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Posted by on Jan 21, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. — A Gift of One’s Self

Martin Luther King, Jr. — A Gift of One’s Self

 

January 19, 2105 is the Martin Luther King holiday in the United States. The first reading of the day in the lectionary is Hebrews 5: 1-10. Christ’s adherence to the will of the Father has led Him on a path of suffering, death and glorification. Dr, King took this path of God’s will to which we are all called.

“In the days when he was in the Flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” – Hebrews 5: 5-10

The Feast of Martin Luther King, Jr is not a feast of the Roman calendar, but it is a national holiday to celebrate a civil rights leader and a Baptist minister who advocated non-violence. Today is a tribute to all who work for human and civil rights for African-Americans and all people. Many of us are of an age to remember the Reverend King. The three television networks brought us live coverage in black and white of the marches, the sit-ins, and the fire hoses and police dogs that were part of the black struggle against white oppression. There was the famous “I have a dream speech” at the Lincoln Memorial. The haunting last speech before Dr. King was gunned down, “I Have Been to the Mountain Top” in which he saw the promised land of freedom, “I may not get there with you but I have seen it.”

Like all of us, Dr. King was an imperfect human being. Like all of us he was a sinner, but his redemption, like ours, is based in obedience to Christ, the source of eternal salvation for all. We know that precisely because Jesus is the Son of God, His will is perfectly aligned with that of the Father. Since Jesus was truly divine and truly human, his obedience came at a human cost. “In the days when he was in the Flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, AND HE WAS HEARD because of His Reverence.

In his work of announcing the kingdom, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, Jesus did not shy away from doing the will of his Father. But he knew where his call was leading. It became more and more obvious that if he stayed true to the person he was — the Divine Word become human — that His hands that had been raised in blessing and healing would be nailed to the cross. With loud cries and tears he asks the Father to take this cup away, but he is true to his calling and the will of the Father. “Let not my will be done but yours.” It is through this obedience that Jesus goes to his excruciating death on the cross and to the glory of the resurrection. He WAS HEARD because of His Reverence.

For Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, all Christian saints and martyrs, and ourselves, this call to obedience is not only a question of observing certain commandments but a deeper call to be the person God created us to be, to be at one with God, to hear at one with God, to accept God’s truth about our mission in life to advance the kingdom of heaven.

There were many black leaders in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Dr. King didn’t need to have such a high profile in the movement. Yet it was something that Dr. King was drawn into despite all of the obvious risks to himself and his family. He was born and raised in Atlanta in a strictly segregated society. Dr. King knew what happened to black people who broke the rules. He certainly could have taken an easier type of ministry, but he heard the Word of God, the Will of the Father for his life and his death.

Most of us think that we are not called to such types of work. We are certain that God’s will for us involves something less “glamorous,” nothing so heroic as what Jesus and the saints like Mother Teresa and Dr. King did. But I wonder. All of us have that little voice within us to do something special, something only we can do, but we know that it will cost us. Dr. King used his gift of oratory, of speaking and preaching, to give voice to the prayers and aspirations of the millions enslaved and oppressed using the language, song, and rhythm that the Spirit had given them in their bondage and oppression.

Many of us see fewer years ahead of us than the ones that have fled so swiftly. The babies we held are now grown adults with their own babies. What are we called to do to announce the Kingdom of Heaven and to make it a reality? What can we do to end poverty, hunger, oppression, and violence? How do we draw closer to God and each other in prayer? How do we move toward reconciliation and forgiveness?

We can only do it if we take the time to be quiet and to listen — to pay attention to that little voice that comes to us or the massive cry that comes to us in outrage at the atrocities of the world visited upon the young, the poor, the defenseless. There is a price to be paid, and eternal life to be gained.

 

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2015

Why Do Children Suffer? Pope Francis Speaks to Filipino Youth

Why Do Children Suffer? Pope Francis Speaks to Filipino Youth

 

The video and the text are largely in Spanish, though a simultaneous translation into English is included. This is a summary of a small part of the Pope’s extemporaneous speech.

