The war at home, Teilhard, sex & more

KINDRED

What a delight to read the article “Tours of Duty” by Barbara Mujica (June 5). The story arrived on the first day of my son’s fourth deployment. It truly is a long war.

Even though our stories are different, Mujica has captured many of the emotions of having a child in a war zone. While reading the article, I had to fight back tears and suppress the urge to push the piece aside in order to avoid the pain. I’m glad I persevered, because hers is a story of hope and possibility.

I have found limited opportunities to share with other mothers the experience of sending a child to war, so it was a real treasure to read her story. It’s important to have these voices in the public square. Yes, Mujica identifies some of the major downsides of deployment: the waiting for word from her son, the obsessive monitoring of the news, and the raw emotions. Her focus is not on the difficulties, however, but on the underlying possibilities inherent to our situation. I owe a debt of gratitude to her son, Mauro, for the way he reached out to the Iraqi citizens, modeling the principle of loving one’s enemy. He has planted seeds that will continue to bear fruit and has laid the groundwork that other sons and daughters, including my own, can build on. That message of hope resonates with me. Having my son in Iraq is stressful, but not hopeless.

I find it difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into words. I plan to meditate on the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she too knows a mother’s pain. I hope to find in Mother Mary’s story—and in the story of other mothers—the capacity to bear the suffering, having it become a force for growth and transformation and not a source of anxiety.

Cheryl Marsh
Bozrah, Conn.


LIKE MOTHER, LIKE SON

As an avid fan of Barbara Mujica’s writing, I took delight in her account of her son’s experience as a U.S. Marine in Iraq. She describes with engaging clarity the moral and emotional dilemma faced by parents whose children are serving in combat: “All you want is for your kid to come home safe.” What I find amazing is that Mujica could have produced her superb historical novel Sister Teresa (published in March 2007) while so much drama was going on in her family life. The inner fortitude of the mother is reflected in the son. “De tal madre, tal hijo”—from such a mother, such a son.

(Rev.) Raymond Maher, O.Carm.
New York, N.Y.


POWER HITTER

The essay “More Being: The Emergence of Teilhard de Chardin” (June 5) is typical John F. Haught: clear, insightful, and provocative. I first read Haught’s What Is God? more than twenty years ago, and have returned to it every year since. The book deeply influenced me, dramatically altering my view of God and self.

Last fall, Haught was the first occupant of the D’Angelo Chair in Humanities at St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York. The occupant is expected to teach a course, give public lectures, and be available to students. Haught hit a home run in each role and set a very high standard for future occupants. His presence on campus proved a gift for faculty and students alike, and his excellent essay on Teilhard reminds me of the crucial role that theologians can play through their research and reflection, helping the church move intelligently and constructively into the future.

(Rev.) Robert E. Lauder
Jamaica, N.Y.


WHY I STAYED

Thank you for the wonderful article on Teilhard de Chardin by John F. Haught. It has been over thirty years since I stumbled on The Phenomenon of Man in a book store. It took me two years to read it, but such was my need to understand what Teilhard was teaching that I spent the next thirty years looking for other authors who were writing on the same subject.

In the beginning there were just a few, but eventually I discovered Haught. Now there are many more. Without this understanding of religion and science I would have walked away from the church long ago. Today, there are many young people who are convinced that happiness is to be found in self-gratification and not in “crazy” religion. I can’t help thinking that with a better understanding of the theology of evolution, many of those young men and women would embrace with excitement the sacrificial life needed to build the earth and understand the universe.

Jean M. Dooling
East Rockaway, N.Y.


TOO MANY ELLIPSES

Given the broad scope of Lisa Fullam’s article “Thou Shalt” (April 24), some dissent was to be expected. There are certainly a few features of her argument about which I have some reservations. But she did make a useful contribution to the discussion of an important subject. And Cassian DiRocco’s judgment that Fullam “ultimately sells short the beautiful vocations of marriage and consecrated life” (Letters, June 19) seems extreme.

DiRocco argues that “sexual union images the Trinity most fully when...two, having become one, become three...when there is an openness to new life.... That’s marriage. Fullam doesn’t mention this.” Indeed, she did not use analogical language in that particular way. But she hardly neglected the connection between sexual union and parenthood within her schema of incarnation, intimacy, and insight. Fullam noted that sexual union is “the usual way we procreate, giving life to another person...we hope will grow to love in turn.” And in discussing the value of sexual intimacy as “the natural training ground” for growth in certain virtues, she observed that parenthood is another such training ground.

Again, DiRocco objects to the assertions that we “learn the most...in the kind of relationships that tend to be or become sexual” and that “deep friendship...stops short of the challenges and rewards of sexual intimacy,” contrasting them with Christ’s favorable view of celibacy.

Those quotations are from a fairly complex paragraph, and they should not be read out of context (the ellipses are especially misleading). One of the points Fullam made there was that “those who live celibacy with integrity and joy are able to be open to deep human connection and its associated virtues without availing themselves of the natural training ground for such growth.” Only a few are called to that life (we may still be learning how few), and a special grace is evidently needed to live it well. (Then again, being a good spouse is no cinch either.)

Julian Irias
Davis, Calif.


PROBABILITY OR POSSIBILITY?

The article “Right Tune, Wrong Words” (June 5) by Charles Camosy was long overdue and expressed much that needs to be said, while we hope for a true development of theological insight into human conception. One key is to recognize the wishful thinking on the part of the Vatican, as evident in Camosy’s quotation of John Paul II when he speaks of the “probability that a human person is involved” at conception. More accurately he should speak of the possibility that a human person is involved, unless he has some inside information not shared with us, for God has yet to reveal how and when he implants a soul.

Paul M. Hennessey
Wharton, N.J.


NEWSPAPER SUICIDE

Rand Richards Cooper’s review of the film State of Play is good, but he makes a common mistake when he blames the fall of newspapers on the Internet (“Late Edition,” May 22). Newspapers like the Baltimore Sun cut hundreds of reporters and editors when they were making 37 percent profits. Such shortsighted greed caused other papers to decline before the Internet came into play. Raw free-market capitalism (that is, greed) plundered the press, just as it did banks, real estate, etc.

Bill Davis
Malibu, Calif.

 

PARTNERS WITH GOD

Luke Timothy Johnson’s article (“How Is the Bible True?” May 22) hit home with this Presbyterian minister. The piece gave form to many inchoate thoughts that have been gathering in my mind. It was by chance, or perhaps “not merely by chance,” that just after reading it I once again picked up Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Who Is Man? The closing paragraph in that provocative little book, written in 1965, captures Luke Timothy Johnson’s thoughts: “From the perspective of the Bible: Who is man? A being in travail with God’s dreams and designs, with God’s dream of a world redeemed, of reconciliation of heaven and earth, of a mankind which is truly His image, reflecting His wisdom, justice, and compassion. God’s dream is not to be alone, to have mankind as a partner in the drama of continuous creation. By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption; we either reduce or enhance the power of evil.”

William R. Klein
Roanoke, Va.

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