Our Sunday Visitor

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis urges families to discover God's love and be generous, forgiving, patient, helpful and respectful. Family life will be better if people use the words "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry" every day, he said, and the world will be a better place if the church reaches out to the imperfect and the wounded. The pope's reflection was part of a letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, which is helping plan the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Aug. 21-26, 2018. The Vatican released the text of the pope's letter March 30. When asked about the pope's plans to attend the event next year, Cardinal Farrell told reporters at a Vatican news conference, "We hope. I can't say absolutely" since it depends on the pope's schedule, but the pope has expressed his desire to go. The letter was meant to help Catholic families and parishes around the world prepare for the gathering, which will focus on the theme, "The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World." The pope said he hoped the event would help families reflect on and share his apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia." "Does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also, does the family continue to be good news for today's world?" the pope asked. The answer is, "yes," he said, because God's love is his "yes" to all of creation and a "'yes' to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases; it is God's 'yes' and his commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love." "Only starting from love can the family manifest, spread and regenerate God's love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers," he said. Making sure family life is "based on love, for love and in love" means "giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'I'm sorry.'" Every day, people experience fragility and weakness, Pope Francis said. All families and pastors need humility so they will become better disciples and teachers, better at helping and being helped, and able to accompany and embrace all people of goodwill. "I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man's wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as love, which is mercy," he said. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told reporters that the pope's letter shows the clear, central role families have in the pope's great dream of renewal of the church and society. "The family is called to be a place of encounter with that divine mercy which heals and liberates," he said. The family is where spouses learn to love "not in vague romantic terms but in terms of their everyday realities and difficulties." "The pope's vision of the mission of the family does not attempt to hide the fact that families experience challenges, weakness, fragility and even breakdown," the archbishop said. "Families need a church which is with them, accompanying them in a process of discernment and integration though helping them to respond with a 'yes' to the divine love." Happy, loving families should be recognized and be a resource for the renewal of the church and world, he said. But the church, Archbishop Martin said, also must be "a place where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgment, but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realize their own dream even if only imperfectly." Order a package of 50 magnets like the one above for your parish here .
Posted: March 30, 2017, 4:56 pm
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hope is not built on people's predictions, assurances or line of reasoning, Pope Francis said. Real Christian hope "is not based on our word, but on God's Word" and promises of salvation and eternal life, the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter's Square March 29. Continuing a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope, the pope looked at how Abraham's faith is held up as a model for everyone in the apostle's Letter to the Romans (4:16-25). Despite all logic -- Abraham was old and his wife infertile -- Abraham "believed, hoping against hope that he would become 'the father of many nations,'" which shows how faith is so closely connected to hope, the pope said. "Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances," he said; real hope arises "where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for." True hope "is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope" because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said. "This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest part," he said, because from a human point of view, that promise seems "unsure and unforeseeable." Looking at the people gathered for the general audience, the pope asked them if they really believed in God's love for them and his promise of eternal life. "There is only one price" to be paid for this, he said. "Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God's power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is." Just "open your heart to faith and he will do the rest," he added. Mary, too, believed in the unbelievable when the angel told her she would become the mother of God, the pope said in remarks to pilgrims from Arabic-speaking countries, particularly Iraq. Like Mary, they are called to embrace that which they do not understand God is doing, and to open their hearts and minds to him, so that his will may be done, he said. He later launched an appeal for more to be done to protect civilians in Iraq, reaffirming his prayers for civilians trapped in parts of Mosul and those displaced by war. The pope also greeted a delegation of Iraqi authorities representing Shiites and Sunnis, and one representing Christians and other religious minorities, who were accompanied by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. "The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, the strength of union, prosperity in harmony," the pope said. He encouraged them to continue their efforts and invited people to pray that "Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity through reconciliation and harmony among its diverse ethnic and religious communities."
Posted: March 30, 2017, 12:51 pm
As it happens, it was Ash Wednesday when I casually flicked on an all-news radio station just in time to catch a quickie interview with a scientist. He’d written a book about the origin of the universe and wanted everyone to know that this particular story doesn’t require anyone to believe in the existence of God. On the contrary, he said, from the start “the molecules” possessed a built-in dynamism that moved them to organize themselves into systems of ever greater complexity. Let those molecules do their thing long enough, and — voila !— the universe. As I listened, a question formed in my mind: “And where, eminent sir, did the molecules come from?” Naïve? Perhaps. But consider the naiveté of the scientist’s remark. It was typical of the pronouncements on spiritual matters made rather often these days by people — by no means always scientists — who purportedly speak with the support of “science.” Science is a wonder, to be sure, and scientists are gifted people to whom we owe vast increases in our knowledge of, and ability to manipulate, the physical world. The more science tells us about the operations of this remarkable world, the more light is shed on the extraordinary creativity of God. That said, however, it must also be said that some scientists exhibit a childlike hubris in pronouncing on questions that lie beyond the scientific method’s capacity for shedding light. That includes, but is hardly limited to, the question of God. Several years ago a New York University philosopher named Thomas Nagel stirred considerable discussion — and not a few personal attacks — with a book called “ Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False ” (Oxford University Press, $24.95) that was sharply critical of this sort of overreach. Nagel, a nonbeliever himself, aimed his critique at the currently popular neo-Darwinian account of human mental functions, calling it “a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense.” With the necessary adaptations, Nagel’s critique applies to any similarly reductionist account of the world — such as one that explains the existence of the universe and everything in it by the action of molecules whose existence apparently can’t be explained. Religion sometimes makes its own contribution to this problem by giving a simple-minded account of God. A prominent example: Michelangelo’s depiction of the creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, where God is represented as a powerful old man with a flowing white beard. This is great art, but it is also very bad theology to the extent that, taken literally, it reinforces the anthropomorphic fallacy which supposes God to be pretty much like us, albeit much bigger and smarter. So what is God like? Or more properly, what can we know about him? St. Thomas Aquinas makes the crucial point that “we cannot know what God is, but rather what he is not” — the way of negation it’s called. Revelation aside, such positive knowledge of God as we may have is knowledge by analogy, which comes from knowing created things: God is something like this, something like that, but very unlike anything in our experience. Above all, God is transcendent — he exists in an order of being altogether outside our own. And, as Notre Dame historian Brad S. Gregory remarks in his important book “ The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society ” (Harvard University Press, $21.95), “If real, a transcendent God is by definition not subject to empirical discovery or disproof.” This is heady stuff, hardly self-explanatory, but it’s a necessary starting point for dialogue between science and religion. Simplistic salvos from either side are no help in that. Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Posted: March 29, 2017, 6:37 pm
