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 August 7, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 14Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Pray for Lebanon

During the long and terrible civil war in Lebanon, I often visited Catholic Near East’s Pontifical Mission office in Beirut. This beautiful country was in shambles, a tragedy of destruction from demolished buildings to burned grape vines.

An American Holy Cross Sister, an elderly Lebanese Sister, and I wanted to walk. At that time, the main streets in Beirut had up-ended huge garbage or cargo containers all along the sidewalks so that civilians could step into them if sniper firing occurred.

I was wearing a bright red coat of which I was inordinately fond because it was store bought and not a hand-me-down. But as we walked the American nun advised that I remove the coat (I was never sure if it was because of the target color or my size.) I took the coat off and we continued our walk, but the shooting became more frequent and we were spending precious time sheltered in the cargo containers.

Finally, Sister Paul (who it seems knew everyone in Lebanon) stepped out into the middle of the street and with arms fiercely crossed shouted, “I know you young boys...will you stop shooting?!” The firing stopped at once and yes, they were “young boys” holding guns and assuming a “manly soldier” stance. Not another shot was fired as we proceeded down the street.

I beg your prayers for the people of Lebanon, and perhaps even more for our courageous staff in Beirut. They never left their post during the past civil war and now they also remain steadfast, bringing supplies and aid to their people.

As I think of the enormous help they are providing, I guess - in my heart - that I wish Sister Paul was still living and that she would step out into the middle of Beirut and exclaim, “Would you stop that shooting!!!”

Peace, please God.

Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.
Special Assistant to the Secretary General
Catholic Near East Welfare Association
New York, New York

Eucharistic devotion

I appreciated the photo (Voice, July 3) of the Eucharistic Procession held on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Bishop Vigneron celebrated the Mass at St. Elizabeth Church in the presence of thousands from around the diocese. The procession left St. Elizabeth with about 1,000 people, but many dropped out along the way as the day was warm and the journey long.

About 500 ended the procession and filled the destination parish of St. Jarlath Church for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Although the photo in the Voice showed the huge monstrance, it was difficult to see exactly how beautiful it was.

The day was a great outpouring of devotion. Special thanks to Franciscan Father Oscar Mendez and the people of St. Elizabeth Parish, and Father Francisco Figueroa and the people of St. Jarlath Parish.

The Confraternity of Eucharistic Devotion of the Diocese of Oakland [CEDDO] would like to invite any who would like to celebrate the patronal feast of the Queenship of Mary on Aug. 22 with a Mass offered by Bishop Vigneron at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Concord at 7:00 p.m. CEDDO will follow the Mass with its first organizing meeting. All are welcome.

Father Jerry Brown, pastor
St. Francis of Assisi Parish

A forgotten virtue

I am making a plea for the sometimes forgotten virtue of modesty. It is almost an unknown word these days and yet we are called to it as followers of Jesus in all aspects of our lives. Modesty is a beautiful virtue that applies to our actions and our speech as well as our dress.

Modesty recognizes boundaries. It isn’t pushy or bold. Modesty is respectful and humble. It seeks balance and proper proportion. Modesty is reserved and self-effacing. Our greatest role model in modesty besides her Son is our Blessed Lady.

Modesty is eschewed by our society that promotes excess. It is easy to become immune to these excesses that are so much a part of our daily lives and accept them as the norm. But our faith is counter-cultural and reminds us not to conform to the world and its ways.

Current fashions and summer heat have exposed a lot more human flesh of late. Dressing modestly has become a challenge that is not always met. The results are noticeable even in church, among ministers, lectors, cantors, at parish meetings.

As role models for our young people, as a sign of respect to our celibate clergy and religious, and especially with respect to the Blessed Sacrament, let us be mindful of this beautiful virtue and strive to clothe our actions, speech, and bodies with the modesty of Jesus and Mary.

Gloria Serpa

Why change the words?

Why, with all of the serious issues facing the American Catholic Church today – for example, clergy child sexual abuse and the associated financial hardship that is forcing the closure of many parishes – have the bishops chosen to focus on such trivial matters as enforcing changes in liturgical responses (Voice, July 3)?

In many European countries the Church is becoming more and more institutionally irrelevant, while the American Church remains still vibrant despite all of our problems. What advantage, then, is there to risk alienation by taking a step backwards and returning to such awkward expressions.

Is there any harm in the assembly of believers to continue to profess our communal faith by saying “We believe …” instead of the pre-Vatican II individual “I believe”? I just don’t get it.

James Erickson

Remember priests

I attended Mass on Father’s Day. All fathers in the congregation were honored and blessed. It occurred to me that we were honored merely because we were fathers, whether good or not so good. The men we call Father (our parish priests) were not mentioned at all.

These men have dedicated their lives to the service of God and us; they deserve a demonstration of our love and appreciation on Father’s Day. I propose that on Father’s Day the second collection could be for the priests of that parish, and gifts of appreciation be given to them.

Would this not have a positive effect on young people contemplating a life in the Holy Orders? Also, it would give our priests a pat on the back.

Jim Shirley
San Leandro

A sad mindset

Kudos to Sister Maria Elena Gonzales (Voice, June 19) for speaking to Hispanic youth and urging them to renounce the soul/mind-damaging colonial mentality. I was impressed that she would even go so far as to say that this attitude manifests in their own families where, perhaps, the lighter-skinned relatives are favored over the darker-skinned ones.

This mentality is still rampant in many parts of the world, where having a Spanish relative is a feather in one’s cap in the Philippines, or in parts of Africa where the girls apply skin bleaching crème to their smooth dark faces before a school mixer in the belief this will make them more attractive to the boys, or where northern Italians believe themselves better than southern Italians because they tend to have blond hair and fairer skin.

Some in the African American community call this (or used to call it) being “near my God to thee.”

It’s a sad mindset to be in. Nobody has died and set any standard of beauty for the world to follow.

Shannon Mewton
San Leandro

Understanding other religions

Plurality of religion is a fact of life. In recent times we have witnessed the revival of many religious traditions, in some cases leading to religious fanaticism and intolerance of other religions and groups. The best way to counteract such divisive tendencies and to strive for peace and good will among people is to learn and understand other religions.

Recently Father James Thoppil, parochial vicar at St. Felicitas Parish in San Leandro, gave 10 lectures on the world’s living religions. We learned about the basic tenets of seven religions and came to appreciate and respect them as part of God’s design for humankind.

Father Thoppil’s personal experience and interaction with believers of different religions added persuasiveness to his lectures. For most participants, it was the first time to know that the Koran speaks most respectfully and assigns a very important place to Jesus and Mary.

The lectures provided an opportunity not only to learn about the role various religions play in the lives of the people but also its role in the formation, preservation and transmission of different cultures and traditions.

The explication of the nuances of words like Jen, Tao, Ying, Yang, Nirvana, Moksa, salvation, incarnation, Avatar, Karma-samasar, rebirth, reincarnation, rites, rituals, God, creation, etc. helped us better understand different religious tenets.

The veracity and usefulness of every religion is measured not by its lofty ideals and belief system, but by the extent it humanizes human beings and makes them live as children of the same God, though known by different names

Bill Glass
San Leandro

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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