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Catholic Spiritual Direction

What Mr. Rogers Shows Us About Holiness

September 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Mary Kaufmann, Virtue

We often fail to appreciate the power of small, loving gestures towards people, of taking the time to acknowledge them as good. Right under our noses, we get too busy to savor the goodness of God in people, in beauty and in our very backyards. Rushing through life, we waste many opportunities to praise God and to be good neighbors. The cardinal virtue of justice, a virtue that Venerable Concepción Cabrera (1862-1937) says is “almost nonexistent in the world” is a very powerful force in “being a good Samaritan” for it helps us “shock the conscience of the World” towards holiness! Justice moves the heart of God and assists us to meet the deepest needs of others for love!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) challenges us to be people of “social justice,” those able to recognize their own gifts and needs but ones able to share their resources. It calls justice, “a cardinal [or key] virtue” (cf CCC paragraph 1805) that effects our ability to love God and neighbor and “consists in a constant and firm will to give [to God and to neighbor what’s due them] (cf CCC 1807).  God favors the just person with many spiritual helps for “he who pursues justice and kindness will find life and honor” (Proverbs 21:21) with God, rather than worldly acclaim.  Justice orders our life of holiness and keeps our deepest purpose in living in view, to be another Christ in the World. As people of justice, according to the Catechism, we are to be in the business of “making neighbors,” of “looking upon [the people around us], without exception, as ‘another self’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity” (cf CCC 1931). We are meant to effect change, to help redeem the world by how we live. We help redeem the world by offering both physical and spiritual sustenance to others, and discerning how to offer sacrifices on their behalf, in union with Jesus.

To be just, we have to have discernment, to learn to consider the best options from the alternatives and the greatest good we could enact, in the light of the moment, as based on our gifts and God’s presence with us. The virtue of justice helps us recognize God’s gifts to us and unique vocation to impact people. By developing our gifts and the gifts of creation, we have something to share with others because God desires us to share our resources generously.

What are some simple ways to be a good neighbor and practice justice towards people in the midst of the moment? Consider yourself in action. Do you rush through life, pumped up on coffee or have you developed a contemplative pace/tempo that allows you to respond in grace to the needs of others, to be guided and inspired in your actions towards them? Rushing makes the good that we do unstable, while being able to reflect, and consider yourself living in the loving gaze of God, keeps you perked for good.

Living in Iowa, I have come to recognize the neighborliness that justice requires. Although I live in a metro area of Iowa, many practices from the farm still continue that facilitate that “Mr. Rogers” dynamic of holiness. In Iowa, we talk to people we don’t know when we shop, are out in restaurants or in public. We share sugar and eggs with the family next door when they run out. Many of us still buy sweet corn from the corner vender both to help them out and so we can shuck and eat it for dinner. Think about yourself in practice. How often do you speak to people you don’t know? While we each have different temperaments, and live in different situations, some find this easier to do, next time you are out in public, could you offer a stranger some simple eye contact, a quick smile or a pleasant word if the situation allows? Mother Teresa often said that in the West, we struggle with the deepest kind of hunger, loneliness!

Consider how patient you are with others, when you have to wait.  A friend of mine at the drive through at a fast food restaurant recounted the story of feeling very frustrated with the woman in the car ahead of her who was taking too long to pay.  She said, “’I was muttering something like, why do I always run into the dingbats when I’m in a hurry?’ When it was my turn to pay, I revved my engine to emphasize that I had been waiting. When I pulled up to hand the clerk my money, she smiled and said, ‘The car ahead of you asked to pay for your order. There is no charge for you.’ She said, ‘I just lost my breath. She paid for me when I was so unkind in my thoughts towards her.” How would you assess your attitudes towards people that thwart your plans?

We are called to be people who can handle the delays. We are to be salty, not blended in with the World, and neutralized by comfort but to live in a counter-cultural way as Catholics. In fact, if we’re not considered “weird for the Lord,” I’m not so sure that we’re living our Christian life as God would have us. While some days we do this better than others, we want to keep our mooring, the virtues, most especially that of justice, which functions like a loving navigation system towards holiness. By developing the virtue of justice, we can “shock the conscience of the world” and help people encounter Christ through us.

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About Mary Kaufmann

Ms. Mary Gannon Kaufmann, M.A., M.S. is Director of Incarnate Institute and co-founder of Word of the Vine Online. Through Word of the Vine Online Ministries, Mary offers face to face and also online interactive retreats. She teaches internationally on vocations, priesthood, the role of the laity, the Theology of the Body and topics of spiritual growth. Information can be found at She is the author of the book Awakening A Life-Giving Heart, which gives insights for women who pray for the Church, from Ven. Concepción Cabrera and other saintly women. Mary holds a post-graduate certificate in Spiritual Direction and Retreats from Creighton University in Omaha, NE, a Masters in Theology from Loras College in Dubuque, IA and a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. She attends classes with her husband John, who is in formation for the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. They live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with their six children.

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  • Jeanette

    It’s all about being surrendered to Jesus, about being available to Him and wanting to do His Will. If we are, then we can be open to all that happens to us each day so that we can love our neighbour as He desires. It’s a wonderful adventure…you never know what God will have in store for you each day. We may have to put up with a disagreeable person but these encounters show us where we are… are we patient with them regardless?…do we smile at them regardless?…do we speak calmly and lovingly returning good for evil?…are we happy that we have something to offer God in putting up with them? Then, of course, we can rejoice in the wonderful and loving events with our family, friends and co-workers that happen to us each day. Even if you can’t think of anything wonderful, there is God’s nature in which to rejoice (His personal Nature and His created nature around us). Let us be the salt of the earth and thereby allow people to encounter Christ through us, as Mary says in her wonderful post.

    Today, let us join with Pope Francis in prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world. This too is an act of justice. God bless!

    • LizEst

      Beautiful. Thanks for mentioning Pope Francis and the Church’s prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world.

  • DianeVa

    Beautifully said Mary. We must live a counter-cultural life and I must remember to thank anyone interiorly when they mock me as “over-the-top” for my faith in the Trinity and the Church. “Blessed are they who are persecuted for me”

  • GAartist

    I’m blessed to live in the south, and here it is quite easy to be friendly. I work in a retail environment and my job demands courtesy, kindness, and helpfulness. I keep two prayers in my work area visible for me to read. One is a prayer for holiness, and the other is a worker’s prayer of consecration from St. Jose Maria Escriva. My days go a lot more smoothly when I remember to start my day with them.

    • LizEst

      We can all be friendly wherever we are. The only thing needed is to follow the gospel, see Christ present in each person we encounter, and treat them accordingly…no matter what the disguise.

  • Jim Sheridan

    Lyrics to my favorite Mr. Rogers song:

    “Some are fancy on the outside.

    Some are fancy on the inside.

    Everybody’s fancy.

    Everybody’s fine.

    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

    Boys are boys from the beginning.

    Girls are girls right from the start.

    Everybody’s fancy.

    Everybody’s fine.

    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

    Girls grow up to be the mommies.

    Boys grow up be the daddies.

    Everybody’s fancy.

    Everybody’s fine.

    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

    I think you’re a special person

    And I like your ins and outsides.

    Everybody’s fancy.

    Everybody’s fine.

    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.”

    Everybody’s Fancy
    By Fred M. Rogers
    © 1967