Our Sunday Visitor

The announcement sometimes comes in a diocesan newspaper article, the parish bulletin or a parish-wide email. Sometimes, word gets out through the rumor mill. News that a pastor is leaving and will soon be replaced by another priest can make for a stressful situation for any parish. The transition personally impacts the clergy, as well as the parish lay leaders and the faithful in the pews who may have gotten used to their pastor and now worry about what the next priest will be like. Will his personality mesh with the community? Will he be as good a homilist, or better? Will he work collaboratively with the parish ministry teams or take a more unilateral approach to leadership? Will he make changes right away? Will he embrace the traditions already established at the parish? Will he have the ability to engage the faithful members of the parish and bring in others from the community? “You pray and hope they’re dynamic and gifted as far as being a homilist and speaker. That can make or break you. If you can’t keep someone’s attention, that really is a downfall, quite frankly,” said Paul Gencarella Jr., a parishioner of St. Pius X Church in Westerly, Rhode Island. “You always have mixed emotions, because you don’t know how the new pastor will be, what changes he will do or what kind of personality he has,” said Delta Santa Teresa, a parishioner of St. Peter and St. Denis Church in Yonkers, New York. Teresa’s parish underwent a pastor transition three years ago. She said the new pastor, Father Jose Felix Ortega, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, took a measured approach when he arrived at the parish. He met with parishioners, attended meetings and just listened to people instead of looking to make dramatic changes. “The new pastors should see first if things are working right,” said Teresa, a parish trustee. “But, at the same time, we can’t remain stagnant. If you get a young, vibrant priest, of course he’s going to want to make changes. I want to give them a chance. If they want to change something, I’m open to it, even though I’m from the old generation.” Father Ortega told Our Sunday Visitor the most important thing he could do early on to make the transition as smooth as possible was to be a good listener. “You don’t arrive to the place thinking you’re the supernova and that you’re going to change the world or save the world,” he said. Why change is needed Diocesan bishops, with help from their presbyteral councils, decide to move pastors for several reasons. Most pastors are assigned to a six-year term of office. Though bishops can decide to renew those terms and allow priests to serve longer in those roles, in most cases the pastor will be on the move after his six years are up. The pastor’s talents and his skill set may be needed elsewhere in the diocese, or perhaps he has received a new full-time assignment in the chancery. Sometimes, a move is necessary because the pastor is a poor match for the parish and does not get along with his parishioners. Demographic changes, such as when a parish becomes overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking, may necessitate a move if the priest cannot communicate with the changing faces in the pews. In some circumstances the priest may have requested a change of assignment or may have personal or health problems that require a change of scenery. Or, like in professional athletics when a coach has to move on, the parish may feel that the pastor’s work has run its course and a fresh, new perspective would be healthy for all involved. “The frequency of change differs from diocese to diocese, and it is dependent on pastoral situations, how many parishes need to be staffed and how many priests are available,” said Claire Henning, executive director at Parish Catalyst, a California-based nonprofit organization that provides support to parishes and priests to create vibrant Catholic parishes. Henning told OSV that pastors are sometimes moved to a new parish to “clean up” irregularities or when the ...
Posted: May 28, 2017, 4:00 am
Some priests who have moved from one parish assignment to another have a joking rule of thumb for new pastors: Change nothing the first year but your socks. “It can be stressful because you don’t know what you’re getting into,” said Father Jose Felix Ortega, a Legionaires of Christ priest who became pastor in 2014 of St. Peter and St. Denis Church in Yonkers, New York. Incoming pastors such as Father Ortega have to navigate a new parish community where some of the faithful are happy that the old pastor is gone, while others in the pews are angry or worried about what the new pastor is going to do and what changes he might bring. A pastor may be surprised and saddened to learn that what endeared him to one parish may alienate him in another. Some parishioners will inevitably be displeased and even move to a new parish. The new pastor cannot please everyone. “The most important thing is to listen,” Father Ortega said. “You need to listen to the people. That’s really what we’re supposed to do as pastors.” ‘Team players’ While new pastors have to reassure worried parishioners that they have good intentions, they also are going through a difficult time themselves. Prayer for Priests Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests. Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of your divine grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen. Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “For me, in my 27 years of being a priest, I’d say the hardest thing that a priest has to do is transfer, to go from one parish to the next. It’s like losing your wife and your kids all on the same day, because your parish is your family,” said Father Dan Swift, who in July 2015 became pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Church in Medford, New Jersey. Father Swift, who is pastoring his third parish, told OSV that after one parish transfer, he was with his family and felt a little envy of his married siblings for the stability they had in their family lives. His bishop told him about the move a year and a half ahead of time to prepare, but change is still hard. “It can be exciting, but for people who are tried and true in their ways, it might be a little more difficult,” said Father Swift, who credits patience “on both sides,” preparation and honest communication with helping him settle into his current parish. The change can be difficult, but he accepts it as part of his priestly vocation. “We need to be team players,” Father Swift said. “The bishop is going to move you only because he needs to move you, and this is where he needs you to be for the greater good, for the People of God.” ‘Learning curve’ Sometimes, an incoming pastor cannot afford to keep a low profile for too long. Father John O’Brien became pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, in June 2015, when the community was still roiling from the August 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Father O’Brien told OSV that one of the first things he did after arriving at the parish was to invite religious leaders from Ferguson and the St. Louis area for an ecumenical gathering on the one-year anniversary of Brown’s death to focus on forgiveness and reconciliation. “It was a sharp learning curve,” said Father O’Brien, who is in his first assignment as a pastor. He said the one-year acclimation period is good advice for any new pastor. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . “I think it takes a full year to understand the rhythm of the parish, to get to know the structures, the different ministries of the parish, what the ...
