Monday, June 29, 2015

What's the big deal about re-defining marriage?

We cannot neatly separate personal morality from social morality. I believe the word we use is "compartmentalize." We can't because the reality is our lives are too integrated for us to even make such a separation possible, even should we desire to do it. In other words, we're just not built that way. Just as Wittgenstein questioned whether it was possible to have a wholly private language, we should question whether there could ever be a truly and wholly private morality. Hence, as Catholics, we cannot separate the Church's moral teaching from her social teaching.

There are Catholics who seek to give priority to personal morality at the expense of the Church's social teaching, who often dismiss the call of Christ to sacrificially assist those in need as "the social Gospel," preferring instead to practice a "Jesus and me" spirituality. Other Catholics seek to minimize personal morality in favor of the Church's social teaching. To give one relevant example of the latter type, they often decry the Church's teaching on sexual morality as an unhealthy obsession with "pelvic issues." What it means to be Catholic is to embrace both at the same time in the recognition that the two are inextricably connected and intermingled as well as mutually reinforcing. It is, therefore, noteworthy and far from coincidental that Bl Paul VI wrote and promulgated the encyclical Populorum progresso and the encyclical Humanae vitae.

This is why in light of last Friday's Supreme Court ruling that conferred state recognition on same-sex "marriage" the Church in the United States has to steer a course between irrational apocalyptic dystopianism and utter indifference, pretending that the ruling is no big whoop.

Prior to Friday's decision 19 other countries already recognized same-sex unions as "marriages." Any idiot can see that the Church is still present, still active in all of those countries. But it's fair to ask, even after accounting for the differences in cultural context, whether the Church in those countries has handled the aftermath of this radical change well or poorly. It's important to note that this is not the first radical redefinition of marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court, just the latest. The blow dealt to marriage by no-fault divorce was at least as deleterious, if not more so, than last Friday's ruling. It was really the court's decision in Griswold vs Connecticut that the court, on a 7-2 vote, devised the "right to marital privacy" that the unhealthy and destructive privatization of marriage set sail.

So, why get worked up about marriage? Is it fear that the Church will be destroyed? Heavens no- the gate of hell shall not prevail. Because in reality many, if not most, Christians are homophobes (whatever that transient and useless term means today) whose greatest wish is to see people who are homosexual burn in eternal hellfire? A million times no. Is it anger and resentment over how much worldly power the Church has lost? Nope. Then what is it?

I think Mark Shea captured "what it is" very well when he noted that radically redefining marriage by making it include what is not only foreign, but contradictory to it is but one more way that Western society forces "the weak [to] carry the burden of the strong’s selfishness." As Mark is wont to do, he states his case in very strong terms, which is why I encourage you to read his post "What Gay 'Marriage' Does..." There can be no doubt that concern for the overall welfare of the divorced wife and perhaps for her children constitutes part of the rationale underlying Jesus' strong condemnation of divorce. All of this is more than enough reason not to remain silent. In short, the Church cares deeply about marriage because she would that all her children endeavor to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

But how we speak up matters. Dr Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, asked, "Could it be any more obvious that what we need now is not simply monasteries but missionaries to a lost people?" That brings us to back to #MissionofJoy. Our mission of joy seems something fitting for us to reflect on today, which is the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Our need to touch Jesus

Readings: Wis 1:13-15.2:23-24; Ps 30:2.4-6.11-13; 2 Cor 8:7.9.13-15; Mark 5:21-43

Since this is a written reflection on the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time and not a homily I am going to deliver from the ambo, I am going to do a lectio divina-like exercise. I will choose a sentence or phrase from each of the three readings as well as from our Psalm and then attempt a synthesis:

"For God formed us to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made us" (Wis 2:23).

"You changed my mourning into dancing" (Ps 30:13a).

"your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality" (2 Cor 8:14).

"Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction" (Mark 5:34).

This week we have been bombarded by the word "equality." It's difficult if not impossible to argue against the equality of people. I'll go one further, when thinking about people and God or people and the law, it's not even desirable to argue against the equality of persons.

As human beings it only takes a little experience to see that there are ways we're equal and ways we're not equal. To state a simple case-in-point, my drawing talents are not equal to someone who can actually draw. Equality becomes problematic when we begin to assert that equality erases differences that are part of the world, that arise from reality, that are embedded in nature, like the complementary difference between men and women. Erasing differences in the name of equality is not equality, but ideology. Ideology is served by propaganda. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not an ideology and relies on evangelization and catechesis, neither of which are indoctrination.

