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By Hugh McNichol

American Catholics need to become more public in their expressions of faith. It was recently reported in the secular press that in some publicly funded colleges funds are being allocated for "foot-washing" stations to accommodate Islamic students' need to ritual ablution before prayers. Well, Catholics wake up and start demanding Holy Water Fonts for the entrances and exits to all secular educational buildings in the United States. The Catholic ritual predates the Islamic rite of purification and is simpler to accommodate...requiring only the immersion of the fingers of the right hand and making the sign of the cross. Islamic ritual calls for purification of the feet, hands and head as well, which seems to afford more complexity in the ritual.

There always seems to be some anti-Catholic sentiments popping up in the news media and in the secular press. Last week it was the newly baptised city of Ave Maria, Florida. Some observers suggest that a city completely devoted to living the Catholic Gospel message as a place of discrimination against non-Catholics, and all other religious sects. I applaud this community of faith that is attempting to make a Catholic statement in an otherwise secular society. A place that asks residents to adhere to Catholic social teachings and Catholic moral teachings in their daily lives suggests a very complex appreciation and understanding of their Catholic faith is alive in the planning and implementation of this community. What is of particular interest is the openness of Ave Maria, Florida to welcome all religious denominations in their experimental city, without any discrimination or requirements.

The development of Ave Maria, Florida is in a manner similar to the old parish structure of the Catholic Church, live evolving around the central hub of the community, the Catholic Parish. What a great example of community involvement and participation, a city that permits the development of a neighborhood with residential, commercial and educational facilities to name a few all within walking distance. Even better, a Catholic Church built specifically withing walking distance for a community to frequent for prayer and Sacramental celebrations. I really don't see the development of this type of "Catholic friendly" community in any way discriminatory or selective to any one's personal beliefs or activities.

Actually it is extremely refreshing to observe the development of a community with moral and ethical values associated with it's residency and lifestyle. It is especially significant to witness a "Catholic" community's development based upon Catholic religious principles.

In the historical development of the United States most of the immigration to these shores was motivated by the desire to worship freely without any retribution or discrimination by government or other entities. The implementation of Ave Maria, Florida is the logical progression of religious freedom as envisioned by the Pilgrims,the Quakers, the Calvinists, the Mormons and so on. Simply put, a desire for similarly minded individuals to live, work, pray in a community that is focused upon similar religious faith. Amen and Alleluia to Ave Maria, is a 21st century attempt to sow the seeds of Catholic faith in a community of Catholic believers. The observation of the developments of life in this community will prove interesting to watch as well. Over the course of the next 20 years or so, it will be of particular interest to watch the success or failure of their local faith based social programs, the percentage of population growth that is rooted in Catholicism, the development or lack of development of crime within the faith based city, the ratio of success of education in the local public schools, as well as the Catholic based schools, the divorce rate, the percentage of single parent families and other similar factors.

Traditionally there has always been the sociological trend that believes that the faith community is better adapted to deal with social issues and concerns. It will prove very interesting to see if the Catholic rooted lifestyle of Ave Maria, Florida provides a better social environment for its residents than a similarly sized city of no particular religious affiliation. Catholic as well as non Catholics might be in for some interesting conclusions that are extracted from life in Catholic, Ave Maria.

It is already clearly indicated that the city of Ave Maria, Florida welcomes peoples of all faiths and denominations to live and worship in their new city. Such an openness to cultural diversity is highly commendable. I am sure that within time there will be an expansion of other religious sects and denominations in the area as well. As a Catholic believer, I anticipate watching the development of Ave Maria with all faiths developing in the area. Hopefully, the city will be a shining example of Catholic social teachings as well as a place to showcase the Catholic desire for ethnic and racial diversity within their Catholic community.

Ave Maria, Florida does not offer an opportunity for Catholics to discriminate against other faiths and cultures. It quite simply offers Catholics an opportunity to live lives associated with their religious beliefs. We have already witnessed similar situations where multiple faiths and sects have worshipped and lived together, it was called a neighborhood. Ave Maria, Florida is just that the reintroduction of the concept of "neighborhood" with the Catholic parish as its hub. The concept of urban living was quite successful throughout Europe when the Catholic Church provided schools, hospitals, nursing homes and universities just to name a few to all of the populations of the world through a "Church" based neighborhood and society. Perhaps the time has come to once again incorporate this urban planning concept of "faith-based" communities into other areas of development in the United States. Growing up in a "faith-based" neighborhood and society is something that offers positive development for all peoples that will carry over to other aspects of their personal, professional and secular lives.

Finally, as we add accommodations to our public spaces for Islamic rites of purification, Catholic sacramental fonts and so on, we will perhaps come to realize that the inclusion of these denominational based objects is a good thing that brings all believers closer to God, however he is worshipped.If the end results of such inclusions are global peace and domestic tranquility then lets start adding space that permits the inclusion of all religious symbols, so that everyone might worship freely and openly in pursuit of the American ideal of religious freedom.


http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot,com DE, US
Hugh McNichol - Author, 302 6339348



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