The view from the pew

When big news breaks as it did today with the release of “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority” by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, I sometimes pause to think about the majority of the Catholics I know.

While we in the blogosphere are running from Twitter to Facebook to the blogs in search of informed perspectives, I’d venture to say that most of the folks sitting near us in the pews have no idea that such a Vatican document has even been released.

This perspective became very clear to me during a recent speaking engagement I had. I was meeting with a group of parents for their “whole family catechesis” night of education while their children were off in their religious education classrooms. The topic that night was “Saints” — obviously something very near and dear to my heart. The group assembled were a variety of ages and life stages, married (or not) and mostly with relatively young children. All had given up an evening at home on a busy weeknight after a full day of work to be at church with their children. They were attentive, tuned in and obviously very caring about the faith formation of their little ones — but also their own as well.

About midway through the talk, something made me think of some of the recent and very high profile “priest situations” we’ve been facing in the Church. I made a reference during my talk about Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life. The comment was met with blank stares, a total absence of recognition. I then asked the group outright, “Has anyone ever heard of Father Frank Pavone?” Nothing.

To further test the situation, I asked, “How about Father John Corapi. John Corapi — anyone?” Again, nothing.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “Imagine how much time and energy has been spent in the Catholic blogosphere the past few months discussing not only these two men, but other similar situations and these people are completely unaware.”

The truth of the matter is that being “up to date” on much of these news is absolutely no indication of the level of commitment to one’s faith. I often think that if I spent the time I fritter away online praying instead, the state of my soul would be much better.

My point? Much will be made this week about this new Vatican document. We can, and should, inform ourselves about what the Pontifical Council has stated and not rely on the news media to translate the documents for us. But we also need to work daily — each in our own “Little Ways” — towards the end goal of that work: an increased attentiveness toward the “common good”. My challenge to myself is not only to find time to read (or at least read about) the document from reliable sources, but then to take that knowledge and to make change in my own little corner of the world.

Pat asked earlier this morning that I speak about a few of the saints I cover in A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms who have made a difference in my life. I still intend to do that in the hours I have remaining here at Elizabeth’s place. At the moment, the one who comes to mind is St. Katharine Drexel, who employed her personal resources and placed her life of luxury on hold to minister in a very hands on way to the poor and disenfranchised around her. It was this pioneering missionary who stated:

“If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to him and to them. Let us open wide our hearts. It is Joy that invites us. Press forward and fear nothing.”

For me, on a day such as this, these words remain a call to action.


About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms.

  • Clare Krishan

    “who employed her personal resources and placed her life of luxury on hold ”
    Actually the resource (the capital from her father’s estate) was never hers, she only had access to the dividends earned on that principle. At today’s interest rates (0.25%) she’d have been indigent pretty quickly. The “luxury” was put “on hold” for surviving male relatives *to inherit upon her death. Her order became destitute at that point dependent on donations from the kindness of strangers.

    * terms of her father’s will, to prevent gold diggers comin’ a courtin’

  • lisahendey

    Thanks for the clarification Clare!

  • Greta

    I had a similar experience in giving a talk to parents of our grade school kids. I was asked because of my role with the youth group in its formation and explosive growth. It did not hurt that I was a mom and grandma and now great grandma. During the discussion, I asked about several things going on in the Church, in the world of politics, and about American history. I had the same reaction from many of the parents. I asked how many talked to their kids about these type topics at any time and the answer was a lack of time. Few even had dinner with their kids each night and few said the rosary as a family.

    I went to the blackboard…I know, it is called something else now.. and asked for things that took up their time and got a long list from soccer to scouts to other events. I asked which of these would bring their kids closer to God, make them better citizens of America, or help them become holy and a saint? I asked them how they would vote and if they were educated on the issues and how they could vote without knowledge and if this were good for our country? The talk changed from the intended topic, but I think made a strong point on priorities. I closed with the story of my dad who in the midst of the depression and working two jobs to make ends meet, he took time every day to talk about the constitution of our country and about the Catholic Church teaching. We never missed a family rosary and we talked every night at a family dinner.

    As to this Vatican document, the relevent part to me is that it is not in any way magesterial and this needs to be emphasized. As Catholics, we are called to read it and give it serious thought, but never let it get in the way of all the information out there before we decide on if we can support it. Like many vatican documents, it is very long and will have many things for many people to chew on and use for their own purposes. I predict in the end it will go by the boards fairly fast because from the little I have read to date, it is like a picture of a better world, kind of like the UN. This is what the world would look like if there were no greed or laziness or pride or groping for power. It is kind of like the ideal that those who set up the UN had that it could lead to real peace worldwide and we have had more wars around the world since the creation of the UN. Maybe the Vatican should lead by example and give up all wealth and selling off everything in the Vatican and worldwide and give it to the poor. When I see all the Cardinals and Bishops living like St Francis, I will give what they advise on economic issues more credibility and attention.

  • Ellen

    George Weigel has a great piece on the media spin of this document.

    Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.

    His piece can be found at this link.

  • Michael Demers

    “I often think that if I spent the time I fritter away online praying instead, the state of my soul would be much better.” I’m afraid I have to agree with you. I’m thinking about giving up reading blogs altogether.

  • Manny

    Lisa, you may not be back to see this, but here’s a question on women saints that would be interesting. Actually she never made sainthood, but certainly captured the imagination of Catholics and Anglicans: Julian of Norwich. Do you think she should be a saint? What are your thoughts on her?

  • Dan C

    Drexel also was u afraid od govwrnment support for her schools and other mssion services both before and after her life with her order. She is not a libertarian and recognized government support.

    Her stepmother actually would be the person one would use to emulate subsidiary. Her step-mother would bring in the poor into her home to receive charity. The common meaning the libertarian/Acton Institute-inspired Catholic has for subsidiary has to do with the support of one’s favorite faith-based charity. It really means getting one’s hands dirty with touching and meeting the poor. It certainky is used in that manner in its first usage in Leo’s encyclical.

    George Weigel should be discredited after his politically motivated dissection of “Truth in Love.” Heis paid to promote conservative propaganda by a conservative think tank. He spins and warps religion around this point. He does not start his day, as an earlier post on this blog notes, as “Catholic first” and his responses to his bishops and the pope over the past ten years have highlighted this. He is paid to promote conservative thought. Should he stop doing that and promote Catholic thought, he would lose his job at EPPC.

  • Elizabeth K.

    Hey Manny–Julian of Norwich is amazing, isn’t she? I looked into this a few years ago when I was teaching her book, Showings, and my understanding is that there was simply too little information about her early life to approve her for sainthood, though she is Blessed (again, it’s been a few years, but this is what I remember). I also know that some of her ideas are heterodox, or at least have been interpreted that way: some argue that she indicates universal salvation in places, which isn’t heresy, but is definitely heterodox, but nothing I read indicated that that was the issue with sainthood. New Advent has a little section on her:

  • Manny

    Yes that’s the thing about her Elazabeth K. that I think prevents her from sainthood – her universal salvation. Actually that’s what attracts me to her. I know it’s heterodox as you put, but I beleive in universal salvation! The more I learn about her, the more I admire. I have her “Revelations of Divine Love” but I have yet to read it.