What makes a 'good citizen'?

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 11:55 p.m.
Q:I'm in 7th grade at St. Jerome School in Fort Lauderdale. I need to write an essay on citizenship and would like your help. What do you think it means to be a good citizen? I've also written to several other people I think are good citizens, including President Bush, Sen. John McCain, President Carter, Bill Gates and Fr. Dominic Garramone.
I'd like to know what you think because I'm trying to learn how to help people. I have autism and am lucky to have friends, which many autistic kids don't have. I've been elected to student council and I'm an altar server at church. I get a lot of help from my friends so I can do all of this. Please pray for them because they've been so good to me.
S., Ft. Lauderdale (P.S. from S's mom: St. Jerome School was the only Catholic school that would accept our son. We were told, ''Catholic schools don't do learning disabilities; that's what public schools are for.''). The only other private school willing to take him was the local Hebrew Day School. We have a special place in our hearts for the love shown to our child not only by the Sisters of St. Philip Neri who run St. Jerome, but also the staff of the Hebrew school, who saw only the gifts God gave our son and the need to teach him. Stephen has a B-plus average. More importantly, he is treated as we all deserve to be.) A:We think that the main responsibilities of a good citizen are to be a good person. A good person is kind to others. A good person helps others. A good person pays his or her taxes so that the government can keep the country safe and take care of its citizens. A good person reports bad things to the police so they can arrest the criminals who commit these crimes. Most of all, a good person looks to help others before he or she looks for help. We're sure that you are a good citizen and we're sure that America is lucky to have you!
(The note from this writer's mom points to the difficulty private and particularly parochial schools have in providing services for learning-disabled children. Many such schools are limited by tight budgets, and one of the sad consequences is that they must skim off only students who do not require special help. Public schools, however, have a legal responsibility to provide supplementary services as specified on a student's IEP (individual educational plan). Parents of special education students can work out the details during annually scheduled meetings at the public school.
  • n n Q:During a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I attended a mass service at a local cathedral. I was surprised that the Eucharist was presented in a different manner than here in the United States. At this church, the priest dipped the host into the blessed glass of wine, then administered the bread to each parishioner.
    I told a few friends about my experience and was taken aback when some told me they had actually stopped going to church because of such ''high exposure'' and lack of infection control. It made me wonder whether if parishioners in American churches refrained from holding hands during the Lord's Prayer, shaking hands prior to receiving communion, and sharing the communion wine glass, more people - especially younger people - would attend services. What are your thoughts on this matter?
    S., via e-mail A:A Catholic can fully receive communion by receiving just the bread and not also the wine. Many receive just the host and that is enough. Until after Vatican II, Catholics were not even allowed to receive consecrated wine from the cup. Intinction is the act of dipping the host into the wine and, as you saw on your trip, this is perfectly permissible. However, this form of communion is not often used in American Catholic churches.
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