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March 6, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 5Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

The cries of the poor

Last month I had the opportunity of being a chaperone for the Winter Nights program at St. Perpetua Parish. Although, I have volunteered for homeless services and causes in the past, none of those experiences prepared me for spending the night among homeless families.
As my shift started, the group was quieting down, getting ready for lights out. The families were primarily single moms with children ages 2 to 13. They huddled together, sleeping on air mattresses placed throughout the room.

As I walked through the hall, the first thing that struck me was how they were forced to deal with family matters with absolutely no privacy. Their home consisted of an 8’x 8’ cubicle with all of their earthly possessions stacked inside a few boxes.

As the night progressed, I began to experience what it really means to be a homeless family. I heard children crying... they sounded scared and disoriented. It was simply heartbreaking. I thought of my own children and imagined the despair these parents must feel.

I saw mothers awake, hugging their children and trying to comfort them. I also saw in their faces the hopelessness and fear of not knowing what tomorrow would bring.

At 5 a.m. they got up, the children cranky and exhausted, hoping for a few more minutes of sleep. They quickly gathered their belongings, ate breakfast and lined up for the van that would carry them to Walnut Creek for showers. Later, the children would go to school while the parents went to work (many have part time jobs) or hit the streets looking for jobs.

As a sacramental people who believe in the very real presence of God, we are always surprised by the time, place and form when we encounter God. I just happened to find him on a cold, dark and silent winter night in the cries of the children, the warm embrace of their parents, and in the love and generosity of the St. Perpetua community that supported the shelter program.

I now fully appreciate that to be close to God, you must be close to the poor.

Adam See

(See is director of development, marketing, and public policy at Catholic Charities of the East Bay. He and his wife, Anne Marie, are the parents of students at St. Perpetua Elementary School.)

Finding the encyclical

In the Jan. 23 Voice, there was an article on Pope Benedict’s encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.” Where would one go to get a copy of this encyclical in English? No mention was made of where one could get a copy to read?

Jan Targhetta
Via e-mail

(The full text is available at: www.vatican.va.holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html)

Why the ultimate penalty?

In the “Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II teaches us that the “death penalty is seen as a kind of ‘legitimate defense’ on the part of society. Modern society, in fact, has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitely denying them the chance to reform.”

This encyclical also states that “Life is always good,” and that “the Son of God proclaims to all who feel threatened and hindered that their lives too are a good to which the Father’s love gives meaning and value.” Jesus’ death “reveals all the splendour and value of life.”
California was close to executing its third convicted murdered in recent months. At a very basic level, it is challenging to exhibit Christian charity towards these convicted men, but I question the value of the state imposing this ultimate penalty.

Dan Tracy

An oasis for prayer

In El Cerrito, on a very busy street, there is an oasis for those of us who wish to spend some quality time with our Best Friend. This is a small chapel with seating/kneeling space for about 40 people or so. The Blessed Sacrament is waiting for us to visit 24 hours a day.

Presumably, those who sign up to spend a regular hour with Jesus once a week or perhaps even every day, can be issued a key. But the door is kept locked and those who care to “drop in” must rely on the kindness of someone inside to let them in. I dropped in on a Sunday afternoon (I was in the neighborhood on my way to visit a dying friend) and fortunately someone let me in. I spent a very pleasant hour in His company and came away refreshed and very, very happy. I do plan to visit again soon.

But it is so far away from where I live in Hayward.

Why can’t there be a similar place at least in every city in the diocese? And if there is such a place close to where I live, how is it that I do not know about it? It certainly is not talked about in The Voice.

I’m sure there are people out there who would be willing to make it happen. Are you there? Do you care? Can we somehow get together and create such a place.

Marilyn Pasqual

Music is too dominant

I fully agree with the gentleman who several weeks ago (Forum, Jan. 23) said the choir and the music director should go back in the choir loft. The Mass has degenerated into entertainment for the attendees rather than a prayer service.

Even Father Andrew Greeley in his recent book “The Making of The Pope 2005” says “The sad truth is the liturgy is boring, especially when it is marked by poor music and bad preaching.”(pg. 64)

There are greeters at the doors, silly songs like “In Christ There is No East and West” and sometimes even a skit. One of the last times I attended the parish nearest my home the priest seated himself in the first pew and a skit was presented with teens leaping around the altar in an aerobic style “dance.” I never understood the relevance.

Anytime the priest isn’t speaking, the choir is active. Even during Communion the choir must sing, thus creating a distraction so even then you can’t say a prayer thanking God for all the gifts He has given you.

Music has a place in the Mass, but it shouldn’t dominate the entire Mass.

David Ross

Tyranny of relativism

Bishop Vigneron recently addressed a workshop attended by Pastoral Council members from throughout the diocese. He spoke of a serious and emerging threat to the Christian faith, what Pope Benedict calls the “tyranny of relativism.”

Describing relativism as a form of “quicksand,” the bishop said we must recognize this danger and respond to it in our ministries and in our own spiritual lives.

Relativism claims there is no absolute truth. Everyone’s view of the truth and of faith becomes equally legitimate, and to speak otherwise subjects the speaker to accusations of “intolerance,” “absolutism,” and “fundamentalism.”

As I reflected on that message, it occurred to me that relativism poses a unique threat to our young people. Faith in God generally, and Catholicism in particular, is being ridiculed and marginalized by an emerging and dominant secular humanist culture. The siren song of this secular culture is relativism.

Relativism is the wide and easy path. Its seductive messages include: “I’m ok, you’re ok,” “If it feels good, do it” and “freedom of choice.”

Young people are particularly susceptible to these messages. Relativism offers immediate and unconditional acceptance, without risk of rejection.

Every Sunday we deny the claims of relativism in our proclamation of the Nicene Creed. However, those words alone will not protect our youth. We need pastors, catechists, teachers, and parents to speak confidently of their Catholic faith and show through their actions that the Gospel really matters.

Only then will our youth believe Jesus is, absolutely, “The Way, The Truth, and The Life”.

Mike McDermott

A question of scores

Here are the scores of two girls’ high school basketball games played on Feb. 14.: St. Mary’s 97- St. Elizabeth’s 17 and Carondolet 69- Pittsburg 16. Catholic schools shouldn’t be beating other schools by 80 or 53 points.

David McGrath

Accepting homosexuals

It would have been good if Jim Crowley (Forum, Feb. 20) had limited his letter to the first paragraph in which he wrote, “There is no question that there are homosexual persons in our Church leading good and holy lives and want to be faithful members of the Church.”

In the rest of his letter, starting with “but it is also true,” however, he shows his true colors.
Thank God the Catholic community contains and allows many diverse opinions on issues such as homosexuality.

Matthew Shepherd was murdered by some “loose cannons,” but I believe they were fed, however unwittingly, by people whose thinking and speech reflect those of people like Mr. Crowley.

No wonder Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Mary Gregory
Walnut Creek


The opinions expressed in letters to Reader's Forum are the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Voice or the Oakland Diocese.

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