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How to Proceed

What with the 24-hour news cycle, the crises du jour, and new disasters, both national and international, we can proceed in three directions.

The first, most appealing to me, is “compassion fatigue.” I just can’t take another crisis, another need that requires my forking out more money, another chip into my peace of mind.  I’d rather watch the YouTube cat-on-the-skateboard than be stretched in a new direction. I’m too stressed out.

Or, second, I can flit from crusade to crusade, from cause to cause, becoming outraged with the latest outrage.  That also appeals to me, for there is a certain personal reassurance that I am moving with the Zeitgeist, that I am with the flow of history, I am hitching along to the latest cause because I am “aware” and “sensitive.”  So the cause is less important that my appearing to be with the Enlightened Ones.  The self-congratulations that comes with “virtue signaling.”

Finally, I can soberly and resolutely commit myself to deeply held values and measure my time and checkbook by a faithful, over-the-long-haul support of core values.  A model for me in this regard is our Hecker Award Winner, Jane O’Connor’s, decades commitment to the education of girls and young women.

Here at the Paulist Center Community, over the years, we have committed ourselves to a few thematic charitable and social justice themes.  Staying the course has not always been easy, as enthusiastic community members come up with great and worthy ideas, usually beginning “Why doesn’t the Paulist Center do this or that?” (with seldom a proper name or personal pronoun – other than “you” – attached).  The measure of whether the Paulist Center Community should go forward with a particular issue is whether there is a critical mass of community members who are willing to commit to the issue on a regular, sustained basis that needs little staff support.  Secondly, the issue must be within the Catholic Social Teaching umbrella so that we can offer a strong and sustained voice to it.

In recent years, a few efforts came swiftly to a strong expression, but then withered quickly.  I think of the rapid and ultimately ineffective effort to bring the issue of institutional racism and white privilege to our Paulist Center awareness and action.  My sense is that, given the occasional presence of some Paulist Center members, a sustained effort just could not be maintained and that many community members have found other venues for their efforts to combat racism.  Which is fine, since the Church community need not be the only venue for such action. And, over the long haul, it might not even be a very effective venue.  Coalition efforts are usually more effective than small, individual efforts.

Next week:  My “take” on what are the “Paulist Center issues.”

What do you think?

And let us pray for/with one another.


The Paulist Center