by Rich Maffeo
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, "Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body . . . But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another . . . Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it (I Corinthians 12:14-27).
In December 1917, Father Edward Flanagan established a community near Omaha, Nebraska for homeless boys. The well-known sculpture of an older boy carrying a younger one on his back symbolizes Flanagan's community. The story behind the monument is rooted in a sweltering summer day when a group from the orphanage headed to a nearby water hole to swim. One of boys couldn't go because his leg was in a brace. When another youngster, Jim, lifted him onto his back, Father Flanagan asked the others to help, but Jim waved him off.
"He ain't heavy, Father," Jim said. "He's my brother."
When the Church says we, she affirms God is our Father, those who love Christ are our spiritual brothers and sisters, and - and this is important - that we are responsible for each other. John Donne, a 17th century Churchman and poet, understood what some today seem to have forgotten. "The church is Catholic, universal," he wrote. "When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me, for that child is thereby . . . ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member . . . No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
That is why, though some later versions of the Nicene Creed replace we with I, I prefer the first person plural because it reminds me of my "part of the main." We lifts me to see beyond myself and acknowledge my responsibility to the community of other believers.
The next time you recite the Creed during Mass, look at your Christian brothers and sisters in the pews near you. They are your family, and you have the great privilege to help them carry their burdens and, as St. Paul wrote, "fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Prayer (of St. Francis): Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
These meditations are compiled in Richard Maffeo's book, "We Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed." The book is available through bookstores and his website
E-mail this article to a friend