While in Baltimore last Thursday for a meeting of the Catholic Relief Services Board of Directors, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore called to inform me of the death of his predecessor, Cardinal William Keeler. In his kindness, Archbishop Lori reached out to tell me before I heard it in the news. He knew that Cardinal Keeler was a kind of “spiritual father” to me, going back to my years as a seminarian and young priest. The Cardinal was the same age as my parents, to whom he showed much kindness through the years, especially when I was away for several years of study in Rome. Cardinal Keeler and I grew up in the same hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and the same parish, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we went to the same schools: St. Mary’s School and Lebanon Catholic High School. Cardinal Keeler was always fondly remembered by the people of Lebanon as an incredibly bright student, an Eagle Scout and a devout “son of Saint Mary’s.” He came to be considered “a hometown hero” when he became a bishop, archbishop, and cardinal and as he became renowned in the Church both nationally and internationally. I have many fond memories of Cardinal Keeler, going back to when I was interviewed by him and the seminary review board in 1977 when I applied to study for the priesthood in the Diocese of Harrisburg. I recall his concern when he learned that my maternal grandfather was Greek Orthodox, an immigrant from Greece. As a skilled canon lawyer, he wanted to make sure that I was indeed a Latin Catholic and not properly a member of the Greek Catholic Church. Thankfully, things checked out canonically! In the years that followed, the future Cardinal always remembered my Greek ancestry and was insistent that I learn Biblical Greek well, considering my roots!! I was ordained a priest by then-Auxiliary Bishop Keeler in 1983 in our home parish church in Lebanon. I remember his pastoral sensitivity to my “ecumenical family” since my father’s side was Lutheran. Already back then, he was a leader in ecumenical relations and dialogue in the United States. He would also become a renowned international Catholic leader in ecumenical and inter-religious relations. His passion for ecumenism began when he was a young priest at the Second Vatican Council. He accompanied Harrisburg Bishop George Leech as a “peritus” (an expert advisor). At the Council, Monsignor Keeler would translate and explain the speeches and documents to English-language journalists covering the Council. In my second year as a priest, happily serving at St. Patrick Parish in York, Bishop Keeler, who had become the diocesan bishop in 1984, decided to send me back to Rome for graduate studies in canon law. Since I loved parish work, I wasn’t very thrilled to leave. I was also more interested in theology than canon law. I must confess that I bargained with the bishop, asking him to allow me to finish my licentiate in theology before studying canon law. With his typical compassion and understanding, he agreed! When I returned to Harrisburg in 1988 after completing the three years of graduate studies, Bishop Keeler assigned me to work as an assistant in his office (as a “priest secretary) and also to serve as Vicar for the Spanish-speaking communities in three counties in and around Harrisburg. For a year, I worked in the chancery during the day and served the Hispanic community in the evenings and on weekends. During that year, I saw up-close Bishop Keeler’s incredible work ethic and his amazing leadership of the diocese. I assisted him mostly with theological and canonical research and writing related to his growing national and international responsibilities. I often drove him to Confirmations and other events around the diocese. In the car, he always prayed the Liturgy of the Hours aloud so that I could pray along with him. Frequently, he had me make detours to hospitals or rectories so he could visit sick priests. In the car, he would often make phone calls to offer ...
Posted: March 29, 2017, 6:21 pm
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic environmental advocates decried President Donald Trump's executive order that would begin a review of his predecessor's Clean Power Plan, which set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. The advocates said that reversing any effort that reduces greenhouse gas pollution endangers the planet and puts the world's most vulnerable people at risk because of climate change. Citing the efforts by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, St. John Paul II and the U.S. bishops to address the importance of protecting the environment, Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said Trump's action "neither protects our common home nor promotes the common good." "The administration claims that these new orders will create jobs and grow the economy," Misleh said in a statement March 28, the day Trump signed the order. "The fact is, however, that those who work in energy conservation and renewable energy are already experiencing an economic boom." Misleh also called for bipartisan cooperation to reach solutions to climate change. Trump, flanked by coal miners, signed the order, titled "Energy Independence." In his remarks at the EPA, the president said the country will still have clean water and clean air, but his order seeks to eliminate what he said are too many job-killing regulations. The president said his goal was to drive energy independence and bring back coal-mining and manufacturing jobs while reducing the cost of electricity. According to Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, Trump's order indicates the administration "does not care about climate change" or protecting people of color and low-income and indigenous communities that are most likely to experience the effects of pollution. "By cutting the Clean Power Plan, the administration is demonstrating that corporate polluters are more important than the health and prosperity of our common home," Carolan said in a statement. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, episcopal liaison to the Catholic Climate Covenant, did not refer specifically to the executive order during a March 28 conference call -- introduced as " President Trump's Dirty Energy Executive Order Conference Call" -- that was held shortly before Trump's executive order was issued. But he cited three effects of climate change: the increasingly intense weather events that "we believe are an assault on God's creation" and which affect the world's poor more drastically than others; the support the U.S. bishops, as well as Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, have given, in a letter to Congress, of the Clean Power Plan, vehicle fuel economy standards, the Green Climate Fund and the Paris climate agreement; and a growth in jobs from alternative energy efforts. "Pope Francis could not be more strong on jobs," said Bishop Pates, who referred to the pope's 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." "He believes that providing work is a moral imperative of every economy." In Iowa, he added, 35 percent of the state's energy comes from wind or solar power, and has created 17,300 jobs, and has been cited by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, as having been a source for "good, high-paying jobs, helping families grow." Bishop Pates said the bishops and their allies would "work closely" with the White House, Congress and "everybody who's involved with this." Others on the conference call with the bishop described other effects of the Trump order. "The American Lung Association and its partners from coast to coast will push back," said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, assistant vice president and director of its Healthy Air Campaign, citing the projected loss of 300,000 school and work days a year to 2030, and an estimated 306,000 "lives ended prematurely," if the Clean Power Plan is scuttled. The executive order also would have deleterious effects on the military, according to Stephen Cheney, a ...
