“Cub Scout Privacy Issue Transforms into Personal Vendettas Against Concerned Mom” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Car and Trophies, January 2013

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Car and Trophies, January 2013

On January 19, 2013, a local Cub Scout pack associated with a Roman Catholic Church in my area with which we were affiliated held it’s annual Pinewood Derby.  At the Pinewood Derby happened to be an older man who was photographing every child – scouts and their siblings – whom I had not before seen.  This man had a large professional-style camera, and was aggressively photographing the children, sometimes getting into their faces to do so.  As a former scout leader – who is also still certified, by the way – and as a concerned mom, red flags were raised in my mind about this man who appeared to be a professional photographer, whom I did not know, and who was quite aggressively photographing the children.

Toward the end of the Pinewood Derby when the children were receiving their awards for speed and design, I spoke to the photographer – who, by that point, I decided was a professional photographer – and confronted him about why he was taking so many photos after he tapped me on my shoulder while I was taking photos and told me to move out of his way.  He took photos of my child and every other child, with no advance notice from pack leadership, nor with any opportunity not to provide consent, nor to opt-out of this situation. 

When the photographer would not answer my question, I became more concerned, and asked if someone hired him.  He replied that, indeed, another scout mother (whom I later discovered was a friend of his) hired him to take the photos.  I verbally stated to him that he did not have my permission to use any photos of my son, and he acknowledged that.  He then began to argue with me that he didn’t want to talk with me because he was taking photos.  This created an unpleasant and uncomfortable situation for me as I am interested in the privacy and protection of my son – and that of other children – and that a safe environment be provided and maintained.

Not knowing this man, nor what he was going to do with the photos that he took of every child, I e-mailed four particular leaders within the pack leadership committee whom I knew had the most experience in the pack.  Also, I did not e-mail other leaders because I did not know their names, nor their e-mail addresses.  I e-mailed the four particular folks, expressing my concerns for privacy and safety of my son, and that of other children regarding this individual, whom I discovered was, indeed, a professional photographer.  I requested the name and contact information of the professional photographer so that I could send him my nonconsent in writing regarding the photos that he took of my child without my permission. 

One of the den leaders whom I had e-mailed put up an unnecessary argument with me in response to my concern, and did not at all take the situation seriously.  This den head happened to be the leader of my child’s den, and he used this situation as a personal attack at me, throwing in his own personal vendettas toward me that were unrelated to the issue at hand.  He also used these issues as his reasons to eject my family from the den, which has caused my son to be extremely hurt and betrayed.  Mind you, the man in question is an individual who asked me to serve as a den leader with him, and I did so for a period of one year, always maintaining professionalism and ethics in my interactions with him and everyone in the den and pack.  That he brought his own personal issues against me into the matter were unprofessional and unethical, including that he never informed me about such issues before the current issue at hand.

The pack leadership committee chairwoman then responded to me, also not taking my privacy and safety concerns seriously.  I asked her, in writing, on three occasions throughout a period of one week (seven days) to provide me with the name and contact information of the photographer.  She did not even know the man’s name or contact information!  No references were requested of this man; and no attempt to inform parents beforehand, nor provide any opt-out condition was offered!  It took the pack leadership committee chairwoman all of those seven days to respond to me with the name of the photographer’s business. 

The same pack leadership committee chairwoman also explained to me by e-mail that only a few (four) of the leaders in the pack leadership committee had approved the professional photographer taking photos at the Pinewood Derby, and that it was a change that came about the night before the Derby when a scout mom said her camera was broken and she asked a friend to take the photos.  Supposedly, as was explained to me by e-mail, the professional photos were to be used to create a CD collage for an outgoing leader.  However, without anything in writing to parents in advance, there was no guarantee that this photographer from off the street could use those photos for anything that he desired – as well as the scout mom whom he stated to me had hired him.

In order to inform the charter organization representative in these issues in an effort to gain a positive resolution in my son’s best interests to the matters, I also communicated with and contacted the parish clergy of the church that charters the pack.  I also took the opportunity to address the bullying which my son and other children have experienced within the pack and den – to the point of one child being physically hurt by another and whose family left the pack last year.  When I had informed the den leader about it – as well as when I informed the chairwoman – nothing was done to stop or correct it.  So, this is yet another issue that is not taken seriously by pack leadership. 

When I received no responses from either of the charter organization representatives (priests), I contacted the district council representative, both by e-mail and by phone.  I spoke with him for about 20 minutes by phone, and he was supportive of me that I was a concerned enough parent to raise the issues of privacy and safety – not only for my child, but for all of the children – to the pack leadership.  I stated to him, however, that the pack leadership did not see it that way.  Unfortunately, he also declined from being officially involved in the matter unless no resolution could be obtained with the pack leadership and church leadership that charters the pack.  Therefore, I contacted the church office in an effort to arrange a meeting between interested parties to obtain a positive resolution to these matters. 

On discovering that the head pastor was out of the country for two weeks, he had recently returned to the area, and two days following my phone request to arrange a meeting, he e-mailed everyone, providing his availability for a meeting, and stating that all other e-mail communications about the matter should cease, otherwise he would not be involved.  He further stated that it did not matter to him whether or not the Boy Scouts of America, Supreme Court, or some other international tribunal was involved in the matters.  I took that to say that he really did not desire to be involved, and that is also what I experienced at the meeting that was held.

