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Posted by on Mar 24, 2015

Coming Soon — An Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

Coming Soon — An Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis - Canonization_2014-_The_Canonization_of_Saint_John_XXIII_and_Saint_John_Paul_II_(14036966125) - Jeffrey Bruno - Creative CommonsOn March 13, the second anniversary of his papacy, Pope Francis announced a special year of prayer and other special activities to celebrate God’s unlimited mercy. The announcement was made as part of the Pope’s homily while he was presiding over a Lenten penance service. Divine mercy is one of the Pope’s major themes in his preaching and pastoral activity. The year will officially begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2015) and end on the Feast of Christ the King (November 20, 2016). The Holy Year of Mercy also marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. It will be marked by special ceremonies and liturgies. Since this Holy Year is outside the traditional 25 or 50 year interval for regular Holy Years it is called an Extraordinary Holy Year.

The Pope declared:

Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36)”

Jubilee years began in 1300 with Pope Boniface VIII and are traditionally held every 25 years. The concept of the Holy Year is modeled on the Old Testament Jubilee Year in which the fields rested, slaves were freed, and debts were forgiven. The Jubilee Year specified in Leviticas was to be held every 50 years.

Traditionally, the Jubilee door of St. Peter’s Basilica is opened at the beginning of Holy Years to symbolize the return of penitents to the faith. Additionally, special plans are being made for the celebration in 2016 of Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter.

See a video of the announcement here.

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2015

The Alpha Course — Presenting and Encountering Christ

The Alpha Course — Presenting and Encountering Christ

Alpha Course logoA fundamental theme of Pope Francis’ papacy has been the Church’s call to missionary activity. This activity is not simply the call of a few who will travel to distant lands. It is the call of every Christian: the call to participate in evangelization. Yet in our communities,workplaces, and homes, we often feel uncomfortable in this role, whether because the Christian message and lifestyle are counter-cultural or because we don’t really know or understand what we believe, why we believe it, or why we do what we do.

The Alpha Course is a relatively new program that is focused on reaching out to those who have never really heard the Gospel or experienced life as Christians. One of the side-effects of the program, however, is to re-vitalize parish life as new people are touched by the love of the Risen Christ and enter the community of faith. Long-time members of Christian communities, including Roman Catholics, also experience a revitalization of their faith as they see it anew through the eyes of the newcomers.

Fr. Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan and a regular contributor on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), talks about the fact that we as Catholics tend to focus on sacramentalizing: introducing our parishioners to the sacraments and helping them grow in their sacramental life.  According to Fr. Riccardo, if we teach the people about the faith and the sacraments without introducing them to the person of Christ, it is like throwing seeds on concrete. Nothing will grow. Fr. Riccardo gives a comprehensive presentation of the Alpha Course, a program for evangelization, in a series of YouTube podcasts.

The Alpha Course has a simple method. People gather for a meal and a discussion, not just in a church setting but wherever people gather. The attendees are primarily people who are currently outside the Church. Over a ten week period the participants come to an experience of the Risen Christ as their loving friend and savior.

The Alpha Course began in a Church of England parish in London and is now widely used by many denominations. It is opening doors to ecumenical cooperation and discussion about the centrality of Christ in our faith. Over 1 million Catholics in Canada have been through the course. Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, Cardinal Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and other Catholic leaders have praised the Alpha Course.

Rev. Mr. Steve Mitchell, a deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is the national director for Alpha USA. According to Deacon Mitchell’s statement on the AlphaUSA.org website “Alpha provides a safe, non-threatening environment where no question is too dumb and no perception is criticized. Barriers are broken down as we share a meal together and build relationships without regard to what someone believes.”

Alpha’s video includes examples from Catholic parishes around the world.

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2015

Growing Into an Adult Morality

Growing Into an Adult Morality

Virtues fighting Vices - 14th Century window

Virtues fighting Vices      14th Century window

Fr. Bryan Massingale, in his workshop at the 2015 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, “Virtues for Adult Christians”, explains that Christian morality is about decisions we make that are motivated by faith in Christ. They are a response to God’s prior gift of love and expressed in our choices and decisions about what we do and the kind of person we are.