During a presentation to young people in the Philippines, the Holy Father set aside his prepared text to answer a question that had been raised by a 12 year old girl who had been rescued from the street. Tearfully weeping, Glyzelle Palomar, recounted the miseries of her life in a few words and asked, “Many children are abandoned by their own parents, many are victims of many terrible things such as drugs and prostitution. Why does God permit these things even though the children are not at fault.Why do so few people come forward to help?” In this video we can view the scene and the Pope’s compassionate embrace of the child.

What response is possible to the perennial problem of evil? Pope Francis did not try to evade the question with platitudes. He took the question head-on, educating about 30,000 of the faithful and challenging them. First, he noted the shortage of women among those making presentations and he emphasized the importance of the point of view of women. The Pope said that women pose questions which men could never stop trying to understand, that is, never grasp.

We can understand something, added the Holy Father, “when the heart reaches the place in which it can ask the questions and cry. Only through tears do we arrive at a true compassion which can transform the world.” Pope Francis described a common, worldly type of compassion as one in which we just take a coin out of our pocket. He added that if Christ had shown this type of compassion, he would simply have spent a little time with a few people and gone back to the Father. Jesus could comprehend our lives, the Pope said, when He was able to cry and did cry.

He notes, “In today’s world, there is a lack of crying. Although the marginalized, the poor, and the outcasts cry, those of us who do not lack anything essential do not cry. Only those eyes that have been cleansed by tears are able to so see things as they are.”

The Pope challenged the faithful. “Let us not forget (this young woman’s) testimony. She asked the great question ‘why do children suffer?’ crying. And the great answer all of us can give is to learn how to cry.”

 

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2015

¿Por qué Sufren los Niños? Papa Francisco a Los Jóvenes en Filipinas

¿Por qué Sufren los Niños? Papa Francisco a Los Jóvenes en Filipinas

 

El Santo Papa dejó su texto preparado para contestar la pregunta que le había puesto una niña rescatada de la calle.  Con lágrimas, gemiendo, Glyzelle Palomar contó en pocas palabras las miserias que había padecido y preguntó, “Hay muchos niños abandonados por sus propios padres, muchas víctimas de muchas cosas terribles como las drogas o la prostitución. ¿Por qué Dios permite estas cosas, aunque no es culpa de los niños? ¿Y por qué tan poca gente nos viene a ayudar?” En este video podemos ver el escenario y la compasión del abrazo del Santo Padre.

¿Qué respuesta es possible al perenne problema de la maldad? El Papa Francisco no trataba de evadir la cuestión con palabras blandas y dulces. Enfrentó la cuestión enseñándoles a unos 30 mil de los fieles y desafíandoles. Primero notó la escasez de mujeres en las presentaciones y la importancia del punto de vista feminino. Dijo el Pontífice que la mujer se puede hacer preguntas que los hombres “no terminamos de entender.”

Podemos entender algo añadió El Santo Papa “cuando el corazón alcanza a hacerse la pregunta y a llorar.” Solamente por lágrimas llegamos a la verdadera compasión que se puede transformar al mundo. El Papa Francisco describió una compasión mundana por lo cual solamente sacamos una moneda del bolsillo. Añadió que si hubiera Cristo demonstraba esa compasión, hubiera pasado unos momentos con algunas personas, y se hubiera vuelto al Padre. Jesucristo entendió nuestros dramas, dijo El Papa, cuando fue capaz de llorar y lloró.

Declaró, “Al mundo de hoy le falta llorar, lloran los marginados, lloran los que son dejados de lado, lloran los despreciados, pero aquellos que llevamos una vida más o menos sin necesidades no sabemos llorar. Solo ciertas realidades de la vida se ven con los ojos limpiados por las lágrimas.”

El Papa desafió a los fieles “No olvidemos este testimonio. La gran pregunta ‘por qué sufren los niños’ la hizo llorando. Y la gran respuesta que podemos hacer todos nosotros es aprender a llorar.”

 

 

 

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Posted by on Jan 17, 2015

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? – The Gift of Inquiry

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? – The Gift of Inquiry

 

Hubble's View of NGC 5584Vatican astronomers, Br. Guy Consolmagno and Fr. Paul Mueller have penned this provocative question as the title of their new book. Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? deals with the most common questions they receive. Generally the questions assume a conflict between science and faith. Their first task is to reduce the assumption of conflict and to look at the information in an analytical and thoughtful way.

