Stay tuned for more miracles

Larry Smith

Since my arrival at Catholic Charities in April 2013, I’ve said that we serve two kinds of people: those with a need to give and those with a need to receive. That was brought home to me in an amazing way at A Beacon of Hope Gala for Lighthouse and Women’s Services, which raised more than $700,000 to help women, children and families in need.

Just before the gala began, I was blessed to introduce a Lighthouse client family to a donor whose advertising project had helped that expectant mom and dad find Lighthouse a year earlier. At the time, the young couple had been driving around Denver, thinking they might be pregnant. Then they saw a bus with an advertisement for Lighthouse Women’s Center and a phone number, which they called. They were treated with respect and compassion at Lighthouse throughout her pregnancy, they said. And at the Jan. 31 gala, they brought their beautiful 3-month-old baby in a carrier.

That story, for me, is what Catholic Charities is all about and what can happen when we give ourselves in faith to serve others, even if we don’t know how it will all turn out. Here’s the background:

Lighthouse Women’s Center had launched an eight-week advertising campaign in late 2013 on buses and light rail trains in the Denver market, intending to reach women in crisis pregnancies. The donor family funding the project had three goals: greater visibility for Lighthouse, ads with a dedicated phone number to track responses, and simple messaging and imagery to reach young women in crisis, such as “Unplanned pregnancy? You are NOT Alone” or “Considering an Abortion? We can help. Free Services.”

In the tally of calls received and services provided, we concluded that several women in various circumstances had a change of heart and did not pursue an abortion as a result of the advertising campaign. And know this: We don’t just ask a woman in a crisis pregnancy not to abort her child. We show her a path to a life with her child through our continuum of care. That includes free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and confidential counseling at Lighthouse—and may also include shelter, diapers, clothing, food, counseling—all that she may need to begin a life with that child. And whether a woman is abortion-minded, in a crisis pregnancy, seeking a pregnancy test or simply happens to see the right sign pointing her to Lighthouse at the right moment, we want to be there.

And so do our donors. At the gala, the donor family who had so generously funded the first transit ad campaign for Lighthouse said they are going to renew—and increase—their funding for that project. Stay tuned for more miracles.

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.