By Kathy Coffey
“You shall not steal ”
Whew!” we might first
think. “Got off easy on
that one!” We law-abiding
sorts don’t pilfer office supplies,
skim money from the collection
plate, shoplift jewelry, pick pockets
or rob banks. At last, this is one
commandment we’re handily
stick to the letter
of the law. But
to deeper reflection. There
are more forms of stealing than we
might initially recognize. Let’s look
first at homegrown forms, then at
the larger picture
close to home,
we rob our children
we work overtime
at a job
that often buys
(the second TV
set, pizza delivery, PalmPilot,
The Church has long taught
that economic concerns cannot be
the primary drivers of human life.
The person created by God is too
precious to be merely a means of
profit. Our birthright as God’s
children is dignity, security, the
divine, transcendent love. All that
matters most is gift. So why do we
hoard lesser things?
We steal a person’s enthusiasm
or innocence by negative comments.
We squash plans that seem
naïve, quell a child’s natural
curiosity or creativity, stifle the
initiative of the new employee.
Unfounded fears can block imaginative
solutions and, even worse, the inspiration of the Spirit. When we fritter away our
time on games and television, we rob the bright
potential of the intellect.
Two forms of theft reduce the immediacy of the
present: if we are consumed with anxiety about the
future, or dwell too much in memories of the past.
Either extreme robs the current moment of all the
grace and potential for God’s revelation.
Its Not Just About Us
The items in closets or drawers that don’t fit or are
no longer worn—these too are stolen from those who
could be using them, who might in fact be thrilled to
have them. As St. Basil reminds us: “The coat in your
closet belongs to the naked. The shoes rotting in your
basement belong to the barefoot.”
Our property and talents do not belong
only to us, but were given by God for the
benefit of others. Here, as everywhere,
our model is Christ, who “though he
was rich, yet for your sake…became
poor so that by his poverty, you might
become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).
A look through the Catechism of the
Catholic Church reveals social dimensions
of this commandment, condemning:
the payment of unjust wages, bribes to legislators,
breaking a contract and “work poorly done.”
Furthermore, discrimination against women and immigrants which
denies them job
access violates the
that theft occurs
when one needs
instance, when people
sought food and water after Hurricane Katrina.
How the foundations of Las Vegas or Atlantic City
would tremble to hear its words: “The passion for
gambling risks becoming an enslavement” (#2413).
Intuitively we may cringe at the busloads of
people pumping their savings into slot
So too, people who lavish more
money and attention on their pets
than some children receive aren’t
exercising proper stewardship: “One
can love animals; one should not
direct to them the affection due only
to persons” (#2418).
On a global scale, the arms race plunders
the resources of the planet, substituting weapons for
people’s basic needs. Dwight Eisenhower warned in
1961 that the military-industrial complex could bleed
our country’s riches—and he was prophetic.
To conclude on a bright note: Many people are
making efforts at reparation. Corporate pollution
may steal clean water and air, but it’s heartening to
think of the youth group at St. Edward the Confessor
Parish in Richmond, Virginia. They sponsored a two-week
“fast” from every liquid except tap water and
donated the money saved to a project providing clean
water in Nicaragua.
As Helen Keller said, “The world is full of suffering,
but also of the efforts to alleviate it.” Those who
repay the thefts which occur in our homes and society
brilliantly honor the Seventh Commandment.
Next: The Eighth Commandment
Kathy Coffey mentions ways to reflect more
deeply on what is meant by stealing. How
is this appropriate to your own situation?
What can you do to
make amends for the many ways society dishonors the Seventh Commandment?
Honesty: Caught, Not Taught
By Judith Dunlap
I was just a novice teacher when one of my students, Randy,
came up to my desk to show me the purchase he had made.
He was very proud of the clear plastic ruler he held in his
hand. He was even prouder of the deal he had gotten when he
purchased it. “It only cost a nickel,” he said. I asked him how he
had gotten such a bargain, and he told me he’d swapped the
price tag from another item in the store. I began to comment on
his action when he stopped me, saying, “No, really, Mrs. Dunlap,
its O.K. My dad does it all the time.” I didn’t know what to say.
Now when I look back on that day, I’m actually glad I said
nothing to the youngster. Let’s be honest. For most young boys,
Dad is the equivalent of all-righteous
authority. But if the same thing happened
at this time in my life, I would make it a
point to have a few words with the dad.
I have spent over 25 years talking to
parents, catechists and catechetical leaders
about how faith is handed on to children.
Often, I spend time talking about how we
can help youngsters develop a right conscience.
It is no surprise that the number
one component in raising faith-filled children
with an accurate sense of right and
wrong is their parents. What we say in religion
class, especially in a child’s early
years, is always measured by the youngster’s
own lived experience.
Children today see everything and hear even more. You can’t
fool them. If you want them to be faith-filled, you need to work
on growing in your own faith. If you want them to have an accurate
sense of right and wrong, make sure your own compass is
always fixed on what is right. It is as simple—and demanding—as that.
As a family, look at a favorite movie or TV show. Watch for the moments when the characters lie and when they are truthful. Discuss the consequences of such choices in the story lineand in real life.
By Frank Frost
Frequently, the American
immigration debate focuses
on assimilation—to what
degree immigrants should give up
their traditional culture in favor of
“being American.” The Namesake
can serve as an enjoyable discussion-starter
on the topic.
The epic two-generational love
story of a couple from Calcutta, who
come to New York where they bear
and raise their children, is a beautifully
shot film with characters we
quickly care about. The story intercuts
the visually rich and deeply
established social milieu of India
with the struggle of a family to find
itself in a new country of informality
and freedom of opportunity.
The Namesake is about the characters’
growth and understanding
over time, and as such does not turn
on one dramatic dilemma. Indeed,
we can be forgiven if we ask whose
story it is.
Is it that of Ashimi (Tabu),
the young woman we first meet in
Calcutta whose parents are negotiating
a planned marriage for her? Or
Ashoke (Irfan Khan), whom we meet
reading the Russian writer Gogol on
a train, about to collide with destiny?
Or is it the story of their American-born
son Gogol/Nick (Kal Penn),
who embodies the initial rejection of
his Bengali heritage, only to find a
new appreciation of it?
Several themes emerge from the story.
One derives from the title of the movie.
What’s in a name? The significance of
Ashoke naming his son Gogol, and later
of Gogol changing his name to Nick, is a
measure of family heritage and the deepest
dimensions of personal identity.
The phrase “the American way” surfaces
often, usually with a shrug that suggests
there is sacrifice to be accepted in
the loss of traditional culture, in exchange
for economic opportunity and freedom.
Negative aspects of the American way are
manifest in the sullen rejection of the parents
by the thoroughly acculturated
teenager Gogol. Positive parts of the
American way are manifest in the apparently
unlimited opportunity for wealth
and success his parents offer him by
staying in America when his mother gets
homesick for India.
Each viewer will see America in his or
her own way as the film holds up a mirror
to allow us to see ourselves in a fresh
context. At the same time we get a
chance to appreciate the rich cultural
traditions of India through the spectacularly
photographed Bengali wedding and
Questions of personal and ethnic
identity become more urgent as the family
progresses through growth and loss,
and we are reminded that whether they
consider themselves Indian or American
they struggle for the same aspirations as
individuals all around the world—family
connections, dignity and pride. We are
also reminded that time does not stand
still; new personal and national identities
continue to emerge. As for Gogol, he will
fully confront the question of his name,
his identity and his destiny only in the
grief of his father’s death.
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)
A war injury started Ignatius Loyola on the path to
conversion and, ultimately, sainthood. Ignatius spent
his early years preparing for a life of service in the
Spanish court. Around age 30, a cannonball shattered his
leg in battle. Laid up for months, he whiled away the hours
by reading. The books he was given—the only ones on
hand—included a life of Christ and lives of the saints.
Hardly what the soldier with a reputation for womanizing
had in mind! But something deep in him was touched; he
was beginning to turn to Christ.
After reporting a vision of the Mother of God, Ignatius
made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat. He
remained in the area for almost a year, often spending
hours praying in a cave in the hills. He began to record
material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual
Exercises. His attempt to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem
was cut short by political and social unrest; he returned to
Spain to resume the studies he had abandoned years before.
Ignatius then moved to Paris for additional studies and
prepared for ordination.
Among his classmates
were several men also
drawn to the spiritual
life. In 1534, the group
vowed to live in poverty
and chastity and pledged
special service to the
Holy Father. These were
the earliest days of the
Society of Jesus.
Ignatius was elected
the first superior general.
He worked from Rome as
Jesuits began to preach and teach throughout the world. He
continued work on his Spiritual Exercises, which he saw as a
manual for the spiritual formation of his followers. He died
suddenly in 1556 and was canonized 66 years later. His
feast day is July 31.
Dr. Frank Ayers
A yearlong retreat based on the
Spiritual Exercises helped Dr.
Frank Ayers progress in his
goal of establishing a more personal
relationship with God. But it wasn’t
easy. During his weekly meetings
with a spiritual director he
resisted what he felt was
the retreat’s overemphasis
on a judgmental
In the end, things
fell into place. “I came
away feeling sorry for
my sins not because I was
afraid of punishment but
more for offending a loving God,”
Dr. Ayers told Every Day Catholic.
It is the image of a loving God
that enriches Dr. Ayers’s life and calls
him to share that love with others.
Creighton University in Omaha
officially recognized that fact when
it presented him with its 2006
St. Ignatius Award.
A member of the faculty there for
decades, Dr. Ayers presently serves
as associate dean for student affairs
and director of admissions at the
Jesuit university’s School of
Dentistry. While most of his work
now is administrative, he takes the
time to deliver lectures to students
about serving disabled patients, a
professional interest he developed
following the birth of his son
Patrick, who has special
Dr. Ayers has also
helped lead efforts to
bring minorities to
school. Besides volunteering
his services at a
local clinic that serves needy
Hispanics, he has brought his skills
to the Dominican Republic for five
summers, along with other faculty
While there, he does hands-on
dental work and relishes the opportunity
to live in solidarity with the
poor. “It’s the interaction with the
Dominican people that’s the best
part,” he said. “They know God.
They don’t set out to teach you,
but they model what it means to