Charity and gratitude amidst the chaos and mayhem

The month of June is a particularly busy period for the Development Office of the diocese. The Catholic Charities Appeal closes at the end of the month and there is always a flurry of activity meant to support our pastors and their staffs as they continue to advocate on behalf of the services and ministries that will be funded for the next fiscal year based on the final results. In addition, the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education, is engaged in final allocation decisions for the 19 elementary and middle schools in the diocese.

This requires a careful review of more than 1,000 applications that parents have submitted requesting some financial assistance from the diocese to help them afford the cost of a Catholic education. This year, all those tasks have been conducted within a backdrop of tragedy, carnage and mindless violence that can easily shake one’s faith. 

Permit me please to offer some thoughts on the juxtaposition of countless acts of generosity and expressions of gratitude for a Church that cares for those in need and the random cruelty and misfortune that have assaulted our senses over the past two weeks.

In no particular order, the slaughter of 49 victims in an Orlando nightclub, the tragic death of a little boy at Disney World, and the vituperative nature of our political process has cast a huge pall over my psyche. Every day we are reminded that misfortune and calamity can threaten to discourage a loving God-centered ethic in favor of cynicism, paranoia, fear and self-centeredness. So, what’s the solution?

The antidote, it seems to me, is to remain aware that our faith is resilient, good overcomes evil and each of us has the ability to reflect God’s mercy onto our fellow citizens. The immediate impact of the nighttime slaughter in Orlando was an overwhelming outpouring of potential blood donors anxious to help. The devastated family from Nebraska has been enveloped with sympathy and condolences for their bewildering loss. Closer to home I am reminded of the extraordinary acts of generosity demonstrated across all economic strata for Catholic Charities and the enormous gratitude expressed by many parents for the financial help we are able to provide through FACE. One family from the Cape sent a card with a picture of their three children holding diplomas. It was a note of thanks but also a profound reminder to me that these efforts have human faces and consequences. 

The world is full of hate. The cure is love. Sounds simple and maybe simplistic. But I think the more we focus on the small acts and examples of selfless love that we either experience or encounter, the better chance we have to conquer the morbid with the magnificent, the dismal with the daring and the evil with the enlightened.

I would like to conclude this last column before the close of the 2016 fiscal year with a prayer that has always inspired me to recount my blessings and refocus my energies. It was written by then-Father General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

When events conspire to deflate or defeat us, our faith teaches us to pray: 

Fall in Love

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in love
in a quite absolute, 
final way.

What you are in love with, 
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know, 
what breaks your heart, 
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love,
stay in love, 
and it will decide 

Anchor columnist James Campbell is director of the diocesan Development Office/Catholic Charities Appeal/Foundation to Advance Catholic Education.

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