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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Five Things to do When your Faith seems Challenged

Many wonder what they can do when they feel their faith challenged. Some give up, others fight back, and so on. What can the average Christian (Catholic) do in such a situation? You would be surprised how the following can be of immense help.

1. Self Reflection. According to Socrates, an unexamined life is not worth living. Moments of self reflection everyday help the individual to really appreciate his/her faith everyday and then be able to weigh ones faith amidst the challenges that come ones way. Self reflection makes us always youthful in faith, conscience and worship. Most often we approach religion, worship and faith uninterestedly, unaffectedly. We must learn to put ourselves within our faith in order to really experience the Absolute/God as he presents himself in our everyday faith experiences in moments of meditation and contemplation. Self reflection may be personal or may be based on an enquiry. Christ, at a time in his life and ministry put this question to his apostles: "Who do people say I am?" This is Christ examining himself on the basis of people's notion of him.

2. Bible Reading. The scriptures contain answers to our everyday questions and address our everyday experiences. Reading the Bible whenever our faith is challenged helps us to rediscover our faith, the God who gives us this faith and His absolute will for us. Many people who read Bible or listen to Bible readings always find that their faith improves on a daily basis and continue to experience the divine in new lights everyday. The scriptures contain a vast wealth of resources for the searching soul to help and encourage faith growth.

 3. Prayer. Meditation and contemplation on the word of God (lectio divina) naturally leads to prayer. Prayer is communication with God. And communication is the soul of relationship. Faith is a form of relation with the divine. It is a way of life not just something lived out. Prayer makes this communication living, active and enduring. Without prayer, faith is dead and the challenged find no encouragement. The idea or faith that God listens and hears has so much of a healing effect.

4. Sacraments. The sacraments are tangible movements or responses to the movements of grace and faith. The sacraments have an immense way of bringing the faith of the individual to life. Faith moves from the abstract to a more tangible, lived-out level that is enduring with the sacraments. Penance helps the soul filled with guilt and depression find solace. Baptism gives a true sense of newness and acceptance. The Eucharist is food that sustains, etc. Absence of a true sacramental life makes faith moribund.

5. Liturgy. By liturgy, I mean public prayer or church services, especially the liturgy of the Mass, where individuals or many faithful come together to express and share their faith and pray. Such public expressions of faith are highly encouraging, motivational and inspiring. At such gatherings, faith may be induced, transferred, learnt or acquired.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Interview on priesthood

Interview between Rev. Fr.Michael Uzoma Chukwu and Miss Vivian Nwaugo on priesthood.

Miss Vivian: Please can we meet you?
Fr. Michael: Yes. I am Rev. Fr. Michael Chukwu. I am the assistant parish priest of St. Paul's Parish Osu.
Miss Vivian: When were you ordained a priest?
Fr. Michael; I was ordained a priest of the Catholic Church on the 24th September 2011.
Miss Vivian: How did you feel the day you were ordained a priest?
Fr. Michael: Wow, that is a million dollar question. How did I feel? I was so elated. My heart was so overwhelmed with joy. I felt fulfilled. Somehow, I felt I had finished the race, but it was a new beginning again. I was so happy this new beginning came to be. Seeing friends around to share this joy with me touched me immensely that I felt like swimming in the ocean of this experience. I didn't want it to end, so I prayed to God to allow me flow in this joy forever.
Miss Vivian: What was your first Mass like?
Fr. Michael: That day was one of the most challenging day of my life. Seeing myself preside over this awesome event which I have always cherished and revered made an impact on me. I was caught in the midst of heaven and earth, wow. God is here and I am the priest making this come to be. At some moments within the Mass, I felt like Jesus was coming to take hold of me and present himself again to all of us gathered there. Though at some moments, I fumbled with the words and, since I was not much of a singer, went off key, at other time, I still believed in the efficacy of what was happening to me and all of us there.
Miss Vivian:That was an awesome experience. The feeling of having the supernatural answer to your call.
Miss Vivian: Thank you so much Fr..Its been a pleasure, being with you today. I hope God continues to be with you till we come your way again.
Fr. Michael; Thank you too, my dear friend. May God bless you dearly and may he keep us always in his peace. Merry Christmas in advance.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Two Months into the Priesthood.