For example, they take on the star of Bethlehem and rule out many of the scientific explanations. It was most likely not a supernova as Kepler had proposed. It may have been a conjunction of planets as proposed by Molnar in his 1999 book, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi. However, limiting the question to how it occurred and which laws of nature were violated can miss the point. According to Fr. Mueller, miracles don’t always mean a suspension of the laws of nature. The point of the star of Bethlehem is that God gave a great sign. According to Fr. Mueller, miracles, whether they accord with the laws of science or not, are some great sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Br. Consolmagno defines science as an ongoing conversation about facts. It is not a book of rules. Likewise religion is conversation we have within our church, among ourselves, and with God. He concludes, “One of the joys of science and philosophy is learning how to live and enjoy a mystery.”

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Posted by on Dec 17, 2014

El Santo Papa Francisco Ayuda Relaciones Entre EEUU y Cuba

El Santo Papa Francisco Ayuda Relaciones Entre EEUU y Cuba

 

President Obama and Pope Francis - public domain Whitehouse.gov

El Presidente Obama y el Santo Padre Francisco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

En el día de su cumpleaños, el Santo Padre Francisco recibío un regalo especial. Los presidentes de Cuba y los Estados Unidos anunciaron un acuerdo de reestablecer relaciones diplomáticas después de una ruptura de más de 55 años. El acuerdo fue animado y conducido en mayor parte por la Santa Sede. Durante su audiencia con el President Obama en el Vaticano en Marzo el Papa Francisco presentó su iniciativa. Durante el verano, el Santo Padre escribiá formalmente a los presidentes Obama y Castro. Después de una recepción favorable, el Vaticano organizó pláticas secretas para facilitar el desarollo del acuerdo.

El Vaticano se había opuesto el embargo de los Estados Unidos que prohibe el comercio con Cuba por más de 55 años. Los Papas El Santo Juan Pablo II y Benedicto hicieron declaraciones durante sus visitas a Cuba en contra del embargo por razon del sufrimiento del pueblo debajo esas restricciones. El Santo Papa comprende bien la situación y es amigo del arzobispo de La Havana. Además, el Secretario del Estado de la Santa Sede, el Monseñor Parolin ha servido como embajador ó Nuncio Papal a Cuba y su aliado más cercano, Venezuela.

Según el Presidente Obama, la política de desestablecer el gobierno comunista en Cuba por aislar al país insular no ha servido por 55 años y es tiempo para abrir relaciones diplomáticas. El presidente dijo que los visitantes a Cuba serían los embajadores mejores de los valores norteamericanos de democracia y libertad.

El profesor de ciencias políticas en la Universidad de Notre Dame, Michael Desch, dijo que la apertura de Cuba al oeste ofrece más posibilidad de cambiar el sistema comunista.
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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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Posted by on Nov 20, 2014

New Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich

New Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich

Chicago has new archbishop

Archbishop Blase Cupich

The Chicago Archdiocese officially has a new archbishop, Blase Cupich (soopitch) as of November 18. Cupich became the bishop of Spokane, WA in 2010. He has graduate training in Liturgy and has studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska he was the third of nine children born to Blasé and Mary Cupich.

The Chicago Tribune calls him a charismatic clergyman, the grandson of Croatian immigrants, with a strong emphasis on social justice and a pastoral approach that involves listening and dialog. The same newspaper quotes him as saying, “The church can challenge society, but society also challenges the church.”

Cupich has become known for his more moderate approach for dealing with controversial issues such as abortion and gay marriage. As the bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, Cupich was one of the bishops in 2004 who was not in favor of denying communion to candidates who supported abortion rights.  He said that we cannot cherry-pick particular issues. We have to be willing to talk about all issues. He emphasized that, while the Catholic position begins with protecting the unborn,  it doesn’t end there.