Posted: May 28, 2017, 4:00 am
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- As Precious Mayfield and Froylan Avila awaited the arrival of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at their school May 23, the two students talked about the impact that Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis has had on them and their families. The two teenagers will both be the first in their families to go to college. "It makes me feel very accomplished that I can fulfill the dreams that my family has," said Mayfield, who is 17. Standing nearby, 19-year-old Avila said, "Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and you work hard." Moments later, Mayfield and Avila were among a group of students who were welcoming and shaking hands with a smiling DeVos as she entered the school that combines a work-study program and a college preparatory education for students from low-income families. It's a model that has led all 46 students in the school's class of 2017 to be accepted into college. It's also a model that intrigued DeVos so much that she made a special visit to Providence Cristo Rey as part of her two-day trip to Indianapolis. On May 22, the secretary of education arrived in Indiana's capital to address the national policy summit of the American Federation for Children, a national advocacy organization for school choice that she once served as chairperson. During the summit, DeVos noted that President Donald Trump is "proposing the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation's history." While she didn't offer details of the president's plan, she did add, "If a state doesn't want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part. They will be hurting the children and families who can least afford it." About 34,000 students in Indiana attend private schools through the state's school choice program. About 8,000 of the 24,000 students who attend the 69 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis are there because of school choice. And 97 percent of the 255 students at Providence Cristo Rey are there through Indiana's voucher program. DeVos came to Providence Cristo Rey as the high school marks its 10th year of existence. She met with students, staff and stakeholders of the private school. According to people who were there for her meeting with stakeholders of the school, DeVos said she admired the approach of the school and wanted to learn more about the national network of 32 Cristo Rey Catholic schools that has about 11,000 students across the country. During that meeting, DeVos heard from Jane Genster, president and chief executive officer of the Cristo Rey national network of schools. "We are honored that the secretary of education wants to come to our schools and see what we're doing," Genster said after the meeting. "Our schools are deeply connected with their communities through the work-study program. That sense of community is a very Catholic quality." Providence Sister Dawn Tomaszewski also spoke. The superior general of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods told the secretary that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis had come to the Providence sisters for help in establishing the school. "We knew we could make an impact on the lives of children who are economically challenged," Sister Dawn said. "They're learning about God, and they have hope, and they have faith." DeVos also heard from Montanea Daniels, a member of the first graduating class of Providence Cristo Rey, who is now a member of the school's board of directors and a biologist for Eli Lilly & Co., in Indianapolis. "This school changed my life," Daniels said. That theme echoed through DeVos' visit to Providence Cristo Rey. When school president Joseph Heidt and school principal Brian Dinkins led her on a tour of the school, they stopped in a science class. After observing a lesson, DeVos asked the students if any of them wanted to talk about their experience at the school. Three did, offering such glowing praise that Dinkins joked that he would have to buy them lunch. ...
Posted: May 26, 2017, 5:07 pm
CAIRO (CNS) -- Masked assailants attacked a bus carrying Coptic Orthodox Christians on the way to St. Samuel Monastery in southern Egypt, killing at least 26 people, many of them children, according to the country's Interior Ministry. "It is too early to say who is behind it, but certainly terrorists, and the security forces are now scanning the area" to find the culprits, Tarek Attia, Interior Ministry official, told Sky News Arabia, an Arabic-language television station, May 26. He said three cars carrying the masked gunmen had attacked the bus at roughly 10:30 a.m. in the southern governorate of Minya, a traditional stronghold of Egypt's Christian community, which accounts for a tiny percent of the country's mostly Sunni Muslim population. At the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, expressing Pope Francis' prayers and solidarity after the "barbaric attack." "Mindful in a particular way of those children who have lost their lives, His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty. He assures their grieving families and all who have been injured of his ardent prayers, and he pledges his continued intercession for peace and reconciliation throughout the nation," the telegram said. The attack marked the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Coptic Christians, whose church was founded by St. Mark the Apostle in the first century, and whose community represents the largest of the Middle East's Christian minorities. On April 9, two suicide bombers attacked St. George's Cathedral in Egypt's northern city of Tanta and St. Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. Those attacks killed and maimed dozens in what was the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt's recent history. A nationwide state of emergency has been in place since. In a widely publicized visit to Egypt soon after the April attacks, Pope Francis addressed the terrorist violence carried out in the name of a fundamentalist reading of Islam. Pope Francis frequently has said there are more Christians being martyred today than during the persecutions of the church in the early centuries of Christianity. And, using the term "ecumenism of blood," he has noted how Christians divided into churches and denominations are united in mourning for their members killed not because they are Orthodox or Catholic, but simply because they are Christian. The pope paid tribute to the Coptic Orthodox Church's modern martyrs, praying before a memorial in Cairo marking the place where 29 people were killed and 31 wounded in December by a suicide bomber. He told Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, "Your sufferings are also our sufferings." After Friday's attack, the Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement saying, "We extend our condolences to all the affected families and are suffering with the entire country due to this evil and violence." "We hope for the necessary procedures to prevent these kinds of attacks, which degrade the image of Egypt and cause so much suffering to Egyptians," the statement said. Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria sent condolences to Pope Tawardros and "all families of all the martyrs," reported the Egyptian paper, Al Masry al Youm. Ashraf Sultan, Egyptian parliament spokesman, told Sky News Arabia, "This is an attack on the entire society and affects us all." And Egypt's top authority on Islam, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, said that "such attacks can never satisfy a Muslim or a Christian." An Interior Ministry statement said unknown assailants driving three four-wheel-drive vehicles had attacked by "randomly shooting" the bus carrying the Copts, and that an official count of the final toll was underway. Local media showed grainy images of bloody bodies strewn on sandy ground, indicating many of the slain had fled the bus trying to escape the assailants' bullets. Later, the media ...
Posted: May 26, 2017, 3:39 pm
MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Gunmen claiming to have links with the Islamic State group threatened to kill hostages, including a Catholic priest, who were taken from the southern Philippine city of Marawi May 23. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao late May 23, but ucanews.com reported that many, including church leaders, characterized the imposition of martial law as an overreaction. As of early morning May 25, nothing had been heard of the whereabouts of the priest and the prelature's staff and some churchgoers who were taken captive. Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato appealed to Muslim religious leaders to intercede with the gunmen, who claimed to be Muslims, for the safety of the hostages who were reportedly used as "human shields" when the militants attacked the city. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippine bishops' conference, said the terrorists "have threatened to kill the hostages if government forces pitted against them are not recalled." "As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration," he added. Initial reports received by ucanews.com said Father Teresito Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, and several staff of St. Mary's Cathedral, which was set on fire, were taken hostage. The gunmen also forced their way into the residence of Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi. Bishop de la Pena confirmed reports that the attackers took Father Suganob, several of the prelature's staff, and some churchgoers. He said he received a call from "a member of Islamic State" who used his kidnapped secretary's phone and demanded a "unilateral cease-fire" in exchange for the life of the priest and the other hostages. "They want a cease-fire and for the military to give them access out of Marawi," said Bishop de la Pena. "Otherwise they will kill the hostages." In a statement on his Facebook page, Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle told the people of Marawi that no words could express the "shock, confusion, and sadness for what happened." Sending solidarity and prayers from the Archdiocese of Manila, the cardinal asked why anyone would hurt their neighbor. "We weep for you, for all Filipinos, and everyone in the world (whose) lives (are) ruined because of the violence," he said. "O God, forgive our contempt for life and human dignity." Archbishop Villegas said Father Suganob was performing priestly duties at the time of his capture. "He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict," said Archbishop Villegas. Fighters of the Maute group, which has vowed allegiance to the Islamic State, also burned several buildings, including the cathedral, a Protestant school and the city's jail. The bishop said the gunmen used the hostages as "human shields" as fighting continued with security forces May 24. In Marawi, the military confirmed that five soldiers were killed and 31 others injured in the attack on the city. At least two policemen were also reported killed. Philippine authorities refuse to release the number of casualties and fatalities as "clearing operations" continued. Duterte placed all of Mindanao's 27 provinces and 33 cities, roughly a third of the country, under martial law for a period of 60 days. Mindanao is home to an estimated 20 million people. Duterte warned that the martial law in Mindanao "will not be any different" from the martial law declared by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. "I'll be harsh," said Duterte. "I have to do it to preserve the Republic of the Philippines," he said, even as he assured Filipinos "not to be too scared." Ucanews.com reported that religious leaders and civil society groups, however, said there was no need for Duterte to put Mindanao under military rule. Filipinos have been wary of martial law since it was used by ...
