Posted by: fvbcdm | March 21, 2012

Feast of Saint Nicholas von Flue (21 Mar 2012)

Recently I received a letter from a friend who is concerned over a woman who has given birth to a child out of wedlock.  The mother is upset because she is having trouble having the child baptized.  And my friend, who is not the father of the child by any means, asks me whether I think it would be proper for him to offer to become the child’s godfather. Yes, I think it would be very proper, and indeed very charitable to make that offer.

Which reminds me of a story I heard when I was in the Navy in Japan in 1953.  A young Jesuit priest had just been assigned to a Jesuit mission in Japan, and one day he was riding in a streetcar on one of the streets in Tokyo.  A young pregnant woman got into the streetcar and stood near the two American priests, who were seated; there were no more empty seats, so she stood.  The younger priest, who knew almost nothing about Japanese culture, was about to get up and give the young woman his place, but the older priest grabbed his arm to prevent his doing that.  “No,” said the older man.  “If you get up and give that young pregnant woman your seat, everybody in the streetcar will presume that you are the father of her baby.  And many of them know that we Catholic priests are obliged to remain celibate. Thus, your actions would cause scandal in the minds of these people.”


I don’t think that in our country, the offer to become godfather of a child born out of wedlock would have the same effect.  In any case, we must always be careful about what we do, bearing in mind how our actions might strike others.  Quite recently, a young man whom I had come to know in Lufkin, TX, was deeply offended by the fact that a Catholic parish nearby held a parish fair, and sold beer at the fair.  This young man belonged to a religious group that considers any drinking of alcoholic beverages gravely sinful, and he demanded from me an explanation of why that Catholic parish had beer at its fair.   We discussed it for awhile, and I pointed out to him that Our Lord began his public life by producing somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of very good wine for a wedding reception.  No, he told me. That wasn’t really wine; it was just grape juice!  You can’t argue with that kind of close-mindedness, so I just suggested that we wait until the young man is 40 years old.  By then, I doubt very much that he’ll hold the same opinions.


In this morning’s Mass gospel, a man is reproached by the pharisaical people of that time for following Jesus’s instructions to pick up his sleeping mat and go home.  Jesus had just cured him from paralysis that had lasted for some thirty-eight years.  So, if a man can have authority over such a long-lived illness, presumably he had authority to tell an newly-healed person to carry his mat even on the Sabbath day.  But no, Our Lord’s opponents would have wanted the cured man to leave his mat where it was for another day.  These occurrences give us some idea of how much lack of common sense there is in some moral matters.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P. 


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