In 2011 Cupich headed the US Catholic Conference of Bishops Committee for Protection of Children and Young People. At that time there was a Grand Jury finding that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had allowed 37 priests accused of abuse or inappropriate behavior to remain in active ministry. Cupich’s response to this failure to comply with the reforms listed in the Dallas Charter of 2002 was to express frustration and disappointment since so many people were working hard to implement the reforms. He later said that the Philadelphia situation was unusual.

As bishop of Spokane, Cupich lived in simple suite of rooms in the seminary. In Chicago he has announced that he will be living in the cathedral rectory and not in the opulent Gold Coast mansion with is the Archbishop’s official residence. Many have pointed out a similar tone and style in Archbishop Cupich and Pope Francis. Their simplicity, cordiality, and focus on engagement as opposed to separation or denunciation of those who disagree with the church are attributes they share.

Cupich gave a talk in June 2014 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC on the contradiction between Catholic social teaching and libertarianism in the United States. He supported the position of Pope Francis which focuses on encounter and accompaniment in society and the economy. In other words, Catholic social teaching focuses on our obligations to each other. This contrasts with the Libertarian view that the one’s interests as an individual come first.

Cupich is the first major appointment in the United States by Pope Francis. Additional appointments by the Pope will likely bring significant change to the church in the United States.

 

 

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2014

Showers for the Homeless at the Vatican

Showers for the Homeless at the Vatican

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A significant part of our faith journey is growing and being ministered to by the people we serve.  Bishop Konrad Krajewski is the Pope’s Almoner, which means that he is responsible for raising money for the poor and distributing it. When he took a homeless man to dinner at a Chinese restaurant for the man’s 50th birthday, Bishop Krajewski discovered an unmet need.The homeless get by with handouts of food but they have almost no bathing facilities.

Beginning with the public restrooms in St. Peter’s Square and parishes in Rome with large concentrations of the homeless, Pope Francis is paying for the construction and operation of showers. In addition to sanitation and promoting human dignity, Bishop Krajewski cites a deeper element of faith: “The Basilica exists in order to keep the Body of Christ, and we serve Jesus’ suffering body by serving the poor.”

Read more about this new apostolate.

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2014

Synod on the Family – The Unfolding Story

Synod on the Family – The Unfolding Story

Deacon William Ditewig, PhD

Deacon William Ditewig, PhD, served as the Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate for the US Catholic Conference of Bishops from 2002 – 2007. He is a professor at Santa Clara University and directs the diaconate, faith formation, and pastoral planning programs for the Diocese of Monterey, California.

Deacon Ditewig wrote an excellent review of the synod process in his blog Deacons Today – Servants in a Servant Church. He points out that we have just seen the end of Act One, The Extraordinary Synod, and the curtain is going up on Act Two, The Global Reflection. The current document or “relatio” is now a draft that will be studied by each of the bishops’ conferences around the world. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has it on the agenda for their November 2014 meeting. Individual bishops will then work with it in their own ways in their individual dioceses. The methods will vary as they did when Rome asked for contributions of ideas and comments on the pastoral needs of families in preparation for the just concluded Extraordinary Synod. Some bishops worked only with their clergy and others held meetings on the issues throughout their dioceses.

Act Three will begin next October with opening of the Ordinary Synod on the Family. The Pope will then take those deliberations and write his own apostolic exhortation. (Pope Francis has already issued his first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel. )

Deacon Ditewig makes it clear that the current document under consideration is a draft and does not constitute Church teaching. He also points out that there has been a mistranslation into English of the Pope’s remarks. In the Italian original version, the Pope speaks of welcoming homosexuals (accogliere) but it was translated as “to provide for”. In his address, the Pope again says that we should welcome homosexuals, but then he corrects himself and says that welcoming them is not enough. The Pope says we have to go and find them, to seek them out.

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Posted by on Oct 5, 2014

Extraordinary Synod on the Family Begins

Extraordinary Synod on the Family Begins

 

Shortly after his election, Pope Francis called for an Extraordinary Synod of the bishops of the Catholic church to meet in Rome. The meetings of this synod began today, October 5, and will continue for 2 weeks (October 5 – 19, 2014).