In our second reading St Paul tells us Jesus, who was rich, became poor so that we can become rich through our poverty. According to Paul, how do we become rich through poverty? By giving what we have freely to help others, putting the need of the one with less before our own wants. Our poverty is not merely a way we're all equal, it is the way we are equal. Luigi Giussani expressed this well when he said, "Existence expresses itself as ultimate ideal in begging. The real protagonist of history is the beggar: Christ who begs for man's heart, and man's heart that begs for Christ."

It's when you freely give Christ that for which He begs, your heart, that you stop merely existing and begin to live life eternal. It is by this giving yourself to Him body, blood, soul, and humanity that you are made infinitely rich. This is a paradox. The only way to unravel it is by trusting the Lord. It is by giving yourself to Christ that you experience the beginning of being restored to God's likeness, which, unlike the imago Dei that is ineradicable, is lost through our brokenness and can only be restored by God's grace given us in Christ through the power of their Spirit. Because grace builds on nature, it is by giving your heart to Christ that you experience your imperishable nature that comes from your being made in God's image.

Like the women in our Gospel who was afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, you need healing. Once you grasp this need, in whatever way you become aware of it, you become a beggar. The woman Jesus healed became a beggar after she spent everything she had seeking a cure. Whether you turn to Jesus as your first option, or, like the woman in today's Gospel, come to Him in desperation, He will not turn you away. He will heal you and restore you by His amazing grace.

Jesus, I trust in You.


What I was leading up to at the end of my previous post was captured beautifully by the Denver Catholic, which is the official newspaper of Archdiocese of Denver. In writing about how we might face our present circumstances the authors correctly note that, generally, there are two roads we can walk:
Go on the defensive. We've clearly lost the culture war, but we can try to convince the public that our view is the correct one.

Realize that we don't live in a Christian culture, and therefore must engage it as missionaries.

Option one is equivalent to declaring ourselves victims. Option two is to accept the challenge of living as authentic followers of Jesus Christ in a world that has largely forgotten Him.

Jesus Christ is real. We Christians have experienced the sweetness of a personal relationship with Him. Our mission is not to punish or coerce those who have not experienced this—instead, we must invite them into relationship. What better way to do this than to show the joy of living the Catholic faith?

We ask you to join us in the ‪#‎MissionofJoy‬ campaign.

Our goal is to fill social media, and Catholic media especially, with messages of hope and joy, not victimhood and retaliation

This strikes me as being wholly in accord with what Pope Francis has called us to do since the beginning of his pontificate, which is to be missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Subsequently, I have added to my labels for Καθολικός διάκονος #MissionofJoy. Along with the authors of this boldly simple and Spirit-led initiative, I urge all Christians to take some time and discern how you can be a missionary disciple of Jesus on a mission of joy.

In the wake of Obergefell

Given how much I write about marriage I suppose it would be odd not post something on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell case (read all opinions on yesterday's ruling here). The long and short of it is that, as of yesterday, in all 50 states of the United States, as well as in U.S. possessions and territories, the union of two people of the same sex must now be recognized by the state as a "marriage."

There are many ways to react to yesterday's ruling. In my view, the important thing is that yesterday's decision in no way impacts the reality, rooted in nature, that marriage is between a man and a woman and oriented towards having and raising children, which serves the common good. Yesterday's judicial fiat will have no impact now or ever on Church teaching with regard to marriage. Based on the emotive logic of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, however, I firmly believe that, in terms of what the government will ultimately recognize as "marriage" yesterday's radical departure is merely the first redefinition. I can't see how, in the aftermath of the Court's decision in Obergefell, marriages that involve more than two partners of either sex is too far behind. Why do I make this prediction? Because there is a large enough number of people who live this lifestyle demanding it be legally recognized and sanctioned and because yesterday's decision did not really re-define marriage so much as simply expanding it to include something it is not through the use of flowery rhetoric and little solid reasoning.

Moving from the political to the pastoral, I found Dr Ed Peters' post, "Two thoughts re the Supreme Court decision on 'same-sex marriage,'" very useful and level-headed. Succinctly stated- "We have lived with persons in pseudo-marriage for many decades; so now the pool of such people is larger. The pastoral challenges in consequence of this latest decision are greater as will be the sacrifices needed to meet them." Meet them we must for the salvation of souls and the flourishing of everyone; for love of God and our neighbor.

