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Patrick O’Shea: The Catholic way: unity in diversity

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A protester holds signs advocating for the sanctity of human life at a rally in Hyde Park, Sydney, in September 2019 as the state’s Parliament was poised to legalise abortion. Those committed to the prolife cause need to persist engaging with an issue that is essential to the welfare of all Australians, writes Joanna Howe. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

By Patrick O’Shea

As we approach the end of the year, I can almost hear people of all ages crying that the year has passed by too quickly.

Perhaps we wonder if we could have focused on more important things than taking up pitchforks in the woke wars of attrition, or depositing all our gold in the backyard a la Ron Swanson because we think the stock market will crash like it’s 1929.

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In either case, we all know that we needed to focus more on Christ and we still have time left to finish the year well to focus on Him.

In one of the most vivid Gospel passages, and the one where the Church finds her teaching on the corporeal works of mercy, Our Lord lauds and grants a heavenly welcome to those who look after Him through helping their neighbours (Matt 25:31-46).

Our Lord commissions us all to these works of mercy and, just as the Gospel points out, there is no way into Heaven without them. While we each have charisms for particular works, that does not excuse us from neglecting those that do not excite our palates.

Ever since its inception, social media has given voice to what I like to call the dichotomous fallacy: those advocating for a different cause to you therefore disagree with the issue you’re passionate about.

Online, I have seen this most aptly displayed in the arena of migrants and refugees and the pro-life debate.

According to some, who I pray are a minority, those who support refugees have their priorities wrong and don’t care enough about the unborn.

Conversely, those who are pro-life apparently don’t care enough about a child after it’s born, thus being labelled “pro-birth”. It is truly humbling to know how imperfect we truly are when we have social media at our disposal!

Our Divine Lord has deigned to give each person a set of charisms and a vocation in life.

Sr Sheelah Mogan
Sr Sheelah Mogan with some of her St Canice’s Kitchen Wednesday lunch team. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

While there are those set aflame with the charism of helping at a homeless shelter, one would not accuse a cloistered Carmelite of not caring for the homeless because of their state in life.

Thankfully, this diversity of charism and vocation is a part of God’s plan that Christ Himself envisioned for His Bride. St Paul describes us as the hands, eyes, feet, and ears of the Body of Christ, the Church, and how we cannot all work at the same vocation (1 Cor 12:4-31).

Although we cannot work together all the time, that doesn’t excuse us of belittling the work of others. To say pro-lifers are only “pro-birth” belittles and takes for granted the work of pro-life people who are called by God to work with single mums, or even called to volunteer at Canice’s Kitchen.

The advocacy work of the Church, inspired so much in the modern era through her Social Doctrine, provides numerous avenues by which Catholics can be involved with social issues.

Be it migrants, pro-life advocacy, soup kitchens, or homeless shelters, there are many possibilities to which we can direct our time and charity.

Although I am encamped in pro-life advocacy, that does not take away from the efforts of those Catholics who follow the teachings of the Church and earnestly desire to find a home for migrants – a cause I don’t do enough about.

How can we be truly charitable in our advocacy if we do not show charity to other Catholics who bring other vocations to life? We continue to bicker among ourselves when the law of charity is “the bond of perfection” (Col 3:14).

How can we forward the Church’s mission of sanctifying the world when the bond of charity between Catholics is so imperfect?

On matters that are not doctrinal, where we can afford to have difference of opinion, we need to agree that the Church needs to embrace all her members’ vocations and that each person’s is unique.

All the social works of the Church are important and based on the Law of Charity. In coming to the close of Advent, we can prepare ourselves as members of the Mystical Body by keeping charity at the heart of the Body of Christ. By being charitable to other members of Our Lord’s Body, we can begin our mission of sanctifying the world.

As we approach the time of the year most associated with cheer and gift giving, we can put aside our quarrels and cease our bickering. Instead, in the spirit of keeping Christ at the centre of Christmas, we can sing praises to the Lord and with true love and brotherhood embrace each other to celebrate Christmas with tidings of comfort and joy.

Patrick O’Shea is a young pro-life activist and a staff member of the Archdiocese of Sydney

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