Posted: March 29, 2017, 1:28 pm
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, gets plenty of questions about Pope Francis. A March 27 discussion at Georgetown University, sponsored by the university's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, was no exception. The nuncio, who sat onstage with John Carr, the initiative's director, was asked about the pope's key issues and his impact in the four years since his election. Instead of emphasizing the pope's special qualities or accomplishments, Archbishop Pierre, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, stressed how Catholics are called to view the pope and essentially work with him in the mission of spreading the Gospel. He told the audience, nearly filling a campus auditorium, that it is not a question of whether the pope is good or bad or if one agrees with him or not. The issue, for Catholics, is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pope. "We have to pay a lot of attention to the person of the pope and to his message and to his testimony because the pope is not just words but he is also actions and actions that are powerful words," the nuncio said. Archbishop Pierre, who was appointed to the U.S. post by Pope Francis last April, would not comment on the pope's approval ratings compared to politicians nor would he address the current political climate, but he stressed that one's personal faith can't be separated from daily life and that people need to use discernment even in civic duties like voting. When asked about care for migrants in today's world, he said Christians should be the "soul of this country" and Catholics should follow the example of Pope Francis who goes out to the borders and reaches out to those who are broken and those who suffer. "The church is in the business of evangelization," he added, saying this works best when the church "goes outside herself" to meet people where they are. And in a pointed statement to this country, he added: If America is the center of the world then it has "a huge responsibility to help others." When the nuncio was joined on stage by other panelists, they reiterated the importance of the pope's message that has come across just as much from his actions as his words. To sum up the pope's message to Catholics today, Ken Hackett, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, looks to the example of the pope's visit to the United States in 2015 where the pope's presence, in front of Congress and with the poor, and his words at each stop made Catholics proud of their faith. Kim Daniels, a member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, said the pope's message has resonated not just with Catholics but also with those who have heard him even through social media. She said he has made the call to live out one's faith "something that's concrete and not abstract" and something "we can do right here, right now, where we are." For Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, the pope has been clearest on his message of community, telling people, including "those who are undocumented: You are loved and valued." She also points to his message to youths at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as something that still resonates with her. He told the crowd "not to be afraid, to take risks and to be courageous" stressing they should prepare for "courageous and prophetic action in solidarity with the earth and with the poor."
Posted: March 29, 2017, 1:18 pm
Last month my husband and I spoke at a marriage enrichment retreat in Ohio. It was a lovely event that offered encouraging talks from several married couples, breakout sessions, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as Mass and a very nice date night opportunity. By the time the event actually rolled around, the retreat was fairly well attended. However, in discussions with the planning committee, they expressed frustration with the fact that many couples waited until the last minute to register. They were perplexed as to how such an encouraging and affordable event could continually be such a hard sell year after year. The same couples who think nothing of spending more than twice the amount on a nice dinner won’t commit to an event that will provide a lot more fruit for their marriage than what the local restaurant has on the menu. This gathering wasn’t unique. We’ve found this to be true locally in our own state of Michigan as well as across the country and even among the faithful. When it comes to marriage events, especially in the retreat format, it seems that registrants wait until the very last minute or ignore the opportunity altogether. But why? With all the surveys showing marriages still struggling and often ending in divorce, it would seem like couples should be flocking to these conferences. One recent report from the Pew Center found that divorce is on the rise among couples who have been married for long periods of time. Other research shows that the couples who pray together stay together. The Couple Prayer marriage ministry (www.coupleprayer.com) often cites the statistics that among couples who pray together regularly, the divorce rate, which nationally still stands at one out of two marriages, drops to one out of 1,105. And marriage retreats can be a major catalyst in bringing husbands and wives closer together, especially in helping them learn how to pray. As I continued my conversation that Saturday evening with the event planner, she said she finally discovered at least part of the answer. She was chatting with a married friend of hers who was actually helping her with the retreat and assumed her friend would soon be registering. To her surprise, her friend had no intention of going. And when asked for a reason she replied in a very straightforward manner, “stuff comes up and then we have to deal with it in our relationship.” The organizer was so stunned by the answer she didn’t know what to say. Isn’t that the point of retreats and conferences, marriage-related or otherwise? As crazy as the “stuff comes up” answer is, in a strange way it makes perfect sense. Speaking from personal experience, dealing with “stuff” is tough. It’s tough enough to deal with our own “stuff” on an individual level but even more daunting in a relationship. It took me and my husband years of effort, guidance from the Church and lots of prayer to heal our marriage. When we attended a few retreats, “stuff” indeed came up. Now we’re grateful because it enabled us to understand each other better and to strengthen our faith as well as our relationship. We all have lots of stuff. But unless we learn how to unload the burdens that may be weighing down our marriages, the loads will be too heavy to handle and we’re likely to sink into despair. So, if there’s a good marriage retreat being offered in your diocese, hop on board. Let Jesus and the Faith help you to not just get your head above water but to chart a different course that will lead to smoother sailing with God steering the ship. Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXM Channel 130.
