Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Don't Miss the Positive

Our newscasts are too often filled with violent news. I once read that the byword for newscasters was: “If it bleeds, it leads”. How sad! Lots of us are affected by such continuous negative news and it weighs heavily on our hearts. To make it worse, negative news is repeated and repeated and repeated, and the good news gets left out. Yes, we need to know what is going on, but I would wager that the number of people doing good acts is far greater than the number committing violent acts. So let’s take a look at examples of the better side of our world. 

It won’t take much to find, in our own neighborhoods, many people caring about others who are right around our corner. Even small acts of kindness make for a better world, such as neighbors bringing a hot dish, or other needed item, when a family has just experienced a tragedy. And then there’s the person across town who provided temporary housing for the family evicted from their home. And the list goes on and on.

The impact of long range programs can also bypass us. For example, many religious communities in our country continue to have an oblate or other named program--associates, affiliates or co-members—that enable lay persons to connect with their community. Through the program, lay people are able to become aware of and live the same values as the sisters or monks without becoming a religious community member. It seems that this kind of program was in effect before the turn of the century when there was an unusual growth in the number of men and women who joined such programs. In our country today, 25,400 persons are listed as having become affiliated with one of these programs.

The Benedictine community in St. Joseph, Minnesota, to which I belong, has more than 400 lay persons who made their commitment in our monastery chapel. Once invested in the program, the oblate’s main focus is to live out the same religious values we hold as they go about the ups and downs of their daily lives. They are assisted with guidance from the oblate director including periodic mailings or emailings, social gatherings at the monastery where speakers talk on relevant topics, and/or faith sharing meetings in their local groups.

Given the impact on their own and on their children’s lives, as well as on future generations, one can appreciate the significance of this widespread movement of people who choose to deepen their commitment to live a God-like life. With or without an oblate program, each person can live the kind of life our Pope Francis beckons us to live.  

Molly Weyrens, a CORE member of the Central MN Catholic Worker, summarized it well in a recent communication where she quoted Howard Zinn. The quote read: "We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” 


Janet Thielges, OSB


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