In the midst of these matters, I also consulted and communicated with a great many people in scouting who are familiar with these types of issues, questions, and concerns.  From a couple of them, I received little to no support, however several others were very supportive, agreeing that I had a legitimate concern – as I also believed – for the privacy and safety of my child and the other children – and that particular policies regarding such a matter were not followed.  From one experienced and knowledgeable former scout employee, I obtained information providing that a unit photographer should have accompanied the professional photographer at the event; and that the entire leadership committee should have been involved in the decision about the professional photographer.

That same former scout employee contact also informed me that neither the pack, nor the chartered organization have the authority to create contracts because they are not considered legal entities.  My question would also wonder why a scout mom could hire an outside professional photographer to come in and take photos of every scout and their siblings at a scouting event, without the parents’ advance notice and permission.  Another experienced scout executive further stated to me that while he believed that the photography was acceptable, parents should have been provided with an official Boy Scout form, stating whether or not they desired to have any type of photos taken of their child.  That was not done in regard to me and my family, nor to my knowledge with any other scout family in the pack.

It must also be noted that one day prior to the meeting, the chairwoman e-mailed parents and informed them that a photographer was present at the Derby, and that photos could be obtained from her of their child(ren).  That would not have occurred had I not expressed my concerns about privacy and safety for the children, and encouraged her to inform everyone.

Armed with all of this helpful information, I attended the meeting between the priest who was the chartered organization representative, the pack leadership committee chairwoman, and the den leader.  The parish priest absolutely grilled me about why I had a concern about privacy and safety of my child and the other children regarding the professional photographer.  Of course, I explained that I was not informed in advance, nor provided an opportunity to opt-out.  I further explained that when I see someone in the pack whom I have never before seen, and he is photographing my child and every other child, I have a legitimate concern. 

The words and conduct of the priest were entirely unethical and unprofessional, and he basically supported the lack of seriousness, ethics, and professionalism about this matter in the manner that it was handled by pack leadership.  At one point, the priest even laughed about the situation of informing us to take the issue to the Supreme Court or higher authority, and also told me that I should have “gone along” with the photography situation.

None of the other three individuals at the particular meeting took my concerns seriously, nor treated me with any respect whatsoever.  The behavior exhibited by all three was bullyish toward me and my family, and reflective of their own intolerance and lack of insight in the matter.  By far, the most offensive person toward me was the priest!  He negatively escalated the situation beyond repair, which I believe was his actual intention.  The anger, hatred, and misogyny that he directed at me was absolutely incredible!  He stated to me that my concerns were inappropriate and over the top, having caused people to become fearful of me; I said that I had a legitimate concern, and did not agree with his characterization of me or my concerns. 

When I stated that my family has been involved with that church parish for the past 12 years, having been faithful and contributing much, he had absolutely no appreciation for anything me or my family had done.  Last year, we  left membership of that parish and joined another parish affiliated with my child’s school; and the priest was quite adamant to point that out and throw it in my face.  I also stated, however, that we were still members of the parish when we joined the pack.  The priest even had some piece of paper that he slid over the table to me, reflecting that we left the parish, and I slid it back at him. 

So, I stated to the priest, therefore, that he also had his own personal issue with me because my family left that parish.  He then went on to inquire as to whether or not he and I had issues between each other in the past, and I replied that there were at least two.  I stated that regarding those two issues (that were of extremely high importance in relation to marriage and family healthcare issues), that he referred me to someone else or did not respond.  He, of course, did not recall the issues, and to me, it was apparent that he did not even believe they were important enough to remember.  There were also two occasions when I approached the parish in my financial need, and was turned away both times, being informed that the parish had no money to give, even though about $100,000 was provided to families in need during one particular year through the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul affiliation.

I also brought up the fact that, in the pack in which we were members prior to coming to our present pack, there were no types of issues of this nature at all – no privacy and safety issues, and no personal issues from pack leadership directed against us.  Last Spring, however, my son and me experienced a situation of a highly obscene and offensive nature from a scout mother in the pack – the same mother, by the way, who supposedly “hired” the professional photographer to take photos of all of the children at the Pinewood Derby.  I went through the appropriate channel of the pack leadership chairwoman regarding that issue, and stated that we were extremely offended, however that I did not desire the issue to be such that it created a negative situation for her or for us. 

Wouldn’t you know that, at the meeting to discuss my concerns about privacy and safety, that particular issue arose by the chairwoman and den leader, saying that it was blown out of proportion!  My son and me were the victims in this matter of this scout mom who behaved in an outlandishly obscene and offensive manner toward us!  How sad, now, that they are protecting and supporting her – the offender of the situation – rather than us as those who experienced it.  In psychology, that is called victim-blaming.  

All of this was yet another reflection to me that neither the pack leadership, nor the church leadership share the appropriate and needed values that should be present within the pack and the church.  Understand me clearly, now, that these are the leaders of both of these organizations.  When I hoped for understanding and consideration, me and my family received nothing but insults, offenses, and lack of professionalism, ethics, and values on all fronts.  That both the den leader and the priest called me a liar when I presented my simple and legitimate concerns about children’s privacy and safety, and that the issue was used as personal vendettas and attacks on me and my family by pack and church leadership, was highly offensive and a complete affront to me, as someone who is always looking out for the best interests of my son and the children. 