Posted: May 25, 2017, 6:39 pm
UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- Migration should be "a choice rather than something forced or involuntary," said Philippine Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations. For that to happen, he cautioned, the "right to remain" must be respected. Archbishop Auza said a proposed U.N. global compact on migration must give the right to remain a higher priority than the right to emigrate. The archbishop made his remarks May 22 as part of a panel on human-made crises as drivers of migration. The panel was a side event taking place during U.N. preparations for the compact he was addressing. "There is no worse human-made crisis that drives people forcibly to migrate or internally displaces populations than wars and violent conflicts. More than half of the world's refugees, forced migrants and internally displaced persons have been forced to abandon their homes and properties and, indeed, to flee their countries, because of conflicts and violence, the tremendous negative impact of which continues in the odyssey of the victims," Archbishop Auza said. "They face the dangers of trafficking in persons, starvation and many forms of abuse. Upon arriving at their destination, rather than finding a safe haven, in many places they find mistrust, suspicion, discrimination, extreme nationalism, racism and a lack of clear policies regulating their acceptance. Clearly, the most effective way to stop massive movements of forced migrants and refugees is to stop the wars and violent conflicts that cause them." Archbishop Auza also outlined other factors he said are "major drivers of migration," such as "extreme poverty, the lack of basic goods and services, and severe environmental degradation and disasters." "Helping distressed populations where they are, rather than procrastinating and hoping for the best," he said, "is the most effective way to prevent their becoming involuntary migrants. It could also be the most cost effective way to help them and to spare them from all forms of exploitation." He added, " When vulnerable individuals and populations are forced to move, human rights abuses and sexual-related violence against women and children become all too common; families are separated; many are forcefully detained upon arrival or fall victim to human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. While they are in transit and especially when they arrive in their countries of destination, "forced migrants are often perceived as taking advantage of host communities, rather than hapless peoples who deserve assistance and human sympathy," the archbishop said. The Vatican "continues to insist on the right of all to remain in their countries in peace and economic security," Archbishop Auza said. "If conditions for a decent life are met and the drivers of migration are adequately addressed, people would not feel forced to leave their homes." He added, "The migrants who are massively crossing international borders, the forced migrants in search of safety and protection, and the many millions more internally displaced persons look to us for hope and action." The side conference hosted by the Vatican's U.N. observer mission had as its theme "Ensuring the Right of All to Remain in Dignity, Peace and Security in Their Countries of Origin." It was co-sponsored by the International Catholic Migration Commission, Caritas Internationalis and the Center for Migration Studies. Among the speakers were Msgr. Robert Vitillo, secretary-general of the International Catholic Migration Commission and former executive director of the U.S. bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development; Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, who is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary for migrants and refugees at the Vatican's new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; and a Syrian refugee recently ...
Posted: May 25, 2017, 6:22 pm
It came in a nondescript box, part of an online order my daughter made using her allowance. I didn’t expect it to be anything other than one more piece of junk that I’d step on and throw away eventually. If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit that I had no idea what it was that she ordered along with a Lego set. It was under $3, after all, and she had the money. As it happens, I was spared the worst kind of trauma and disorder, because what she ordered was a fidget cube and not a fidget spinner. God, in his mercy, knew the limits of what I could endure. In case you live in a world with grown-ups and are protected from the horrors and irritations that gadgets like this can produce, let me explain what a fidget spinner is. It’s something you fidget with. Gone are the days when a chewed up pencil or an old pen will do. Though I have it on good authority (and based on my own school-supply purchases for my brood) that school still, in fact, uses writing utensils, the new model of fidgeting assistant has a double-digit price tag and only one use. You sit and spin them in your hands. At the risk of sounding like my 90-year-old grandmother, can’t you do that with your pen? However, as I was diatribing to myself about this very fact, I found a perspective that stopped me in my tracks. Because this fad — and that’s what it is — comes at a cost. Fidgeting is something we all do, right? But for some people — especially many on the autism spectrum — it is a form of therapy and a way of dealing with the world. Now it’s gone mainstream. And the cost of that for those who actually need it? They get what helps them taken away. Banned, in fact, from many classrooms. I’ve long been a listener to Heather Ordover’s excellent CraftLit podcast, and in the last few years, she’s been exploring the concept of cognitive anchoring. She began her podcast as a way of giving knitters a way to read classic books while their hands were busy. Confession: I don’t knit. Never have. Don’t ever plan to. But I do dishes and laundry and drive. I have plenty to keep my hands busy, and I love a book in my ears. Turns out I’m not the only one. But let’s take it a step further. Have you ever known someone who doodles during a meeting? Ordover defines cognitive anchoring as anything your hands can do automatically to help your brain “attend to phone calls, conference calls, or on-the-dull-side meetings.” Seems to me that fidget spinners could well fit into that category, however annoying they may be to the rest of the world. I’ve made a firm resolution, though, that no fidget spinner shall ruin my domestic bliss until we sit and spin through a Rosary. After all, that devotion understood the value of anchors centuries before our culture figured it out. The rosary’s been my prayer fidget spinner since I sat on a mattress in my apartment learning it as I journeyed into the Catholic Church. In fact, as I explain it to non-Catholics — starting years ago with my own family of origin — I tell them it’s a way to keep your brain busy so your mind can turn to God. The Hail Marys are my path to shutting up the constant to-do voice in my head, blocking out the busywork distractions I can’t help but have. When I truly succeed (about once a year), I find that I am keeping the hamsters busy running around in circles and paying attention in a way I rarely do these days. It’s not that I’m seeking silence (though I am), it’s that I’m finding rest. It’s not that I’m looking for a break (though I’d like one), it’s that I’m given peace. It’s not that I suffer less (though I can’t help but wish), it’s that I’m able to accept more easily what’s given to me. We can’t help but look for something to keep ourselves busy. We’re tethered in a world of constant contact, ongoing communication and never-ending noise, yet we’re still looking for something to anchor us. We really don’t need to look any farther than Mary, who will lead us right to the Anchor we need. Sarah Reinhard writes from Ohio. She ...