Two Months into the Priesthood.

Two months ago, precisely, on the 24th of September 2011, I was ordained a priest of the Holy Catholic Church. To my greatest surprise, it was so ellaborate an event. God blessed the ocassion with much pump and joy. There were so many friends and family members travelling from all parts of the country to share my joy with me. The next day was the day of my first Mass. I could not imagine my poor sinfull presiding over so great numbers of Christ's faithfull. I was so touched. What has my God made me? Can I live the enormous responsibilities my God my given me? These and many other question kept going through my mind.

That first Mass I celebrated so inspired me that till today it has continued to be new to me everyday I celebrate it. I resolved, at that first Mass, at the point when I held the sanctisimum in my hand before communion, that I would be a saint, that this would be my greatest ambition as a priest. Surprisingly, after Mass that day, a friend asked me, "now what next?" My reply was so simple and direct, "to strive towards holiness of life and sainthood!" My reply for her made no sense. I noticed this the way she looked at me and said, "and ....?" All I could say was, "just that", with the question, " is that not a big ambition?" She shrugged and left.

Two months now, and this has continued to be the one desire - to be so configured into Christ that I totally loose myself for/in him. Every new day have come and gone with challenges, but they all have been stepping stones to greater heights.

I thank God for his many graces, inspirations aninkiness and hope among your people. Amen!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Man’s Utopian Consciousness and Religion

The concept of utopia represents an "ideal and perfect state where everyone lives in harmony and everything is for the best." The term was first formulated by Thomas More from the Greek words for "not" (ou) and "place" (topos) and thus meant "nowhere." "Utopias can be extravagant castles-in-the-air, nostalgic Shangri-Las, provocative satires, and rank political tracks thinly disguised as novels" (Hick, J., "Science fiction", Encyclopaedia Britannica, Ultimate Reference Suite, Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010). It is "… a kind of dream; … the kind that strongly appears to be unrealizable … [that] belongs to the future … [and] cannot belong to the present or it will cease to be that which we call it (utopia)." (Egbuogu, M., Eschatological Hope As Christian Theodicy: An Appraisal of Some Attempts at Explaining the Existence of Evil and Human Suffering, Enugu: Snaap press ltd., 2006, p. 265). The words "utopian" and "utopianism" deriving from "utopia" are words used to denote visionary reform that tends to be impossibly idealistic. Man, in the face of the suffering and misfortune that characterize the vicissitudes of everyday living and being often unable to cope with the exigencies of political and economic life and activities, is always wont to project 'utopias'. He is concerned for the future that is unknown and that looms. He is also aware that he is responsible for his history, the present and the future – yet to come - and that he can produce his historical future as he possibly wills. He is imbued with an innate sense of optimism.


 

Thus traditional cultures, sociologists, politicians, economists, philosophers, etc., have, relying on collective memories and individual hypotheses, projected selective pictures of the mystified past, of ideals, and of scientific rationality that represent a 'utopia', a model, a canon of living. Various words are used to refer to the utopian past, viz: an ou-topas, a no-man's land that never existed, or a golden age. The reference to a particular past as a norm for both present and future living is a conservative utopia. This form of utopia is readily associated with traditional cultures and also with the ageing. The Igbo of Nigeria, for example will say "mgbe elu uwa ka bu ala osa" (when the world was still faultless), "mgbe uwa bu uwa" (when the world was pristine). Another form of utopia is the futuristic utopia that is often associated with modern thinkers. It is a progressive utopia. In this format, what is the model of existence is not an ideal past as such, but a golden age yet to come and that has never been. The future explains and conditions the present. The concern here is for change in the search for meaning. Selective elements of the past only serve as inspiration and not as norm.