A synod is a gathering of leaders of a church community in which questions of doctrine or administration are addressed. In the Roman Catholic Church, a synod is a meeting of bishops. Synods have been regularly scheduled meetings since Vatican II, but extraordinary synods may be called by the Pope to address specific issues. This is only the third Extraordinary Synod since the Council ended.

The Synod which has just begun has as its focus the family, specifically, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” Pope Francis not only called the bishops to Rome, he invited the people of the church to gather as well and Saturday evening, before the Synod opened, he led the people and the assembled bishops in prayer to the Holy Spirit. “May the Wind of Pentecost blow upon the Synod’s work, on the Church, and on all of humanity,” Francis prayed. “Undo the knots which prevent people from encountering one another, heal the wounds that bleed, rekindle hope.”

In his homily for the opening Mass of the Synod, Pope Francis preached on the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, the vineyard of the Lord. He reminded those gathered, “Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent. We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.”

In the synod, the bishops, having consulted with the people of their dioceses around the world, will wrestle with pastoral issues faced by many families, including questions of divorce and remarriage, reform of the annulment process, contraception, celibacy, and other topics. This first meeting is a time for discussion and prayer. No decisions on policy will be made until a second meeting next year.

As we enter this time of study and consideration by our bishops, we join with Pope Francis in his prayer for the Synod and in praying the Rosary.

 

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod
composed by Pope Francis

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love,
To you we turn in trust.

 Holy Family of Nazareth,
Grant that our families too
May be places of communion and prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel
And small domestic Churches.

 Holy Family of Nazareth,
May families never again
Experience violence, rejection and division:
May all who have been hurt or scandalized
Find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the approaching Synod of Bishops
Make us once more mindful
Of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
And its beauty in God’s plan.

 Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer. Amen.

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Posted by on Oct 2, 2014

Holiness Throughout the Day – The Liturgy of the Hours

Holiness Throughout the Day – The Liturgy of the Hours

Many people of a “certain age” remember when priests would sometimes wander around the church yard holding a black leather bound book. It was called the Divine Office and was re-christened the Liturgy of the Hours after Vatican II.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church. Many religious orders such as the Dominicans, Franciscans, and  Benedictines pray the liturgy of the hours in a formal church setting with chant. St Dominic’s Church in San Francisco has a wonderful series on the Liturgy of the Hours in their online newsletter. The Liturgy of the Hours can be shared at home by couples and the entire family in ways that are suitable for children, making it a happy experience. In the home church, example is everything. Many people pray two of the hours – morning (lauds or praise) and evening prayer (vespers). Night prayer also know as compline makes a beautiful ending of the day.

For the digital generation, the Liturgy of the Hours can be found on sites such as www.bookofhours.org, www.universalis.com, and www.ibreviary.org. You can open the Liturgy of the Hours on your mobile phone or tablet and click on the links as opposed to the marking of sections with colored ribbons in the printed version. If you are not praying with a monastic community, some people recommend the digital version as a way to get started. For a special treat listen to the daily podcasts by the Sisters of  Perpetual Adoration of the Liturgy of the Hours.

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Posted by on Sep 5, 2014

A Church for the Poor – The Vision of Pope Francis

A Church for the Poor – The Vision of Pope Francis

 

What of kind of church does Pope Francis envision? Jorge Bergoglio, in his initial public statements and even in the choice of his Papal name, Francis, has made it clear that the church needs to be a servant of the poor and the herald of the gospel. These terms come from Cardinal Avery Dulles’ Models of the Church and are based on the documents of the Second Vatican Council (1961-1965). While most of us tend to see the church as an institution and perhaps as a sacrament, Pope Francis is highlighting the notion of the church as a community, a school of disciples, which is the servant of the poor in its role as herald of the gospel.

This emphasis began before Vatican II but it became especially pronounced after the council in a movement called liberation theology. For St. John Paul II, this approach was more reminiscent of Marxism than the gospel, so he took certain steps to curtail it. Pope Benedict XVI, his successor, took a more measured view and focused on aspects of this theology that started from a pastoral and community viewpoint as opposed to a political one. At an important conference to promote this view in Aparecida, Brazil in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI chose Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires to formulate this renewed expression of a church for the poor.

