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Praise for the living
CONGRATULATIONS from the Herald to all those of our Catholic community who have been honoured in the New Years Honours List. In a world in which we hear daily of the sin and frailties of human beings, it is uplifting to be reminded of all the many good people — hard-working, publicspirited, charitable — whom society is rewarding in this simple way. Whereas corrupt regimes might lavish wealth and power on the friends of tyrants, lives in the UK are hardly changed nor fortunes made by the award of an MBE or OBE for public service and good works. A knighthood might just oil the wheels a little and the peerage certainly carries kudos that is paid for by long hours in the debating chamber of the Lords. The second chamber has swapped its image of bastion of privilege for that of necessary provider of checks and balances. Let any party meddle with this democratic safeguard at its peril.
The honours list reminds us too of the need we all have to be praised and affirmed. Of course the proud recipients did not do their good work to be rewarded, but the recognition helps to encourage them and others and to make them feel that the long dreary hours of toil had been worthwhile. Despite the cult of selfaffirmation, in recent years we have become stingy in praising others. There is little recognition in our parishes of the hours put in by volunteer helpers, to clean and type, catechise and sing, lead the Scouts and arrange the flowers. A very few may be awarded the Bene Merenti or Pro Ecclessia Et Pontifice awards, but the large army of helpers goes unrecognised. How many services of thanksgiving for living people are arranged? What a shame that praise is usually reserved for memorial services and that the living rarely hear well of themselves.
As the saints are held up for us as exemplars of Christian living or dying, so those on the honours list remind us what can be done by fellow citizens to help make our world a better place. Now that people from all walks of life can be recommended by their peers, maybe one day we shall see in the list of those whose causes are promoted for canonisation people from all walks and styles of life parents, housewives, working men and women — and not just those who found religious orders or have funds to support the costly process.