To further the affronts, the den leader has unreasonably and irrationally threatened legal action toward me over this issue – the simple issue of desiring privacy and safety of children.  Is this what the Boy Scouts of America stands for and supports – threats and defamation of character that have absolutely no basis?  This situation is truly incredible, and has become unnecessarily unreasonable and traumatic for me and my family.

Therefore, I could see that, ultimately, the best positive resolution for me and my family related to these issues was to leave the pack.  Also, when I asked all present at the meeting for a promise that such a privacy/safety issue would not occur again in the future, no one responded, and therefore, I received no guarantee that this same type of thing would not occur again.  We had been members of the pack for about two years, always being faithfully involved and supportive, contributing much to the fundraisers as well as in officially volunteering for the pack, and in my son gaining much enjoyment, achievement, and socialization with other kids.  Currently, scouting has been his only extra-curricular activity, and as an only child, is something that, overall, he has truly enjoyed over most other types of activities. 

Additionally, at least I was able to locate the photographer’s name and business address, online, based on the business name that the pack chairwoman provided to me; and I both e-mailed and mailed my nonconsent for his use of his photos of my son taken at the Derby without my advance notice or permission.  I should not have had to go through all of what I did simply to ensure the safety and privacy of my son.  This situation would have never occurred had pack leadership informed parents in advance and provided the opportunity to opt-out.

Hopefully, we will find another pack in which we can experience peace, fairness, a safe environment, common sense, and courtesy.  If there is an absence of locating such a group, I will be hesitant to remain involved with scouting at all if my legitimate concerns are going to be turned around against me and my family as personal attacks, making our experience unnecessarily painful and detrimental.  I do not wish to be persecuted simply because my ethics, morals, values, standards, and expectations are higher than average.  We came to scouting for enjoyable experiences – mostly which we have had – however, I am not willing to subject my son and family to being hurt by folks who do not stand up for the right thing for children.  And, I’m not going to “go along” with what is wrong, and against my values and principles.  Those who go along with what is wrong and do not stand for what is right are not leaders to me, and such people blindly take an organization or institution astray due to their own dysfunctional conduct.

By the way, I informed the district council representative yesterday, briefly, by e-mail of what transpired in the meeting.  He personally responded to me by e-mail, stating that Boy Scouts of America is thankful for families such as mine, and is appreciative of my handling of the privacy and safety concern at hand.  He also wished us well, and offered his assistance in helping us locate and become involved with another pack that is basically more in line with our own values.

“Prayers and Support Needed for St. Rose of Lima Parish, Newtown, Connecticut” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

Prayers and support are still very much needed for parishioners and employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as for the survivors and residents there for coping with grief and healing.  Postings on Facebook, CatholicVote.org, Change.org, WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other organizations speak to the continued need for prayers, support, and good works for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. 

My own regional Women’s Catholic Bible Study group at St. John Neumann Parish in Lilburn, Georgia is also involved in spreading this message, as well as in providing encouragement, prayers, and support for – in particular – the religious employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish.  Please continue to spread the word and share supportive, encouraging words and works of healing for the people of this parish and of Newtown. 

The church’s address is:

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church

47 Church Hill Road

Newtown, Connecticut 06470

Priests at the Church include: Msgr. Bob Weiss, Fr. Luke Suarez, and Fr. Ignacio Ortigas. 

There are also many religious sisters, deacons, education employees, office staff members, and others who are doing their best to emotionally and spiritually support others while also coping with their own grief; and it is my understanding that they really need all of the support that they can get to heal and cope. 

Additionally, the church website that shares prayers of supporters to the parish can be found at the following link: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

Please do whatever you can to help, encourage, and support the people of Newtown, Connecticut, and St. Rose of Lima Parish there.  The Church website also has a link where one may make monetary donations for the Sandy Hook families.

References

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.  December 28, 2012.  http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

(Note: Please know that I do not support or endorse any of the advertisements that may appear in conjunction with my blog posts.  They are placed there by WordPress, and I have no control over them.  I appreciate your understanding.)

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nativity Scene at Maranatha Baptist Church, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Nativity Scene at Maranatha Baptist Church, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Christmas and our celebration of Jesus’ birth is upon us once more as we close out yet another great year!  There is always so much for which to be thankful, particularly the coming of Jesus, and his love for us that is so great and boundless that he suffered and died for us to save us from our own sinfulness.  Though we will always be human – and have all of the mistakes, unworthiness, and errors that come with it – we must always do our best to be more like Jesus.  We must act in ways that are forgiving, understanding, sensitive, compassionate, and giving to others and each other.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us.  St. John Neumann Church Nativity Scene, Christmas 2012, Lilburn, Georgia

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us. St. John Neumann Church Nativity Scene, Christmas 2012, Lilburn, Georgia

While most people throughout the world are Christians, celebrating Christmas and recognizing Jesus as our wonderful savior, there are many who celebrate other religious events and holidays.  For them, I also wish a wonderful religious celebration and/or holiday. 