Posted: May 25, 2017, 4:00 am
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 24, and as the president left, he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said." The atmosphere at the beginning was formal and a bit stiff. However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband "potica," a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland. There were smiles all around. Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump is "a symbol of peace." Speaking in Spanish, the pope told Trump, "I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace." The president responded, "We can use peace." Pope Francis also gave the president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017 and told him, "I signed it personally for you." In addition, he gave Trump copies of three of his documents: "The Joy of the Gospel"; "Amoris Laetitia," on the family; and "Laudato Si,'" on the environment. Knowing that Pope Francis frequently has quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump presented Pope Francis with a large gift box containing five of the slain civil rights leader's books, including a signed copy of "The Strength to Love." "I think you will enjoy them," Trump told the pope. "I hope you do." After meeting the pope, Trump went downstairs to meet Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister. He was accompanied by Rex Tillerson, U.S. secretary of state, and H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. The meeting lasted 50 minutes. Tillerson later told reporters that climate change did not come up in the meeting with the pope, but that U.S. officials had "a good exchange on the climate change issue" with Cardinal Parolin. "The cardinal was expressing their view that they think it's an important issue," Tillerson said. "I think they were encouraging continued participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange (on) the difficulty of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy." Asked how Trump responded to Cardinal Parolin's encouragement to stick with the Paris climate agreement, Tillerson said: "The president indicated we're still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister (Paolo) Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It's an opportunity to hear from people. We're developing our own recommendation on that. So it'll be something that will probably be decided after we get home." Tillerson also told reporters he did not know what Trump meant when he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said." The Vatican described the president's meetings with both the pope and with top Vatican diplomats as consisting of "cordial discussions," with both sides appreciating "the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience." "It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican said. The discussions also included "an exchange of views" on international affairs and on "the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities." Because of the pope's weekly general audience, Pope Francis and Trump met at 8:30 a.m., an unusually early ...
Posted: May 24, 2017, 12:08 pm
This is the second in a six-part series exploring the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, 100 years ago. Future installments will run the first issue of every month through October. The theme of prayer is central to the Fatima apparitions, and, indeed, a variety of prayers arose from the supernatural visions received by the three shepherd children. Several of those prayers are now a treasured portion of many of the faithful’s prayer life. It’s noteworthy in this Fatima centenary year to take a look at aspects of the Faith that some of these prayers emphasize as well as what some of these prayers teach us. The Pardon Prayer In the prefatory visits of the angel at Fatima, several prayers were taught to the shepherd children, the first of which is the Pardon Prayer: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love thee! I beg pardon for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love thee.” Fatima Series Part 1: An enduring message of peace Part 2: Praying with apparitions The prayer fosters an expression of the three theological virtues — faith, hope and charity. These virtues “dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1812). This prayer at the onset of the Fatima apparitions indicates our desire to advance in our participation of the divine life. While these apparitions add nothing new to the Faith, Fatima can offer much assistance in our Christian journey. As Pope Benedict XVI noted during a 2010 visit to Fatima, the “Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the love of God burning in her own heart.” The context of the prayer also is helpful for our consideration. Fatima’s apparitions came as many nations were engaged in World War I — the result of a lack of recognition of God’s love in the hearts of many. Mary’s message is in continuity with the message of all of Scripture: When we allow God’s love in our hearts, God blesses us. The Decade Prayer The Decade Prayer, called such because Our Lady instructed its recitation at the end of each decade of the Rosary after the Glory Be, is very much part of the lexicon of Catholic prayers today. The Blessed Mother proposed its use after the children received a vision of hell during her third apparition at Fatima on July 13, 1917. That vision and this prayer can be said to focus on two realities: love of God and love of neighbor. After all, these two themes are at the heart of her Son’s teaching, in the greatest commandment (see Mt 22:34-40, Mk 12:28-34, Lk 10:25-28). Legitimate love for God stirs within our hearts a true sorrow for those times we have damaged our relationship with him through sin. Likewise, our love for God leads us to love our neighbor, which is possible only when we truly want their good and take the initiative to help procure it. The greatest love we can have for our neighbor — the greatest good we can desire for them — is the gift of eternal life. In many ways the Decade Prayer is an expression of the greatest commandment. It leads us to desire holiness more than anything else for ourselves and others. And this desire must be met resolutely with rejection of the devil and his attempts to lure us from God. The Rosary Although the Rosary had been in use for more than a millennium, it is the one prayer that Mary spoke about at each of the six apparitions to the shepherd children at Fatima. On May 13, at the first apparition, Our Lady asked that the children devote their lives to the Blessed Trinity. She then requested them to “pray the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war,” a request she renewed at each apparition. This request presents several noteworthy observations. First, why the Rosary? Recall that Mary is speaking to little children with little education. Her apparition to them is iconic of the reality that the Gospel is offered to all people, regardless of their academic abilities. ...
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
On bus rides to and from public school in eastern Tennessee, a young Timothy P. O’Malley would scour the Catechism of the Catholic Church to pass the time. Growing up where less than 2 percent of the population was Catholic, O’Malley became interested at a young age in explaining the Church to his peers. “People began to ask me, ‘What do you believe?’ and ‘What’s your faith?’” he told Our Sunday Visitor. “All my friends were Protestant, asking me questions, and I didn’t know any of the answers.” His reading inspired a lifelong thirst for theological study, which led to degrees from the University of Notre Dame. Now the author of the newly published book from OSV, “Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life,” O’Malley wants to reignite an appreciation in Catholics who may have short attention spans at Mass or find the rituals repetitive and dull. Outgrowing a kid’s faith Hired in 2010 to direct Notre Dame’s Center for Liturgy, O’Malley said the book emerged from day-to-day interactions as a theology instructor. “For years, my students have told me that they’re bored at Mass,” he said. Many of them come from parishes with active youth ministry programs, where the kids felt fed and uplifted. But in college, they feel less enthusiastic and worry their faith lives are receding. “What people understood by ‘active practice of Faith,’ especially young adults,” he said, “was that faith was supposed to be exciting all the time; you were supposed to be perpetually entertained.” His book evolved via courses he’s taught and lectures he’s given. It unfolds the mystery of the Mass. He breaks it down chronologically and digs into Tradition, Scripture and the Doctors of the Church. He reveals the poignancy behind the words and actions of the Mass. Questions and prayers at the end of each chapter make the book easily accessible to study groups, book clubs and personal use. Enter a mystery of love O’Malley wants people to study the Mass the way that they’d study the Bible. “I wanted a slow meditation upon every dimension of it. I could see someone using the book and doing a chapter every Sunday before Mass.” He’s a father of two, and he uses gentle humor and pulls from parenting experiences for illustration. Similar to family life, he says, the day-to-day of Catholicism isn’t glamorous; it can be a rather mundane business that, nevertheless, leads to a life in Christ. “The act of sacrifice is actually when you don’t feel something but you do it out of love instead,” he said, using the example of his son’s stomach issues in the middle of the night. Timothy O'Malley on the importance of boredom during the celebration of the Mass (Taken from Page 9) Boredom at Mass is not something that should be eliminated. The moment in which we find ourselves bored while listening to the readings and the homily, bored while hearing the same Eucharistic Prayer offered once again, and bored while singing this same hymn we chant every Advent, is also the moment in which we are invited to participate more fully in the love of God poured out in Christ. To let our minds be distracted by the way that incense fractures the colored light, revealing the beauty of a beautiful God, or to let our imaginations wander during the homily, may be less a matter of frittering away the time and more a moment in which God’s voice speaks in the stillness of our hearts. To lose our attention during the praying of the Eucharistic Prayer and find ourselves fascinated by the crucifix is not something that should be stopped but is instead our own particular way of participating in the mass this day. For Catholics, fruitful participation in the Mass requires this ability to let the mind wander and wonder alike. Our rejection of the state of boredom, therefore, makes it quite possible that full, conscious, and active participation in the Mass is actually made more difficult; for it is saving boredom that gives rise to wondrous contemplation of the Eucharistic love of Christ. ...
