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Why Ash Wednesday?...

Posted on Feb 18, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Today’s guest blogger is Nick Luken, a second-year student at The Ohio State University, majoring in English and minoring in professional writing. Nick graduated from Roger Bacon, a Franciscan high school in Cincinnati, in 2012.

It’s no secret that most Catholics my age don’t go to Mass much anymore. Many of my fellow college students are not religious at all, but many of the people who still consider themselves Catholic don’t go to Mass because they don’t think they have time or they haven’t made going to Mass a priority (or both). But there is one day of the year when almost every college Catholic on my campus goes to Mass. Believe it or not, that day is Ash Wednesday.

On my first Ash Wednesday away at college, I was immediately puzzled by the huge number of college students who suddenly showed up at Mass, and lined up to get ashes on their foreheads even though I had never seen these students at Mass before. It seemed strange that all these people would want to go to Mass on the first day of Lent, the day when everyone is painfully reminded that we come from dust and will return to dust. It’s one of the most depressing days of the liturgical year, and I’ve never been sure why so many college students make sure to go to Mass on that day, especially since it’s not even a holy day of obligation.

I’ve come up with a few possible explanations, some more honorable than others. The first is that these students just like to walk around campus with ashes on their foreheads. The ashes make the students stand out, and the attention that the ashes get might be attractive in some strange way.

The second possible reason is classic Catholic guilt. I would guess that a fair amount of students who don’t usually go to Mass occasionally feel guilty. Since Ash Wednesday is all about repenting for our sins, it’s the perfect day for anyone struggling with guilt to try to show remorse for any sins in an out-of-the-ordinary way.

The most important reason that I think college students flock to Ash Wednesday Mass, though, is a reason that I think underlies any other reason that they go. I think that deep down, everyone–not just lapsed Catholics–knows that we need God and His mercy. I like to think that everyone knows, in some capacity or another, that we are all sinners, but God wants us to return to Him.

That’s the spirit of Ash Wednesday, after all. No matter where we are in our faith lives, every single one of us must turn away from sin today and be faithful to the Gospel.

(CNS photo/Owen Sweeney III, Catholic Review)

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Ashes...

Posted on Feb 17, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

If you receive blessed ashes to mark the start of Lent you will hear one of two phrases used by the minister who smears ashes on your forehead.

“Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

“Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Ashes are an ancient symbol of repentance. The church uses ashes as a powerful reminder—turn from evil and embrace the good—because life comes to an end and we all face divine judgment. Ultimately, ashes testify to our belief that there is more to life than material things or accomplishments. Ashes are also a spiritual reminder to keep searching for that deeper meaning involved in being good human beings.

I remember as a grade school student how impressive the ashes ritual and the words were, though I did not have the life experience to resonate fully with the meaning of Lent as a time of penance. As I recall, most of us kids did not wash our faces, even though the Gospel teaching on fasting (Mt 6:16-18) urges us to wash our faces and not appear to be fasting.  As kids we wanted to appear to be fasting, and we wanted to appear to be good Catholics, setting ourselves apart from other kids.

Today ashes point to something much more profound. With the increasing popularity of cremation we witness more funerals with cremains instead of coffins. I find myself thinking of Ash Wednesday whenever I take part in a funeral with cremains. I wonder if children today make any connection between the ashes of Ash Wednesday and the result of cremation. Just being part of a funeral with the ashes of a friend or relative present certainly reminds me of my own mortality.

 “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

 The church encourages prayer, fasting and charitable work as the way to respond to the Lenten summons issued by the blessed ashes we receive. Forty days is a long haul project. We can’t make Lent just another item on our checklists. Nor can the essence of Lent be reduced to any formula. Ashes provide a wakeup call to all who pay attention. They are a powerful symbol, inviting us to spiritual reflection.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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The Journey of Our Lives...

Posted on Feb 11, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger today is Jim Van Vurst, OFM, co-author of the free e-newsletter A Friar’s E-spirations. To learn more, click here.