My Son Standing Next to the Nativity Scene at St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Feast of the Epiphany, Snellville, Georgia, January 2013

My Son Standing Next to the Nativity Scene at St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Feast of the Epiphany, Snellville, Georgia, January 2013

So, as I have been blogging on WordPress, now, for the past one year, I would like to take this opportunity to say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!”, and reflect with this posting that I am a thankful lover of Jesus.  Though my words and actions as a Roman Catholic and Christian will always pale miserably and indescribably in comparison to our Savior, I always try to do my best to have my words and actions reflect His love.

Nativity Scene at St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Nativity Scene at St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!  May love, blessings, peace, prosperity, good health, and happiness be enjoyed by everyone!

“A Spiritual Inquiry: What is Suffering?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Suffering.  Just what is ‘suffering’ anyway?  What is the meaning of suffering, and why do people suffer?  Why do we experience suffering?  Dictionaries and encyclopedias generally define suffering as relating to pain, distress, and/or emotional pain; anxiety, stress, or aversion to something subjective; and a negative emotion or feeling, etc. 

The New World Encyclopedia defines suffering “as a negative basic feeling or emotion that involves a subjective character of unpleasantness, aversion, harm, or threat of harm.”  I would like to take this definitions and understanding of suffering a bit further, expanding on it to include many types of suffering, including emotional, psychological, physical, physiological, social, moral, and spiritual suffering.

There are so many different types of suffering, and I’m sure that most of us have experienced many – if not all – of them.  During Lent this year in 2012, I especially and personally contemplated the meaning of suffering.  This is a topic about which I have thought in the past, though I found deeper meaning in contemplating it during this past Lenten season.  I thought about Jesus, and all the suffering, pain, anguish, and turmoil he experienced prior to dying as our Savior.  I know that it was God’s will for this to occur, though I wondered why – as I have wondered why throughout my life – this was necessary to occur. 

One man – one holy, Godly man – is able to save us from our own sinfulness through the power of his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Was there no other way to achieve that?  Why was it necessary that Jesus experience such horrific and indescribable suffering in order to save us?  Why, often, does society – even now – turn against those who are good, honest, moral, and ethical.  Why, sometimes, is it that those who are self-serving, corrupt, unjust, unethical, and immoral make gains in their lives over those who are the opposite of them? 

These are not only religious questions, but also philosophical and humanistic questions worth contemplating.  Why is there suffering in the world?  Why does it occur?  Is it something that is necessary to occur as a result of our own humanity?

When I think about suffering, I think about things that I have experienced in my own life – or even that which family members have experienced – and then, when I hear about another’s suffering, what I have experienced sometimes seems to pale in comparison to theirs.  An adult daughter of a friend and colleague is struggling to heal against breast cancer.  This spring, a young girl in my child’s school was recently diagnosed with bone cancer, while another was diagnosed with diabetes.  The daughter of a close friend has been struggling against breast cancer.  Still others whom we know deal with great physical or emotional pain each day. 

Others suffer with physical pain, including a dog that was reported to have killed a family’s two-month-old baby in April 2012.  Still others also grapple with suffering that they may not be able to alleviate, of loved ones killed and who we are unable to revive and bring back.  An example of this that is still all too fresh in our minds is the suffering and death inflicted upon so many at the movie theater tragedy in Aurora, Colorado (http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next).  And, there are countless other examples of suffering, pain, and death that go on and on, such as the fighting in Syria and Northern Ireland, and even in some of our own neighborhoods, such as those in Chicago.

So much suffering.  Why is there suffering?  Why is it a “normal” condition of human life to have and experience suffering?  Is it expected?  Is it necessary?  Is it an unavoidable condition of human life and of all life on earth?  When people worry, are nervous, or are anxious, they experience some degree of suffering.  When people are hungry, homeless, or in need, they are suffering.  When anyone experiences any type of abuse – emotional, physical, sexual, even spiritual – they are suffering.  How can we understand, alleviate, and/or overcome pain and suffering?

If someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic situation, such as a tragic death of a family member, loss of their home due to a natural disaster, or was involved in a terrible vehicle accident, they have experienced suffering.  There are also those who self-impose suffering onto themselves, inflicting injury on themselves, drinking, doing drugs, being promiscuous, or doing illegal actions – they are suffering.  Therefore, there exist the questions about why people hurt themselves. 

Personally, I feel sorrow and sympathy for those who are suffering, as well as for those who have some type of need within themselves to create or cause suffering on or toward others.  People who are bullies, those who are abusive, those who commit crimes, those who are hateful, those who have no conscience or sense of any wrong-doing when they take life-altering actions against others – I feel sorry for them and I pray for them.  Indeed, I sometimes also feel anger, spite, judgment, and a lack of understanding for their actions, though I also pray for them. 

For these people I just described, I believe they are those who need the most prayers.  They may be those for whom society and the world let down, didn’t help, and turned away from, forcing them to fend for themselves, to survive in whatever ways possible, even if those ways were criminal.  I feel sorry for them, and I may find it in my heart to be forgiving, but I believe it is important not to forget and not to allow oneself to be open to being hurt and/or injured by them in some way again. 

Through all of this, we still come back to the age-old questions of what is suffering and why do people suffer?  How can we alleviate and/or eliminate pain and suffering?  These are questions that I am unable to answer, and continue to contemplate.  Perhaps you can share your own insights.