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
Conversion of the heart can combat today’s relativism Re: “Seek to escape the dictatorship of relativism” (News Analysis, April 9-15). Russell Shaw’s excellent essay calls to mind the words of George MacDonald: “To give truth to him who loves it not is but to give him more multiplied reasons for misinterpretation.” The root of relativism most often is not ignorance but rejection of the truth, because the truth humbles us and requires change. In a contest between head and heart, the heart usually wins — and then creates its own reasons. Even most Christians will not long deny themselves or make lasting changes merely for what they know is right. But we willingly suffer and even give our lives for someone we love. To combat relativism on the level of reason is absolutely necessary, but it is not sufficient. The Law (i.e., moral knowledge and discipline) can instruct us and may even restrain evil for a time, but it can never, by itself, purify our motives or empower us to love God and to do his will. We must aim at nothing less than conversion of heart: a supernatural transformation of our inner being that turns us from self-centered bondage to freedom and joy in Christ, to a love that delights to do his will. Only grace from God, through the proclamation of the cross and resurrection of Christ, can accomplish this miracle. — Margret Meyer, Jacksonville, Florida Faith and grief Re: “5 steps for coping with the loss of a loved one” (Faith, May 28-June 3). I often wonder how people overcome their grief without having faith. Like Colleen M. Arnold’s husband, who died of cancer, my wife also had cancer. My wife and I both prayed a lot in the three years she was aware of her disease as both of us prepared for her death. I am so happy that my faith was strong during this period. I would like to thank Colleen for her article. Someone gave me the book she refers to (“Healing After Loss” by Martha Whitmore Hickman), and I read it every day and hope that if you have lost someone you love, you get it. If I were to add anything to her article that helped me in the nearly two years since my wife died, I would say learn as much as you can about purgatory. If you Google it, you will see Susan Tassone’s name. By praying for your loved one(s), you will heal that much quicker. — George Alexa , via online comment Church membership Re: “What does it mean to belong to the Church?” (In Focus, May 21-27). I am a longtime reader of OSV. I truly enjoy each week receiving and poring over each article. I was fascinated but also a bit saddened by the article on belonging to the Church. I absolutely love facts, statistics and the like, but one clearly stood out to me: the fact that there are more than 74.2 million Catholics in the U.S. but only 22 percent go to Mass weekly. Even more troubling is the statistic that only 3 percent go to confession once a month or more. If you do not go regularly, and it is not because of being homebound, etc., then truly you are not Catholic. And relating to the second statistic, full disclosure, I go to confession at least once per month, usually more. Am I more sinful? Perhaps, but perhaps also I am more cognizant of being in need of the mercy of God and that I know I cannot forgive myself unless I receive God’s mercy. Do professed Catholics really not sin? Impossible. We all fall short of the glory of God. We all need God’s mercy. Why do so many of us not avail ourselves in this sacrament? I think it is pride, and pride is the mother of all sins. — Jeffrey McDaniel , Jacksonville, Florida Corrections In the May 28-June 3 issue, the story “Church aids people hit by Africa famine” incorrectly noted that two children of CRS staffers died from famine. They died from cholera. The secondary headline of the article “‘The Dating Project’ takes on hook-up culture” incorrectly stated the film was from Paulist Press. It is from Paulist Productions, as was noted in the body of the article. We apologize for these errors. Top-Viewed ...
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
“I was hoping that we would have a cathedral today full of people who disagreed with the Church’s teaching about immigration. But I don’t think that’s the case.” These were the words of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at a March 19 prayer service for justice for immigrants. His awareness of the potential for dissent is a worthwhile one as the Church takes on this or any neuralgic cultural issue. Sometimes even our own people require some persuading. When he spoke to Our Sunday Visitor in February, following the first surge of immigration measures implemented under the Trump administration, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, noted that “the Church must raise the moral questions.” This observation contains great wisdom about the role of the Church in shaping any discourse, public or private. That discourse is so often cluttered with staid policy prescriptions, well-worn slogans from one of two increasingly hostile and mutually exclusive ideologic tribes. Almost worse than being ignored is when the Church’s prophetic witness to the morality and importance of an issue is conflated with support for a political program outright or seen merely as “taking sides.” In the upcoming July issue of The Priest Magazine, OSV contributor Barry Hudock reflects at length on the value of values, of preachers appealing to virtue in an effort to foster deeper conversion. His words hold up the insights of Dominican Father Charles Bouchard: “One effective way of both reducing the likelihood of conflict and staying true to the nature of a homily is to keep in mind that most of the principles of Catholic social teaching can be understood as virtues, and to preach on them that way. This, Bouchard says, means approaching them as principles of Christian life, not policy proposals, which goes a long way toward ‘de-politicizing’ the issue.” The Church’s witness done right connects people’s minds and hearts with the deeper good, the virtues that should underpin all we say and do. Before we delve into the utility of this policy proposal or that, let’s ask: Is it informed by an underlying set of virtues that reflect the abundant generosity of a merciful God, or is it laced with narratives of scarcity, alienation or fear? These are foundational concepts, ones we often breeze past as we settle for the business (or politics) as usual of our lives. This usually doesn’t come from a sense of malice. People want to do the right things by their consciences and their values. And it’s easy to drift, go on autopilot and become numb to the structures of sin built up all around us. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said in an address in Brooklyn, New York, on May 17: “As I read the New Testament, Jesus never, or rarely, gets on people’s cases about overtly oppressing others. But he does point out, especially in Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s, how well-meaning people, even very religious people, cannot see what’s there.” When we speak to the right virtue at the appropriate moment, it casts a light that helps people see what’s there. It’s a challenge for every Christian to speak and live in a way that gives glory to God, that allows others to see and hear the deep virtues underpinning who we are. This is a witness that brings about true conversion. Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
I’ve never really liked the word “conversion” when it comes to the Faith. It sounds too final. “He converted last Easter,” or, “She converted in college.” Such usage of the word makes it sounds like it’s over, done with, a thing of the past. When speaking about the Faith, however, anyone who has gone through “conversion” knows that it is not a singular act but rather an ongoing development. In fact, Merriam-Webster even defines conversion as “the act or an instance of converting or the process of being converted.” Even the secular world recognizes that such a transformation — as the word “conversion” implies — cannot be contained in one specific moment. It’s continuous. Anyone who has experienced a conversion in their faith life can attest to this — especially, I’m sure, the inspiring individuals showcased in this week’s In Focus. Even cradle Catholics are always undergoing a process of never-ending conversion. There’s always more to learn. There’s always a greater level of holiness to be reached when our true goal is to conform ourselves to Christ. Pope Benedict XVI spoke beautifully about this process of ongoing conversion — specifically in today’s society — in a homily on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul in 2012. “In the dominant culture today, the idea of victory is often associated with instant success,” he said. “In the Christian perspective, on the contrary, victory is a long, and in our human eyes, not always uncomplicated process of transformation and growth in goodness. It happens in accordance with God’s time, not ours, and requires of us deep faith and patient perseverance. Although the kingdom of God bursts definitively into history with Jesus’ resurrection, it has not yet come about fully. The final victory will only be won with the Second Coming of the Lord, which we await with patient hope.” Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . The elements that prompt and promote continuous conversion — growth in goodness, deep faith, patient perseverance — require constant work. Each stresses the need for disciplined prayer, a steadfast spirit of determination and commitment, and humility. It’s so easy to get lazy. It’s so easy to coast. It’s so easy to think we’ve worked hard enough, gotten “holy” enough, prayed enough. When that happens, it’s helpful to look to the event at Pentecost, where the apostles couldn’t help but be filled with the zeal of the Holy Spirit. “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind. ... Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:2-4). We, too, have the gift of the Spirit, given to us at our confirmation. And this Spirit can keep the fire of conversion burning deeply within our hearts — if we choose to let it.
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
American Catholics tend to imagine that we are in charge of our own salvation. If I’m just a nicer person, then I will be saved. If I keep Lent or Easter through a series of practices I’ve taken up, then I will experience happiness. If only the Church would become what I want her to be, then I’d be happy to be Catholic. The feast of Pentecost is a challenge to this tendency to turn Catholicism into a program for self-help, the place that caters to individual needs, the space where I work out my salvation despite the presence of the rest of the world. On this feast of Pentecost, we learn that the “I” must decrease. The disciples are gathered in the upper room, wondering what Jesus’ ascension into heaven means. The Spirit descends upon the disciples, and “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind. … And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues” (Acts 2:2, 4). Pentecost Sunday June 4, 2017 ACTS 2:1-11 PS 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34 1 COR 12:3-7, 12-13 JN 20:19-23 The isolated disciples now speak the languages of the world. The private experience of Jesus Christ that they encountered during the season of Easter becomes public in St. Peter’s spirit-filled exhortation: “Therefore, let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). The 3,000 who heard these words of St. Peter were baptized this very day, entering the Church. Through this baptism, they sought salvation in the body of believers: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The Church becomes a public reality on Pentecost, inviting the entire world to the Supper of the Lamb. This common life in the Church is not a free association of believers who join together because of a shared credo. The Church is not a group of individuals who share the same outlook on life. The Church is Christ’s very body, enlivened by the Spirit. As St. Paul teaches, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free person, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 2:13). Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . The Church exists because she is filled with the Spirit of Jesus. She is filled with the Spirit of self-emptying love, the Spirit of divine hospitality, the Spirit that re-creates the world. I need the Church because it is not just a group of righteous individuals but the place where the Spirit of our risen Lord still breathes: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit ...” (Jn 20:22). In this sense, it’s not that I joined the Church because I like belonging to her (I do!). Rather, at baptism, I am a person only in my relationship to the Church. I have been baptized in the same Spirit, sharing the very same breath as my fellow believers in Christ. Our capacity to recognize the Church as the Spirit-filled body of those redeemed in Christ is at times diminished. Perhaps it is because we have stopped praying, or stopped engaging in acts of devotion where the Spirit can breathe in us. All of us experience this dryness, this desolation, this empty Spirit. So on Pentecost, we cry out to this Spirit, “On our dryness pour your dew; / Wash the stains of guilt away: / Bend the stubborn heart and will; / Melt the frozen, warm the chill” (Pentecost Sequence). Timothy P. O’Malley is the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
“What if every cardinal accompanied an undocumented person who crossed our paths to the deportation hearing? What if every bishop did? Every pastor? Every mayor?” Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, offered that challenge in his May 17 address to the annual World Communications Day gathering sponsored by the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. His remarks were in reference to the experience he had March 10, when he accompanied Catalino Guerrero, 59, an undocumented grandfather who had lived in the United States for more than 25 years, to his deportation hearing. Guerrero would go on to receive a one-year stay. The day Cardinal Tobin spoke, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released data indicating that, during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, the agency had arrested more than 41,000 people, a spike of more than 37 percent from the same period in 2016. The largest spike — an increase of 150 percent — was of immigrants with no criminal records. Resources from USCCB Migration and Refugee Services Bilingual videos on immigrant rights https://justiceforimmigrants.org/news/video-resources/ Ways to Accompany Immigrants https://justiceforimmigrants.org/what-we-are-working-on/immigration/1163-2/ This is largely the result of two late-January executive orders on border security and interior enforcement implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. Among the changes introduced was the elimination of the prior administration’s priority enforcement program and prosecutorial discretion — that is, practices of focusing on certain undocumented immigrants, such as those with records of violent crime, for deportation, while offering stipulations to others, such as having them check in with their local ICE field office regularly. “Anybody and everybody is a priority — those who are undocumented. Now we’ve seen that play out already,” Michelle Mendez, training and legal support senior attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), told Our Sunday Visitor. “The statistic that’s really concerning is we’re seeing an increase of removals or deportations of individuals who have what’s known as long-term equities here in the United States,” Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services told OSV. “We’re talking about parents of U.S. citizen children who have lived here for many years, who are integrated into their communities.” Feasley said such practices are driving increased fear in immigrant communities. ‘Those people disappear’ Mendez cites the story of Maribel Trujillo Diaz, 42, a Cincinnati woman who entered the United States from Mexico without documentation in 2002 and who first became known to ICE when her employer was raided in 2007. Her four children are U.S. citizens, and she was an active member of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Hamilton, Ohio. Under the Obama administration, she received a work permit and checked in regularly with ICE. In March, ICE told her to return in April with a plane ticket to Mexico. She returned the following month with her plane tickets and her pastor, only to be told that, since she had a pending asylum case, she could report back a month later. Two days later, the Wednesday before Holy Week, ICE showed up at her home and took her into custody. “She wasn’t even able to say goodbye to all of her children at that point,” Tony Stieritz, director of Catholic social action for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, told OSV. “We felt that was very cruel and unacceptable.” Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati participate in a Rosary rally April 9, from St. Joseph Church in Hamilton to the Butler County Jail, where Maribel Trujillo was detained for a time before her deportation the following week. Courtesy photo Parishioners, the archdiocese and other faith communities rallied around Trujillo, appealing for mercy because of her lack of criminal background and her contributing role in the community. ...
