October 14, 2011

Thinking about home

By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *
Missionaries are commonly referred to by the place they serve rather than their birth place. For example, we know Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu of Albania as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Fernando Martins de Bulhões, who was born and educated in Lisbon, we know as St. Anthony of Padua. This could suggest that home is not important to a missionary.  

This is simply not true. Every missionary comes from somewhere. Often, that somewhere provides the support and resources that make the mission possible. It may seem counterintuitive; however, I can assure you that home is as important to a missionary as where he or she serves.  

I have been thinking a lot about my own home lately. It is not that the difficulties in Haiti are resolved to the point that they no longer occupy the bulk of my reflection time. It is just that on my last visit to the States things seemed so whacked out that the visit left me concerned.

To be a bit more articulate, I found comments on the economy to be exaggerated and extremely polarized. Debates on several important issues, such as taxes, government spending and income distribution appeared out of control. The most vocal participants in these squabbles clearly have lost perspective. Rather than dealing objectively with these difficult issues, politicians have taken to name calling. Commentators are parsing speeches to find single words on which to hang twisted meanings and their speakers.

Specifically, I was a bit shocked to see how much fervor the Occupy Wall Street movement had mustered. Then again, history proves that once a group is named and blamed, you can energize humans to do just about anything to that group. It has proven especially easy to excite a crowd if the group being attacked is very small and relatively unknown to the mob. You can’t get much smaller than 1% or much more obscure than Hedge fund managers.  

The justification for attacking the top 1% of wage earners is that they take home over 20% of the money earned each year. In the minds of those picketing Wall Street, this makes the 1% blameworthy for the growing inequality in incomes in the US. This sounds appealing, but is it fair or even logical?  (One thing is for sure, it costs a lot.)

If this is the criteria for attacking a group, what are we going to do about golf? I suspect that less than 1% of pro golfers make the lion share of prize money in the PGA. This is certainly true in any given tournament. Are the top golfers responsible for the scores of the other golfers or for the rules of the game?

I don’t play golf and I also do not want to make light of the current difficulty being experienced by many households in the US. However, I do want to point out the irrationality in attacking Wall Street for an economic problem created by a multitude of factors, not the least of which is the freedom to succeed. Do we really want to blame the problems of the 99 on the 1? Are we even sure that 99% of people in the US actually have a problem?

The “We are the 99%” do not represent me. While I recognize that recently things have not gone well for the middle class, I also know that the quality of life has improved steadily in the past century for everyone in the United States in terms of housing, education and health. I know this from research as well as from personal experience.

My parents started raising my two oldest siblings in a Quonset hut at Purdue. 18 years later, I was raised in a modest, but ample house on 2 acres. Today, my parents live comfortably on their pensions and social security—two inventions of the financial crisis they grew up in. Life is most certainly easier in 2011 than 1911.

Fear is a great promoter of irrational behavior. It is also plentiful in times such as this. What is hard to find in difficult times is what is needed most: leadership. Given how things are so generally out of hand in the US, one has to wonder if the current devolution in civility and intellectual veracity is not a reflection of poor leadership from the top. Let’s picket for better leadership. 100% of us need that.
Deacon Patrick Moynihan graduated Culver Military Academy in 1983, from Brown University with BA in Sanskrit and Classics in 1987, and from Providence College with an MA in Religious Studies [Theology] in 1999.

He taught Latin and English in a Catholic High School from 1987 to 1990, traded commodities, futures and options for an international trading company from 1990 to 1995 and directed a free Catholic mission school in Haiti for academically gifted children from the poorest areas around Port au Prince from 1996 to 2006.

Deacon Moynihan was ordained in October of 2001 as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford [IL] where he was the director of formation and later the Office for the Permanent Diaconate from 2001 to 2006. He has since gone back to Haiti and is currently the president of The Haitian Project.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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