There’s a woman at the monastery door with three young girls all under 5 years of age. The children are dirty and unkempt, with running noses. The woman claims her husband is beating her and won’t give her money for food. You’ve seen this woman around the place before. Perhaps she’s conning you?
What would you do?
- You ask her for her name and address and tell her that you will be around in half an hour to see her. In this way you can check out the situation and get the appropriate help that she and her children need.
- Knowing full well that she is pulling the wool over your eyes you give her money anyway, in the hope that her children will benefit from it.
- Tell her that it is about time that she stood up to her husband if indeed her story is true. Then tell her to get the children washed and that it’s a disgrace the way she lets the children get into that state. You finish by telling her to get out before you phone social services.
As part of a parish visitation on a mission, you are welcomed into a home by the mother of a large family. She is hospitable yet remains slightly distant In the course of the conversation she confides in you that none of her four children practises their faith. Three of her four children are living lifestyles contrary to her beliefs. She is embarrassed and feels that it is her fault asking “where did I go wrong”.
What do you do?
- You advise her that there are many other parents struggling with this issue and blaming themselves; she is not on her own. You try to reassure her that young people are under many pressures to conform to society’s norms, rather than gospel norms.
- You feel compassion for this mother, recognising her love and care for her children, even though they appear to have disappointed her. You suggest that if she as a mother can feel so much love for her children, despite their faults, surely God must love them infinitely more.
- You tell her in no uncertain terms that she has failed in her duties as a catholic parent. You also tell her that the only chance she and her children have is to come to the mission, with the intention of changing their lives and turning back to God. You leave her with this ultimatum.
The principal cause of poverty in Brazil is the unequal distribution of land. A small percentage of the population own the bulk of the land, while the majority of people endure hardship and insecurity.
You are working in a parish in the North East of Brazil. Your parish has an interesting profile. It includes parishioners living in the city and countryside. On the whole, your parishioners are bery poor but there are some who have considerable wealth. You are friendly and caring to all. The parish income is very fragile. The poor parishioners give as generously as they can, while the contributions from a few wealthy members of the parish keep the parish finances ticking over.
A crisis emerges in the heart of the parish. One of the local wealthy landowners had cruelly evicted one hundred vulnerable families for their land and homes. The afflicted want you to preach against his injustice and to join them in their protest. The wealthy landowner has also sent a message to you, reminding you of his very generous financial contributions to the building of a new pastoral centre in the parish.
What do you do?
- You courageously and truthfully preach publically against the injustice, communicating the Gospel message and join the evicted on the protest line.
- You visit the small land-owners at the protest line and then privately you express your disquiet to the wealthy land owner.
- You encourage the evicted to call off their protest, telling them that true justice only belongs to the next life, while affirming the wealthy party for his kind financial contributions.
You’ve just been ordained, the parish priest is away and there is a body to be received into the church. It’s a 24 year old man who has committed suicide. You conduct the service and the congregation is obviously very distressed. You are visibly upset. Returning to the sacristy the tears run down your face. You’re expected in the parish hall in five minutes to cheer on and encourage the primary school children as they perform their concert.
What do you do?
- You realise that in this ministry, there will be inevitable emotional extremes which you will have to deal with. You realise that it would be inappropriate to bring this tragedy into the children’s concert. You pull yourself together and go to cheer on the children having first made a mental note that you will speak to someone about the situation later on.
- The events in the church have really disturbed you and brought home to you the fragility of life and the pain that people have to cope with. You know you can’t face an evening’s entertainment, so you phone across to the parish hall, apologise and say that something else has come up.
- You go over to the hall regardless, hoping to find some sympathy. You trap the first person you see and tell them how difficult it is having to cope with the tragedies of life and then being expected to be the “life and soul” of the party. Consequently, you ruin someone else’s night .... by depressing them.
For many years violence and conflict have been a part of the day to day life of your society. As a priest you have seen so many people suffer. You have comforted many families who have lost loved ones tragically and suddenly. You have listened to them express their pain. You are the people’s spiritual guide. However, through your work, you also meet on a daily basis with your people’s political and military leaders. You know that they support violent action. The media, mainstream politicians and even some Church figures label these political and military leaders as mavericks and as people to be shunned and excluded from dialogue and the political process.
You believe in peace and a dream for a better future. Following conversations with the excluded leaders you have sense that entering the murky waters of talking with the men of violence might open up a window of hope. You know that it will take a lot of time and trust and involve great patience. You are also conscious that your actions might be misinterpreted and that you will be criticised by the press, Church and political parties.
What do you do?
- You follow your convictions and take the risk by energetically immersing yourself in the search for peace.
- You continue to minister to the pastoral needs of your hurting people, but refuse to risk involvement at any other level.
- Depending on your political outlook, you either denounce the men of violence or quietly and subtly support them achieve their objectives.
What were your reactions?
Mostly A or B:
If you answered mostly A or B you have the right instincts that we would be looking for. Whatever difficult, awkward or inconvenient situation we may find ourselves in, Redemptorists always try to ask “What would Jesus do?” At times this can be extremely difficult, we are human after all, but we are called to try and be the person and presence of Christ to those who come to us in need. This is what being a Redemptorist is all about.
If your inclination veered towards the C options, perhaps you have a tendency to tack the pain and struggles of others in a detached way, without fully understanding the need for compassion. This however, does not preclude ministry as a Redemptorist. We recognise that pastoral skills need to be nurtured and developed over time. We have confidence that our training programme can develop these important pastoral skills.