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
Question: My son refuses to have his young children baptized. He says the priest who celebrated his wedding indicated that infant baptism is only a tradition not a mandate. Is this so? — Name , location withheld Answer: If the priest said this, he was wrong. Canon law states: “Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it” (Canon, No. 867.1). Thus we have a mandate, not a mere cultural tradition. The mandate is rooted in the child’s need as well as in the teaching of Scripture, which says: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’” (Lk 18:15-16). Elsewhere Jesus adds: “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (Jn 3:5). The children referred to here are little children or infants, since the Greek word in Luke 18:15 ( brephe ) clearly means “infants.” And Jesus calls them paidia , a diminutive form of pais , which means “children” in Greek. Hence, we are not to hinder the little children from access to the Kingdom and to Jesus. And the way to gain that access is through baptism. That children are in urgent need of baptism is rooted in the reality that each of us is born with original sin, which is a very grave spiritual wound (see Rom 5:12). Healing from this condition should not be delayed, but should be offered as soon as reasonably possible. For these reasons and others, the Church has always baptized infants. Early documents both affirm and witness to this. St. Irenaeus, writing in A.D. 189, says of Jesus: “He came to save all … infants, adults and the old” (Against Heresies, 2:22:4). Hippolytus, writing in A.D. 215, says: “Let the children be baptized first. All those children who can answer for themselves do so, and to those children not yet able to speak, their parents shall answer for them” (Apostolic Tradition 21:16). Beatific vision Question: We hear about the beatific vision in heaven. But if God is pure spirit, how will we see him? Will our eyes have new powers? — Carl Minnick , Fort Worth, TX Answer: Though our eyes will likely have great powers in our resurrected bodies, a better approach to this question is to distinguish between physical seeing and spiritual seeing. Physical seeing is the experience of light particles or waves reaching our retina and neurologically informing our brain. Spiritual seeing is the capacity of our intellect to understand a thought. Thus, when you express an idea to me, I might say, “Ah! I see.” But I do not mean that light is reaching my retinas. Rather, I mean my mind is illumined by what you have said. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . It is in this spiritual way of seeing that we speak of the beatific vision. Our whole soul, mind and heart will be illumined by God, and we will experience him in an unimaginably rich and satisfying way that brings the stable, serene, confident joy we call beatitude. While it may be possible for the eyes of our resurrected bodies to perceive new things, we need not presume that we will see God with our physical eyes. 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 . Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com .
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
For years the relationship between the Church, the faithful and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America has been a source of heated discussion. It has become even more contentious in recent weeks following a letter by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in which it was announced that the archdiocese is cutting ties with the Girl Scouts. The letter to the faithful of the Kansas City archdiocese, released May 1, stated that parishes have the option to either immediately disband their Girl Scout troops or not allow any new girls to join established troops, with the intention of transitioning all Girl Scout troops to American Heritage Girl troops in the coming years. As Archbishop Naumann put it: “With the promotion by Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) of programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture, they are no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.” Archbishop Naumann cited as reasons for the break his belief that the Girl Scouts have developed an increasingly tight partnership with Planned Parenthood, support the legalization of abortion and offer figures such as Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, as role models for the girls. According to the archbishop, the archdiocese has been in discussions with the Girl Scouts for more than five years about these concerns. Parishes in the Kansas City archdiocese are now encouraged to align themselves with American Heritage Girls, an organization that the archdiocese feels more closely adheres to Gospel values. “Eventually it came down to this. Our greatest responsibility as a Church is to the children and young people in our care,” Archbishop Naumann stated. “We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.” A difficult break In the last few years, stories such as this one have made headlines. Many parents find themselves bewildered, trying to navigate these muddy waters. U.S. Bishops' Guidance “There are various ways that Catholic scouting and scouting in general can be fostered. The following are some considerations. Again, for every diocese, the diocesan bishop has authority and discretion when it comes to supporting and directing Catholic scouting within the diocese. … “Find ways to foster communication between diocesan leaders, parishes and schools, and parents of Catholic scouts. “Establish a key contact/structure within the diocese to facilitate the reception and communication of any concerns and questions with the local council and the pertinent national scouting committee as necessary.” — U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Questions and Answers About Girls Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) and About Catholic Scouting” (2014) The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are old institutions with rich histories. They have helped form countless boys and girls into well-adjusted adults over the years. Many dioceses and archdioceses consider any link between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood to be remote and have continued to allow Girl Scout troops to operate within their boundaries. But questions linger: Have they changed? Are these groups a good fit for Catholics? Chief among Archbishop Naumann’s concerns is what he sees as a strong tie between the Scouting organization and Planned Parenthood, as he claims the national organization of Girl Scouts has contributed more than a million dollars a year to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, “an organization tied to International Planned Parenthood.” Under these circumstances, the fundamental questions parents are asking themselves may include: Will this organization help to form my child in the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Or will it get in the way of a relationship with Jesus and put my child at odds with the ...
