Called to be Sacred and Social

by Jeanné Morson, Dept. Head of Religious Education, St. Joan of Arc CHS, YCDSB, Maple, Ontario

Breaking bread         
           Scriptural passages and Church teachings on justice are abundant and I confess that my own familiarity with these teachings, though greater than a brief year ago, is humbly minimal. One of the many challenges for parents and teachers today is to become more familiar with the abundant resources that explore the Catholic perspective on social issues. A more significant challenge, however, is to find adequate and effective ways of sharing the good news of God's desire for a peaceable kingdom with the youth in our own homes and our school communities. 

           Parents and educators are not solely responsible for the transmission of information about the Catholic faith, but we are invited, by the nature of our baptism, to respond to Jesus' call to minister to the minds and hearts of young people in a way that is personally transformative:

           I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. Jn.13:34

           By inviting our young people to reflect critically on the 'way' they engage in their relationships with self, others, God and creation/nature, we do more than teach 'correct' beliefs about social justice or right morals. Within the context of the Gospel imperative to build a peaceable kingdom and heal broken relationships, teachers and parents alike are called to 'in-form'; that is, to create an environment in our homes and in our schools that nurture the formation of personal interior growth while simultaneously assisting our youth as they learn to apply this awakened consciousness to their personal, communal and global context.

           In order to develop a justice consciousness and spirituality in young people (and certainly in our own lives and the lives of our families) it is necessary to invite youth to see and accept Jesus' life and life choices as the perfect model of our human journey. Fully human and fully divine, Jesus reveals our capacity to live fully, and fairly; Jesus reveals our capacity to reveal the in-dwelling of the divine, whose grace is given abundantly and freely to all humanity. It is important for youth to see that this revelation of God's justice and presence, however, did not occur in a vacuum. Jesus did not live apart from his community. In fact, Jesus was totally immersed in the social context of his time and his teaching involved a radical criticism of the conventional wisdom that permeated the fabric of the first-century Jewish social order.

Giving heart to Jesus           Our efforts in family faith formation and religious education inherit this legacy of critical reflection that is immersed in the world of human experience. To the ability that each individual youth in our care is able, parents and teachers are encouraged to inspire dialogue between the images of reality that are created by conventional wisdom (and ever more increasingly, modern media and technology) and those images of reality that are inspired by the Spirit of justice, compassion and inclusivity. In a world that focuses increasingly on material success and personal acquisitions, parents and educators are challenged to inspire dialogue and action that reflects the presence of an alternate Spirit-reality that is at once both immanent and transcendent.

Excellent resources for parents and teachers who desire a deeper understanding of contemporary justice issues include:

Getting Started on Social Analysis in Canada. Third Edition.
Michael Czerny S.J., Jamie Swift, Robert G. Clarke. Toronto: Between the Lines, 1997.

Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
Release from Bondage. A New Beginning: A Call for Jubilee, 1998-2001.
(Current campaign focus: Call to Jubilee Debt petition.)
(416) 922-1592

Poverty - Do It Justice! Activities for Justice Education. Edited by Thomas Bright. New York: Don Bosco Multimedia, 1993.

Ten Days for Global Justice
Inter-Church Committee for World Development Education
(416)463-5312

NAPO The National Anti-Poverty Organization
www. napo-onap.ca (613)789-0096

MNSJ Metro Network for Social Justice
A non-profit coalition of organizations and groups committed to promoting social justice for residents of Toronto.
www.mnsj.org (416)351-0095

Act Justly, Love Tenderly, Walk Humbly - Prayers for Peace and Justice.
Edward F. Gabriele. Minn: St. Mary's Press, 1995