It’s common to describe our lives on this earth as journeys. Each of us weaves a personal history made up of moments in which we are caught up in events—most of which we did not anticipate. And we make decisions and do things that affect others in ways we cannot grasp.

I suspect there are a few of my readers who have kept diaries. I began journaling in 1972 after I had been ordained about 11 years. It was a time when I was going through a bit of a vocational struggle, and I didn’t fully understand all that was going on within me. I smile now, 42 years later, realizing what was actually happening. It was the Lord saying to me, “Jim, it is time for you to grow up and mature a bit.”

After 13 years of isolated religious and priestly formation, I was still very immature emotionally. My intellect had grown, but not much of myself. But growing up was exactly what I needed to do—both as a priest and as a human being. However, in my own circumstances, it felt as though I was being pushed and pulled, knocked down, and shook. I realize now that real growth and maturity are not something we do. It is what is being done to us as we struggle through it.

As we grow older on our journeys, we realize two important truths: life is made up of our actions and decisions; and life is also composed of events beyond our control. Major events can occur and lives are changed forever. Think of the one moment before the planes crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11, and what occurred to all of those people. We use expressions such as “just a second,” or “in a moment’s time.” In the life of a single adult, there are countless moments that are packed with potential for good or ill.

What is so important is that we understand and embrace the truth that not a single one of us walks our journeys alone. When God made us in his image and likeness, he also destined us to eternal life with him. If someone is not saved, it will be by his or her choice, not God’s. At the same time, God never wants us to struggle alone.

God will never turn from us during our journeys.

*****
Photo: olly/PhotoXpress

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What on earth is Pope Francis up to and why?...

Posted on Feb 9, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

st-peters-11-years-after-michelangelos-deathOne of my go-to guys for commentary on things Vatican is now Andrea Gagliarducci at his weekly Monday Vatican post.

This week Andrea tackles the questions (my wording): What on earth is Pope Francis up to and why?

Let’s see some of his piece.  You will have to read the whole thing there.  Here are samples with my oft-imitated treatment of emphases and comments:

Pope Francis: Will It Really Be a Revolution?

The week that begins today and ends with the creation of 20 new cardinals may represent the turning point of Pope Francis’ pontificate. [HERE] The choices of the new cardinals not only show Pope Francis’ sensitivity toward the world’s peripheries and a certain pastoral approach, they also indicate a change concerning the pivotal issues at stake in this papacy. This change cannot be underestimated.

Before the arrival of Pope Francis, the main themes of discussion in the Church have had solid theological roots. But even the question concerning the pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as for homosexual couples – both of which were the object of a heated debate at the last Synod of Bishops – are in the end based on theological foundations, and deal with the application of doctrine. Moreover, even the criticisms aimed at the pope’s plan for curial reform – the other issue at currently at stake in this pontificate – are founded on theological and juridical grounds.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis demonstrates that he is moving on completely different grounds. It is not by chance that one of his favourite quotes about ecumenism is taken from the conversation between Bl. Paul VI and the Patriarch of Costantinople, Athenagoras: “If we were to close ourselves off in a room together and leave the theologians outside, we would accomplish ecumenism in one hour.” In similar fashion, leaving theological discussions aside, Pope Francis wants to propose a model of a Church that evangelizes through attraction, and not because of the strength of its concepts.  [At first glance, this seems like madness.  On the other hand, consider that, under the onslaught of the dictatorship of relativism and the destruction of education resulting in the loss of reasoning skills along with wide-spread ignorance, people can’t or don’t accept reasoned arguments anymore.  Gorgias has won.  We have to hold up shiny objects in front of people’s eyes, and rattle them as a bunch of keys before a fussing baby.  Is that too harsh?  I have to exaggerate to get my point across.  So, Francis might be on to something.]

