Imágenes de páginas

with her parents when the worker decided it was time to make an advance on the recalcitrant John. Accordingly, and to his manifest surprise, she called upon him, unannounced, at his aunt's home. He was polite, reserved, utterly impassive. He had nothing to say. He would provide for the child's care, but he would not return. But the worker held on. She saw she had made some gain when his eyes kindled at the mention of Ellen's proposed return to her family. Yes, Ellen's houskeeping was above reproach. No, they had never disagreed. The baby? (the answer came explosively) Why in Heaven's name had Ellen insisted on that christening? Then (a little shamefacedly), of course he had agreed to it before they were married, but he had always thought he would be able to win Ellen over when the time came.

After that it was quite simple. He told the worker in a straightforward fashion of the struggle he had made the past two years to overcome old prejudices and misunderstandings. He had missed, too, his own religious activities which he had given up after he met Ellen. Not that she had asked him to, but because he honestly wanted to see things her way if he could. At first it had amused him to see her potent efforts to interest him in her church. But of late it had given him an uneasy feeling to know that he was the subject of her long devotions at night, of her pilgrimages every morning to early mass. He somehow didn't like the idea of being prayed over as if he were a great sinner. All the little pious practices he had once thought so charming now frankly irritated him. Even her grace before meals seemed longer than necessary, and it appeared a little ostentatious to him to ask a blessing on his hurried coffee and toast at breakfast. The last straw was the baby's baptism. Why, the little fellow seemed less his own because of it! They talked the matter over long and earnestly, and when the worker left she had his promise to return to the city and talk the whole thing over with Ellen's pastor, whom John knew and genuinely admired. Ellen must be made to accept his support, and to keep up the home for the child's sake, and in order to accomplish this he was willing to do anything within reason. Eventually, of course, after many conferences between the parish priest, the case worker, and the young people, John came back home.

It has taken much good temper, patience, forbearance, and real affection to settle their difficulties. One thing that has helped not a little is the new respect each conceived for the religious life of the other as it was interpreted to them by the case worker. Occasionally John goes to church with Ellen; very often he attends service at his own church. As for Ellen, her church is still the reality it has always been, but if she prays for John's conversion now, she does it privately when he is not about. And the remarkable thing is that they have lived through another baptism in perfect serenity.

The only noteworthy thing in this story (and it is something wholly absent from my telling of it, and only barely hinted at in the case record) is the painstaking effort the worker made to get a picture of the religious life of the two people, not only of the present, but as it stretched backward down the years.

[ocr errors]

She wanted to know not only the Ellen of today, but Ellen, the star-eyed child in misty white, on her first communion day; the little girl of joyous May processions in the old cathedral, who loved the flowers, the candles, the singing, and all the rich, colorful ceremony of high mass; the young girl of the convent schooldays who lingered after vespers in the dusk of the chapel because she was too happy to tear herself away. The case worker wanted to know not only the stern, unrelenting John of later days, but the grave, wide-eyed little boy who sat primly beside his aunt in the village church every Sunday, thrilling at the ringing challenge to righteousness laid down by the beloved old pastor; the schoolboy who had spent long hours during the winter evenings spelling out the story of Job to his aunt while she darned his socks and mended his clothes; the older lad in whose eyes tears welled for a moment that Sunday after he enlisted when the congregation sang with full hearts the stirring hymn, "The Son of God Goes Forth to War, Who Follows in His Train?" All these things and many more the worker came to know about John and Ellen before she dared intrust herself with the delicate task of trying to help them understand each other. Without such knowledge any attempt to deal with the difficulty would have been useless, if not actually harmful.

I have been thinking that one reason for our failure in many cases to comprehend fully the religious life of our families may be due to the fact that we are apt to regard spiritual experience as something unusual, cut off from the rest of life, kept in a special compartment, to be taken out and gazed at occasionally as one might a rare plant, locked away for safekeeping. Spiritual experience is a much more common and a very much hardier thing than we perhaps realize. Hidden away inside of every one of us is the universal impulse to God which, as someone has said, is all that religion really is. It will stand the buffeting of everyday existence if we give it a chance.

"Spiritual experience is life in its fulness or it is nothing at all." This experience is a part of us; it colors all our acts, all our thinking; it has made us, in a certain real sense, what we are. To seek this experience out, to find a way in which the universal impulse to God may express itself, is a task we cannot turn aside from for any reason. It is the very stuff of case work.

'Underhill, Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today.



Rose J. McHugh, Assistant Director, Department of Social Action,
National Catholic Welfare Conference, Chicago

Mrs. Glenn has illuminated for us her thesis that religious influence is dominant in the development of personality, and that case workers must find ways of understanding religious attitudes and strengthening their force in the lives of those who look to them for guidance. We need not discuss these statements further, but may profitably pass on to other questions which her paper raises, and consider, first, How may case workers more effectively use religion in their service?

You will recall that Mrs. Glenn stated that the case worker is not equipped in most instances to gain insight easily into a famly's religious life. And this, in her opinion, is due, first, to the fact that ordinarily the case worker deals with people whose social and religious antecedents are other than her own; it is true, secondly, because she herself is reticent and hesitates to try to uncover religious motives; and, thirdly, because she has no technique which will guide her into sources of conduct which spring from the individual's past or potential religious experience.

