Sociology doesn't "get" Hope or Holy Spirit or Work

Forgive me for this, but I really must direct your attention to three excellent pieces, all arising from the blog Summa This, Summa That:

The first is by Pat Gohn (yes, that Pat Gohn and that Pat Gohn; she’s going to be a star!) who writes about simple hope, in all of its paradoxical complexities:

The author of the book of Hebrews puts it this way:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23.)”

That says a whole lot more about God than it does about me. It re-aligns my thinking and my priorities amidst trials and errors. God, who is faithful, is worthy of my trust. His job is to be Providence; my job is to hold fast.

Despite this Providence, we marvel at the quirky boldness of hope when it pops up against the odds.

More real than the beauty of a rose bloom in the chill of autumn, the action of grace often lies just beneath the surface of what is usually distracting us at the moment. But to see it, we must call upon the promises of our baptism, an event long past for many of us, that carries ramifications for our present day.

Hope is the irrepressible theological virtue that accompanies the Christian in baptism. It has lifelong staying power.

One post down from Pat’s wonderful exposition, Tim Muldoon takes a look at Catholics as A People Adrift and finds that “Sociology is not helpful in understanding the work of the Holy Spirit.”:

Peter Steinfels’ very perceptive article in Commonweal focuses on the most recent Pew data which shows the massive numbers of Catholics who leave the Church. According to this data, the second largest religious “group” in the United States is former Catholics, second only to Catholics.

By any measure this is disturbing data, and I value Steinfels’ analysis as I appreciated his book A People Adrift. Yet the diagnosis is not the same as the cure. While Steinfels’ observations are spot-on, I do not find that there is an easy answer to what the data ought to be telling us. But I will offer two observations.

In sound byte form: first, older Catholics are dying; second, success is not the same as popularity.

And one down from Muldoon’s heartening work, we find Kathy Coffey reminding us of something important, The Spirituality of Work:

Nineteenth century Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins observed, “it is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring….To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives [God] glory too. To lift the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a sloppail, give [God] glory too. [God] is so great that all things give [God] glory if you mean they should.” To update his words, we might substitute a bulldozer for the dungfork and a laptop for the sloppail. But his idea transcends time and cultural differences.

Former prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir once visited the Vatican. She was welcomed by Swiss guards, colorful banners, music and procession. In awe, she asked, “all this for the daughter of a carpenter?” The response came quickly: “around here, we think pretty highly of carpenters.”

These examples from our tradition show we’ve always respected work, considering it essential to a full life. Our language reflects that belief. After an illness, we guage health by return to work: “She’s feeling better. She’s back to drywalling!”

Three through-provoking pieces by three extraordinarily good writers. I find a common thread to all of these very different pieces. Does anyone else? Let’s talk!

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