Herald of Hope

Some things are just never done any more. Socks with holes are worn invisibly down into the shoe so the empty spots don’t show … and then, if unredeemable, tossed away. Maybe it’s a far stretch of the imagination, but I found myself thinking about all kinds of practices into which folks no longer seem to invest time or interest. Maybe it’s just the ruminations of an old guy with less to do during these days of pandemic lockdown and more time on his hands … but I can list all sorts of bits and pieces of past experience which have simply gone their way into history. No one seems to patch socks any more.

Granted, jeans with endless ragged holes have suddenly become tres-chic (and probably quite expensive); so I guess that problem of repatching has morphed away, and maybe fewer people even wear socks as a nod to comfort and informality. At my point in life, I enjoy the causal mode myself; so I’m at peace with customs that just change and dress modes that move with the times and the fashions.

Other things have truly disappeared, however, and I think that we’re the worse for it. In a farfetched sort of way, for example, the religion page in the local secular press, even with its own religion editor, seems to have been put aside as a luxury no longer affordable … or perhaps worse, no longer of general interest. A wider even-if-brief litany of universal Church news also seems to have become the victim of newer formats in local diocesan papers. Those things, like so many parts of earlier social life, quietly disappeared one week. Maybe they’ve been replaced by the blessings of cell phones with all sorts of personal apps and services … with news constantly arriving by other means from other sources … and by regular reports from the further/other side of any border within which we work and live … but I’m not so sure. (I’ve had this same polite conversation with friendly news editors of local TV stations.)

As Catholics, we are committed to membership in the larger world of faith with the bond of Baptism, which unites us to people in Asia, Africa and South America. By Baptism, members of all churches are linked to Christ and each other. Ecumenical initiatives and heartaches also belong to all of us.

Moreover, we’re convinced that our faith summons us to being active in the larger social issues of national and global importance. True Catholics have never been restricted to our immediate neighborhood or to the concerns of our little corner of the Church or the world. By definition, as “Catholics,” we are universal in care, concern and interest.

In 1968, a young widow by the name of Mary McCormick was living across the street from Holy Rosary Parish on Milwaukee’s east side. She heard the lay missionary call, packed up her children and went off to Colombia, where she worked for decades. A bigger world called her name and she responded with a generosity that still evokes admiration from all who hear her story. I’m convinced that her generosity is the type that merits consideration for formal beatification, and have urged that her memory be treasured.

We can’t all become that type of missionary … nor should we … but no one will if we never consider the larger world of faith and charity. Catholics think about the big world. The fact that folks of so many different languages and cultures gather around a single Holy Father in Rome and share the baptismal summons to share the Gospel with the whole world (Mark 16:16) is part of what makes us Catholic. Restricting us to the concerns of our block or corner lot or circle of immediate friends makes us less Catholic.

It seems more and more of a challenge to even discover the cares of people in other lands, much less open our hearts and minds to them. The missionary cooperation plan of our archdiocese is a key element in our truly being Catholics. Having sister parishes elsewhere in the world helps us become Catholic in every sense of the world. That our archdiocese serves a community in the Dominican Republic is not just a sign of our Catholicity, but enforces the catholicity of the faith we proclaim every time we blithely recite the Creed at Mass. I suspect that the Catholic Press Apostolate might also help that education in a new fashion these days. With all due respect and no wish to trivialize the issue, concern for the missions and for God’s larger world shouldn’t be stored away with the old socks and patched knees of any earlier age.