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
The children’s educational program “Sesame Street” made national headlines in mid-March with its announcement that, beginning in April, new Muppet Julia would represent a young child with autism. For the 1 in 6 children diagnosed with a developmental disability — including autism — each year, and for their parents, this recognition and resource is no small thing. This is especially true in a society where the numbers of those with disabilities is on the rise. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of individuals with developmental disabilities increased 17.1 percent from 1997 to 2008. This includes a 289.5 percent increase in the prevalence of autism. While the Church has made progress over the years in developing a pastoral response to people with disabilities, it still has a way to go. Dioceses and parishes, faced with the very real burdens of lack of funding and training, are inconsistent in the programming and catechesis offered to people with disabilities. Though Catholic schools may welcome young people with disabilities, they often are strapped for resources to minister properly to them, especially compared to their public school counterparts. Leadership from the U.S. bishops, too, while present, has been uneven. The most comprehensive pastoral statement on persons with disabilities by the U.S. bishops was issued in 1978 and reaffirmed in 1998. (The bishops also released sacramental guidelines in 1995.) We, too, can do more. It is up to Catholics, individually and in parishes, to extend to persons with disabilities the love and mercy of Jesus. Very effective is the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), founded in 1982. It was this group that authored this week’s essay on autism (Page 7) and reminded each of us of what it means to truly welcome those persons with disabilities. In the essay, the authors make an important point about reaching out to those with disabilities when they juxtapose the concepts of “inclusion” and “belonging.” They are saying that how we treat the “other” — the one who is different from us — is not a matter of charity but of justice. Rather than extending our arms to include, as if we are the only arbiters of who matters, we do better to recognize the inherent belonging of all the baptized to the Body of Christ, regardless of ability. It’s a powerful and important distinction that extends to any person we may perceive as being different. Finally, no small matter can be made of the great courage, suffering and hard work that goes into both living with a disability and caring for those with a disability. In every way possible, persons with disabilities and their caretakers should be supported and encouraged by those in the Church. As we commemorate Jesus’ walk to Calvary this Holy Week, we are buoyed by the great grace that comes from his willingness to suffer selflessly for our salvation. Pope Francis last June reminded us of this paradoxical gift of suffering when it comes to those with disabilities. “It is thought that sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment,” he said. “In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis. Yet what an illusion it is when people today shut their eyes in the face of sickness and disability! They fail to understand the real meaning of life, which also has to do with accepting suffering and limitations.” May the rest of the Church continue to more deeply realize the authentic belonging of those with disabilities. Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
Jesus does not die a happy death. Having proclaimed the Passion this week, we know. We know about the sufferings that he enduredupon the cross. We know about the plot, made by a friend, to put him to death. But how often do we consider the loneliness of Jesus upon the cross? In the Gospel of Matthew, every disciple has gone missing. Every person has left. Peter, the one who proclaimed Jesus as Messiah, as Lord, as the Savior of the world, then denies him: “I do not know the man” (Mt 26:72). APRIL 9, 2017 PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION IS 50:4-7 PS 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24 PHIL 2:6-11 MT 26:14-27:66 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who asked for a privileged place in Jesus’ kingdom. Gone. The rabbled crowd, who longed for signs and wonders, are not present even though it was they who cried out, “Let him be crucified!” (Mt 27:22). Not one person who could be just was just. Not one person who could love did love: “…darkness came over the whole land” (Mt 27:45). Yet, all these moments of loneliness, of darkness, of desolation pale in comparison to the Son’s experience of abandonment by the Father. At his baptism in the river Jordan, the Father proclaims the belovedness of the Son. At his transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Father speaks, once again, reminding us to give our wills over to the beloved Son of the Father. But now as Jesus dies upon the cross, there is nothing but the solitary voice of the Word made flesh: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). Of course, we know that our Lord is quoting from Psalm 22. We know that this is a lament psalm that does not end with sorrow, with pain, but with hope. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. And we know the reason for hope. But on this Sunday, on this Passion Sunday, during this Holy Week, let’s not pass over the lament too quickly. Jesus Christ is the suffering servant, the one who emptied himself completely out of his love. On his body is laid the sins of the world, all the darkness that we human beings could throw at him. The darkness of a political order that didn’t care to be just. The darkness of his fellow Israelites, who did not recognize him. The darkness of his disciples who could not remain. The silence of the Father in the midst of the suffering of the Son is a sign of this darkness. Jesus takes on the fullness of the human condition. He knows the suffering of life and death, the bitter silence encountered by the just man who keeps the law out of love. If Jesus did not know the terrors of this silence, the sorrow of this sin, the pain of loneliness, he would not have taken up the fullness of the human condition. The full condition of the just, who love unto the end, but are rejected by an age grown cold. “And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Mt 27:51-53). Even now in the midst of suffering and death, loneliness and sorrow, God speaks a word. The Father has spoken the definitive word in his Son. The definitive word of love. The final word. “‘Truly, this was the son of God’” (Mt 27:54). Timothy P. O’Malley is the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
A dozen years ago, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger coined a memorable phrase. On April 18, 2005, preaching at a Mass just before the conclave of cardinals who’d gathered to choose a successor to the recently deceased Pope John Paul II, the Vatican’s doctrine chief warned of the spread of a worldwide “dictatorship of relativism.” The next day Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope. He took the name Benedict XVI. Many others have spoken of the dictatorship of relativism since then. That points to an obvious question: What is relativism? There are various kinds of relativism, and by no means are all of them bad. For example, there’s a relativism of size: 7 feet tall is very tall for a human being, very short for a giraffe. And a relativism of time: 30 minutes with a toothache are very long, but 30 minutes enjoying music can seem very short. Cardinal Ratzinger wasn’t referring to relativism like that. He meant moral relativism — the sort that’s expressed by people who, faced with deciding whether a particular action is right or wrong, avoid giving a straight answer by saying something like, “It all depends on what you believe,” or, “If you think it’s right, it’s right for you.” Cardinal Ratzinger on relativism Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,” seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires. We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An “adult” faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith — only faith — that creates unity and is fulfilled in love. Mass at the opening of the conclave, April 18, 2005 Relativism in culture As a general theory of morality, relativism operates on the assumption that no kind of action, no matter how heinous it may be, is always and everywhere wrong. At most, a consistent relativist can only say, “I can’t imagine circumstances in which I’d do that myself, but for somebody else ... it all depends.” Moral relativism comes in two versions — cultural relativism and individual relativism, sometimes called “subjectivism.” Cultural relativism is an offshoot of the anthropology of earlier times. Finding that some group or other had approved and practiced something like cannibalism or ritual prostitution, a cultural relativist of the old school could only say that if the people of a culture thought what they were doing was right, then it was right for them. But would this apply to the Nazis and their program for the extermination of Jews? From the perspective of cultural relativism, it’s hard to see why it wouldn’t. Be that as it may, contemporary anthropology now undermines cultural relativism. In every culture in every time and place, it seems, certain basic human goods have been recognized and cherished. These are goods like knowledge, friendship, play, religion, health and life. Obviously, different cultures have expressed their recognition of these goods in different ways. But the human goods have been recognized just the same. Confronted with that fact, the case for cultural relativism evaporates, although the confused thinking it encourages lingers on. Relativism has a large part in culture war disputes over things like abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. It’s widely believed to provide the necessary basis for the practice of tolerance in a ...