References

New World Encyclopedia.  April 21, 2012.  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Suffering.

“The Aurora Shooting Victims.”  CBS News.  September 15, 2012.  http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next.

“Good Shepherd Sunday: Be A Good Shepherd Today and Everyday” By Michele Babcock-Nice

“Good Shepherd Sunday:

Be A Good Shepherd Today and Everyday”

By Michele Babcock-Nice

April 29, 2012

Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday,” a day for reflecting upon and remembering all the goodness that Jesus has done for us, particularly in his suffering and dying to save us from sin and damnation. Good Shepherd Sunday focuses on John 10 in which Jesus basically tells His followers that He is the Good Shepherd, that in John 10:7, He is “the door of the sheep.” In John 10: 11-15, Jesus states, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus goes on to say, “I give unto them eternal life…” (John 10: 28).

God calls all of us to be good shepherds. The homily that the priest at my church shared today was related to that theme, again calling all of us to be each other’s caretakers, not just being shepherds, but being good shepherds. He also stated the being a good shepherd is not an easy task. In his homily, my pastor also stated that there are those who are wolves, who turn on the shepherd and the sheep.

Importantly and agreeably, we must all be shepherds – and good ones at that. In being good shepherds, God calls us to care for others as well as ourselves, and also to recognize the ways in which we have been sinful, as well as to repent and improve our behavior and our lives. And, sometimes, it is not easy to perceive those who are wolves. At times, wolves masquerade among us as those wearing sheep’s clothing.

It is, therefore, extremely important that we are all good shepherds, being good caretakers of each other, particularly those who are most vulnerable, most in need, and most innocent. Prayer, self-reflection, and requests to God from us to do His will are important in helping us to be better caretakers of others and ourselves, as well as to be good shepherds. Also, if good works are unseen and unrecognized – or worse, viewed as injurious – we must seek shelter, protection, guidance, and comfort from the one and only Good Shepherd, for He sees, knows, and understands everything, even if the world around us does not.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, seek and strive to be a good shepherd, to your church, to your family, to your neighbors, to your colleagues, to your community, to yourself. Seek to do the greater good. Do not strive to be self-seeking. Place yourself and your works in God’s hands, and He will guide you in being that good shepherd whom He wants you to be.

References

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“A Spiritual Inquiry: How and Why Should we Forgive?” By: Michele Babcock-Nice

“A Spiritual Inquiry:

How and Why Should we Forgive?”

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

March 20, 2012

Michele Babcock-Nice

Michele Babcock-Nice

Forgiveness.  What is forgiveness?  And, how and why should we forgive?  Who should we forgive?  Forgiveness – the act of forgiving – is a spirituality issue that I have contemplated and grappled with in my own life.  It is something that I have experienced, myself, through others, and by observing others.  Why is it important for us to forgive ourselves and each other?  These are topics of personal relevance, as well as relevance for the greater population.

Forgiveness is not only something that must be taught, it must be learned.  People must model forgiveness with each other and encourage it among one another in order for it to have full and far-reaching positive effects.  Jesus taught and commanded that people forgive each other, so that both we and our sins will be forgiven by God. 

Colossians 3:13 states, “Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Mark 11:26 states, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Matthew 6: 14-15 also shares, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” The Holy Bible, 1979).  The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct us that we are to forgive each other. 

One of my favorite Bible passages that is very humbling to me is Matthew 18: 21-22, which states, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (The Holy Bible, 1979).   

This passage reminds us that we are not perfect, that none of us are perfect, and that, to me, is very humbling.  When I think of the mistakes that I make and sins that I commit, whether unintentionally or not, it never fails to humble me when I hear and contemplate these verses.  Jesus wants us to forgive each other seventy times seven times, that’s nearly 500 times!  One must understand the general idea, however, is not to just forgive each other once, twice, or even a few times, but repeatedly, without end.  That also reminds me of how fallible and human we truly are, and that we are actually in need of forgiveness, by each other and of ourselves.

Luke 6: 36-37 further teaches us to be kind, merciful, and forgiving, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Luke 6 actually teaches us many things about each other in addition to this, such as being good to the poor and giving to one another. 

Luke 6 provides us with an opportunity to reflect on who we are as people – to reflect on our characters and true natures.  Are we people who truly have goodness in our hearts?  Are our thoughts, words, and actions motivated by and intended to help and support each other and ourselves?  Do we honestly hope to be caring, compassionate, understanding, merciful, and forgiving toward each other? 

The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct and direct us to forgive each other.  Not only are we to forgive each other a few or several times, but countless times, for we are fallible, we are human, we are children of God who are progressing through our learning stages of life.  When we ask others to forgive us, we are humbling ourselves to their mercy. 

When we ask God to forgive us, He is forgiving and provides us with free will, but also with the understanding that we should not do the same wrong over again; we must correct ourselves.  If one is Catholic and goes to reconciliation, he or she shares those transgressions that he or she has committed with a priest, who, through God’s power and mercy, forgives us.  Again, however, we are called not to commit the same wrongs or sins in the future.