Morality, like much of human experience, is different for children than for adults. Childhood is a time of formation and growth. Adulthood is a time of internalization of what has been learned and growth in wisdom. For children, morality is something that comes from the outside, tends to be phrased more negatively (“you may not…”), is based on rules and obedience, and is reinforced by fear or rewards. For adults, morality comes from within the person. It is a positive statement of who I am. Based on ideals and goals, it is virtue-centered. Virtues in this sense are good habits — attitudes and ways of being/acting that are positive responses to divine love. Adult morality is inspirational: becoming the best person I can be, the one God calls me to be.

Both approaches to morality are appropriate and Catholic. Children need rules and boundaries in order to learn and grow safely and securely. But in late adolescence and early adulthood, they need to grow and make what they have learned a positive part of who they are. Humans need to grow up morally as well as physically, because most of what we experience in our adult lives does not fit easily into the system of rules we learned as children. As Fr. Massingale noted, life is sloppy, complex, messy, and fascinating. Rules are for  perfect worlds: neat and precise! We expect more than rules can deliver and we want to be safe, but that’s not what adult life is about. Pope Francis tells us in The Joy of the Gospel (#39) that morality is more than rules and self-denial. It’s a response to the God of love.

Traditional lists of virtues are divided into two groups: Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Love) and Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, Justice). The Cardinal virtues are sometimes known as “hinge” virtues because others flow from them.

In contrast to the virtues, we also have lists of vices. Interestingly, the vices come in two versions: an excess or a lack of that quality that makes a virtue the good quality that it is. For example the vice that is opposite to Hope may be seen as Despair (too little hope) or as Arrogance (too much misplaced confidence).

Fr. Massingale suggests that for today’s adult Christians, a list of some contemporary virtues should include: Courage, Compassion, Self-Love, Forgiveness, and Wisdom. If these are missing, our lives get all messed up.

His presentation was recorded and is well worth taking the time to enjoy. (The video gets started slowly. Move the cursor on the bar to 21.15 for the beginning!)

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Posted by on Mar 23, 2015

Finding Our Own Sanctuary in Daily Living

Finding Our Own Sanctuary in Daily Living

Springtime budsTerry Hershey defines sanctuary as “a place where your soul can catch up with your body.” We all need these places, yet we don’t often give ourselves permission to go there. Nevertheless, a healthy physical and spiritual life requires taking time to rest and simply be at peace.

Terry offers the image of “two dogs” that live within each person. The first dog is the list-maker, the one who gets things done. The second dog is the one who does nothing. This dog just rests and enjoys sanctuary. Which dog do we feed, and when do we feed it? Can we take a chance and feed the second dog?

Sanctuary is not simply an ideal, far-off place that can only be experienced by hermits or others who leave the modern world behind. Sanctuary is a place here and now that can be entered by any one of us. We simply have to decide to do it and recognize what it is for us personally.

Entering Into Sanctuary

1) A portal exists through which we must pass to enter into our sanctuary. There’s something we do, somewhere we go, or a mental image we invoke that opens a different “space” to us.

2) A sanctuary has boundaries. It’s a type of container/space in which we can be ourselves unreservedly.

3) Sanctuary is a place to slow down. As a wise grandfather once said, “Sometimes it’s not the fish we’re after, it’s the fishing.”

4) A place of sanctuary engages all the senses. When we enter into the “holy ground” of sanctuary, we take our shoes off, figuratively if not literally. Like Moses, we need to feel the holy ground, savor it with all our senses, and enjoy our time there.

5) Finally, entering into sanctuary is an intentional action. We need to set a time and enter regularly. We do it for ourselves, not for anyone else. To the extent we fail to enter our sanctuary, we have less to offer to others. We must enter sanctuary in order to be re-charged and ready to carry out our own calling and mission in life.

Terry is an engaging speaker and an inspirational author. His most recent book, Sanctuary: Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life, is available now. For a taste of his wit and engaging style, take a look at this video of his presentation at “Congress”.

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Posted by on Feb 26, 2015

Pope Francis’ Lenten Message – 2015

Pope Francis’ Lenten Message – 2015

Cropped -Pope Francis - Canonization_2014-_The_Canonization_of_Saint_John_XXIII_and_Saint_John_Paul_II_(14036966125) - Jeffrey Bruno - Creative CommonsPope Francis, in his 2015 Lenten message, reminds us that Lent is a time of renewal, a “time of grace.” He reminds us that God loved us first and is never indifferent to what happens to us. However, we too easily become indifferent to what is happening in the world when we are not directly affected.