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
Question : Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It seems to me that, knowing man’s fallibility and knowing the impossibility of man being perfect, that perhaps Jesus was not saying “perfect” as we understand the word to mean. Could it mean “strive to be complete” or some such thing? — Michael Peerless , via email Answer : It is true, the Greek word here, τέλειοι (teleioi), speaks more of perfection in the sense of completion. Thus, we are to attain to a state of being complete, full grown or of full age. It also has the sense of “reaching the goal.” So we are not dealing with a merely moral perfection, but a completeness of character that is not merely absent of sin, but is possessed of all the virtues. Clearly this is more than a moral injunction for the moment but something attained by God’s grace in stages and accomplished fully only after a journey with the Lord. St. Paul speaks to this when he says, “And [the Lord] gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ …” (Eph 4:11-13). But we ought not consign the Lord’s words to a sort of flourish or exaggeration and see our perfection as impossible. No, this is our dignity and our future if we persevere to the end. The saints in heaven have attained to this by the Lord’s grace which has been accomplished in them already. To the degree that this seems impossible, it only seems so from the standpoint of human achievement unaided by grace. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord is setting forth a moral vision. He is describing the transformed human person. He is doing more than uttering moralisms or new duties, he is painting a picture of what happens to us when he lives his life in us through his indwelling Holy Spirit. You might say he is describing the normal Christian life, which is to be in a life-changing, transformative relationship with God. It is in this way that we attain, in stages to being perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. Thus being perfect isn’t just something we start doing today. It is something we grow into, until it is complete andis perfected in us. Priest participation Question : The new priest in our parish just stands there at the altar when we sing the acclamations such as the mystery of faith and the Great Amen, Lamb of God etc. The previous pastor sang loudly with us. Should he not participate more fervently in these acclamations? — Name withheld Answer : Actually, his stance is the correct one. The Liturgical directives indicate that the people proclaim the mystery of faith, the Great Amen, the conclusion to the Our Father and the Lamb of God. So, those are acclamations that belong to the congregation, not the priest. The priest is directed to say or sing the Sanctus and the “Lord I am not worthy” with the people. Since there are responses and acclamations that belong to the people, for the priest to say or sing them does harm to the dialogue and shared responsibility that is intended by the Liturgy. The priest should not look bored as the people respond. Rather he should reverently and prayerfully attend to the response of the people. Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org.
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
A little less than halfway through my pregnancy, a reader wrote me a delightful note saying something to the effect of, “Oh, the joys of being pregnant during Advent!” And she was right. When I was 20 weeks along, with my baby just starting to show and the flutterings of new life just beginning to be made known inside me, I found myself thinking often of the Blessed Mother, trying to align my wonderings with hers and to conform my appreciation of the miracle of life with her. It was a beautiful time and, the reader was absolutely correct, a complete joy. Since then, however, four months have passed, and I am beginning to be able to relate pregnancy with our current liturgical season of Lent. This isn’t to say that the wonderings and the appreciation are gone. Far from it. Every day I am awed by the growing miracle of life that is happening inside my body. It is a blessing and a gift, beyond any I could have ever imagined — even already. But I’m finding that the journey, now so close to being over, is less represented by gentle Advent wonderings and instead is more in tune with the Way of the Cross. I’m breathing a little heavier these days, unable to sing as loudly or as much as I usually like. Walking down the halls at work, sometimes I wish I had a scooter. Everything hurts a little more. Everything is a little harder to accomplish. Everything makes me that much more inclined to take a mid-afternoon nap. Even in trying not to grumble, I find myself doing a little extra whining these days. I feel especially bad about this given the fact that I am, in essence, a Lenten failure this year. My commitment to daily Mass has floundered, with my attendance at less than 50 percent. Since eating is my second job these days, I opted out of sacrificing any type of food this year (whether nourishing or not). My prayer life has been erratic and distracted. (“Hail Mary, full of grace, I should really get that hospital bag packed,” for example.) Enter my husband, for whom I am perpetually grateful. His commitment to Evening Prayer during Lent for the both of us has kept me somewhat focused — or at least somewhat attuned to the fact that, yes, we actually are in the season of Lent. Despite these failures, I suppose this means that there is an even greater opportunity for me to attempt to find holiness during Palm Sunday and Holy Week this year. To be able to align my insignificant aches and pains of this season of life with Jesus’ suffering on the cross is a great gift, one of which should be taken advantage. Our sacrifices are nothing compared to his. Suffering is never easy. It’s never what we would choose. But that’s why it’s so powerful. And it’s why the rewards are so great — be they sanctification, salvation or the miracle of welcoming new life into the world. For that, I’ll take the aches and pains any day. feedback@osv.com
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
