On Living in the World:
Wealth of itself is not an evil but the abuse of it is. Wealth can be used to great merit, equal to the virtue of poverty. The mission of those who live in this world is to do good rather than to live a strict religious life. Doing good with one’s wealth lights a candle in our world. It can be more believable to people than the witness of religious or priests. Why? Because when priests do good, they are doing their job. Their witness is their profession, their bread and butter, not so with people who live in the world, no selfish motive can be attributed to them.
What we need in our society is upright merchants, high minded lawyers, Christian statesmen, people with high Christian moral standards in every state of life. They are as necessary to our society no less than holy learned priests are necessary to religion. Let it not be said that there is no room to practice heroic virtue in the world. No room? Here are aims worthy of the noblest ambition of men. We want men who will spurn bribes in our legislative halls, who will not violate by their votes the sacred laws of religion, who have the courage to practice their religion in every station in life, who will be seen in the Church on Sundays, who frequent the sacraments.
We enjoy the privileges of the Church, of our society, and of our political government and we forget how much labor, how much sacrifice and how much blood these great institutions cost. Nor do we often think of what these require for their continuance. Few see it as a matter of duty to aid in sustaining the Church, to defend the virtues on which our society is based, or to make it a matter of conscience as to how they cast their ballot. Yet these are the essential duties of every living man and woman.
RESPONSE: FR. PAUL ROBICHAUD, CSP
The late Nelson Mandela had every reason to be resentful. From the age of forty until he was seventy, he lived in a small cell on a prison island off the coast of Capetown. Trained as a lawyer, he had originally been an advocate for non-violence against the state sponsored system of apartheid. A horrific attack on non-violent protestors in Sharpsville, South Africa in 1960 by a government police squad had hardened his heart. He began to advocate for violence and was arrested and tried for treason in 1961. When he came out of prison twenty-seven years later, he could have continued the cycle of violence. Instead he became a symbol of reconciliation, forgiving those who had imprisoned him. In this process he became the “father” of a multi-racial South Africa and led his people towards a democratic and peaceful future. One life can make a difference.
Servant of God Isaac Hecker reminds us in today’s reflection that one life can make a difference. Hecker tells us that if we seek to deepen our spiritual lives, the starting point is found in what we do. Spirituality is not divorced from our day to day lives but emerges out of the actions, decisions and attitudes that we bring to the events of our lives. The very act of getting out of bed and beginning our day, going to work, caring for the people and things around us is a spiritual activity. To act responsibly, to nurture others, to make ethical decisions, to be generous and to forgive is the basis from which we develop our spiritual lives. As Father Hecker says, money and its use can be a spiritual act if we spend it to do good and make out world a better place.
I am sure they were days when Nelson Mandela living in an eight foot by eight foot cell for twenty-seven years, felt that what he did, was of little consequence to the outside world of Robben Island prison. His story reminds us that all of our actions when directed to make a better world matter greatly.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.