If you regularly read obituaries, as people beyond middle-age increasingly do, you’ll find an assemblage of kind and loving adjectives used to capture someone’s life in a few paragraphs.
People are often described as compassionate, loving, hard-working, enthusiastic and faith-filled.
Rarely do you see someone described as “responsible.” Yet responsibility is an individual quality as significant as most others.
The argument can be made that the failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions is a major cause of problems in many of our communities, in our country and throughout the world.
Politicians lead the way when it comes to shunning this particular character trait.
They may sometimes “stretch the truth” about their past and about their plans for the future. But if caught in the lie, rather than taking responsibility for it, they most often turn the attention and the blame to some woe begotten staff member who then gets summarily dismissed.
The U.S. Congress could serve as the poster-child for abdication of responsibility. Elected to help govern the nation, many members simply refuse to do much of anything. More than a century ago, Mark Twain referred to Congress as “that grand old benevolent asylum for the helpless.” Unfortunately, that remains an apt description.
Captains of business and industry share in this “lack of responsibility” sin, too. Pundits often proclaim them “leaders” or “titans” after they’ve eliminated hundreds of thousands of jobs, closed plants and brought poverty to cities and citizens alike. They’ve made money for their companies, though; the fallout of their actions isn’t their fault, they say. Not their responsibility. It was caused by that nebulous, indefinable thing called “the economy.”
So why this attention to responsibility?
Because we should understand that accepting responsibility is a component of our faith. Pope Francis has said as much time and time again, as have leaders of our local church.
And several hundred men who attended last month’s fourth annual Archdiocese of Louisville Men’s Conference at St. Michael Church have heard the call to responsibility. In the years since that conference was born, the men — young and old — who have attended have been reminded of their responsibilities to their families, church and community. And the fact that they’ve chosen to spend most of a March Saturday at the conference is testimony that they take that call seriously.
During his visit to the United States last year, the pope on several occasions called upon the church to “foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions.”
The faithful of this nation, he said, must take responsibility for living the Gospel, for providing an example of how God wants us to be. The promise and potential of the U.S., he said in a Catholic News Service story, “must not be smothered by bickering and even hatred at a time when the U.S. people and indeed the world need a helping hand.”
The pope also praised the middle class of this country, the working people who take responsibility for doing “an honest day’s work to bring home their daily bread, to save money and, one step at a time, to build a better life for their families.” These responsible people are to be praised, he said, because “they generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.”
There you have it. Living the Gospel, helping others, being the face of Christ on earth, that’s on you and me.
That’s our responsibility.
Record Editor Emeritus