Case workers in non-sectarian family agencies have, in the past, dealt largely with people whose social and religious antecedents were other than their own. When we use the term "social case work," most of us think of a service to individuals which has developed independently of any church connection. But the church, too, has carried on case work under its auspices in organizations of the laity as well as of the religious. The tendency is to bring into closer relationship, as regards methods and standards of work, some of these case work organizations under religious auspices with those working outside the church.

When client and worker begin, at a point of social and religious unity, their journey toward that approachment which is essential, they are undoubtedly nearer the goal than they could possibly be if these influences on their individual personalities were divergent. Professionally, however, we expect case workers to overcome this handicap of lack of emotional appeal and understanding and to root out of their conscious processes all prejudice due to any factor limiting their sympathy and understanding. It is unfortunate that we have given them so little stimulus or assistance to achieve this ideal. We need more instruction, not only on the social mission of the church and its history through the ages as a social agency, but on its religious teachings which today determine for its members ideals of conduct. This is basic to any appreciation of religion as a factor in social work.

Taking up the second limitation of case workers in this aspect of their service, their reticence and hesitancy to uncover religious motives, are not these

due to ignorance of method? We ruled out of consideration at the beginning any skepticism as to the importance of a sympathetic understanding on the part of the case worker of the religious influence in the life of the client. If, however, it does exist in the minds of any considerable number of case workers, it would in some degree account for hesitancy and reluctance. It is impossible to know how prevalent such an attitude is, but there seems to be sufficient justification for proceeding on the assumption that however much or little case workers may choose to discount religion as a factor in their own lives, they do not project this attitude into the minds of clients. That is a minimum of professional ethics. We are ignorant; we are to some degree skeptical, but that is due largely to ignorance; and we are of the laity. These are factors which have retarded the development of a method of inquiry by social case workers into the influence of religion on personal attitudes and conduct.

Such a method has been developed by the church. It seems desirable to study it if we are searching to make religious motives useful as social data. The way out of this wilderness in which case workers find themselves-unable to understand the personal religious lives of their clients, unable to discover springs of action, timid because they do not know this matter, hesitant because so often they have no common experience to share, and unappreciative of vicarious religious experience must in a large measure be discovered by each individual for himself. He will not find the true way unless he is guided by a sure knowledge of religious principles and practices which affect the conduct of all whom they influence, however tenuous in individual instances that influence may be. If he does not have a personal abiding conviction of divine grace as the source of all life he can in good faith refer his client to his pastor or to someone associated with a church organization, but in so doing he renounces one of the most important functions of a case worker. He loses the opportunity to share with his client an intimate relationship.

Shall we encourage the organization of case working agencies to deal only with clients of the same social and religious groups? Obviously that is practical and desirable only to a very limited degree. It is a question, too, of organization, and not necessarily of principle. Shall we accept a passive rôle as the laity and leave to the professional members of the church the entire responsibility for strengthening and deepening religious experience in the lives of its children? There is nothing in the Gospels nor in the teachings of the church to justify such action.

The Committee on Relations with Case Work Organizations Operating under Religious Auspices advises that a liaison service, such as case workers have developed with the medical profession, be organized. To create this more intimate understanding of each other on the part of workers in both groups we believe it is essential for case workers generally to have more complete knowledge of the positive force of religion. The day's work makes us, unfortunately, more familiar with souls in whom this influence is negative or very weak. We

know little about how religion may determine our attitudes toward common human experience, such as pain or bereavement, as well as toward moral conduct in specific crises, except for those in our own or closely related groups. It is true that certain ethical standards have been accepted by all Christians, and before them, by the Jews; but where important differences exist it is essential that we understand them. The question, for instance, of church relationship is differently regarded by Protestants and Catholics. For the latter, kinship with God is achieved when the soul voluntarily maintains its ties with his church, for it is through the sacraments administered by the church that divine grace is given the soul.

This liaison service is, however, not sufficient. The case worker must act. She must accept the responsibility of "helping souls to find themselves in God." To quote further from Mr. Rhoades' paper in The Family (April, 1926):

Merely urging a person to go to church is not enough. That is like passing the invalid along from specialist to specialist. The case worker, having come already into vital and confidential relations with the individual who needs help, and having brought out of the depths some recognition of the profounder need, can say words that it might not for long be possible for another person to say. The need is immediate. If life is to be given, he who holds the moment in his hands must be the giver.


Rev. Abba Hillel Silver, D.D., The Temple, Cleveland

Frankly, I found great difficulty in preparing this address. The subject which was assigned to me proved exceedingly attractive, and I accepted the invitation with alacrity. But upon a closer examination I discovered that its very scope and comprehensiveness would make my task hard. It is so exacting to try to live up to ambitious titles. Mrs. Glenn, in her splendid paper, has withdrawn from this symposium all that is likely to be of real help to you workers in your social ministry. She has shown you how the church and the religious background of the family can be utilized in the rehabilitation of the individual and the family. What is left for me is, I am afraid, the rather thankless job of discussing theoretically how human personality is developed and human life enriched through religious experience. If, therefore, I seem to wander far afield, you will, I hope, bear with me, remembering also that nearly all theoretical or philosophical discussions seem at first to lead far afield, until one is suddenly made aware of the fact that they lead right to the very core of human life.

Perhaps it would be well to define our terms before we proceed much farther. What do we mean by personality? And what do we mean by religious experience? I shall not attempt to give you any technical definitions, for the simple reason that they are not to be had. We may accept as a working defini

« AnteriorContinuar »