Opinion From Herald columnists and readers
Once upon a time, many people assumed that dogma, especially religious dogma, was the enemy of freedom and friendship. If only we relaxed and let each person live by his or her own truth, we could love each other and the world would be a paradise. John Lennon’s “Imagine” was the anthem of this belief.
Dr. Seuss’ fourth book was published in 1940 and met with critical acclaim. It features an elephant whose large ears and long trunk provided the ideal infrastructure for the artist’s distinct lumps and humps.
Today, the homely hero of “Horton Hatches The Egg” feels like a symbol of what we are sorely lacking in a culture that sets us up to be flighty and fickle. He reminds me of a Gospel principle I have found more challenging now that I’m a parent.
He is something of an enigma, this man of Nazareth, Yusuf ben Yacob or Joseph, son of Jacob as we would call him. Or, simply, Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus Christ. Descended from David the great king of Israel, this humble artisan was destined for even greater glory within God’s plan of salvation.
During “serious illness conversations,” some doctors will ply their patients with this question: “What is your minimally acceptable quality of life?”
Behind the question can be the implication that if patients are experiencing a low quality of life, their medical treatments can be discontinued because their life has become “no longer worth living.”
The best advice I have ever received about understanding Catholic teaching on modern times came from a friend who recommended reading encyclicals. Pope Benedict’s “Deus Caritas Est” was the first one I picked up, in a little red, paperback version. I read it in one sitting. That copy, with my underlines and exclamation points on dog eared pages, sits at my desk and I refer to it frequently. Since then, I have read several other encyclical letters by Leo XIII, Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Benedict and Francis. I would recommend every one of them. Their words continue to help form my thought and understanding about what it means to be Catholic and human.
Although less lethal than the ancient plagues, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a global impact on our sense of well-being, and perhaps even our faith. Personally, there is still the little voice in the back of my mind that suggests that the year 2021 may yet have a few difficulties in store for us, and perhaps I am not alone. The Gallup organization reports the highest levels of mental anguish in 20 years in the United States, with similar results in the United Kingdom and Europe. As an ancient history amateur (and an actual participant as I age myself), religions have expanded during periods of extreme stress, a trend that provides grounds for a spiritual rebirth. How can we get there?
March brings the first day of spring and the start of new beginnings. Hope, blessings and good health are waiting for us here. What a blessed month. Our beloved Saint Patrick and the color of green are close at hand!
One of my favorite expressions has taken on new meaning during the COVID pandemic: “There’s a silver lining to every cloud that sails about the heavens if only we could see it.”
Letters to the Editor