Pope Francis’ choices in two consistories mirror this intention. Beyond choosing a few candidates with strong institutional ties, Pope Francis has selected as cardinals mainly bishops whose primary interest is not found in some or other theological position, but in pastoral practice. Pope Francis’ Church bypasses theological discussion and aims at going straight to the heart of the people.  [I think that that distinction of “theological” versus “pastoral” is flawed, but….  In any event, this is why our sacred liturgical worship of God is pivotal in any effort we undertake in evangelization or new evangelization.]

All of these new cardinals will bring their peculiar perspectives to the consistory the Pope has convened to discuss reform of the Roman Curia. The reform seems to be stuck. The first comprehensive draft was highly criticized by Vatican dicasteries, and there is a real risk that the structure will remain as it is for the moment, in expectation of a definitive change that will not take place before the end of this year – as Pope Francis has admitted. Nevertheless, another option that one insider designates “St. Peter’s option” may be explored.

[NB] It can be explained this way. During the construction of the current Basilica of St. Peter in the 16th century, the old basilica was only gradually dismantled, step by step, while it was replaced with the new building. This is the way Pope Francis works, by establishing new structures around the currently existing structure which is then removed once the new structure is complete.

Through this lens we can better understand the process by which the Vatican at first hired expensive external commissions and then followed this step with the establishment of the Secretariat for the Economy, the Council for the Economy and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. These bodies were born without statutes and they set out to work while waiting for their specific powers and competences to be drafted.

This is way curial reform will be carried out. According to sources, during their recent ad limina visit, the Lithuanian bishops asked Pope Francis about the reform. He replied that two super-congregations, respectively, for Justice and Charity and Laity and Family will be established. How the competences of the many minor dicasteries that will be subsumed into these new Congregations will be arranged is yet to be decided. But establishing them is a first step toward the much anticipated Curia reform.  [I’m skeptical.  But…. hey!… maybe it’ll work!]

[…]

He goes on to opine about the choices he is making in curial reform and his selection of new cardinals.  Then…

[…]

Still, no theological preference seems to drive Pope Francis’ choices. Instead one finds a human touch, a peculiar instinct that guides the Pope in understanding who the prelates are with whom he feels more at ease.

[…]

Cardinal Baldisseri’s words signalled that the Synod war has already begun, and that – in spite of the slogan “We don’t turn back” which accompanied the presentation of the next Synod’s guidelines – the majority of bishops does not endorse a pastoral practice that is completely detached from doctrine.  [That’s because it can’t be!]

[NB… salutary reminders…] And Pope Francis would probably not support it either. The Pope is always very orthodox in his declarations. This fact has been demonstrated several times. The Pope backed the Slovakian bishops in their commitment to promote a referendum to defend the traditional family in their country. He invited Filipinos to be wary of the ideological colonization of the family. He expressed a strongly negative judgment over gender theory, which he also defined as ‘demonic’ during a meeting with Austrian bishop in an ad limina visit. Taken together these moments indicate that Pope Francis is anything but progressive.  [Which is what I have been pushing all along.]

[Quaeritur…] So, who is the real Pope Francis? The one who supports liberal bishops and priests, or the one who speaks in an orthodox way? The answer may be more obvious than expected. [It isn’t obvious to me.  Let’s see what Andrea has to say!]

Simply put, for Pope Francis pastoral practice is more important than any given theological debate because the latter, in the end, may be no more than a worldly exercise. Perhaps his famous declaration about preferring a “poor Church for the poor” may also be read this way: a Church light in structure with limited philosophical debates and a great deal of pastoral love. [BUT!… BUT!… Someone has to do the theology!  And I don’t think they deserve to be regularly insulted.]

But this is not new. Benedict XVI spoke in almost the same terms about the need to escape worldliness and to move beyond the self-referentiality of ecclesial structures. And he underscored the value of mercy as is evidenced in the homily he delivered at the Mass for the inauguration of his petrine ministry. Time and again Pope Benedict preached about a Church that should not be constructed on ideas, but engaged in a lively evangelization effort.

