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The common good is defined as caring for society’s interest in order to benefit them as whole. This semester in the Human Journey Seminars we focused on readings that pertained to the fundamental claims of Catholic Intellectual Traditions. Within these specific readings we discussed “how we can form a more just society for the common good.
” Revealed in their readings, Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr., Building a Bridge by James Martin, and The Mystery of the Poor by Dorothy Day, we discussed the unique ways each author believed we can establish a sensible humanity in order to benefit the common good. From prominent authors Martin Luther King. Jr, Dorothy Day, and James Martin, they all converse what it takes from society in order to form a just society for the common good.
Dorothy Day was an American journalist who was most known for being a social activist who fought for social causes during her time. In Day’s Selected Writings in the common core reader, one of her stories, The Mystery of the Poor, justifies what precisely the Mystery of the Poor is.
Day stated “The mystery of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for him. It is the only way we have of knowing and believing in our love. The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love,” (Day, Pg.
106). Day strongly believed individuals must voluntarily experience poverty to truly understand what they experience at that level. By donating clothes you do not wear anymore and participating in a canned food drive, individuals are assisting in bringing society to a new level. Day talked about the deeds we could to do to help form a more just society within our communities. In order to for a just society we must practice the Works of Mercy, as Day stated, “The Spiritual Works of Mercy are: to admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead. The Corporal Works are to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to ransom the captive, to harbor the harbor-less, to visit the sick, and to bury the dead,” (Day, Pg. 109). The Works of Mercy are tasks individuals should partake in for the importance of other’s well beings. By helping out those in need, we are doing good, and in God’s eyes, we are all supposed to do good. By participating in the Works of Mercy, Day stated, “The Works of Mercy are a wonderful stimulus to our growth in faith as well as love. Our faith is taxed to the utmost and so grows through this strain put upon it,” (Day, Pg. 109). As individuals who have more resources and capability to assist, we should help lift the burden off those who are less fortunate.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a non-violent Civil Rights activist who fought for the African American people in order to acquire an enhanced society for all. King strived for equality among African Americans in the violent city of Birmingham, Alabama. According to King, in order to form a just society for the common good we must think of the interest of others. Individuals who are selfish, and do not care about others, do not care about benefiting society for our common good. King mentioned, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” (King, Pg. 121). We must be able to care for other people’s interest, especially our fellow citizens who would benefit from our help. In the city of Birmingham, during the 1950s until early 1960s, African Americans were harshly segregated from society to an inhumane level. King mentioned, “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the united states. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatments in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation,” (King, Pg. 122). During the times of King, individuals were afraid to speak up for what they truly believe in. “White Moderates” could have wanted to do everything to stop segregation for the African Americans, but because of the way times were back then, they could not speak up all due to tension. King specified, “I had hoped the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality,” (King, Pg. 126-127). If individuals are able to be respectful and treat others with dignity, it will push society to come together, equally, and stop discrimination against African Americans. For example, humankind can have a tendency of being rude to homeless people in Manhattan. If we try to show respect for them, as they are human beings too, our society will become more equal and become more just. King strived for equality, and as the voice for the African American people, his Letter from Birmingham Jail revealed the truths of what society back during those days needed to do to come together for the interest of all people.
Father James Martin, SJ, an American Jesuit Priest, is the author of Building a Bridge, the book he wrote on how the catholic church must stop discriminating against the LGBT community. There are people in our generation who tend to be different than many of us in society. Those who have felt confused, scared, and alone all their life just because they have always felt different about their sexuality. Back in the day, it was know for individuals to not be accepting of the LGBT community. As society has grown and become more open-minded, the LGBT community are able to be more open about themselves. There are still people in the world who discriminate this community, and a huge part of this group is the Catholic Church. Martin stated, “the institutional church bears the main responsibility for the ministry of dialogue and reconciliation, because it is the institutional church that has made LGBT Catholics feel marginalized, not the other way around. It is true that the public actions of a few LGBT groups have targeted the institutional church, and provoked strong reactions, but in terms of making people feel marginalized, it is the clergy and other church officials who bear responsibility,” (Martin, Pg. 4). Martin highlighted this as the main focus of why we need to build a bridge between the church and the LGBT community. If the church and the community are not able to find a means on how they can act moral, instead of disfavoring them. In order to find this in-between the two, individuals must start to show their admiration, empathy, and sympathy towards each other. Martin mentioned, “So I’m happy to continue this ministry with this revised and expanded edition. May it lead to a continuing of the conversation, a building of bridges, and a growing spirit of respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” (Martin, Pg. 13). In order to build this bridge between the catholic church and the LGBT community individuals must learn to treat everyone equally, as we are all gods children. When individuals are able to not think they are more above than others around them, including the LGBT community, that is when Martin believe we are able to form a just society. Showing our respect and love to others shows great meaning throughout the common good. when we are able to think of other individuals before ourselves, we can be deemed as humble, and benefit society to be whole. Martin seeked this positive relationship between the church and LGT community, as if we are able to find this, then that is truly when a just society is formed. Showing our love to other humans, and seeing all as equal, is the only way to stop discriminating against others who are not the same as us. People in our world tend to attack anyone who seem outside or unfit in our society. Just because someone is different, does not mean they do not value the same respect that we all receive in this world.
Within each of the authors that I interpreted as searching for the best way individuals must act in order to form a just society, they all share one similar outlook on life. In order to help out society, we must have love and respect for each other. With Dorothy Day and her selected writings, she ultimately believed we are showing our respect to others by helping them out in The Works of Mercy. By stopping to segregated against other African Americans, Martin Luther King Jr. strongly believed that was the only when we can show our respect and form an equal society. By welcoming the LGBT community into our churches, Martin believes forming a relationship between the church and the LGBT individuals was the way one can show their respect. By looking at other individuals in our community, and seeing them as equal as yourself, we are able to establish a just society for our common good. By showing our love to others, we are delightfully benefiting them, by accepting them in society and showing our love and respect for them.
Day, Dorothy, and Robert Ellsberg. Dorothy Day, Selected Writings: by Little and by Little. Orbis Books, 2005.
Luther King Jr., Martin. Letter from Birmingham Jail. P. 120: the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay. P. 120-134:Copyright renewed 1991 by Coretta Scott King.
Martin, James. Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. HarperOne, 2018.
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