While I sit and write this post, Christmas celebrations are concluded and I prepare, with the rest of the world, to embark on a new year; a year with my idealistic hopes and want for a better future for humanity. So for New Year’s I am taking out my golden lamp and making three big wishes: peace, kindness, and dialogue in the Catholic Church.
“True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It’s not a lovely façade which conceals conflicts and divisions…. peace calls for daily commitment.” – Pope Francis
Peace transcends governments and countries. Peace should be a daily commitment that each one of us lives every day and practiced in each of our relationships. Looking forward to a new year, I hope to put this into practice and we will see a shift in politics and attitudes that reflect an ideal of peace and reconciliation – not just nationally, but communally.
With peace also comes reconciliation. Fighting takes too much energy. Making a point to reconcile with that relative or friend that you had a falling out with is a goal that has the potential to bear fruit and be restorative.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain
With peace and reconciliation comes kindness. This wish is a large request and one that the Pope calls us to embrace. A kindness is required that reaches the poor and oppressed, that reaches non-Catholics including atheists, and, that touches every race, class, and orientation. We do not have the right to judge – a sentiment that the Pope continues to reiterate.
According to Julia Baird, “even scientists are now touting the physical and psychological benefits of kindness, compassion, and selflessness. Multiple studies now show: a single act of kindness can trigger dozens more … and repetitive acts of kindness can make people happier, and less depressed.” This is not a new revelation, but a reminder of the benefits of kindness – a reminder we need to carry into the New Year.
We should, however, remember help the homeless, the children, and the oppressed. This group of people is often ignored the news media, but lack of attention to a problem does not diminish it. According to the Pope, scandals are the news of today, but the children without food are not news worthy. According to Pope Francis, we should not “interfere in the lives of others” in a way that is malicious, like gossiping or being boastful. This behavior brings hurt, bitterness and envy. Kindness is necessary for a better future for all of humanity.
Dialogue with the Catholic Church
“Fifty years ago, Vatican II spoke of communications. Let us listen to, dialogue with, and bring Christ all those we encounter in life.” – Pope Francis
Let us not focus on rituals and rules in the Church; rather, we need to focus on the people of the Church. People,
after all, make up the Church – not brick and mortar. Because of this, we need to focus on dialogue – a dialogue with each other, regardless of belief or life choices. This dialogue should be rooted in a positive attitude and carried out with love and humility. It should include a focus that reaches out to facilitate peace. This dialogue should also include the discussion of women’s roles in the Church. There are so many things to discuss. The Church is a human church. With the invitation to dialogue and re-address so many of the untouched or misinterpreted teachings of Vatican II, might we move forward and rebuild this Catholic Church on the shoulders of one who served the poor, loved everyone, and gave of himself?
What are your wishes for the new year? I would love to hear from you.
From my family to yours, may you have a peace-filled, prosperous, and delightful 2014.
Michele Stopera Freyhauf: Doctoral Student in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a Member of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University as well as an Instructor at John Carroll University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Adjunct Professor in Religious Studies at Ursuline College and the University of Mount Union. Michele has an M. A. in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University, and did post-graduate work at the University of Akron in the area of History of Religion, Women, and Sexuality. She is also a Member-at-Large on the Student Advisory Board for the Society of Biblical Literature and the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS). Michele is a feminist scholar, activist, and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia” and lectured during the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations (2013). Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf and @biblicalfem. Her website can be accessed here and is visible on other social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+