Speaking of the “globalization of indifference,” the Holy Father calls us to an interior renewal that keeps us from becoming indifferent or withdrawn into ourselves. He asks us to reflect on three biblical texts:

1. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1Cor 12:26) — The Church

2. “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9) — Parishes and  Communities

3. “Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8) — Individual Christians

 Read the entire message …

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Posted by on Feb 26, 2015

Mensaje del Santo Padre para la Cuaresma 2015

Mensaje del Santo Padre para la Cuaresma 2015

El Santo Padre FranFrancisco_(20-03-2013) - small -CC 3.0 attribution license - Brazilcisco, en su mensaje para la Cuaresma en 2015 dice que la Cuaresma es un tiempo de renovación, un «tiempo de gracia». Nos recuerda que Dios nos amó primero y nunca se pone indiferente frente a lo que nos está pasando. Sin embargo, nuestro corazón se cae en la indiferencia fácilmente, especialmente cuando lo que pasa en el mundo no nos afecta directamente.

Describiendo el problema de la globalización de la indiferencia, el Santo Padre nos llama a una renovación interior para que no nos cayéremos en la indiferencia ni nos cerráremos adentro de nosostros mismos. Nos invita a meditar acerca de tres pasajes bíblicas:

1. «Si un miembro sufre, todos sufren con él» (1 Co 12,26) – La Iglesia

2. «¿Dónde está tu hermano?» (Gn 4,9) – Las parroquias y las comunidades

3. «Fortalezcan sus corazones» (St 5,8) – La persona creyente

Para leer el texto completo.

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Posted by on Feb 24, 2015

Catholics and Cultures: A new online resource

Catholics and Cultures: A new online resource

Plaza-centro Catholics & Cultures is a new program developed by the  Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture of the College of the Holy Cross. Its goal is to encourage comparative study of Catholic life as it is being lived around the world today. In addition to comparative studies of Catholic culture, this site aims to provide resources for teaching about the richness and uniqueness of Catholic life in our world. How do ordinary Catholics live their faith through their daily lives? How is a Catholic life different in Ireland, or Indonesia, or Brazil, or China, or India? What local customs, foods, and activities are enjoyed by Catholics in cultures around the world?

We often think that Catholicism as we experience it in our own community is the way it is everywhere and from all times. Any Catholic who has married another Catholic from a different cultural community, however, will have noticed that sometimes it seems as if the two of them are divided rather than united by the bonds of a common religion. Part of the adventure of such marriages is learning to enjoy the differences and enter into the experience of the divine from another direction or perspective.

As part of Catholics & Culture, a new journal will be produced, the Journal of Global Catholicism. The primary focus of the journal will be “lived Catholicism,” whether examined as comparative studies or specific case studies.

The site already offers wonderful resources. I’m looking forward to checking it out often and hope you will too. We’re a great big community with much to celebrate and share together!

Image by Wesisnay of a Catholic festival sand painting in Tenerife
– GNU Free Documentation License

 

 

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Posted by on Feb 24, 2015

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World

800px-Petersdom_von_Engelsburg_gesehen - public domainThe Synod of Bishops and Pope Francis have asked members of the Catholic community, from both the Western and Eastern churches, to read the draft document prepared at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family last October in Rome and to respond with comments and insights drawn from their own experience of the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.

Generally, members of the hierarchy do not consult ordinary members of the community regarding establishment of policies for dealing with pastoral issues such as how to help people prepare for marriage, how to support married couples in their life commitment, how to care for families that are wounded or broken apart, how to help members who are not heterosexual in their orientation, how and when to welcome children into the lives of a family, and how to pass on our faith within our families.

Nevertheless, all of us have some experience in this regard, since all have lived as members of a family. The bishops are asking us to share our experiences and the wisdom we have gained through the  practical challenges of living in families as people of faith.

The document prepared in October 2014 has been published. Each diocese has been asked to distribute the draft document and a questionnaire regarding the information included in the document. The dioceses are to collect responses, and prepare a summary of the thoughts of those who live with its geographic region.

The time frame is short. Responses are needed by the end of the first week of March so there will be enough time to summarize them and return them to Rome before the bishops assemble again in October 2015.

Please read the document carefully and respond to the questionnaire honestly and prayerfully, based on your own experience. Pope Francis and the bishops really want to know what the thinking of the People of God (the Church) is on these matters, because the Holy Spirit speaks through the everyday experiences of ordinary people.