Just the other day, my young son was upset with me.  He brought a library book home from school that I did not approve of.  It was a comic-style book that was geared toward older children, though I am aware that the particular theme of the book was not something that I agreed with, nor was it entirely emotionally or mentally healthy for him.  I allowed him to read it one day, with the express understanding that he could read it during that one day, but not following that day.  I was aware that he was tired, and had not slept well the previous night, though he was very attracted to reading this book.  It was my intention to return the book to the school library on the next school day, which I did. 

So, my son became upset with me when he tried to look at and read this comic-style book on a day when I had not allowed it.  I spoke with him about it, again explaining my reasons behind it.  He is aware of my views on such books, though, as a youngster who is, at times, testing his limits, he can be persistent about his wants and desires.  So, when I refused to allow him to read the book on the next day, he was mad and upset about it.  Understandably, he wants to fit in and be like the other boys, but he knows that he is my child and that the other boys are not – their parents can have them do as they wish. 

In my son being angry and upset with me, I recognized his desire to get something that he wanted.  I reminded him that he did read the comic book on the one day, but could not do so the next day.  I then asked him to forgive me.  And…he did.  I told him that I love him and that I want the best for him, and then, I gave him some time to himself.  Soon thereafter, he came around, and found something else to stimulate his interest.

I believe that this is a manner in which God and Jesus want us to behave.  It is important to have strong morals, ethics, beliefs, values, and principles.  This is something that I am trying to instill into my son.  By sticking to my views, beliefs, and principles – and by asking my son for his understanding and forgiveness – he more readily showed his appreciation and respect for me and my values. 

This example may be something minor in most of our lives, though it is something that is important to be taught, learned, and modeled.  In this way, I am teaching forgiveness to my son, even in regard to my expectation about his acceptance of my values and principles for his upbringing.  These are also good reasons for asking for and receiving forgiveness.

An area of forgiveness that is not often addressed or recognized is of forgiving oneself.  This is extremely important – we must forgive ourselves.  Who, among us, teaches how valuable it is to forgive ourselves?  I am aware of a recent Lenten Retreat at my church in which the religious speaker, a priest, spoke of forgiving ourselves as the theme for the event.  And, how and why must we forgive ourselves?  This is a significant question to which there can be many answers.

When was the last time you ever thought about forgiving yourself?  Why, you ask, should you forgive yourself?  This is an issue of much contemplation, prayer, and reflection for me because I know that I am not perfect – I am human, I am fallible.  Yet, I can also be very hard and tough on myself, not giving myself credit where it is due, blaming myself, depriving myself, sacrificing things from myself, being down on myself.  I always try to have a positive attitude and outlook on everything, but I also recognize that I have very high standards and expectations of not only others, but also of myself.

Therefore, I must forgive myself.  I must forgive myself for being human, for being fallible, for making mistakes, for being too hard on myself, for not being good enough or kind enough to myself.  In forgiving myself, I am more readily able to forgive others.  I am also more easily able to view others as human, as fallible, just like I am.  For me, it is also a much healthier perspective.  If I forgive myself, I feel better and happier, not only about myself, but everything. 

When I forgive myself, my outlook is improved, things are not as worrisome or stressful as they were, and I take it easier on myself, allowing myself to enjoy life, my family, and others more.  I don’t need to make things so hard for myself, nor to be as hard on myself.  So, I must and do forgive myself for all of these things.  I am better able to be forgiving, loving, nurturing, kind, and compassionate to others in doing so.

Lastly, and something also not often commented on or recognized is that in forgiving each other and ourselves, that does not continue to open the door to being vulnerable to being hurt by others or ourselves.  We must express our views, standards, and expectations to others, and insist that those are met, so that we are not vulnerable to being wronged by them again. 

If we are wronged by those whom we forgive, then we are called to forgive them, though I believe we must continue to insist upon the manner in which we desire to be treated by them.  If they do not improve in their words or actions, then we must forgive them, but we must also help ourselves, perhaps by seeking to further understand them and/or distancing ourselves from them. 

And, we must open our eyes and recognize ways in which we are not helpful to and loving of ourselves.  We must forgive ourselves for those actions, but also work on improving our actions toward ourselves.  We must create a mindset that is loving, helpful, and healthy to and for ourselves.  Therefore, forgiving ourselves, and working to improve the manner in which we view and treat ourselves are also important aspects of forgiveness that are valuable and significant.

One issue with which I have been working on forgiving myself is my divorce and the choice that I made in a spouse.  I, ultimately, desired to reconcile and remain in my marriage, though it was extremely difficult and challenging; it was my former spouse who ended our marriage.  I remained faithful to my spouse and dedicated to my family in the midst of challenges which were unbearable at the time. 

It was during those times – as well as times past and present – that I leaned on God, Jesus, and my faith for survival – for the survival of my soul and spirit.  It is in my faith that I continually take comfort, though I also recognize that I work, daily, to forgive myself for my decisions that have harmed myself and my family.  I recognize that one cannot force a person to believe and behave in the manner in which the other desires, though I also believe, however, in the importance and healthfulness of forgiving myself and my former spouse, not only for the good of myself, but also for that of my son and family.

Forgiveness, therefore, is and should be a huge part of our lives.  How often do you forgive others and yourself?  What are the ways in which you forgive?  Do you willingly accept forgiveness when it is offered to you?  Do you seek to keep a healthy perspective in mind, body, and spirit by recognizing and forgiving yourself and others? 

