by Father Mark Goldasich
It’s said that good fences make good neighbors. I’d suggest that good bridges make better ones. While fences promote isolation, bridges foster community.
The explosion of the internet and social media has collapsed the distances between people. The effect has been both positive and negative. For some, it’s highlighted how similar peoples’ hopes and dreams are. For others, our human diversity has spawned fear and violence.
One of the titles for the pope is “pontifex maximus,” two Latin words that can be translated as “supreme bridge-builder.” That is a perfect description for Pope Francis, who never tires of rallying Catholics to engage in a “culture of encounter.”
I like to think of The Leaven as one of the ways to build bridges — not only among the parishes and ministries in the archdiocese, but nationally and internationally as well. Sometimes in the building of bridges, we become aware of the needs that our neighbors have and how we can help meet them.
Our front-page story this week is one of those instances. Back on April 8, The Leaven made readers aware of a parish priest in Poland who was housing, at his own expense, refugees from Ukraine. Some parishioners from St. Paul Parish in Olathe wanted to help and invited others to pitch in as well. Catholics in the archdiocese responded with over $35,000. We wouldn’t have known about this need had not these parishioners brought it to our attention. And, just like that, an international bridge has been built.
Much closer to home, there’s an urgent need from Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas for food to stock their pantries and Resource Bus. We’ll have a more extensive story in an upcoming Leaven, but our neighbors are hungry right now. While demand for assistance has gone up 25% since February, donations have decreased almost 20%.
A quick and easy way to assist is by visiting a website familiar to most people: Amazon! You can send food directly from Amazon to the Catholic Charities warehouse by going online to: https://shorturl.at/bEFQY. It’s amazingly slick. Just add items to your cart and click — bridge-building with no sweat involved.
Here’s a great story that I love about helping neighbors:
A well-timed bite by a 4-year-old girl with a good sense of smell saved her family from gas poisoning.
A peculiar odor awakened the child at three o’clock one morning and she hurried to her father’s room to tell him.
When a vigorous shake failed to disturb his peaceful slumber, she bit him on the arm. That did the trick.
The police discovered that the strange smell was caused by carbon monoxide fumes from the family car which had been left running in the adjoining garage.
The parents and all three children were in good condition after being administered a dose of oxygen. (Story found in Anthony P. Castle’s “Quotes & Anecdotes: An Anthology for Preachers & Teachers.)
In order to be a good neighbor, there are times when others put the “bite” on us, to stir us from the deadly slumber of greediness, materialism and self-absorption. We need to experience the life-giving oxygen of generosity, compassion and community.
Look for ways this week that you can reach out to a neighbor, to build some bridges of help, hospitality and hope.
It isn’t always convenient, but it must be done, as this Jewish proverb attests: Love thy neighbor . . . even when he plays the trombone!