Links to the document in several European languages are included in the sidebar to the right. For readers in other countries, check with your local diocese for the document in other languages.

Surveys for the Diocese of Monterey, California are available at the diocesan website.

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Posted by on Dec 18, 2014

La Revolución de la Ternura

La Revolución de la Ternura

Francisco_(20-03-2013) - small -CC 3.0 attribution license - Brazil

Mariano Delgado, Miembro de la Academia Europea de las Ciencias y de las Artes ha escrito un comentario sobre la Exhortación Apostólica del Santo Papa Francisco, La Alegría del Evangelio. El tema del comentario es el sueño del Papa de que comprendiéramos la encarnación del Hijo de Dios como una invitación a “la revolución de la ternura”. Animados por esa revolución, podríamos anunciar la Buena Nueva, es decir el evangelio, logrando una nueva etapa en el camino de la Iglesia marcada por la alegría del evangelio. Así pasaríamos de una pastoral de mera conservación a una pastoral misionera.

Este tema resuena el espíritu del documento de la V Conferencia General del Episcopado Latino-americano y del Caribe en Aparecida, Brasil en 2007. El origen del sueño del Papa se pone más claro considerando que en ese tiempo, como Arzobispo Jorge Bergoglio de la Argentina, él mismo fue nombrado coordinador de la Conferencia por el Papa Benedicto.

Este aliento fresco y alegre viene de una renovación de la asamblea de Cristo a enfrentar al mundo corriente con confianza proclamando el reino de Dios en vez de guardarnos detrás de muros altos para conservar la fe.

El estilo del Santo Papa Francisco sigue el “magisterio pastoral” originado por Juan XXIII y el Segundo Concilio Vaticano y ampliado por el Papa Pablo VI en su encíclica Evangelii Nuntiandi en1975. El énfasis del Santo Papa viene de este corriente papal desde el Concilio. Sin embargo, el Santo Papa Francisco lo ha dado una lustre de alegría personal e informal. Su estilo relajado y abierto ha llamado la atención del mundo al mensaje del evangelio.

 Imagen de Agência Brasil

 

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Posted by on Dec 16, 2014

The Gabriel Project: Help for Pregnant Women in Crisis

The Gabriel Project: Help for Pregnant Women in Crisis

Gabriel Project Icon The Gabriel Project is a national program endorsed by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops as an important pro-life parish activity that lends spiritual, emotional, and practical support to pregnant women in crisis.

Following Roe v. Wade in 1973, Rev. Msgr. John Perusina of St. Michael Parish in Houston began the Gabriel Project by putting up a sign that said , “If you will have your baby, this parish will help you in every way.” The sign still stands.

By the early 90s, the project was well established in the dioceses of Houston-Galveston and Corpus Christi. It is now a national organization that provides spiritual, emotional, and practical support for pregnant women in crisis. The Gabriel Project does not limit itself to serving Catholic women. It provides services to all women regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. The main portal website is www.TheGabrielProject.us.

Parishes have trained volunteers who respond to requests and inquiries from pregnant women in crisis. According to Virginia Kaufmann, coordinator for the Gabriel Project at Resurrection Parish in Aptos, CA, each case is unique. One involved a young woman who could not continue to live with her mother and needed help finding housing. Generally, the women don’t have enough money to meet their basic expenses. One needed help with breastfeeding issues.

The San Francisco Archdiocese has posted several stories about “Angels” as the volunteers are called. Many times the situation requires helping the family to accept and welcome the new child. In one case a teenage mother’s father refused to have anything to do with her unless she got an abortion. Eventually, he came around, loves the baby, and now plays the proud grandpa. One young woman felt completely alone and abandoned until, through her tears, she saw a Gabriel Project sign outside a church. Within a few days she had an Angel, rent, and all the things she would need to welcome the new baby. Angels have also been known to provide childcare and parenting instruction. In one case a woman who had lost custody of her two-year-old because she was homeless was able to welcome back that child not long after giving birth to the new baby. This happened shortly before Christmas.

The women and the Angels develop very close bonds that have led to ongoing friendships in many cases. The volunteers, through their concern and practical help, bring alive the reassurance of the Angel Gabriel when he appeared to a very young Mary and told her not to be afraid, that she had found favor with God. Together, volunteers and new mothers discover that they too are loved dearly by God.

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