Nevertheless, between these two popes a paradigm change is taking place. Pope Benedict was convinced that a solid theological background was needed so that the Church’s pastoral practice would be correct.  [That describes my view.] In fact, the search for truth was pivotal in his pontificate. Pope Francis, on the other hand, sets aside any given theological problem in order to seek immediate, personal contact with people.  [Will that get the job done?  We’ll see.]

[…]

Read the whole thing over there.

Thought provoking.

¡Hagan lío!

Meanwhile… remember this?

 

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An Alternative Orthodoxy: Paying Attention to Diff...

Posted on Feb 9, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger today is Richard Rohr, best-selling author of the new book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. To learn more about Richard, click here.

One of the earliest accounts of Francis, the “Legend of Perugia,” quotes Francis as telling the first friars, “You only know as much as you do.” His emphasis on action, practice and lifestyle was foundational and revolutionary for its time and at the heart of Franciscan alternative orthodoxy (“heterodoxy”).

For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship.

Up to this point, most of Christian spirituality was based in desert asceticism, monastic discipline, theories of prayer, or academic theology, which itself was often based in “correct belief ” or liturgy, but not in a kind of practical Christianity that could be lived in the streets of the world. Many rightly say Francis emphasized an imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus, and not just the worshiping of his divinity. That is a major shift.

Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five. Heart is used 42 times to one use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time. This is a very new perspective that is clearly different from (and an antidote to) the verbally argumentative Christianity of his time, and from the highly academic theology that would hold sway for the next thousand years. He took prayer on the road and into the activity of life itself.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Francis’ Oldest Prayer...

Posted on Feb 6, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

The oldest writing of St. Francis is probably his “Prayer before the Crucifix,” which dates to 1205 or 1206—very early in his conversion process. In this short prayer, after Francis asks God to enlighten the darkness of his heart, he requests “true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense, and knowledge” (translation in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents). With these gifts, Francis will be able to carry out God’s “holy and true command.”

This is a very open-ended prayer, acknowledging God as the source of these gifts and Francis as the one responsible for allowing them to bear fruit through his actions. What it meant for Francis in his 20s grew into a much more profound prayer by the time Francis died at the age of 44. In his 1226 “Testament,” Francis asked the friars to use this prayer whenever they entered a church or even saw one from afar: “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches throughout the whole world, and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

May we imitate Francis’ deep and honest prayer!

This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger.

To subscribe to this award-winning publication and to support the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, click here.

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Image in the public domain/Wikimedia Commons

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Francis’ Oldest Prayer...

Posted on Feb 6, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

The oldest writing of St. Francis is probably his “Prayer before the Crucifix,” which dates to 1205 or 1206—very early in his conversion process. In this short prayer, after Francis asks God to enlighten the darkness of his heart, he requests “true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense, and knowledge” (translation in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents). With these gifts, Francis will be able to carry out God’s “holy and true command.”

This is a very open-ended prayer, acknowledging God as the source of these gifts and Francis as the one responsible for allowing them to bear fruit through his actions. What it meant for Francis in his 20s grew into a much more profound prayer by the time Francis died at the age of 44. In his 1226 “Testament,” Francis asked the friars to use this prayer whenever they entered a church or even saw one from afar: “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches throughout the whole world, and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

May we imitate Francis’ deep and honest prayer!

This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger.

To subscribe to this award-winning publication and to support the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, click here.

*****
Image in the public domain/Wikimedia Commons

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John Allen pulled a fast one over a Crux about the...

Posted on Feb 5, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

A preliminary list of some of the bishop-members of next October’s Synod of Bishops to discuss “the family” has been released.  There are big holes in the membership still, since many conferences haven’t yet elected officers, etc.  You can tell this is only a partial list: there’s no one on it from, for example, Germany (not that that would be horrible).   I am guessing that the Lord of the Synod, Card. Baldisseri, having learned from criticism last year that the names of the members were pretty much shrouded in mystery, got some names out early.  Who knows when we will see the rest?