It's easy to be pessimistic in the face such upheaval, but if it means anything to be a Christian, it means being a person of hope. Our hope is in the name of the Lord/Who made heaven and earth. Rather than wishing, the theological virtue of hope is about trusting God. It's important to understand that God's purposes cannot be thwarted. Anyone who knows anything about salvation history knows God brings about His purposes, foremost among which is the salvation of all, in the most unexpected ways and often through seemingly impossible circumstances.

My hope is not now nor has it been for many, many years in a particular government or even in any particular form of government. The important thing for Christians now is not merely to give witness to what we believe, but to bear joyful witness to the beauty of marriage in word and example. We must continue to love everyone and treat every human being with the respect their human dignity deserves, keeping in mind always that each and every person ineradicably bears the imago Dei. I know that most people who disagree with what the Church teaches concerning marriage, which sadly includes no small number of Catholics, do so in good faith in the belief that they are being charitable towards all.

What is the truth about marriage? I think the statement issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday in response to the Supreme Court ruling spells it out very well:
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home (read the whole thing here)
For those convinced about the deep natural and supernatural truth of marriage we will begin to learn what it means to be strong when weak, to find power in powerlessness:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood (Heb 12:1-4)
We need look no farther than the witness of Christians whose religious liberty has been denied in states that began recognizing same-sex unions as marriages well before yesterday's ruling to see what this means.

I believe with my whole heart that to love another is to love her/his destiny. Yesterday I watched President Obama's response to the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell. In his remarks, the president spoke of the United States as a land where you can make your own destiny. Many people find such phrases inspiring. To be sure, such flights of fancy are very common in our political discourse and are employed by both parties. But if you take some time to ponder what this might actually mean, the incoherence of these words becomes readily apparent. To make one's own destiny is not to have a destiny, that is, a destination, a transcendent end for which you are lovingly made.

The persistent and perennial question, which remains at the forefront was posed powerfully by Msgr Luigi Giussani: Is it possible to live this way? "What way?" As a disciple of Jesus Christ. Of course, the answer is, Yes, it is possible to live in this peculiar way regardless of circumstances.

Circumstances, while often challenging, are the stuff of life. Circumstances make it possible to have experience, which is the God-given instrument for our human journey. The only way to verify the truth of what we believe is by living this way through all the circumstances in which we find ourselves throughout our lives.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Nostalgia: suffering to return

To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, It's been a quiet week here at Καθολικός διάκονος. This seems appropriate to me somehow.

I am a nostalgic person. Just like I find it (pedantically) necessary to qualify my use of "ambivalent" by pointing readers to what it means (i.e., having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards someone or something) I think a similar qualification is necessary for "nostalgic." First, what I do not mean by nostalgic is sentimental even while admitting that nostalgia certainly has an affective dimension.

As to the what it positively means to be "nostalgic," last summer in a post on the Odyssey (see "Odysseus and the quest for home"), referencing Milan Kundera's short novel Ignorance I also considered nostalgia:
"The Greek word for 'return' is nostos. Algos means 'suffering'. So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return." Nostalgia is not a place, it's part and parcel of being human, of the "human condition," such as it is, or least how the vast majority of us experience it. Like Odysseus, it is what drives us forward. I suppose we can imagine nostalgia to be a "place." If we do, then, like those insubstantial figures Odysseus encounters, we might become stuck there. What we truly long for does not lie behind us, it lies ahead. How can our return lie ahead and not behind? This can only be satisfactorily answered by the poet: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time" (T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding")
In thinking a little more about it, more than a place nostalgia brings on a certain restlessness that prompts a journey, a sallying forth, to that place to which I long to return. But then the lyrics of Social Distortion's "Ball and Chain" come to mind as well: But wherever I have gone/I was sure to find myself there/You can run all your life/But not go anywhere."

I find echoes of this all over the writings the St Paul, especially in the 7 letters that were almost indisputably written by the apostle:
Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:16-17)
Our Friday traditio is The Motels "Only the Lonely"-

We walked the loneliest mile
We smiled without any style
We kiss altogether wrong
No intention

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Year B Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Job 38:1.8-11; Ps 107:23-26.28-31; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

I think like a lot of people in this age when human beings have exerted such mastery over the earth, I spend a lot time trying to reduce God to my own measure, to make of God someone I can persuade and manipulate into doing what I want Him to do, especially for me and for those close to me. But God cannot be manipulated. God wills and seeks to bring about only what is good, what will, in the end, accomplish His divine purposes.

