USCCA Highlights
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USCCA Highlights, Chapter 6

     Chapter 6
The role model: Mother Alphonsa (Rose Hawthorne Lathrop), 1851-1926
The daughter of Nathanial Hawthorne, Rose Hawthorne, seems at first seems an unlikely candidate for sainthood.   After all, Nathanial Hawthorne was an American novelist (A Scarlet Letter), who was fascinated by Pilgrim morals, the Salem witch trials and dabbled in transcendentalism.  And when one realizes Rose spent most of her formative years in England and Italy, she seems an unlikely role model for American women as well.  Rose’s father, however, died in her teens.  Her mother took the three children back to Europe, where Rose met and married 19-year old George Lathrop in London in 1891.  The couple moved to Cambridge, MA, and had one child together, but he died at the age of four.  Her husband, George, died shortly thereafter in 1898, only seven years after their wedding.  From that point on, Rose began to support herself by writing poetry and short stories, and writing a story about a poor seamstress who died of cancer on Blackwell’s Island became a turning point for Rose.  In those days, cancer was regarded much like AIDS was a few years ago; people with it were ostracized, and if one was poor, one often died a miserable death.  Rose decided to start devoting her life to these folks and began not only to minister to them, but the try to raise funds so that they could be treated with dignity.  The USCCA’s lesson in this chapter is about that inherent dignity each of us possesses, that Image of God within each of us (Imago Dei) that God used to fashion us, but it also addresses the reality of original sin and how that dignity has been marred.
Mother Alphonsa
Rose began her work with incurably ill cancer patients, and established several hospices in the New York area.   For years, she also worked with a friend, Alice Buber, and they began to live a semi-monastic lifestyle.  Father Clement Theunte received them as third order Dominicans, and from there they establish a new Dominican congregation.  Called the Dominican Order of St. Rose of Lima, they were incorporated as Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer.  By then, her name had become Mother Alphonsa and she began to raise funds through a magazine she founded, Christ’s Poor.  With the funds, she established similar facilities around the country.  Mother Alphonsa clearly saw the inherent dignity in each of the patients she served.  She became a living advocate for Imago Dei.
The teaching: created in God’s image…..
In the first book of the Bible, we read God created man in his image…male and female he created them (Gen 1:27).  It doesn’t say anything about race or culture or size or age or appearances.  God created each human being in the image and likeness of God's self, God's Trinitarian self.  That meant each of us is capable of self-knowledge and each of us can enter into relations with another and love another and become fruitful.  In that Garden of Eden, man and woman were created in perfect friendship with God and all was well.  God loved his creatures and he wanted them to love in return, but love must be freely given or it is not real, so God gave humans free will.  God also made humans an intrinsic blend of body and soul, and he made man and woman partners for each other.  They completed each other.  He put them in charge as stewards over all other creatures on earth.  All was well until man and woman chose to disobey God.  
Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit of the Tree of good and evil.  The tempter (the serpent) told them that if they did they would be like God and know everything, so they succumbed to that temptation and ate the forbidden fruit.  These first few chapters in Genesis are mythological, meaning they are stories that point to a greater truth.  The truth is still true, though the words are simply a story, not necessary historical fact like we describe history today.  Adam, for instance is Hebrew for “man”; Eva or Ema is Hebrew for “mother”.  This story demonstrates in narrative form the story of our first parents and the constant struggle we witness every day between good and evil.  That first disobedience of Adam and Eve destroyed the harmony of Eden and we have been trying to get back to Eden ever since.  The Church has called this first act of disobedience Original Sin.  St Augustine was the first to use the term, and told us that our parent’s first sin was passed down through the generations and has forever marked each human person since then.  Technically, we did not commit this sin, we contracted it through our parents, but we are marked by it and it has altered our nature; we are still good, but we are now inclined toward evil.  It has wounded our nature.  In The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 389, we also hear: 
The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the “reverse side” of the good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all through Christ.
In Holy Saturday’s vigil liturgy, the Exultet is sung, that most glorious song of Christ’s resurrection which celebrates the redemption of the human race.  In that hymn, we hear the words, “O felix culpa” or “O happy fault” and it is referring to that first original sin which caused us to need a savior.  If Adam and Eve had not sinned, we might never have needed a savior, or have come to know the Christ.  In that sense, it is a happy fault.  Creation of man and woman is described in the opening lines of Genesis.  In just a few verses later in that book of Genesis right after the fall, in chapter 3:15, we hear the first promise of a savior: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heal.”  God was speaking to the serpent that first tempted Eve, but in these few short words, God promised a redeemer.  God would send his Son who would redress the wrong and bring salvation and redemption to all.  Human beings had abused their freedoms and we have been suffering because of that abuse ever since.  Even today, when we celebrate freedom, almost everywhere in civic life it is often a misguided type of freedom, one that excludes God and one that thinks true freedom can be enjoyed without any restrictions of parameters.  Original sin is a deprivation,  a loss of original righteousness or justice with which our first parents were created.  With Jesus Christ, however, and especially with baptism, we are freed from original sin.  We are strengthened against the power of sin and death; we are reconciled to God and made members of his holy people, the Church.
American Modern Culture
We don’t hear much in modern society about sin.  Secularism is on the rise and humans have begun to erroneously think they are in charge of their own lives and of the planet.  Relativism has spread everywhere and existentialism has gone too far.  The individual and individual rights are being put on a pedestal that is destroying the common good of society.  Many are convinced there is no such thing as “truth” – your truth is as good as my truth, right? since we all create our own truth, right?  Revelation has been replaced for many by a misguided and idolatrous egoism.  It is into this culture that we now must interact as believers in Revelation and believers in a God who has created us in his image.   Revelation is needed to understand that sin is an abuse of freedom and a disruption of the original harmony that God gave the human race.  That is the challenge of modern society.  Does revelation exist?  Has God revealed things to us or not?  As Catholics, we believe God has revealed many things about himself, about our nature and existence, and about the relationship God desires to have with us.   
USCCA Reflection Question:
Why didn’t God prevent the first human beings form sinning?  
       God gave us free will and would not interfere with the use of our free
       Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the    
       demon’s envy had taken away (CCC, 412 citing St. Leo the Great’s
       Sermon 73, no. 4)
Doctrinal Statements:
1. God created man and woman in his image to love and serve him and care for his creation.
2. Each person is a unity of body and soul.
3. God created human beings as male and female, made to complement each other.
4. God created man and women in a state of original justice and harmony; their happiness flowed from their friendship with God.
5. Even though Genesis 1-11 uses mythological language, it still points to truths; in this case that sin entered the human race at the beginning of human history.  
      a. The first human beings were tempted by the Evil One.
      b. They chose to abuse their freedom.
      c. They separated themselves from God.
6. All human beings after Adam contracted this original sin.
7. Because of this original sin, the human race is subject to ignorance, suffering, death, disordered appetites and an inclination toward evil (called concupiscence).
8. Humanity has been reconciled to God by the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Meditation and Prayer:
*      Man is incomplete without God.  Augustine says our hearts are restless
        until they rest in God.
*      Yet, man is still enticed by the Evil One and his heart is sometimes
        inclined toward evil.
*      So man is divided against himself and finds himself in chains.
*      Jesus breaks the bonds of the Evil One and frees man, renewing him
*      but man still has free will and the option to accept redemption or reject
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. 
                                                                           (Old Franciscan prayer) 

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