With that in mind, over at Crux, on 3 Feb Crux John Allen pulled a fast one.

To be fair, he got something right.  Check out the headline: Forecast: 2015 Synod of Bishops will be just as stormy as last time

You bet.

But wait! There’s more:

“If anyone wondered whether Pope Francis might try to “stack the deck” in advance this time around, Saturday’s confirmations clearly seem to refute that idea.”

“clearly seem”?

I think John Allen ought to know by now that the Pope basically approves the delegates who are elected by the many bishops’ conferences, but that he – the Pope – is then entirely free to appoint his own bishop-members as well as other non-bishop members, such the Jesuit General and his ilk …. who can also vote.

So it clearly seems to me that the Pope still has plenty of time to stack the deck.

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Perspective Is Everything...

Posted on Feb 5, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Circumstances in the life of a family member today have me thinking about perspective. The genius of St. Francis and perhaps the longevity of his fame are no doubt related to the perspective he was moved to in his life: which came through struggles and ultimate surrender to the movement of God.

I struggle often with perspective. External forces and internal “demons” handicap my ability to see far beyond my own scope. Preparing for Lent and the things to come, I am resolved (and I invite you to consider) to incorporate a more eternal perspective.

A few issues back, I invited newsletter readers like you to submit short stories of inspiration they’d like to share with other E-news from Franciscan Media Productions readers. The first of these I’ll share is also the shortest. It comes from Susie, and it is simply the inscription she and her husband have chosen to have etched on their gravestone.

Susie wrote: “In our funeral pre-planning, we chose this quote for our marker which is already in place on our plot: ‘Love is stronger than death.’ It hopefully will serve family, friends and strangers passing by with a word of hope, comfort, challenge, insight, wonder, and who knows what other possibilities?”

Perspective—to be sure.

This blog post is taken from Franciscan Media Productions FREE e-newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Click here to learn more about American Catholic Radio.

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Photo: Galyna Andrushko

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Polish Archbishop predicts ugly confrontations at ...

Posted on Feb 4, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

At the blog Witness for Church and Pope I saw this (my emphases):

BREAKING NEWS from POLAND: Archbishop Henryk Hoser: “The Church has betrayed John Paul II…they did not follow his voice, they did not acquaint themselves with his teaching”

Today’s Niedziela, from Poland, carries an interview with Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, about the recent acts of treachery against Our Lord, His Church and our recently sainted Pope, St. Pope John Paul II. These acts of treachery were committed by an assortment of innovators at last October’s Synod of the Family. These innovators have not been idle, and neither have the defenders of the truth about the sanctity of holy matrimony. I predicted to a friend recently that the upcoming Synod will be an ugly confrontation, that (for example) the Polish Episcopate will never surrender to the innovators. We now have conclusive evidence that this is true. When an archbishop has to publicly proclaim that a canonized saint Pope has been betrayed, then we can see the depth of the rebellion, and the “filth” (c.f. Pope Benedict XVI) that has infiltrated the Mystical Body of Christ.

Key highlights from Archbishop Hoser, which I have translated, include:

On the delegates who seek to overturn the doctrine of the Church:

At the Synod there will be a confrontation with delegates from countries where there is already a majority of pathological families – broken families, patchwork families, with only a small percentage of unbroken marriages – and the demand for the provision of Holy Communion for the divorced. In this lies an erroneous assumption, the postulate that God’s mercy is without justice, when you must begin by saying that married and family life must be founded in justice, which as a whole is not taken into account….