Gender confusion Re: "How to talk to your kids about gender issues" (In Focus, March 12-28). Man and woman are created by God to honor and praise him. How does "transgender" fit into that equation? How can altering one's sex make one pleasing to God? God knows each and every one of us by our name. By changing one's body and name, does that make it right in the eyes of God? -- Craig Galik Duquesne , Pennsylvania Re: "Mother Frances Cabrini: An immigrant who shows us the way" (Faith, April 2-8). Having attended Catholic schools in the Bronx, New York, in the late 1940s, and later Hastings and New Rochelle (St. Jerome’s, St. Clare’s and Iona), I remember the stories — and the love and respect for Mother Cabrini. We were all descendants of immigrants, from Ireland, Italy, Germany and more — later from throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. Society worked to integrate people from Puerto Rico and African-Americans from the South. Now we are locked in a dilemma. How do we continue to welcome new people while preserving the core values that have allowed us to be the most welcoming and the most generous nation in the history of the world? It is too easy to castigate those of us who worry about open Southern borders and unrestricted immigration from the war-torn Middle East. Some of our schools are simply unable to cope with the influx of young people who speak no English and disregard our customs and conventions. Our family has sponsored immigrants, and we contribute to supportive charities. However, we find it too easy for many to imply that we need open doors to unrestricted immigration. The reality of a militant strain of Islam, the problems we see in Europe and the reality of terrorism must be dealt with — although I hear little about these from the pope and other Church leaders. We seem to forget about the idea of formulating policies which would create safety and peace in other parts of the world, thereby allowing people to stay in their native homelands. We need “safe zones” overseas and we need a rational military policy that deals with the cause of dislocation. We need balance. Thomas J. Fields Jr. , Springfield, Virginia Porn addiction Re: "Pornography: a growing public health crisis" ; (News Analysis, March 19-25). The articles about porn addiction have been good in that they show how destructive this disease is. But each article stops before giving any solution. But there is a solution. I am a Catholic priest, and I was addicted to sex from age 12 to 42. I was in despair for years because I could not find a priest who understood sex addiction or had any solution. Finally, I went to treatment for drug addiction and besides offering Alcoholics Anonymous I was introduced to Sexaholics Anonymous. I found hope at last. The program started in the 1980s. At this time I have 25 years of sexual sobriety. I am happy and free. Please let your readers know where they can find hope. — Name and location withheld Re: "Priest hits the street fishing for souls" (Faith, March 19-25). When I read of St. Joseph, Missouri, I recognized the birthplace of Pony Express and Walter Cronkite. Now, I can remember and pray for resident Father Lawrence Carney: visible contemplative-in-action Christ figure, fisherman of souls, bearer of Mary to the masses. And doesn’t he do as Pope Francis asks of his priests to “wear your shoes down” while exercising a reminder of Archbishop José Gomez that we are called to holiness — to heaven — and to bring as many people as possible along with us. Continued courage to you, Father Carney. — Bretta Ribbing , Manchester, Missouri Top-Viewed Articles The most popular stories on OSV.com this week included: 1. Charismatic renewal movement turns 50 (News Analysis, March 26-April 1) 2. Priest hits the street fishing for souls (Faith, March 19-25) 3. Health care debate draws Catholic voices (News Analysis, April 2-8) 4. Mid-Lent joy (Faith, March 26-April 1) 5. Young people are leaving the faith. Here';s why (In Focus, Aug. ...
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
Private prison companies have seen their fortunes rebound — six months after losing half their value on the stock market — thanks to a friendlier administration in the White House. But the increasing privatization of this aspect of the criminal justice system has generated renewed concern among Catholics. In August 2016, the two largest private prison companies, CoreCivic and GEO Group, lost $2.2 billion in stock market valuation, after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it would cease to house federal inmates in private prisons. The Department of Homeland Security also had announced it would review its policy of contracting with private prison companies. That changed with the election of President Donald Trump, who has voiced support for private prisons. In February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the course and announced the DOJ would not phase out the use of private prisons. Private prisons hold, as of 2015, around 7 percent of state inmates, or 91,300 people. For federal prisoners, 34,900 inmates, or 18 Intersection with immigration issues In May 2015, Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops partnered with the Center for Migration Studies of New York to author a report, which criticized the large role for-profit prisons play in detention of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border: An important element of oversight is access to information about the detention system by the press, service providers, faith-based organizations, human rights agencies and other NGOs. Yet one international study has decried the ‘shroud of commercial confidentiality that prevents proper public scrutiny and accountability of government-private sector contractual relationships and operations.’ ... In addition, private prison agencies have claimed immunity from and actively resisted coverage under freedom of information laws, compounding the challenge of accountability and oversight.” Bottom lines In recent decades, under pressure from overcrowding, as a result of stricter sentencing laws and increased imprisonment of low level offenders, states, beginning with Kentucky in 1986, turned to private prisons to house their inmates. Today, private prisons are located in 30 states, though they tend to thrive particularly in the South and West. New Mexico houses 43 percent of its inmates in private prisons, while Montana and Idaho use private prisons for 40 percent and 36 percent of inmates, respectively. Six states — Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas — supply over half the inmates held in private state prisons. The private prison industry also is heavily concentrated in a few companies. According to the Hamilton Project, a think tank within the Brookings Institute, the three largest firms, CoreCivic, GEO Group and MTC, furnish 96 percent of private prison beds. Marc Howard, a government professor at Georgetown University, told Our Sunday Visitor that private prisons began with “a very simple, appealing logic: why not have a company do it instead of the government, because companies are more efficient.” Alexander Volokh, associate law professor at Emory University, told OSV that private prisons still could do better than their public counterparts. “There is a lot of untapped potential in privatization,” he said. The cost savings have been difficult to prove, however: private prisons often can reject certain inmates, leading to a population that can be less troublesome and healthier than public prisons. While isolated studies have claimed savings up to 15 percent, most studies on the subject tend to the view that overall, private prisons have not produced significant cost-savings to taxpayers, compared to public prisons. Recidivism rates, perhaps the most important measure for society of a prison, have not been found to differ between public and private prisons. Demands of justice Aside from the negligible savings, there are significant arguments against the use of private prisons. ...