In a recent opinion column in the New York Times, Paul Vallely, Director of The Tablet, an international Catholic weekly publication based in London, outlines the history of Liberation theology and the Pope’s restoration and enhancement of it. The pope welcomed Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez to the Vatican earlier this year. Fr. Gutierrez began the movement with his 1971 book A Theology of Liberation. Pope Francis has also removed the block placed by St. John Paul II to the canonization process of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who because of his opposition to political repression was shot while saying Mass. An even more telling sign is the Pope’s treatment of Nicaragua’s former foreign minister, Fr. Miguel D’Escoto Brockman. Fr. D’Escoto had been suspended from the priesthood by St. John Paul II and Pope Francis has lifted the suspension.

A pope who lives in a guest house and stands in the cafeteria line with his own tray has taken hold of the attention and imagination of the Catholic and non-Catholic world alike by being a voice for the voiceless. Pope Francis is leading us to be a different kind of church, one that is closer to the gospel, less secure, less majestic, ready to serve the suffering Christ in the destitute of the world.

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Posted by on Aug 29, 2014

Church: Organizing as a Community

Church: Organizing as a Community

Models of Church

A conversation overheard recently in the locker room of our local gym led me to consider the concept of community more deeply: what living as community implies, how our relationship with God shapes our lives, and how all of these are reflected in the way we structure our community.

Two women were visiting as they changed back into street clothes to leave the gym. One was Jewish and the other was from a small, evangelical Christian community. They seemed to be continuing a conversation they had begun on the exercise machines earlier that afternoon. We’ll call the Jewish woman Miriam and the Christian one Carol. Carol was describing her small church community. She noted that there had been some stress recently as the community dealt with a difference of opinion over what to believe and how to respond to a controversial issue. She expressed her opinion that it shouldn’t really be a serious problem for her church community because the important thing was that each person believe in Jesus and accept Him as Savior. The relationship is between the individual and Jesus.

Miriam did not agree with Carol that a personal relationship with God is all that is needed. She explained that she is Jewish and for Jews the fundamental relationship is between the community as a group and their God. Simply having a personal relationship with God does not suffice. Worship and relationship with God occur in a community and together have concrete implications and results for the community. They are not separate realities.

As an anthropologist, I found the conversation fascinating. I’d have loved to hear more, but they continued on their way and I was left to ponder community and our relationship with God.

A Faith Based in Community

Not too long ago, Carol’s beliefs might not have been all that unusual to hear expressed within Catholic circles as well. While Catholics have not traditionally believed that simply accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior will guarantee admission to Heaven, we have at times forgotten how deeply our responsibilities to the community of all human beings is tied to our salvation. We often forget that our faith began in Jewish faith and tradition. We come before God as a community of people, responsible to and for each other.

More recently, with a return to a greater focus on God as Trinity, the idea of each individual standing alone does not explain who we are quite as well. God is one, yet God is Trinity. Self-knowledge, the Word that expresses and embodies that self-knowledge, and the total loving acceptance of the reality as known and expressed, all swirl around in the reality of one God,  a God dancing  in beautiful harmony.

We live in the midst of the Divine Community as members of Christ’s Body. We meet Christ in and through each other. We share together in the Body and Blood of Christ. And we are responsible to care for each other, including the least loveable among us, because Jesus is there … “Whatsoever you do …”

Living in Community

How, then, do we live in community? What organizational models would be best for us as a community? How can our communal life best support our own journey of faith and growth in holiness? How does community bring us closer to God?

Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, in Models of the Church,  suggests that our community, the Church, can be better understood in term of six different models. The one that comes to the fore at any given moment will differ, based on the needs of the community in that moment. Each has strengths and each has weaknesses. Together they offer a picture of a vibrant community. Cardinal Dulles’ models reflect the images of church presented in the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, particularly Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World and Lumen Gentium (Light of Nations) The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) emphasized the self-contained nature of the Church as an institution sufficient unto itself – a “perfect society”. Vatican II (1962-1965) focused on the Church in its relationship to the modern world including non-Catholics, and non-Christians.

