As promised in last week's homily, I spent a lot of time this week cleaning out the parish's filing cabinets in the sacristy, Anderson Room, and office. At times, the work was tedious, but every once in a while, I would come across a piece of paper that would make me smile: an old liturgy bulletin, some pages from a Sunday school lesson with a child's drawing in crayon, or a faded newsletter about the parish's various ministries. It occurred to me in the course of my rummaging that one of the Church's critical roles in society is to serve as a school of morals. I'm not simply talking about learning the Ten Commandments or taking seriously Jesus's command to love each other. I mean teaching people--both children and adults--how to be civil and courteous to each other. When I was growing up in Florida in the 1970s and 1980s, manners and politeness were still important. We didn't call adults by their first names, and we answered questions with "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir." And I still do. Swearing cavalierly in public was not as commonplace as it is now.
Now, I realize that some people might think I'm being old-fashioned or a prude. But the truth is that I am distressed by the crudeness and lack of respect voiced on cable news shows, social media, and even in face-to-face conversations. Cyber bullying is a devastating feature of life for today's children and youth. Government officials using profanity to describe people from developing countries is an unacceptable denigration of their human worth and dignity. People still need the Church to learn how to behave. I once had a job in a very toxic office, and so had posted above my desk, Colossians 4:6, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone." Still excellent advice in the 21st century. It frequently cautioned me to hold my tongue and be polite when I was tempted to lash out in anger.
That is why I am so grateful to two groups with a close connection with St. Helena's/ Santa Elena: the Boy Scouts and Kung Fu. I have been deeply impressed by the ways that both groups have worked at St. Helena's to instill in youth the values of courtesy and civility, politeness and respect. Groups like these are good partners in encouraging us to develop our more generous qualities, making us good citizens in our communites, and good citizens of the Kingdom of God.