will be staying with us until Wednesday. Wednesday begins the reflective season of Lent with imposition of ashes. Saturday, young women from Visitation Academy arrive for Camden service.
Check the DeSales Service Works website and to read essays on a range of topics from the Peace & Justice Blog. Also see other resources: Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/DeSalesServiceWorks. Mike Morgan’s blog- http://camdenchronicles.wordpress.com/.
Have a great week, Father Mike McCue, OSFS