Archbishop Nichols on being a Catholic in a secular world

 Archbishop Vincent Nichols has used a Pastoral Letter to suggest four important ways Catholics can bear witness to Jesus Christ in a secular society. "The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord marks the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus. It is the moment when he gives us our mission", wrote Archbishop Nichols, in the letter read in churches throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, yesterday "Jesus tells us: 'Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.' (Mark 16.15) He promises to be with us, to work with us, especially through the power of the Holy Spirit. "Jesus invites us to fulfil this mission today in a society which is secular, wealthy and divided. Our secular society tends to ignore the Word of God and live as if God does not exist." "Individuals are urged to fashion values of their own, deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong, and pursuing their own desires even when doing so may hurt others. As a result we live in a fragmented world, one in which divisions are deep and frightening for many. "How are we to bear witness to Christ in this world? "I suggest four important areas for our thought and action: First we must understand and live in a right relationship with wealth and prosperity. In God's plan, possessions and wealth are rightly ours only so that we can fulfil our responsibility towards others. We work and create wealth so that we can enhance our world in justice and charity. To long for wealth for its own sake is to lack inner freedom and to be enslaved. "Even a person who is materially poor can be filled with a longing for wealth and the power that goes with it. In his heart that person is already enslaved to riches. "Secondly, with this freedom we can uphold the key truth that human life is not our own possession but always and everywhere a gift of God, from conception until natural death. We strive to foster a positive attitude to life as God's gift by nurturing and supporting children as well as young and expectant mothers and fathers; by caring with patience for those who have difficult special needs and for the sick, the elderly and the dying. "Thirdly, whether we are married or single we uphold the family as the basis of stable life both for its members and for society as a whole. We uphold the truth of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and defend it from attempts to undermine it or obscure its key characteristics. "Fourthly we support and promote the right of parents to be the first and most important educators of their children, the first and best teachers of the faith. This means encouraging each other to teach the children how to pray, to mark family life as a place of God's blessing, to guide youngsters in the decisions they make about themselves, their friendships and their future. "These truths about human life, about the family, about education and about wealth are the foundation not only of our own happiness but also of the health of our society. Yet sometimes in upholding or promoting them we can be made to feel as if we are narrow-minded or even sectarian." Archbishop Nichols concluded his letter: "The gift of our Catholic faith is something of which we can be proud. Indeed, a true zest for life springs from a knowledge and love of God. A desire to make that love the foundation of our lives is energy for the mission given to us by the Lord. "In building our lives in this way we respond to his invitation and promote within our society the truths that serve the well-being of all. In these ways we become builders of his Kingdom, often hidden and unsung but faithful and pleasing to the Lord." Source: Archdiocese of Birmingham

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