In Your Midst
A Revolution of the Heart: Celebrating the New Millennium at St. James Cathedral
Summer 99

"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart; a revolution which has to start with each one of us."

- Dorothy Day


The one thing I never really expected about being a parent is all the fretting I would do. I have two little boys, ages four and seven, and like parents everywhere, I whirl around them trying to fix the things that go wrong with their days: Albert's swollen bug bite, Ted's lost library book, all the dozens of daily bumps and scratches, hurts and victories.

But lurking behind the little worries is a real fear that seems very potent at the end of the 20th Century. Am I truly able to guide my children through life? Am I strong enough to help them through all the danger zones of the Internet or school or a rebellious adolescence? Will they be all right? Will I do the right things? I know I'm not the only parent who lies awake at night worrying about my children's destiny. From Cain and Abel to the Prodigal Son to Anakin Skywalker, our stories and myths are full of children who somehow lose their way and it never seems quite certain why.

That's why the American Bishops' Jubilee Pledge for Charity, Justice and Peace is so important. The Pledge, which will be honored by Catholics around the country as a way to celebrate the New Year, calls us to live our lives by more consciously seeking charity, justice and peace.

It's a challenge. Attempting to live a life of service to others is profoundly countercultural, particularly in the Palm Pilot '90s, when we're rewarded for doing more and moving faster and recording every step we take. Service to others can't be measured that way and so it often seems like failure from the perspective of popular culture. I know it does in our home, at least, where our attempts to live a simple lifestyle based around service seems to us increasingly like falling behind.

But the challenge of the Pledge is matched, perhaps exceeded, by the real comfort it brings: the knowledge that this challenge that is so fundamentally part of our faith is not ours to bear alone. Instead, it's something we do together, as part of a community. When I walk into St. James with my family, I am surrounded by people who are striving to live their lives for others - from serving the needs of those who are homeless to assisting the elderly and the needy - and it is in this community that I can feel comfortable at last that my children are learning the lessons they will need to grow into good and strong adults.

Dorothy Day once described her greatest challenge as creating a "revolution of the heart." That is the essence of the Jubilee Pledge. My own interpretation of this challenge is much more mundane yet just as deeply felt. When my boys grow up, they may be firefighters or they may be artists or they may develop whatever software has become twenty years from now. But most important, with the support of a community around them, my husband and I can strive to help them grow up to be of service to others. And that will be the real revolution.

Mary Bourguignon is a parishioner and a principal at Cedar River Associates, a public policy consulting firm. She is an active religious education volunteer at St. James Cathedral.


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