 

In contrast to these two: the conservative and progressive utopia, there is also a scientific or rational futurology. Here the question of mankind becomes a question of (1) science and technology and (2) of rational political action, i.e. of the "critical, free and liberating use of human reason, which to this end also makes a critical investigation of the presuppositions, the social consequences, the ethical implications and finally the goals of science and political action." The three fundamental aspects of this sense of utopia are "prognosis, rational or 'enlightened' projection of the future, and planning."


 

The conservative utopia leaves no room for any new meaning to arise. Meaning is already given in the ideal past. It stifles progress. The futuristic utopia on the other hand is open for meaning to be created. Nevertheless, both views are subject to a particular concern for the future. They build from selective remembrances of the past (or even the present) and thus desire the future to be either like this past or unlike this past/present. They are dogmatic; they create absolute single phases in the past or in the projected/hoped-for future that are not subject to verification or criticism, and regard these as the blueprint on which societal progress depends. The scientific utopia on the other hand is pragmatic, it can scientifically objectify and analyze human practice. They are also effective as they connect theory to practice. Hence they also act as viable ethical imperatives. Without the practical reference to utopias, they become merely visions and without any special force. We cannot totally underestimate the influence of utopias in history; they reveal that innate human structure of expectancy and remembrance that continually drive man to action and feeling and also to critical productivity.


 

Utopianism is evident in the optimism of secular humanists, who dream of justice, peace, and plenty to be achieved progressively in the course of history; in the enlightenment campaign; in the post-modernist thought; in Marxism; in utopian socialism, i.e.,
socialism based on a belief that social ownership of the means of production can be achieved by voluntary and peaceful surrender of their holdings by propertied groups; social utopia, which is the result of a transition from the end-time expectation; etc. Many critiques of religion have also characterized religion and the religious consciousness of a transcendental future as a form of utopianism. These thus see the language of faith as the language of utopia. This is because for them, the language of faith likewise refers to the "yet-to-come", to a future Christian ideal, that is at the moment non-existent and apparently untenable. This is an aberration. Man's utopian consciousness finds a response only in religion, and precisely in Christianity. That lacks, emptiness or imperfection in man that constantly lures man to an ideal golden age/moment, to utopia to perfection is the urge for the infinite, the divine, the urge for God which finds absolute expression in religion/Christianity. Hence, St. Augustine the great African Bishop and Doctor of the Church would write: Our hearts are restless until the rest in God.


 

Major Source

Schillebeeckx, E., Christ, The Experience of Jesus as Lord, trans by Bowden, J., N.Y.: The Seabury Press, 1980.


 

Monday, January 24, 2011


Strategic Opportunities for Ethical Companies

In a typical market system, dominated by rational self-interested business agents, could one still say that ethical business behaviour is beneficial or profitable?

An ethical company is one that endeavours to consistently apply ethics in every of its business relations with all the 2nd and 3rd parties with which it does business. It is not always easy to instil ethical values into a firm, but once it is instilled, say through drawing out and observing some form of ethical code, it endures, in so far as it is exploited and serviced. Being ethical does not just pay off. For the ethical company to gain materially, it must exploit its ethical values in every relation, most especially long-term cooperative relations, with all those in the society around which business success revolves. Businessmen must be aware that every business encounter is a unique multi-million opportunity that must be utilized strategically in view of the future.

Introducing and practicing ethical values in a company's operations provide strategic opportunities. This, however, does not mean that ethical behaviour is absolutely correlated with profitability and success, since the unethical company at times thrives more than ethical companies. Wirtenbuger argues that

"it would be vain to maintain that good morality is always profitable in the short run, it may well be costly to do the right thing. However, over the longer pull, good morality will be good business simply because people do not patronize nor have confidence in a businessman who is dishonest."

There is more than one necessary and sufficient condition for business success. Business success is the product of a complex interaction of many factors, such as new products or services, organizational structures, compensation policies, exploitation of new markets, quality products, possession of valuable production factors, advance management techniques like empowerment, flat structures, high involvement concepts, quality circles, work teams, etc. These factors taken individually will scarcely give a company competitive advantage over rival companies. This is because they are replicable or imitable. For a company to gain competitive mileage over others, they must of necessity introduce another factor, one that will make the difference, one that is non-imitable as such, and a sort of secret code of operations.

But how does ethical behaviour do this, when we know that being ethical restricts a firms operation, so to speak? Does honesty really pay? Most authors proffer three answers to this:
1. Ethical behaviour gives a company a reputation, which
2. Makes other 2nd and 3rd parties it relates with to trust it, and
3. it promotes employee commitment to its success.

Companies that are known to consistently seek to promote the interest and welfare of all those with which they deal (employee, customers, suppliers, investors, shareholders, distributors, managers, etc), to consistently behave honestly, trustworthily, etc; in short, in a consistently ethical way, sooner establish a unique, enviable reputation that will make others easily want to enter profitable and productive relations with them. An excellent reputation is mostly essential for business because the quality of most products and services cannot be ascertained at the time of sale; and because most products and services are such that the conditional support and servicing of the products are always demanded. There may even be some conflict of interest between the customer and the seller, employer and employee, etc. Trustworthiness and reliability is therefore what absolutely matters.

Business interactions between business agents are repetitive and on-going, such that so long as a company lives up to its ethical reputation, it will always continue to reap its fruits and benefits. Good reputation, through ethical behaviour therefore becomes a strategic opportunity for ethical companies. Somehow then, business success seems to be based/founded on ethical behaviour.

Businessmen and companies who therefore always seek to take advantage of opportunities to fleece and dupe others, who make nothing of relationships, will never have such an advantage. The fleeced, duped and unsatisfied 2nd and 3rd business parties will definitely seek revenge, retaliation or justice in one way or the other. A large body of research in social psychology has concluded that

"people in all kinds of social situations react to perceived injustices with distress and will attempt to eliminate their distress by restoring justice, while they will be attracted to just organizations and will reward the just organization with loyalty and commitment."

Retaliation or punishment that may be meted out to such companies or businessmen may be simply "refusing to buy from, refusing to work for, or refusing to do business with the unethical party. [It] may be more complex such as sabotage, getting other kinds of costs on the business," etc.

Customers are the best and most reliable advertising agency for company products and services, for nobody keeps the good to himself, all persons share the good. Customers will always turn against companies that apply the Machiavellian principle in business relations, always fleecing their customers. They will stop buying their products and will even encourage new comers to do the same. There is nothing positively opportunistic in business than consistent pure and unalloyed service to customers.

Firms that consistently treat their employees ethically, by being committed to their welfare, trusting them; giving them their basic inalienable and contractual rights; treating them responsibly; acting justly and respectfully towards them, unknown to them, enhance in the employees high motivation and subsequent dedication and commitment to the welfare and success of the firm. These behaviours that incorporate the employees into the family of the firm, build productive relationships both in the present and future, and a sense of belonging. This is why:

"Employees who feel their company's decision-making processes ... are just ... exhibit lower levels of turnover and absenteeism, higher levels of trust and commitment to the organization and its management, and demand lower wages ... they are more willing to see the leadership of managers as legitimate."

Added to this wide vista of opportunities available to the ethical firm is the potential of attracting more than a fair proportion of their share of the best head/experts as employees from the labour market. And with this monopoly of experts, they stand a better chance of fairing more than less principled firms, in the other factors necessary for business success (i.e. product quality, efficient management, high competence, advanced management techniques, etc). No man will ever want to go into partnership, or patronize somebody who is reputed to be a cheat. Business truly is a game nobody will want to lose or be outdone in. There are many firms today that have combined a good history of profit with good ethics and who continually reap the fruits of their long-term project. These include: Xerox, Hewlett - Packard, Levi - Strauss, Monsanto, Sony, etc.

Conclusion.
All economic activities must be subordinated to the common good and the service of mankind. It is a call to humanize economic growth, so as to bring about the best for the entire human society of persons.

Profit should not be the absolute end of economy/business, nor should it be a sign of efficiency. This is because the exaltation of the profit motive in human economic relations has led to many ills that have adversely affected the human race even to the extent of the threat of extinction. Embittered by this canker, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope John Paul II has characterized the present human situation as being soaked in the throes of a "culture of death."

It therefore renders imperative the need to begin afresh a new foundation for the human world, a foundation laid on values and moral principles. This is because it is the destruction, isolation and belittling of values that have launched man into this present state that he finds himself. Human welfare cannot be sacrificed on the altar of profit maximization nor self-interest.

man is no pure "homo economicus". He is a dynamic and exalted being. The basic stance of man in his existence is that man is a moral being. He is a person, whose existence is value-laden, such that without morality, life becomes for him a camouflage and a nuisance. It is only in ethical operation that he realizes himself and lives to his fullest of being. Therefore the call to marry ethics with business then becomes a call to rise above that Hobessian state of nature, where "homo lupus homini", to the realization of that Papal call for solidarity among persons, as the bedrock of world peace and progress.

At a "face-valued" glance at this work, people will ask: "what has ethics got to do with business?" This question clearly demonstrates that lack of knowledge on the validity of a course on business ethics. Consequently, this calls for a profound integration of the course into all spheres of human study, since the student today is the tomorrow's businessman, the tomorrow's manager, partner, etc; who must have a right conscience for society to be humanized.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Family Prayer and Personality Development


The Family as the Nucleus of the Society.
Man is a relational being and the family is the original nucleus of man's social life. No man is without a family in the world. The family unit, therefore, is the beginning, the original cell of man's existence in the society. Every man is born into a family of persons - a natural society, a microcosm, of a man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children. The family thus is natural and necessary to man. As a microcosm, family life is an initiation into life in the society. This is because the family is the first community in which, from childhood, one learns moral values, takes initiatives and acquires behavioural patterns that in the long run aid the individual absorb perfectly into the larger society. Charity, they say, begins at home. The relationship within the family brings an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members' respect and love for one another, which prepares these members for life in the larger society. The concept of a family is more subtle than that of a team, for what defines the family is not just the common interest, nor the goal, but a far more unifying objective and bond that pulls all its members together that they remain inseparable even in the midst of odds.

The Christian Family

A family is said to be Christian where the members of such a family follow the Christian rule of life. Such a family can be called a domestic church - "a communion of faith, hope and charity," (CCC. 2204) and a sign and image of the communion of the Holy Trinity, which draws strength from daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God. The Christian family is the first school of Christian life, a school for human enrichment, (GS. 52) where one "learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous - even repeated forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of ones life." (CCC. 1657).

The Christian family has been described as "ecclesia domestica" (FC. 21) - the domestic church. "Based on the sacrament of matrimony the family is the "domestic Church" where God's children learn to pray "as the Church ", and to persevere in prayer. The Christian family, is a simple, special and vivid representation of Jesus' promise of his presence: "... if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mt. 18:19 - 20).

In the Christian family, the members' activities exercise the fruits of their baptism as priests, kings and prophets. Away from the church, they remain united in faith, hope and love, added to the special bond of blood that holds them together. The members thus carry home in a special way the liturgy and spiritual life of the church by way of special devotions and prayers (worship) that further strengthen their union with God and one another in Jesus Christ, and day by day transforming their lives into a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God. (Rom. 12:1).

Hence family prayer is an inevitable aspect of every Christian family's spiritual life and devotion. By family prayer, the family learns to come together at least once everyday for something very solemn - communion with their Father and God, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its title. A practice that brings them into a special form of communion with themselves and their God - a communion that draws from the most holy of hollies, a source that is indestructible. Prayers, thus, as the fount of Christian life, thus becomes the fount and foundation of the Christian family (worth that title). Family prayer is "prayer offered in common, - husband and wife together, parents and children together. This communion in prayer being, a consequence of a requirement for the communion bestowed by the sacrament of Baptism and matrimony. It strengthens and promotes family life, which, above all else, derives foremost from God's initiative for man (to live together as man and woman). The joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, birth and birthdays celebrations, wedding anniversaries, etc. which mark God's loving intervention in the family history, are suitable moments for thanksgiving, petition and trusting abandonment of the family into the hands of God, i.e. of prayer in the family (cf. FC. 59).