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
Kate’s office was a few yards away from mine, and she always had the sensible solution to problems. “Why don’t we just pray the Hail Mary?” Her solution spanned from what time to take a train, what events to bother with and which ones to skip to guard your time and heart for the more important things, and what to do about encroachments on religious liberty by the White House. Kate had lots of analysis to offer — and she did, as a lawyer — but the most important thing I remember is how she thought the most important thing we could do is start saying that prayer to the Blessed Mother after every Sunday Mass, at the very least. I’ve mentioned my friend before in this space: Kate O’Beirne, who died on Divine Mercy Sunday this year. I mention her again because I am stunned. Not just by her death and the timing of it — so resplendent with victory over death. Kate loved the Blessed Virgin Mary. And no sooner was she gone, and it was May, a month traditionally dedicated to Mary. She seemed to be making a wise point, yet again. And at a time, too, when we can seem too clever for our own good. Kate was the most clever, and she was also faithful. She loved the Church and wound up making obedience to Church teaching cool in all kinds of the cleverest and most sophisticated settings. As we — colleagues and friends — asked her for all sorts of advice, we probably confused her for the seat of wisdom. But I don’t think she ever got confused. One day, Kate found beautiful silver bracelets with Marian images on them at an online shopping website. She bought a few and gave them to us. She told me everyone who had been given one and declared: “We’re in the Mary club.” This from a woman who was otherwise getting calls from the Speaker of the House and all kinds of Washington power brokers for all kinds of advice, too — this is where her heart was. After a talk a few nights ago, a woman came up to me and asked: “Please tell me you are writing a book on Kate O’Beirne.” She had watched Kate on CNN during her years as a panelist on CNN’s Capitol Gang and, having read a few tributes to Kate, said: “I want to know how she did it — how she lived such a life of radiant faith in the world — and in Washington, D.C.” Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . She did it, as far as I could see from my 20-year-or-so vantage point, by always being the woman her parents raised her to be. Kate always treasured her faith and family, and would not allow politics or anything of the world consume her. Being a daughter may be most important — the beloved daughter of a heavenly Father who truly does love us as much as our faith teaches. I remember one day when a saddening news story dropped, she came into my office and said something to the effect of: “This is just still further proof of the existence of God. That the Church survives in the face of all our sin. That he doesn’t give up on us, but keeps giving.” And he gives us his mother. And women in the Church who, knowing we are beloved daughters, become mothers — not just as mothers, in her case, of two sons, but as leaders, modeling the virtues and wisdom of the Blessed Mother, who pondered so much in her heart and takes us to her Son. When she died on Divine Mercy Sunday, Kate O’Beirne did just that, and on every day of May, that has been my experience. May we do the same every day. 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: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
You’ve probably heard of “13 Reasons Why,” a popular Netflix series among young people. So far, it’s the most tweeted-about show of 2017. The series, however, has garnered criticism from school officials and psychological experts. The National Association of School Psychologists has even issued guidelines for educators for talking with students about the show. The concern stems from the storyline that, while shining a spotlight on teen suicide, does little, critics say, to offer hope or solutions. The main character takes her own life and leaves behind 13 tapes for those she claims drove her tragic decision. Many are worried the show glamorizes suicide and could trigger a “contagion effect” that leads vulnerable teens to end their own lives. So it’s no surprise that an effort by one Michigan high school to turn such a negative influence into a movement of positive awareness is going viral. Students at Oxford High School, located north of Detroit, made local and national headlines with the start of their “13 Reasons Why Not” project. According to the Oakland Press, the campaign is the brainchild of the high school dean, Pam Fine. “I watched the series. I thought it accurately depicted the problems that teenagers in high school are facing now. But it was incredibly troubling to me that suicide was portrayed as being, almost, inevitable, like she had no other option. The idea was to come up with 13 reasons why not, because that was not portrayed in the show. ... Even though it can get very dark, there is always hope. Our message is that there are no 13 reasons why. Suicide is not an option,” Fine told the newspaper. The effort was kept secret, so students were surprised one Monday morning when, in addition to the usual announcements over the school public address system, they also heard the voice of a fellow classmate who described in a recorded message her experience as a victim of bullying. Instead of criticizing the bullies, she closed her comments with a note of gratitude, thanking another student who helped her get through such a difficult time. “This tape is for you, Elise Godfrey. You saw me when no one else did and continued to listen, share and appreciate the small things with me. Thank you for your kindness I cannot repay. You are one of my 13 reasons why not.” Similar recorded messages were played for a total of 13 mornings and continue to have a “pay it forward” effect, with positive messages such as “you’re beautiful” being left on the school’s bathroom mirrors. Despite concerns raised with “13 Reasons Why,” Netflix decided to renew the series for another season. Netflix did add a warning at the beginning of the first episode, but given the scope of the suicide problem, those concerned say it’s not enough. In the meantime parents and educators are hoping to see more efforts to prevent suicide gain popularity. Oxford High School Principal Todd Dunckley told The Oakland Press he can’t help but be proud of his students. “I think it makes students realize that, everyday, they can affect someone with their words and actions,” he said. Although Oxford is a public high school, the “13 Reasons Why Not” project has definite Christian undertones, reminding all of us that no person is an island. We all have human dignity and are made in the image and likeness of God. We just have to do a better job of expressing this truth to those around us, giving them 13 reasons­ — and then some — why their life is indeed worth living. 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: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do. That’s been the story of Donald Trump’s relationship with the media for a long time, and we aren’t seeing the end of it yet. I don’t wish to add to the hysteria by declaring this situation a crisis. But if it’s not that, what is it? It would be absurd to call the clash between Trump and the media an unfortunate misunderstanding, sure to blow over in time. Mutual antipathy runs too deep for that. This faceoff between the president and the press will persist until Trump leaves office — whether that be in January 2021, January 2025, or a few months from now. So, lacking a better word, let’s use a nonpartisan term and just call the situation a mess. Surely everyone can agree on that. The question before us is how the media should be covering this mess — of which, be it noted, the media are part — and how we the readers and viewers should evaluate the results. Here I find some help in a disturbing piece by Mark Hemingway in the neoconservative Weekly Standard. Its provocative title: “Wow If True.” That’s shorthand for the semi-fake news items — short on facts, long on opinions and unnamed sources — that are standard fare these days for some popular bloggers with a fondness for conspiracy theories: Wow if true! And not only those bloggers. Hemingway doesn’t mention it, but even mainstream media like The New York Times and Washington Post have sometimes allowed dislike of the president to get the better of them and made their news sections day-in day-out forums for Trump-bashing. Hemingway sums up: “The media, however contemptible they can be, remain a vital American institution. And the Trump presidency has Washington journalists in disarray in ways that are deeply worrisome for those who think news should be grounded in reality, and reporting skeptical and rigorous.” There is a message here, I submit, for the Church. In recent years, the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have both drawn up and adopted reorganization plans for their communication-related entities placing increased emphasis on the use of digital media and social media to serve the Church’s purposes in communicating. The plans reflect sound thinking about using media, but they leave out something else of great importance. In the context of current U.S. politics, it can be stated like this: What should the Church be doing to help people meet the increasingly difficult challenge facing them as citizens to acquire and evaluate facts in the face of the firestorm of venomous controversy and confusion engulfing the American presidency and the press? Some years back, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (reorganized out of existence in the Vatican’s new plan) addressed large questions about media in a series of important but little noted statements. In “Ethics in Communication,” published in 2000, it said media professionals who try to meet their responsibilities deserve audiences that are doing the same. Then it said: “The first duty of recipients of social communication is to be discerning and selective. They should inform themselves about media — their structures, mode of operation, contents — and make responsible choices, according to ethically sound criteria, about what to read or watch or listen to. Today everybody needs some form of continuing media education, whether by personal study or participation in an organized program or both. ... Through her schools and formation programs the Church should provide media education of this kind.” Frankly, I don’t see a whole lot of that happening. If ever it was needed, it’s now. Russell Shaw is an OSV Newsweekly contributing editor.
Posted: May 24, 2017, 4:00 am
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