Also, when you forgive, do you help yourself by expressing expectations of those who have wronged you so that they understand and respect you more, thereby reducing your own vulnerability to them?  And, are there times when you may not have done anything wrong, but are still able to ask forgiveness so that it will help improve the situation or assist another in feeling better about themselves – it takes a person of strong character to do that, even if he or she is further blamed or wronged.

Forgiveness is an act on which we must place greater value.  Forgiveness is freeing and healthy for our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits.  Forgiveness is something that we should practice each day, in asking God to forgive us, in requesting others to forgive us, and in forgiving and being more loving to ourselves.  We must remember that we are all human; all of us are fallible.  Therefore, we must continually forgive, as Jesus taught and instructed us, so that we may, in turn, be forgiven.

References

Fairchild, M. “What does the Bible say about Forgiveness?”  March 20, 2012.  http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/a/bibleforgivenes.htm

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Book Review of “The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work” by Randy Hain (Review by: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Book Review of

The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work

By Randy Hain

(Review by: Michele Babcock-Nice)

March 13, 2012

What's in your Catholic briefcase? (Used with author's permission)

In his book, The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, Randy Hain gives numerous examples of how Catholics can and should both live and include their Catholic faith in their everyday lives, particularly while at work and in working with others.  Hain lists and shares many “how to” ideas and ways in his book on how to accomplish this. 

Throughout his book, Hain also identifies Catholic role models and colleagues in his life who are an inspiration for living their Catholic faith, daily, at work and in their everyday lives.  Several interviews with these individuals are shared in The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work so that we, the readers, may more fully appreciate and understand ways that we, too, may more fully live our Catholic faith at work.

Hain begins his book introduction with presenting about “making the transition from a compartmentalized life in which I had no faith and kept everything distinctly separate to an integrated life with Christ at the center” (p. xvii).  Hain states that making the transition was daunting for him, as it may be for many.  At work, some of the reasons in which people may compartmentalize their faith include “political sensitivity, rigid company policies, and simple fear” (p. xvii). 

In being fully honest with himself and realizing that there were areas in his faith and religious life that could be improved in his relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, Hain opened himself up to greater communion with God and his faith.  No doubt, as described throughout his book, Hain has felt and gained countless benefits from letting go of his former self so that a new self could be reborn with increased spirituality and trust in God. 

Hain writes of being a convert to Catholicism in 2005.  He states that he sincerely committed himself to placing Jesus Christ at the forefront of every aspect of his life.  He committed himself to living a life with Jesus at the center, as well as integrating faith, family, and work together (p. xix).  He goes on to share that Catholics have many opportunities throughout each day to positively influence others, thereby “standing out” in our faith and faith journey in example to others. 

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Jesus died so we may live.

It is, indeed, refreshing to read Hain’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs regarding his Catholic faith and faith journey as a positive example to others.  In converting to Catholicism and truly living the Catholic faith, as well as being a role model for others in his faith, Hain has set an excellent example for others in his commitment to leading a more fully-integrated faith and spiritual life in his work and everyday activities.  Hain challenged himself to highly-raise the bar in his pursuit of excellence regarding the integration of his faith into his work and daily life.  

The author writes of remembering to view others in a Christ-like manner, to recall that each of us is modelled after Jesus and has wonderful qualities in our humanity.  Hain further reminds us that we must be persistent and dedicated in fulfilling our ministries – including all sorts of ministries, such as being married, being single, being a parent, being employed, being a leader, etc.  He also identifies that there are many ways in which people excuse their lack of action in integrating our faith and work, and he provides well-explained ideas for actually integrating faith and work.

One of Hain’s statements that really spoke to me is, “It is almost as if we have developed barriers around our hearts that keep the world at an emotional distance” (p.10).  And, three major obstacles to trustfully surrendering to God, Hain identifies as “pride, fear, and excuses” (p. 10).  This is all something that I can reflect on and view in my own life.  Why don’t I profess my faith more openly to others?  Am I afraid of getting hurt, being rejected, being criticized or ridiculed?  I believe that my answer is, “Yes, I am afraid.” 

There are so many experiences in our lives of continually being rejected that it is easy for people to lose hope.  Taking a risk in sharing one’s faith, beliefs, and values is just another one of those areas of potential pain and rejection, so for me, Hain’s statement about emotional barriers being placed around our hearts is really done as a matter of self-protection, though it may end up being a way of distancing ourselves from others.  Hain writes that we must trustfully surrender to Jesus and God that we will be provided with the strength to be successful in our endeavors, both at work and in life.

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Remember to pray the Rosary

Hain further shares that it is important for us to take time to think and pray, so that we can more fully be in tune with God’s will for us.  Hain encourages us to schedule time into our day to pray, to be “gadget free,” to surround ourselves with positive, like-minded people, to live more simply, and to refuse to give in to compulsions (pp. 23-25).  He further suggests to us that we thank God, ask for God’s forgiveness, request God’s help and guidance, and to totally unburden ourselves to God (pp. 31-32). 