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
"Take time to heal your inner self through meditation. Give your mind a few moments of ‘nothingness’ each day. Concentrate on your breathing to achieve a state of relaxation and peacefulness.” After a long conference day — speaking and meeting readers and friends and supporters — my temptation was to see what Donald Trump event had everyone buzzin. But the note, flagged “meditation,” left by the room attendant was enough to prod an examination of conscience: What really is the best use of a few minutes of downtime? Recollection or MSNBC? While the note would not offend any “spiritual not religious” sensibilities, it did strike me as refreshingly countercultural. As traffic below whisked by the windows, even at a late hour, all into the night and early morning, the message was about slowing down and tuning out the noise. Slowing down may happen, but what do we do and what do we pour into ourselves as we do so? In his book, “ Contemplative Provocations ” (Ignatius, $17.95), Father Donald Haggerty, a New York archdiocesan priest who has spent extensive time with the Missionaries of Charity, writes about the “need for recollection as a prelude to prayer.” He says that it “contains a certain dilemma besides the difficulty of attaining it. It implies that a mental concentration is necessary if one is to pray. And so the demand to corral our wandering thoughts, to tie them down and keep them from breaching the enclosure of prayer. If we succeed in this effort, it is thought, we can presumably dwell on ‘spiritual things.’” The challenge, as always, is about love. “Attentiveness to God is desirable in prayer,” Father Haggerty writes. “But the attention we are to cultivate comes from love, not a mental discipline directed simply at thoughts. What we should seek is a recollection that surrenders us to someone entirely beyond our thought, a beloved who will never stop to rest for long within a particular thought.” In other words, it’s not about nothing, and it’s not about us, either, and our initiative or strategy. It’s about what God wants to do with the time we give. It’s about trusting God with our whole lives. It’s about letting him show us what he wants that to look like. Our challenge is the loving surrender to him to do with us as he wills. That “spiritual not religious” trend may just be an indictment of what we’re doing with our free time. How much of it is in adoration? How much of it is in self-giving? Do we convey joy, even while “off duty”? How “ All In ,” as Pat Gohn writes in the title of her recent book on faith are we, really? When Mother Angelica — whose eventual beatification Mass I’m looking forward to —died around this time last year, the Mass program for the Mass in Hanceville, Alabama, included, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). Is that happening? Is that what we’re giving ourselves over to? With every business trip and carpool — whatever it is we’re doing? Are we careful about what we pour into ourselves? Do we treat ourselves — one another — as the tabernacles he’s asked us to be? And do we take everything as a reminder that that’s who we are about — all in, all his? Are we beholding his glory wherever we are? With or without the rare explicit invitation, we must strive for a posture of being that is something more contemplative. Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
In his announcement of the Year of Paul on June 28, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said that Paul’s success as an apostle was not due to “refined apologetic and missionary strategies” of salesmanship or philosophical wrangling. Instead, the Holy Father essentially said that Paul’s achievement was due to his extraordinary personal involvement springing from his total dedication to Christ, despite all obstacles. In short, Paul really believed the Gospel. He acted exactly like a man who really had met the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus and was now perfectly convinced that Jesus had conquered death, forgiven his sins and laid upon him the charge to tell the world. Because he really believed, he was, in the words of Pope Benedict, willing to “pay in person for [his] fidelity to Christ in every circumstance.” Benedict knew this because he’s read Paul, who bluntly states: “When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive (words of) wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5). Paul no more felt equal to the task of evangelism than you or I do, and that is why he is such a good model of the Church of Mission. His secret was not a technique, philosophy or theory. It was that Paul believed that if he trusted in the Spirit of Jesus to provide the power and the wisdom, the Spirit would come through. Pope Francis on St. Paul How do we proclaim this Gospel of reconciliation after centuries of division? Paul himself helps us to find the way. He makes clear that reconciliation in Christ requires sacrifice. Jesus gave his life by dying for all. Similarly, ambassadors of reconciliation are called, in his name, to lay down their lives, to live no more for themselves but for Christ who died and was raised for them (see 2 Cor 5:14-15). As Jesus teaches, it is only when we lose our lives for love of him that we truly save them (see Lk 9:24). This was the revolution experienced by Paul, but it is, and always has been, the Christian revolution. We live no longer for ourselves, for our own interests and ‘image,’ but in the image of Christ, for him and following him, with his love and in his love Celebration of vespers on Jan. 25, 2017, the solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul What Paul knows Paul is a Christian rabbi relying on Tradition. Though he did not know Jesus during his earthly ministry, Paul knows Jesus is a Jew of David’s line (Rom 1:3); that John the Baptist was his forerunner and had disavowed any claim to his own messiahship (Acts 13:24-25); that his chief disciples were Peter, James and John (Gal 2:9); that he had predicted his return “like a thief” (1 Thes 5:4); that he had instituted the Eucharist (1 Cor 11:23-25); that he had been rejected by the Jewish leaders (1 Thes 2:15); was tried under Pontius Pilate (1 Tm 6:13); that he was crucified for us (Gal 3:1); laid in a tomb (Acts 13:29); raised from the dead and seen by many witnesses (1 Cor 15:3-8); and ascended to the right hand of the Father (Eph 4:9-10). How does he know all this? Because the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus makes clear to him that Christ the Head and his Body the Church are inseparable. That’s what “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” means. Everything Paul will preach from that day forward is an attempt to unpack the meaning of those seven words. This is crucial to understanding Paul’s work as a missionary — and ours. Paul doesn’t become an apostle by riding off into the sunset. He is sent when the Church, in obedience to the Spirit, lays hands on him — the gesture of ordination (see Acts 13). His mission is distinct from that of the other apostles but still in union with them. That is why ...
Posted: March 29, 2017, 4:00 am
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's threats to global peace and security must be countered through dialogue and development, not nuclear weapons, Pope Francis told the United Nations. "How sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples," the pope asked in a letter sent to a U.N. meeting on nuclear arms. "International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power," he said in the message, released by the Vatican March 28. The message was read aloud at the U.N. by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states. The pope's message was sent to Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards Their Total Elimination. The conference was being held at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 27-31, with a follow-up meeting June 15-July 7. A number of nations -- many of which already possess nuclear arms -- were boycotting the negotiations to ban such weapons. These included the United States, France, the United Kingdom and about 40 other nations. Some continue to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters in New York March 28 that it was the responsibility of leaders to keep their nations safe. "There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic," Haley said. "In this day and time, we can't honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them," she said. However, Pope Francis said in his message that the strategy of nuclear deterrence was not an effective response to today's threats to peace and security: terrorism, cybersecurity, environmental problems and poverty. "Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity," he said. The world needs "to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security," he said. The complete elimination of nuclear weapons is "a moral and humanitarian imperative" that should prompt people to reflect on "an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today." Making a total global ban possible will demand more dialogue, trust and cooperation. "This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests," he added. Humanity has the ability, freedom and intelligence to work together to "lead and direct technology, to place limits on our power, and to put all this at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral," he said.
