PERKINSVILLE — In a short silent film modernizing the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the road from Jerusalem to Jericho is transformed into a city street. A young man, badly beaten by robbers and lying on the sidewalk, is ignored by a pedestrian in a business suit talking on his cell phone. A young couple, as well, walks by the victim without stopping. Finally a long-haired, threatening-looking motorcyclist stops and tends to the man’s wounds. He drives him to a hospital and leaves money for his care.
What does it mean to be a Catholic neighbor? That question, posed by session leader Barb Shafer, sparked considerable discussion among participants following the film, as they reflected on the need to prioritize others’ concerns over their own in daily living.
"Make your self-seeking the measure of your self-giving," Shafer suggested.
The March 8 session, titled "Who Is My Neighbor?" was the third of a five-part discussion series hosted by Holy Family Catholic Community, where Shafer serves as youth- and adult-ministry coordinator. All sessions have been held at the Perkinsville Community Center, adjacent to Sacred Heart Church, on Thursday evenings and repeated on Friday mornings. The concluding talk, "Where’s God Today?" is set for April 18 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and April 19 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Other sessions have featured the beatitudes Jan. 17-18; the Vatican and the pope Feb. 21-22; and the Mass March 21-22.
According to Shafer, these gatherings are an outgrowth of the "Catholic 101" series held in 2011 at Holy Family, a parish that comprises Sacred Heart; St. Joseph, Wayland; St. Mary, Dansville; and St. Pius V, Cohocton. Shafer noted that the discussions have been well-received, with 20-plus participants typically coming in the evenings. The series is designed to provide adults a chance to ingrain their faith more deeply into their lives and to articulate that faith more confidently.
"At least in our parish, there seems to be a hunger for the adults to learn more and not work from their eighth-grade education," Shafer said.
On March 8, Shafer posed the challenging question of which character in the good Samaritan parable we’d be most likely to take after. After a moment of silence, some participants acknowledged that they’d ideally be the Samaritan — but that’s easier said than done, based on concerns for their own safety.
"Today it’s hard to be a good Samaritan. It’s just the way the world is, with the crime rate and everything. I think you hesitate," Betty Engel said. On the other hand, she acknowledged that a true good Samaritan doesn’t hesitate: "People have jumped on train tracks at stations and pulled somebody off. You don’t stop to think, should I or shouldn’t I. You just do it."
Shafer, meanwhile, observed that being a good Samaritan could even cost you your life, noting that serial killer Ted Bundy would lure his victims by acting injured and asking for help. She further pointed out that it was as risky being a good Samaritan in biblical times as today, because the road to Jericho obviously had violent robbers on it.
Participants also discussed facial expressions of the film’s characters, comparing their own potential reactions: the woman who looked back at the injured man with concern, but continued walking with her male companion; the victim himself thinking he was about to be struck again when the good Samaritan first approached him; and the look of wariness and disdain by the hospital nurse thinking the Samaritan had administered the beating.
From there, the conversation spilled over into other areas: why so many Catholics, especially younger ones, aren’t more interested in attending Mass; and whether active Catholics do a good enough job of promoting their beliefs. "Catholics are not known for articulating well their faith," Shafer remarked to the group.
Engel, from Sacred Heart Church, and Mary Polmanteer, from St. Joseph, said they’ve attended the Holy Family series regularly and with enthusiasm.
"Oh, I think it’s great," said Engel, while Polmanteer added that "every class so far, I’ve really enjoyed it." Polmanteer said she enjoyed the reflection aspects of the March 8 meeting: "It’s a good thing to do for Lent, to sit back a bit."
The session examining the Vatican and the pontificate occurred during Lent as well, and involved some serendipity: It had been scheduled long before Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made public his intention to retire, but took place the week after that surprise declaration Feb. 11.
"I can’t believe we’re having a Vatican class right after this big, huge announcement. That was pretty cool — God’s sense of humor, I guess," Shafer said.