Hain also lists and describes many more ways that we can be in tune with God through our thoughts, prayers, and actions.  Also very importantly – and another of Hain’s statements that spoke to me – is that we must “pray with our children every night” (p. 36).  I had realized that, in the everyday stresses and worries of living, I had gotten away from doing that with my own child – saying daily prayers and making holy requests of God with my child.  I have been positively reminded by Hain in his book to “just do it” (p. 36).  It is refreshing, rejuvenating, and comforting to pray to God; what better way to pray than to pray with others, especially those children and/or family members whom we most love in our lives.

In Hain’s chapter five of his book, he addresses the issue of being personal with colleagues at work.  He asks if we have the rapport and trust that is needed to provide comfortable discussions about personal issues that are serious at work (p. 39).  In my work and personal life, this is something that I have never had an issue with, and in fact, is something about which I find many, many people have discomfort.  Not only do most people appear to be uncomfortable speaking about serious personal issues at work, they do not want to hear or engage with others in talking about such concerns. 

In my life experiences, I have found that it is truly the extremely rare individual who can share about serious personal issues, as well as who can listen to and provide support and guidance about said concerns.  Because many people are unwilling or unable to open up about serious personal issues at work, this just becomes another way of distinguishing and dividing out what topics are acceptable for discussion in the workplace.  

Concern about hurtful gossip and of issues shared in confidence being distorted by others are reasons that many people limit their interpersonal relations and communications with colleagues at work, in my experience.  Then, the workplace can become a very hurtful and damaging place to be.  With Hain reminding us in his book that we ought to develop relationships with others that are trusting enough to share serious personal issues, we are reminded that we are all human and that we all share serious issues in our lives that are in need of others’ support and attention.

An additional topic that Hain identified in his book that touched me is, “we often don’t know the people in our community or our workplace who need our help” (p. 42).  Hain recognized that people may often behave in a superficial manner to each other, simply asking how they are doing, but not really caring to do anything about it or recognize how they are truly doing.  This has also been an issue of mine in the past few years since I am an individual who is in need. 

In the past one year, I shared about my need with a volunteer worker of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who was very helpful to me and my family, and one of her statements to me was that I didn’t “look like” a person in need.  One can maintain a good appearance, be reasonably healthy and happy, but still be in need – it is important for people to recognize that and take it seriously rather than overlook, ignore, or deny it because the need only increases when people behave in such ways.  Therefore, Hain’s statement of truly recognizing and supporting those in need is incredibly important.

Hain addresses stewardship in his book, describing ways that he and others “give back” to the church and/or community.  He is involved in several activities in which he gives back to his church, parish, employer, and community.  This is also something to which I can relate because I also give back in regularly and happily volunteering at my child’s Catholic school (for the past four years now), as well as with being an active, assistant leader my child’s scout pack through our local church.  It is very important to return one’s talents, time, and/or treasures to one’s family, church, community, organization, and/or workplace.  It is a healthy thing to do, and it is something that God seeks in us.

Bible & Rosary

Two tools for success

Hain further calls us to lead by example, and to always make the best – or better – decisions.  Hain also acknowledges that, through our humanity, we do make mistakes, however when we make errors, we must learn from them and do better in the future.  Hain states, “Christ…always taught the truth, regardless of the audience or his surroundings” (p. 60).  We must pray and make a concerted effort to also lead our lives in a moral, ethical, and spiritual manner that places goodness and truth above lies, falsehoods, and deceitfulness.

Hain encourages us to be better-connected Catholics.  He reflects that there are many ways of doing this in the workplace – through sharing a meal with a colleague and saying a blessing before the meal, by listening to and truly “hearing” what colleagues have to say, by becoming active on networking websites and/or creating one’s own website, attending and participating in seminars or workshops, and more.  In our places of work, it is important to integrate our faith with what we do everyday; it provides a good example to others and it promotes a healthier, more spiritually-integrated lifestyle.

Something that I believe with which many people struggle in their everyday work lives is becoming overly successful in our work, a topic that is also addressed by Hain in his book (p. 93).  For those people who are single or who are married but do not have children – speaking from personal experience – it is all too easy to become overly devoted to one’s work…because that is what is often demanded of us from our employers, in order to be successful. 

Also, for those who have families, such as myself, it is vitally important for people to remember that quality time with family is significant, as is bringing home the bacon.  For those of us who are not formally employed, it is important to become involved in or create activities that balance family with our activities and/or interests.

Hain provides this and so much more in his book, The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work.  Hain’s personal examples, intimate witness to God, powerful conversion to Catholicism, strong commitment to his faith and doing good works, and seeing Jesus in others are all extremely meaningful qualities of this author that will speak to any reader, of any faith, in any workplace.  Hain does his best to personally live the words that he has written in his book. 

Hain recognizes that by opening up to God’s will and surrendering himself to fully trust in God’s plan for him, that he will greatly-reap the benefits of doing so in his life, including in his work life.  Hain reminds us that we are called to lead holy lives, that we must be a light for Christ, and that we are made for heaven (pp. 110, 112).  In reading Hain’s book, we are fully informed of that through his careful, thoughtful, and spiritual insights, ideas, interviews, and wisdom.

*Reviewer’s Note: All quotes and photo of book cover used with approval and permission of the author.

Source

Hain, R. (2011).  The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work.  Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications.