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 December 14, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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True spiritual directors

The Nov. 23 article on spiritual direction implies that good spiritual directors are a phone call away. The reality is quite different. One must be extremely cautious when seeking spiritual direction, and even more cautious when setting out to give it.

St. Francis de Sales, himself a gifted spiritual director, warned that a capable spiritual director is “one in ten thousand, for those who are fitted for such a task are unimaginably few.” It is easy to get the impression today that spiritual direction is something most anyone can practice by putting up a sign.

The ability to direct souls is a gift of God. The idea that one can be “certified” to do it is questionable. Imagine Padre Pio or St. Teresa of Avila enrolling in a spiritual direction course or charging people $40-$80 per session to see them. They never sought this role — people were drawn to them.

True spiritual directors have no need to advertise and they approach the task with fear and trembling, aware that they have been entrusted with the care of another’s soul.

I would be extremely hesitant to entrust my soul to someone who posted an ad and billed me for the privilege. I’m sure there are some fine people registered with Spiritual Directors International, but the call to direct souls must be approached in the deepest possible spirit of humility and prayer.

The gift is discovered through living a life of deep union with Christ and usually comes from outside — it’s not something that can be sought or learned through coursework.

In my experience, the most gifted spiritual directors strongly resist taking on the role when approached, and they would never ask for payment. That is as it should be. Too much is at stake to approach it lightly. I recommend a book called “Seeking Spiritual Direction” by Father Thomas Dubay, SM.

John Knutsen

Family planning a virtue

In his letter “Church too silent” David Brusiee (Forum, Nov. 23) refers to a 98 percentage of all married Catholics who use artificial birth control. Since he disagrees with the judgment of all these people, he believes that the Church should speak out on this issue or change the law.

Since I am of an opposite opinion, I must be one of his “cafeteria” Catholics. With so much hunger and poverty in the world, sound family planning is a virtue and also a necessity in today’s society. Did not God give us the science and technology to improve our lives and the lives of others? Changing the law of the Church would indeed be an appropriate option.

On a different subject I am definitely not in favor of abortions. However, I do not believe that it is God’s intention to see a child being born as a result of rape or incest. How can a child, born under such circumstances, be loved? I cannot believe that God approves of excommunicating parents and doctors for such an act of charity.

I hope that the Reader’s Forum will continue to publish opinions that are not always in agreement with Church teachings and not succumb to pressure by some to make this part of the pulpit.

Adrianus Rommelse

Theology and extraterrestrials

I take issue with the good Father Jose Funes’ thesis. In the Nov. 23 Voice article, “Scientists meet at Vatican to discuss extraterrestrial life,” he seemingly argues that earth is unique in experiencing the Incarnation.

He cites the parable of the Good Shepherd and likens earth to the one lost sheep who presumably receives, uniquely in the universe, the full favors of a Good Shepherd. While this is a difficult theological question, I believe Father Funes gets it sadly wrong.

In our galaxy alone are over 100 billion stars. Our galaxy is but one of over 100 billion galaxies in the universe. We have recently found that a large percentage of suns have planets. And while current observations limit our ability to see earth-like planets that can support life, it is highly likely we will soon find many such planets.

Statistics alone establish an overwhelming likelihood that other intelligent beings exist at this moment in our universe, with hopes, loves and struggles like our own. This poses a deep — and to some disturbing — question for Catholic theology.

In response to Father Funes, I would simply point to another, cautionary, biblical citation in which Jesus reveals, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.” While what Jesus delivered to humanity undoubtedly represents a universal message, are we to believe the Good Shepherd can abandon any of His sheep?

Catholic theology runs a great risk of considering other intelligent beings as lesser beings, thus far undeserving of salvation. On our own earth, we have seen this as a prescription for unspeakable tragedy and injustice.

Harry Saunders

Holding healthcare hostage

As a Catholic committed to the Church’s implementation of Catholic Social Justice teaching, I have been impressed with the Church’s strong commitment to health reform, calling universal healthcare a human right and a social good.

However, the U.S. bishops’ support for healthcare that is affordable for all, and available to everyone without prejudice for documented immigration status, is apparently not as important as prohibiting women of other faiths from using their own private funds for a procedure that is legal in the United States — a restriction that goes beyond current Hyde amendment restrictions of federal funding on abortion.

“The bishops sent out information to be ‘announced at all Masses’ and included in parish bulletins, and urged priests and parishioners to tell House members: ‘Please support the Stupak Amendment that addresses essential pro-life concerns.’ They added: ‘If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed.’” (New York Times, Nov. 8, 2009.)

The commitment for universal healthcare is also support for life and dignity, and should not be held hostage to more restrictive and intrusive anti-abortion politics. On this issue, the bishops assuredly do not speak for me.

Claire Broome

Put away war weapons

“From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)

This scriptural passage from the Old Testament and part of the morning prayer for the first Monday of Advent offers hope to most troubling times these days.

The young Jesus will come into the world as the “Divine Child” as the theologian Jurgen Moltman calls Him, out of the familial and ancestral tree of David and Jesse. He will come inconspicuously and vulnerably as a tender blade of grass. He will come gently and peaceably as a new plant, a neophyte.

When President Obama has promised to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and we, the people of the United States, are embroiled in a war in Iraq, the arrival of the Divine Child brings light into a dark world.

The tenderness and vulnerability of the new shoot encourages us in the struggle to put away the weapons of war which absorb funds which could go to the hungry on our planet.

Maureen Hartmann

Forum needs Gospel spirit

For years, I have been appalled by the judgmental nature and even hateful tone of some of the letters which are published in the Reader’s Forum of The Voice. How can they reflect the spirit of the Gospel when they are so full of venom?

Though they come both from the right and left and may be cloaked in references to dogma, I don’t find them reflective of Jesus’ Gospel of love and forgiveness. I wonder to myself as I read them, where is your Christian joy? What I see is a spirit of condemnation and vengefulness.

At times I want to show the paper to my friends who are not Catholics so they can see all the good things that are going on in our Church. But I would never dare to do so because of those Reader’s Forum letters. Some people are so focused on this “’mission” that I recognize their frequently appearing names.

Please use an editing process, not to stifle freedom of speech but to re-install courtesy and the spirit of the Gospel in the letters which you choose to publish.

Patricia Belding

Gun control aids crime

I’m ashamed to have the same first name as John W. Kyle (Forum, Nov. 23). His incomprehensible ignorance about guns is appalling.

Gun control equals crime. In the cities and states with the strictest gun control, the crime rates soar. Check Washington D. C., New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland, for example. What these cities have in common is gun control and high crime rates.

Florida and Arizona have a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment and low crime. The reasonable explanation is that criminals like to work where law abiding citizens don’t have guns.

Also, when gun laws are passed it is impossible to enforce them. Therefore law abiding citizens don’t have guns; only criminals have guns. This leads to an unfair situation, unfair to the unprotected citizen, and unfair to the police who can’t be everywhere.

Master Sgt. John Wirts (retired)
Via email

Recommended Advent reading

Now that the first Advent candle has been lit and we face the frenzy and frustration that comes in December, take an hour over a few days and read “A Simple Christmas” by Mike Huckabee. It is 12 true stories that bring the Christian meaning of Christmas to life.

It is not a feel-good book, but you’ll feel better having read it. It shows us what really matters in the holiday season and the rest of the year.

Mary McMahon

A Christmas memory

It was the third Friday of December at a nursing home in my neighborhood. Wayne filled us with his piano rendition of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. His singers are the ladies who minister to the residents at their monthly Mass.

Christmas music came to us while attending Mass. Joy permeated the room from the music flowing from Wayne’s fingers.

The people attending this Mass were filled with inspiring love to further their Christmas spirit. We enjoyed this celebration as much in this living room as a great cathedral.

Lillian Silver
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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