Our first reading, taken from the Book of Job, demonstrates what it means to revere God as God. This reading includes the first verse of chapter thirty-eight and then jumps to pull in verses 8-11. Chapter thirty-eight, the beginning of the culmination of the whole book, is when God finally deigns to respond to Job’s insistent and persistent demand that He answer for what He has done to Job. Remember, Job was good and just. So good and just was Job that God was bragging on him to Satan. Satan responded by basically asking God, “Who wouldn’t be good, just, and grateful if they were as blessed as Job?” Indeed, Job was a wealthy man, possessing much land and an abundance of livestock. He and his wife had ten children. Unlike in our own day, having many children in ancient Israel was seen as a great blessing from God. Parents who had many children were considered wealthy and blessed and not merely because they lived in an agricultural society. God then permitted Satan to do to Job whatever he wanted short of killing him.

In short order Job lost his land, his flocks, and, most painfully, all of his children were killed. If that were not enough, Job was afflicted from head to foot with boils, great, oozing, scabby sores. As a result of all this, his wife and his friends asked Job what he had done wrong to anger God to such an extent that these afflictions befell him. While Job refused to curse God, as his wife urged him to do, he was equally adamant about his innocence; he had done nothing to earn God’s wrath. Job covered himself in sack cloth and sat in the ashes of a fire, his head to the ground, awaiting God’s response. This story, which I have greatly compressed, is what goes on for the first thirty-seven chapters of the Book of Job. It is in chapter thirty-eight that God, who has been silent, finally answers.

In our reading God asks Job, Who made the sea? Who made the clouds? Who set the limits to sea, thus preserving dry land? In short, over the next several chapters, God helps Job to see that only God is God and that God cannot be reduced to our measure, lest we content ourselves with making an idol, a false god, and worshiping it.

This seems a fitting reading given what happened Wednesday evening at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, when 8 members of the church, along with their pastor, were violently attacked by a gunman while they gathered together to study the Bible. What happened is incomprehensibly evil. But what happened causes believers, like us, like Job, to ask some deep and searching questions.

In the wake of such events we ask, Where was God? Even while we may acknowledge that God, being all good, did not in any way cause this evil to happen, we ask, “Why didn’t God stop it from happening?” After all, what could be better, more meritorious, more pleasing to God than going to church for Bible study on a week night?

Thursday evening, as I was still pondering these things, I came across what I would call a provisional answer in a book on St Thomas Aquinas: “On Thomas's view, we pray in order to dispose ourselves so as to receive properly what God wills to give us. We pray, so to speak, to change, not God's will, but our own disposition” (Kerr, Thomas Aquinas: A Very Short Introduction 82). I call this answer provisional because it is very theoretical and abstract and so not only not very satisfying, but kind of scary.

A more satisfactory answer has to be more concrete, more reassuring. This why our Gospel for today gives us a much more satisfying answer than we find in Job or the writings of the Angelic Doctor, even while it is in in perfect harmony with what we read in our first reading. The basic message of our Gospel reading today is that God cares about us deeply, more than we care for ourselves. Jesus shows us we can trust God. The disciples ask Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus’ response, in which he stops the storm and calms the turbulent sea, shows that He cares deeply. After demonstrating His power over nature, He asks the disciples a very probing question: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Let’s face it, sometimes life is terrifying. It seems like Jesus is asleep, not paying attention, not caring about what happens to us. But if His passion and crucifixion show us anything, it is that He is with us in our suffering. If we trust Him, Jesus will lead us safely through life’s storms to the far shore, where we will dwell forever in the Father’s house.

On this Father’s Day let’s call to mind and keep in mind that by virtue of our Baptism, we are God’s children through Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist we see that the Lord is alive. He gives Himself to us so that we, in turn, can bring Him to others; make Him present wherever we are no matter where that might be or the circumstances we face.

The witness of the sole survivor of the attack in Charleston, along with surviving family members of those who were killed, show us what it means to fully trust Jesus. When facing the person who committed this unspeakable crime they forgave him. The sister of Depayne Middleton-Doctor, one of those who were killed Wednesday night, said to the man who freely confessed to murdering her sister and eight others in cold blood, “I acknowledge that I am very angry… But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family … is she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul” (see "‘I forgive you.’ Relatives of Charleston church shooting victims address Dylann Roof").