On the influence of the media on sexuality:

…All personal relationships are eroticized, and this is an extremely dangerous phenomenon. Sexualization of friendship has destroyed male and female friendship…the texts of various theorists of this trend [genderism] proves that the world is ruled by sexual satisfaction…

…Genderism is not a struggle for equality between women and men: it is a fight with all constitutive social structures, referred to as stereotypes; in the first place with the “traditional family.” It has created a society of independent individuals. A society both asexual and pansexual.

On the Church:

The church is a prophetic voice in this world. This is not to be understood as some sort of soothsayer forecasting the future. The function of the prophet is the attitude of the consequence of enlightening the situation form God’s perspective, reading the sign of the times.

On Pope John Paul II and marriage:

I will tell you brutally. The Church has betrayed John Paul II. Not the Church as the Bride of Christ, not the Church of our Creed, because John Paul II was an expression, an authentic voice of the Church; but it is the pastoral practice that has betrayed John Paul II.

It is a thesis [theory] to which I subscribe because 40 years of my priesthood has been devoted to marriage and the family, during which time I promoted the theme of “the evangelization of marital intimacy”. In Poland it is and was better in this respect.

In many other countries, due to the contestation to the teachings of the Church, as expressed by Blessed Paul VI, the pastoral care of families was stopped.

[…]

Read the rest there.

¡Hagan lío!

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Pope Francis condones beating children...

Posted on Feb 4, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Pope baby zuchettoThe catholic Left hangs on every word that the Pope has, might, could utter about global warning and redistribution of wealth.  They can’t wait to see the next airplane presser or daily off the cuff fervorino, which they hold to have virtually magisterial authority.   When he says something about not talking about abortion or not judging a homosexual, he can’t possibly be wrong.  Pope Francis! The first Pope ever to smile or kiss a baby, the first Pope ever to preach mercy can’t possibly be wrong about anything… except perhaps anytime he mentions anything about women… but I digress.

During his Wednesday audience today Pope Francis endorsed that fathers beat their children.  HERE

Una volta ho sentito in una riunione di matrimonio un papà dire: “Io alcune volte devo picchiare un po’ i figli … ma mai in faccia per non avvilirli”. Che bello! Ha senso della dignità. Deve punire, lo fa in modo giusto, e va avanti…. Once during a marriage meeting I heard a father say: “Sometimes I have to beat the children a little… but never in the face, so as not to humiliate them.”  How beautiful!  He has an understanding of dignity.  He has to punish, but he does in the right way, and he goes forward.

So, Pope Francis thinks it is good that fathers beat their children.  Che bello!

I look forward to discussions among the catholic Left about the proper way to beat children.  Should fathers use a stick?  A belt?  Just the hand?   How about mothers and a wooden spoon?   Just make sure to avoid hitting them in the face and you are good to go, and maybe watch your strength.  Right?

I am confident we will learn a great deal from their unhesitating support for Pope Francis’ comments today about beating children.

The moderation queue is on.

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It’s Cold Outside!...

Posted on Feb 4, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Cold weather has swept much of the country these days, with wave after wave of blizzards across the northern US in recent weeks. Here’s shot of the spigot near my front door at home. Last October I turned the water off and left the faucet open, as usual, to keep the pipes intact through winter (to keep the pipes from freezing). But there must be a drip in this faucet! A very small drip. Look how a small drip builds up! It’s kind of like a living ice cube.

Our habits do the same to us. If we make small acts of charity a daily habit, or if we plan some routine ways to say little prayers–before you know it these practices build into something visible and part of our lives. That happens even though we barely noticed them along the way.

The opposite holds true, by the way. Our habits, good or ill, catch up with us.

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Nobody Doesn’t Love Serra...

Posted on Feb 3, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Among all the announcements around Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States, one of the most exciting for Franciscan-minded people was the unveiling of plans to canonize American missionary Junipero Serra. While my fellow residents of the USA might tend to think that Christianity has been here forever, we were described as a “mission field” by the Church until 1908. Though the early Puritans and waves of immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries take the credit for the ingrained nature of Christianity in the nation, a great number of people came to the faith through the work of missionaries in what was to become the United States. Many of these tireless proclaimers of the Gospel were Spanish and Franciscan, like our brother Junipero.

