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March 28, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 11


photo: Dr. E. Christian Brugger delivers the keynote address at the 2016 Diocesan Social Ministry Summit on March 12.

Dr. E. Christian Brugger delivers the keynote address at the 2016 Diocesan Social Ministry Summit on March 12.

Dignity of the human person said to be in sharing Jesus with others

Catholic Social Teaching has often been described as “the best kept secret” in the Catholic Church.

Dr. E. Christian Brugger, the keynote speaker at Shine 2016, the Diocese’s Social Ministry Summit March 12 at St. Michael’s Church in Glen Allen, asserted that Catholic laity who embrace the various aspects of Catholic Social Teaching do so because they have had an encounter with Christ which is the foundation of their actions and the proper pathway to ministry.

“This encounter with Christ elicits faith and faith is the beginning of discipleship and then encourages disciples to go out as apostles,” said Dr. Brugger, who teaches moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

He believes that moral theologians need to be activists in which they deal with moral issues relating to all kinds of issues ranging from the life of the embryo in the womb to undocumented immigrants. They are called to show charity and mercy and action through love.

“Living faith results in love,” Dr. Brugger maintained.

Behind Catholic Social Teaching is the the sacred dignity of the individual, the human person. Justice and the common good is the guiding norm of CST.

“Justice is a habit whereby we render to each his due,” Dr. Brugger said, pointing out that some question “what is their due?”

“The collective good of the community is a primary concern of Catholic Social Teaching,” he said. This theology is documented in a succession of papal documents assessing the social conditions since the publication of Rerum Novarum (Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor) by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.

Acknowledging that it is difficult to be a Catholic today, Dr. Brugger said the role of good government is critical to securing the conditions which promote the common good. But the dignity of the human person is primary, he stressed.

But he questioned that everything should be entrusted to the government. Not all will be served by this model, he suggested.

“Some will profit, but some will fall through the cracks,” he said. “The government should not be our mother.”

Dr. Brugger said he likes the metaphor of “the Catholic Church as a field hospital.”

He encouraged the concept of human solidarity in which “our common humanity binds us as the common human family.”

He decried the notion some people have about the global siuation like the refugee crisis which some dismiss with “it’s not my problem.”

“It’s not right to say the Syrian refugees are not my problem,” Dr. Brugger said. “Yes, it is because we are all brothers and sisters of the human family. We are all sons and daughters of God.”

He defended the right to own private property, but said it is not absolute.

“It’s entrusted to you and your family, but it should support the common good,” he said.

photo: The Office of Social Ministries had a Fair Trade table which offered purchase of fair trade coffee, artisan gifts and chocolate as one of many ministries meant to inform participants of their mission.

The Office of Social Ministries had a Fair Trade table which offered purchase of fair trade coffee, artisan gifts and chocolate as one of many ministries meant to inform participants of their mission.

While many Christian believers among the laity sometimes feel they do not have an adequate prayer life because of a variety of activities that consume their daily life, Dr. Brugger urges those who feel that way “should evaluate our life by how well we’re loving.”

When his wife, the mother of five young children, expressed her worries about a lack of time for prayer, Dr. Brugger asked her a few questions.

“Do you get the chidren up each day?”

“Do you feed them?”

“Do you calm them when they fall and hurt themselves?”

“Such signs of love and charity are grounded in love of Christ and are a sign of being a genuine Christian,” he said. This is what might be called a personal vocation.

“God calls us each by name,” Dr. Brugger said. “It encompasses all our strengths and weaknesses, our limitations.”

While most Catholics would scoff at the thought of them being saints, Dr. Brugger said “you can be the saint God is calling you to be.”

Not everyone can be like St. John Vianney or St. Maria Goretti, but they can inspire Catholics.

“The saints are given to us for inspiration,” he said.

With Jesus as our model for all we do to carry out His ministry, Dr. Brugger urged those present to see themselves with a personal vocation to be collaborators with Christ.

“God does not need us, but has chosen us to be collaborators,” he said. “Jesus invites us to be collaborators by doing a piece of God’s redemptive plan.”

“God wants us to do the good work He has asked us to do, God’s redemptive plan that He has assigned to each of us.”

With his vision of the Apostolate of the Laity, Dr. Brugger said the character of the apostolate is secular with Christians being in the marketplace, in the world for the sake of the Kingdom.

“Jesus wants us to seek the justice of the kingdom in the world,” he said, explaining that “Jesus calls you where you are.”

He cited the example of a Catholic third year medical student with the goal of being an OB-GYN. But the student had doubts about continuing on the path.

“You are my hero,” Dr. Brugger told the medical student, strongly encouraging him to persevere in his studies. “If you don’t there won’t be any Catholics as OB-GYNs.”

“Go and do exactly what Jesus is calling you to do,” he said.

Christian morality should also be a concern of members in the board room of multi-national corporations so Gospel values can be brought forth, Dr. Brugger suggested.

“Don’t keep your mouth closed,” he said. “Be Christ in the marketplace and in the supermarket.”

With his role at the seminary preparing men for the priesthood, Dr. Brugger says he and his wife often invite seminarians to their home for dinner. Their children sometimes wonder about the lifestyle these young men are carving out for themselves as celibate priests.

“My children ask ‘why would anyone want to do that?’” he said. “I tell them ‘Go ask them.’”

He encourages the seminarians to continue to discern their vocation and tells them “Your vocation is every bit as relevant as the vocation of Pope Francis.

“Be who Jesus calls you to be. When people see you, they see the loving mercy of God.”

When questioned about how to respond to a street person who asks for money, Dr. Brugger says he often gives a dollar as a response.

“Don’t ever be comfortable about not doing it, but you don’t have to say yes every time,” he said.

When asked about an increasing call for the state permitting assisted suicide of terminally ill persons, Dr. Brugger was adamantly against it.

“Nobody has a right to end the existence of someone who is suffering,” he said. “There is no right to suicide.

“You render what charity you can. You sit with them all night and hold their hand. You love them.”

The message given in the two keynote talks and break-out sessions was well received.

“It’s good to gather with people from other parishes to hear what they’re doing and share ideas,” said Laura O’Connor of Richmond’s Cathedral Parish. “This is a wonderful forum to see how we can evangelize the Word.”

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