Church as Institution: In this model, the focus is on the administrative role of Church leaders. The Pope, bishops, priests, and deacons (collectively known as clerics) are responsible to teach what the community has come to believe and understand about God. They help the community to become more holy (sanctified), more in tune with divine life, through the administration of the sacraments. Finally, clerics are responsible to set the standards for faith and morals, to govern or rule the church community. In their role as rulers, clerics have many of the same kinds of responsibilities as the civil authorities who govern our towns and countries.

Church as Community (The Body of Christ): In this model, the Church is a community of believers who worship together and through their faith and worship become both a sign of the union of God with humans and an instrument through which the union occurs.

Church as Sacrament: A sacrament is the visible form of an invisible grace, a grace that brings about the reality towards which the form or symbols/actions point. As Catholics, we recognize and celebrate seven formal Sacraments as part of our lives as Church. However, the Church also teaches that the source and authority for our seven sacraments actually comes from Jesus as the Sacrament of God and the Church as the Sacrament of Christ. The community (the church) is to be a sign of God’s grace in the world as Jesus was. With the help of the grace of God, we are made holy in Christ.

Church as Herald: This model is focused on the Word of God.  We are called to hear God’s word and keep it, putting our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and then sharing that faith with our world. This is much more like the model Carol (in our example above) would find familiar. The Word comes to us both to transform our lives and to be passed on to others as Good News.

Church as Servant: In this model, the church’s role is to serve those in need of help directly and work to change social and political institutions that promote injustice. The church is in the world and serves the human community, but its service is one with a spiritual foundation rather than a strictly secular one. We as community serve in imitation of the Lord who washed His disciples’ feet and called those at the lowest rungs of society His sisters and brothers.

Church as School of Discipleship: The final model was developed after the first edition of  Dulles’ work was published. It recognizes that to be followers of Jesus requires the community and its members to continue to learn what it means to be a Christian and members of a Christian community. In this school of discipleship, we are informed, we are formed, and we are transformed; all as part of the process of learning and growing in faith.

For a summary of the characteristics of each model see Fr. Yeo’s presentation on SlideShare.

The Organization Supports the Life and Faith of the Community

Which of these models is correct? None of them! Each offers important insights and helps describe the experience of Christian life in community. Even within one individual parish community, some will experience that life more in terms of one of the models than in terms of the others. Is that bad? I don’t think so. God created a world of wonderfully different people, each with special gifts needed by our world. Those gifts and our experience of them may lead us to favor one or another of the models of Church. But if we are honest, we would be a much poorer and more limited community if we did not embrace the richness that multiple models offer. After all, God is infinitely creative and loving. No human model could ever hope to define conclusively the limits of what God’s communal life  actually is. Yet we live within that divine community, continually loved into existence. So we move through our lives in this great community, with first one model and then another taking the lead. With the grace of God, we’ll all muddle through and reach our final goal: union with God.

For a more detailed summary of Cardinal Dulles’ models and other useful materials visit Young Adult CLC .

 

 

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Posted by on Aug 5, 2014

Stepping Out, Stepping Overboard

Stepping Out, Stepping Overboard

 

Peter sees Jesus coming toward him walking on the water in the wind and waves.
“Lord if it really is you – Call me”
In our troubled stormy lives we think we see Jesus
“If it is you – Call me”

When our job has crashed, when we have problems with our children, with our marriages
When we are dealing with illness or the death of a loved one
Our world is rocked – our boat is too small in this wind and waves
Jesus appears or does He?

We pick up the phone to ask for help — we start, we get overwhelmed
We are going to talk with our spouse or our children — we start, we get overwhelmed
We are going to tell the therapist about that terrible thing that happened to us — we start, we get overwhelmed
We start to deal with our diabetes, our obesity, our negativity — we start, we get overwhelmed

We are overwhelmed by the wind and waves of our own pain, our own fear, by the truth

Why do we doubt?
Jesus can walk on the wind and the waves
He heals the sick, raises the dead, drives out demons
Why do I think that He cannot help me? Cannot save me?

When the wind of my fear, the waves of my own pain, and truth are too much
He will reach out to save me,
Bring me back to the boat and
Calm the wind and the waves.

All we have to do is to step out, to step overboard.