Posted: March 28, 2017, 5:01 pm
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, who started a social enterprise in Los Angeles to help young people avert a life of gangs, drug abuse and street violence, will receive the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal. Father Boyle, 62, founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, will be honored during commencement ceremonies at the university May 21. "For nearly 30 years, Father Boyle has served men and women who have been incarcerated and involved with gangs, and, in doing so, has helped them to discover the strength and hope necessary to transform their lives," Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, university president, said in a statement. "Father Boyle's solidarity with our sisters and brothers at the margins of society offers an inspiring model of faith in action. We are grateful for the witness of his life and honored to bestow this award on him," Father Jenkins added. The Jesuit priest expressed gratitude for being named the recipient of the award after it was announced by the university on Laetare Sunday, March 26, the fourth Sunday of Lent. Homeboy Industries was started in 1988 in response to gang violence and the toll it was taking on young people in the community around Mission Dolores Parish in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, where Father Boyle was serving as pastor. Father Boyle, the parish and community leaders worked together to develop social enterprises and alternative opportunities for young people including an alternative school and day care program and seeking out legitimate employment. "At Homeboy, we try to hold up a mirror and say, 'Here's who you are. You're exactly what God had in mind when he made you. Then you have this moment with people when they become that truth," Father Boyle said in a statement from the university. Homeboy Industries has grown to become a worldwide gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program, annually working with 15,000 men and women. The university established the award in 1883 as an American counterpart of the Golden Rose, a papal honor that dates to before the 11the century. The medal has been awarded annually at the university to a Catholic "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrates the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity. Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises. The program also provides other therapeutic and educational services, tattoo removal and work readiness and job training. Past recipients of the award have included President John F. Kennedy, Dorothy Day, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Civil War Gen. William Rosecrans, labor activist Msgr. George G. Higgins and jazz composer Dave Brubeck.
Posted: March 28, 2017, 12:27 pm
CUERNAVACA, Mexico (CNS) -- An editorial in a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as "traitors" and called on authorities to castigate any company that provides services for fencing off the frontier. "What's regrettable is that on this side of the border, there are Mexicans ready to collaborate with a fanatical project that annihilates the good relationship between two nations that share a common border," said the March 26 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe. "Any company that plans to invest in the fanatic Trump's wall would be immoral, but above all, their shareholders and owner will be considered traitors to the homeland," the editorial continued. "Joining a project that is a grave affront to dignity is like shooting yourself in the foot." President Donald Trump ran on a promise of constructing a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed an executive order to begin building the barrier on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for any border wall. Security analysts say illegal merchandise mostly crosses through legal ports of entry and express doubts a wall would keep out drugs, as Trump insists. Catholics who work with migrants transiting the country en route to the United States express doubts, too, saying those crossing the frontier illegally mostly do so with the help of human smugglers, who presumably pay bribes on both sides of the border. Some Mexican companies have mused about working on the wall, though others such as Cemex -- whose share prices surged on speculation it would provide cement for the wall -- told the Los Angeles Times that it would not participate in the building of a border barrier. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has urged company officials to use their conscience when considering work on the wall, though the archdiocesan editorial said, "What is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government's economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies." Desde la Fe has previously blasted Trump's proposed policies. In September 2015, it called Trump "ignorant" and a "clown" and blasted Mexican government passivity in defending its migrants as "unpardonable." Father Hugo Valdemar, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, told Catholic News Service some conservative Catholics in Mexico viewed Trump's positions on pro-life issues favorably and were still angry the U.S. ambassador to Mexico marched in the annual pride parade. But he said he knew of no one in Mexico that openly supported the U.S. president. "What we see from him is an authentic threat and an unstable person," Father Valdemar said.
Posted: March 28, 2017, 12:05 pm
"Sesame Street" has done it again — helping children understand people and experiences that may be confusing or unfamiliar to them. Through Julia, a new Muppet with autism who joins the cast in April, children will learn that peers who act differently can still be a fun friend. Creating such awareness is key to what each of us longs for — acceptance and an appreciation of our gifts and uniqueness. We all owe a debt of gratitude to "Sesame Street" for helping future generations — and their parents and grandparents — learn this valuable lesson. New Muppet Julia provides an opportunity to embrace friendship, while learning that all people are different and some use diverse ways to communicate. This is a highly beneficial experience for a child with autism: to find support rather than negative reactions in his or her community when a trigger affects his or her behavior. Through Julia, “Sesame Street” is engaging with a reality of our daily lives by modeling effective approaches of both how to communicate with those living with autism and how to embrace them for who they are. As a parent of a child with autism, I was looking for these TV shows as my son was growing. I longed for his community to better be able to understand that no matter a child’s condition, he or she still wants to have friends. It is heartening that future generations will benefit from Julia and the new vision of people with autism that she will foster. As the puppeteer who plays Julia, herself a mother of a son with autism, explained on CBS’ “60 Minutes” episode introducing Julia, “It means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion ... it’s huge.” “Sesame Street” writer Christine Ferraro further explained that “it was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation they can meet her where she is.” These lessons are key as well for families and individuals with disabilities as they seek to live out their faith in Catholic environments throughout the United States. As children and adults with autism and other disabilities are being welcomed into faith formation, sacramental preparation programs, Catholic schools and parish ministries, they are forming friendships and experiencing a sense of belonging as members of the body of Christ. Regrettably, this ideal is not currently the reality in every parish, but it is the goal toward which many are striving. Increasingly, those involved in pastoral outreach to individuals with disabilities and their families are coming to understand and appreciate the distinction between a model of inclusion and that of belonging. Inclusion implies that a person is “let in” and allows those in power to exclude for any number of reasons, including budget or lack of resources. But approaching parish life from an understanding that each person belongs by virtue of their baptism, individuals are seen as valuable members rather than “problems to be solved.” Additionally, this evolving paradigm of disability ministry focuses on building relationships and fostering meaningful participation rather than creating programs that may unintentionally isolate the person. The Board of Directors of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) approved in November 2016 a brief statement prepared by its Council on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) that captures this shift: “The Church acknowledges that all persons belong by virtue of their baptism and that disability is an ordinary part of life. From this follows the responsibility of each parish to acknowledge the inherent dignity of each person and to provide access and full integration to individuals with disabilities. Therefore, each parish is called to provide access into all aspects of the communal life of the Church, engaging in relationship and offering appropriate supports. Thus, each person is empowered to achieve the fullest measure of personal ...
Posted: March 27, 2017, 4:00 pm
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