There has been much in the recent media about Christian symbols in places once denominationally administered, particularly St. Clare's Hospital in St. John's. Our children came into the world at St. Clare's, where, much later, I have spent considerable time as a patient. I have always been grateful for the staff's professionalism.
Having lived in other countries, my experience is that the care provided through Newfoundland and Labrador's Eastern Health is second to none. I am not Catholic but at St. Clare's I have always found comfort in the cross and its meaning, and in the tranquillity conveyed by the statue of the patron saint. I would be very sad to see them taken down.
I wonder if the current discussion reflects a broader trend in society towards secularization; one where the message of Christ is not considered business-friendly. Where the seasons are marked, not with saints' days, but with the release of the latest smartphone and other events encouraging purchase. Where the celebration of Santa and the Easter bunny is more consumer-friendly (and more fun!) than contemplation of the Christmas and Easter messages. Where the place of worship is the mall and the gratification is not the comfort of Christ, but the acquisition of the latest colourful (probably plastic) item from a land faraway. Where purchase provides a short-lived "fix" of well-being, leading to the need of new gratification. Where credit is readily obtainable if real money is not available.
In a simpler time, consumer goods were not generally available, and were unaffordable for many. There was none of the current relentless advertising, particularly the insidious so-called "lifestyle" ads offering a dream-like promise of appearance or home or car if only the product is bought. Advertising was originally intended to provide information, whereas now the purpose is to cause dissatisfaction or envy, encouraging a gratifying purchase.
This is good for business and, some would say good, for the economy. What is bad for business is the concept of delayed gratification, as in saving up over time to buy something, or as in a belief of a better life to come.
I appreciate that some people are uncomfortable with religious symbolism. I would respectfully ask them to be tolerant to those, like myself, to whom the imagery is a comforting reminder of Jesus' message of forgiveness, love and peace.
Denis Drown writes from St. John's.