A reflection on Matthew 14: 22-34

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Posted by on Jul 25, 2014

Vocation as a “Worthy Dream”

Vocation as a “Worthy Dream”

 

A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience is a remarkable book. John Neafsey argues that vocation is the seeking and finding of a “worthy dream” that makes all other possible options for spending one’s life pale in comparison. Social justice is a key component of vocation for all Christians since it flows from our call at Baptism and Confirmation to proclaim and make present the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s reign of peace and justice. Ordained ministry or a consecrated religious life might be that worthy dream for some. For others, the worthy dream will lead to a very different life path. All are calls to vocation.

Vocation Just for a Few?

Before and to some extent even after Vatican II, the notion of vocation was focused on ordained ministry or consecrated religious life. Vocation directors were and still are official recruiters for dioceses and religious orders. Today, when we hear of the “vocation crisis” or the shortage of “vocations”, the general reference is to the decline in the number of priests, brothers, and nuns.

While the concept of vocation continues to be applied more commonly to that of ordained or consecrated individuals, Neafsey demonstrates that Vatican II is gradually changing our understanding of what a vocation is. The concept of vocation as a sacred calling is developing today based on newly emerging understandings of human development, the Church itself, and our scriptural calling to live out the Good News. In particular, working toward social justice is a key component of any vocation and plays a primary role in deepening our relationship with God.

Vocation as a worthy dream for all

Neafsey’s notion of vocation as a worthy dream is radically different from the more static pre-Vatican II notion of becoming a priest or a consecrated religious. Limiting the concept of vocation to priests and religious is not optimal in a faith community in which all are seen as called and gifted: the community as presented in the Vatican II documents, particularly Gaudium et Spes (On the Church in the Modern World) and Lumen Gentium (On the Church). The worthy dream may indeed take one person on the path of servant leadership as a priest or deacon, but the worthy dream is the result of a perpetual vision quest and may lead another to a different path. This path of the servant leader is also the path of charity and of justice shared by all. It is our participation in the ministry of the Risen Christ.

Our lives in the Trinity are dynamic love encounters of each moment in chronological time (chronos) with God’s designated moment of divine action (kairos). Our calling to live fully in the Trinity is all about the agony and the ecstasy of falling, being, and remaining in love. Certainly, there is a close connection between our special gifts and talents or charisms and the Church as a structured community, since our gifts flow from the Holy Spirit. Working out our vocations is not necessarily free of conflict, doubt, and suffering. Yet we are called in Christ to the messiness of relationships with others in a relational God. We have only to read the letters of St. Paul to see that this is nothing new.

Yes, we need “vocations” as an institution, but in another sense “vocations” don’t exist. Spirit-filled, joyous people, however, do exist. By encouraging, nourishing, and loving each other, we are part of a larger cosmic focus of Divine Love that brings and holds everything in being. Dancing in that love is vocation. As an organization, all we have to do is to be open not to a job applicant but to someone on fire in Divine Love. Then we will be open to the Christ in our midst. Any other talk of vocation is merely a temptation to careerism, clericalism, or conceit.

Just as married love is a vision, a reality, a dream, and an ongoing quest, the same is true of the experience of hearing, hoping, believing, and the joyous union that is “vocation” in the more traditional sense. This notion of being in love with God and being called deeper may sound “non-traditional”. However, we have to look no further than the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church to realize how much the notion of the Church – the assembly of the faithful – as a modern industrial organization with job descriptions is a novel folly. It is certainly understandable due to our experience of government agencies and corporations that we might look at vocations as filling job positions. Unfortunately, we can lose sight of the sacred dimensions of the Church as a charismatic community incarnated into a human world and caught up in the divine spiral toward the Omega Point of fulfillment in Christ.

The gift of a worthy dream will take many shapes and forms. To be of service to others in teaching, healthcare, music, the arts, exploring nanotechnology, or astrobiology can be a worthy dream, taking many twists and turns. The same is true in ministry. We present ourselves to the community and test whether our deepest gladness meets the deepest need. We test the spirits that may be affecting us in discernment, and follow the Spirit in the Mystical Body of Christ that is the Church.

 

For more of Neafsey’s insights on vocation, read this interview from Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation.

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