The Christian family then is the first place of education in prayer, worship and Christian life too. Christian parents have a particular/specific mission of educating their children in prayer and the Christian life - to a personal relationship with God which they will grow up to love, cherish and follow/adhere to. From their earliest years children, therefore, should be taught, according to the faith which their parents received for them in baptism, to have knowledge of God, to worship him and to love Him and humanity. (cf. GE. 3). By their concrete example of witness and prayer - of praying with the children -, will parents affect, and penetrate the innermost depths of their children's hearts and leave a lasting impression that the future events in their lives will not be able to efface. (cf. FC. 60). In family prayer, therefore, mothers/parents should teach their children the Christian prayers, prepare them initially for the sacraments and encourage them to imbibe the habit of praying in private and always.

The Fruits of Family Prayer.

A family that prays together comes together, stays, agree and thinks together. The communion of thought and spirit which family prayer initiates makes for a deeper brotherly love, affection and peace. The example of honesty in thought and action, joined to the common family prayer remains a lesson for life for all in the family, especially the children. This value goes a long way to bring peace to homes - a peace which comes from sharing and concern for the needs of each other. When brothers/sisters and the couple hear others in the family pray for their deepest concerns, needs and desires, this sends a strong message of love, affection, communion and concern that readily wants to be reciprocated in all ways possible. Family prayer thus unifies the family on stronger terms.

The family that prays together also schools the members about life. Gradually the children and couple get to learn that the events in their lives are subject to a greater force that loves and cares for them - God. With this knowledge all the members of the family go through life knowing how, really, to face reality, knowing that the joys and sorrows, disappointments and favours they receive in life are ultimately the design of God for them, instead of attributing these to one another, and thereby loosing the love and trust that should hold them together.

The prayer and word of God that is shared in family prayer encourage the learning and development of Christian virtues. As all the members of the family everyday learn to put away bad habits and ill-behaviours that are not encouraged by parents, brothers and the scriptures, they replace them with virtues that will guide them through life making them stand out. Family prayer, thus, becomes the nexus of the family life, when the members of the family learn to lay off their burdens from their shoulders and place them on a higher power, who they believe have absolute control over them. This enhances family life and initiates understanding and maturity in relations among them. This, in the long pull, will be preparing them for life in the larger society. Consider for instance when mama tells the little child not to curse and not to say negative words always. The child takes this with him/her as he/she grows and lives with such a positive attitude for the rest of his/her life instead of being naturally pessimistic and despairing. Family prayer thus brings to the awareness of members of the family their dignity and responsibility as Christians - an awareness that will guide them all through life.

Family Prayer and Personality Development.
Psychologists and sociologists are of the view that close to 80% of what we learn and how we behave can be traced to relations in the family right from the cradle till about young adulthood, i.e. how we were raised in the family. Our life/personality thus reflect the care, attention, disappointments, challenges we faced growing up especially in our families. We are a mode of responses from situations that faced us as we grew up in the family. Once, a homosexual confirmed he ended up that way because his parents would not see him with a girl while he was growing up. Consequently he found himself mixing up and being oriented towards fellow boys

If that be the case, the family where its members learn to view reality/life for what it really is, will help give an outstanding personality to its members. The family that comes together in love to share in prayers thus would go a long way preparing themselves for socialization in the society. A pleasing personality would come from an atmosphere such as a family that prays together, where the parents witness by the examples of their lives and teach themselves and their children to hold up on to ideals, virtues and behaviours that their faith as Christians enjoin, and where they learn by their faith, hope and charity as Christians to become and think whatever is acceptable, true, good, pleasant and perfect will of God (cf. Rom.12:2) to God and their fellow men. It is therefore pertinent to encourage every Christian home to learn to come together in prayer, to learn to believe in themselves and God, to live in trust and honesty, to share with and love one another. By so doing, each and every member of the family would be developing a healthy Christian personality that would be pleasing and acceptable both as a Christian and an individual within a society. This will go a long way in making the world a better place.