RALEIGH, N.C. — To a standing-room-only crowd, Marie Dennis, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and co-president of Pax Christi International, addressed the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi here on “Conscience and the Pursuit of the Common Good.”
The talk was the third in the Faith & Politics Series, sponsored by the Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace, which organizes peace and justice ministries in the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi.
Continuing the dialogue prompted by the first two installments of the series, this talk moved parishioners to recapture the centrality of the concept of the “common good” when approaching issues of social justice.
Dennis drew on theologies from Pope Benedict’s Deus Caritas Est and the Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Church, and from her experiences and those of Maryknoll colleagues around the world.
Dennis illustrated the concept of the common good through an analogy first offered by priest-theologian Gustavo Gutierrez. He suggested that one’s “center of gravity,” the pivot point of moral action and deliberation, should always be found outside of oneself. Dennis suggested that as dancers find their center of gravity between one another, so too, should we seek to find our “center of gravity” on grounds common to the self and neighbor.
“Marie is an extraordinary woman of faith who challenges us to remember that walking with Jesus is walking for the common good, with a preferential option for the world’s poor and marginalized,” said Megan Nerz, director of the Franciscan Coalition.
Pastor Mark Reamer, OFM, said, “It was great to have Marie here. She was well received by our parishioners and quite helpful in guiding the discusson fo Catholic role and responsibilities within our society and in forming our conscience.”
The talk was followed by lively questions and answers, with questions ranging from the war in Iraq to how people of faith should articulate the “common good” within a secular society.
Dennis ended the evening by stressing the need for a lived witness to the truth of the Gospel – and the teaching of the “common good.” That lived witness, she said, is the best answer to a “me-centered” society.
The next event in the series is scheduled for Jan. 31, featuring a District Dialogue between members of the parish and members of the North Carolina House and Senate.
— Joseph Wolyniak is the advocacy coordinator in the Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, N.C.