But the history of the missions in the West is not an unambiguous success. Even the most well-intentioned often brought disease along with the Gospel, and many missionaries were, like ourselves, products of their culture and chronology. What was hailed as heroism in the eighteenth century is sometimes found to be short of the mark in the twenty-first. And one shudders to imagine how future generations will think of what we cherish as our best accomplishments.

Perhaps in choosing Serra for canonization, Pope Francis is signaling that even sainthood, while for saints, is not for the perfect. God alone is perfect and we can only do our best to follow God’s will as we understand it. In the economy of salvation, maybe there are points for trying.

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Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee, freedigitalphotos.net.

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Living on the Edge of the Inside: Simplicity and J...

Posted on Feb 2, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger today is Richard Rohr, best-selling author of the new book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. To learn more about Richard, click here.

Francis and Clare were not so much prophets by what they said as in the radical, system-critiquing way that they lived their lives. They found both their inner and outer freedom by structurally living on the edge of the inside of both church and society. Too often people seek either inner freedom or outer freedom, but seldom—very seldom in my opinion—do people find both. They did.

Francis and Clare’s agenda for justice was the most foundational and undercutting of all others: a very simple lifestyle outside the system of production and consumption (the real meaning of the vow of poverty), plus a conscious identification with the marginalized of society (the communion of saints pushed to its outer edge). In this position you do not “do” acts of peace and justice as much as your life is itself peace and justice. You take your small and sufficient place in the great and grand scheme of God. By “living on the edge of the inside” I mean building on the solid Tradition (“from the inside”) but doing it from a new and creative stance where you cannot be coopted for purposes of security, possessions, or the illusions of power (“on the edge”).

It is worth repeating that Francis and Clare placed themselves outside the system of not just social production and consumption, but ecclesiastical too! Remember, Francis was not a priest, nor were Franciscan men originally or primarily priests.

Theirs was not a spirituality of earning, or any seeking of worthiness, career, church status, moral one-upmanship, or divine favor (which they knew they already had). They represented in their own unique way the old tradition of “holy fools” among the desert fathers and mothers and the Eastern Church, and offered that notion to the very organized and “efficient” Western Church. For the most part, the path they offered has been ignored or not understood, just as restorative justice usually is. Most prefer quid pro quo justice (retributive justice), which is the best that most secular systems can offer. But those formed by the Gospels should know better.

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Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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The ‘Ups’ of Lent...

Posted on Jan 30, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger is Msgr. Richard Hilgartner, a former executive director of the US bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship and currently president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

“What are you giving up for Lent?” is always a popular question among Catholics as Lent approaches, as if another New Year’s resolution is to be set (or reset). It becomes, for some, a badge of honor, and, for all, an opportunity to witness to the faith in a public way. Even people who might not identify themselves as the most devout members of the Church engage in the practice of “giving something up,” and it can often lead to greater devotion

Lift Up, Give Up, Take Up

All of this is a good thing, because part of the “discipline of Lent” is a sacrifice. But what is the point of it? Are we merely called to self-discipline as a means of self-improvement? Or is it only a matter of suffering through some difficult sacrifice? Giving something up for Lent is only one part of a larger call to engage our faith more fully and more devoutly during the 40 days of Lent: that call is a call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Or, to put it another way, to lift up, to give up, and to take up.

This blog is taken from the article “The ‘Ups’ of Lent” by Msgr. Richard Hilgartner in St. Anthony Messenger. To subscribe to this award-winning publication, click here.

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Image by Brad Wynnyk courtesy of photoxpress.com

 

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"And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will."

-Papa Francis quote

He does not know you, yet he prays for you.
He will most likely never meet you, yet he loves you.

This is your chance to show your love, for as the Bible teaches, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."