God’s family is a love-built family. Our Lord taught us that violence begets violence. He came to give us something better than the lex talonis, which enjoins an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth. Jesus shows us how to break the cycle of violence. If you want the kingdom of God, then, like the members of Emmanuel AME Church, you must seek to make it a present reality.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Depression, suicide, and the Cross as hope in reality

I found it highly telling that yesterday when I posted an article from the Deseret News on my Facebook timeline ("Utah ranks 5th for overdose deaths, 14th overall for injury deaths") that highlighted findings from a report compiled by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, "The Facts Hurt, A State by State Injury Prevention Policy Report, 2015," nobody responded either by commenting or "liking." It seems that some facts do, indeed, hurt.

Given that Utah's suicide rate is way way higher than the nationwide average (national average is 12.5 suicides per 100,000 and Utah's is 20.6 per 100,00), I also found it telling that this disturbing fact (I will try not to go off on a philosophical discourse about the nature of a "fact") was not noted in the lengthy headline. It's tough stuff and, I believe that here in Utah, there are some deep underlying socio-religious causes.

Needless to say, given my own struggles, these measures of events that happen in the world pre-occupied me a good portion of yesterday afternoon, especially in light of the mass murder in Charleston. For many people, including me, it's all too easy for what happened in Charleston this week to only highlight our fear and our insecurity, maybe even robbing us of our hope. Instead, let's let it provoke the question, "In who or what do I place my hope?" My hope lies in the the beautiful witness of those who were senselessly gunned down, the lone survivor, who, in the ego-manical machinations of the killer, was let go to tell the world what happened, and that of their surviving family members (see "‘I forgive you.’ Relatives of Charleston church shooting victims address Dylann Roof").

It was wonderful that this post by Heather Parrie showed up this morning in my Facebook feed. She deals very forthrightly with the reality of depression, the kind that leads to contemplation of ending it all: "The Semicolon Project"
We’ll start here: a semi-colon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to. A semi-colon is a reminder to pause and then keep going... I got this tattoo as a promise to myself that I would never willingly end my sentence
I would never presume to speak about these matters on behalf of anyone other than myself, but I often find it very difficult, close to impossible, to face reality, to deal with the circumstances in which I find myself. As a a result, I waste a lot of time and energy wishing for a change of circumstances. This week I finished re-reading Fergus Kerr's Thomas Aquinas: A Very Short Introduction while sitting by the pool at the Boy Scout Camp in Millcreek Canyon, a beautiful outdoor setting in a lovely corner of God's creation, which helped me experience, again, the reality that creation itself is a sacrament. I ran across this, which I found useful, timely, and a provocation:
On Thomas's view, we pray in order to dispose ourselves so as to receive properly what God wills to give us. We pray, so to speak, to change, not God's will, but our own disposition (82)
Don't worry, Thomas accounts for that which God determines to fulfill precisely through our prayers, but that is beside the point I am trying to make.

I found Kerr's summary of the Angelic Doctor on prayer useful because it showed me, yet again, that reality, when engaged according all the factors that together constitute it, is cruciform. If I take the cruciform shape of reality as axiomatic, then, by definition, at times life is inevitably painful. So when, and, at least for me, only when, united with Christ's suffering my pain bears fruit, has a point, a purpose, an end towards which it is directed- the ultimate end for which I have been lovingly and uniquely created and redeemed. In this way, my pain becomes my sanctification. But I am aware that this pain can also be my (self-imposed) damnation. I don't mind sharing that in my sometimes realistic grappling with these things part of my inner dialogue is telling myself, "Lean into the Cross until you have splinters in your hands, on your cheek, on your forehead, and in your chest." Now, this may not be useful for everyone. It is useless to anyone who does not have a sense of just how much s/he is loved by the Lord. It is one of the ways I experience His love most directly.

It's pretty damn difficult to stand-up with a boulder on your back and ask for help. This is true for a lot of general reasons, but even more true for specific reasons peculiar to the person who is being crushed by this weight; everyone experiences these things through the prism of her/his personality. And so, for those truly struggling, it's not easy to just say to that person, "If you're feeling the weight crushing you, reach out for help." Here's something useful: if you know someone who struggles with these things, call her, text him, email, just let that person know you're thinking about them and you care for them, remind that person s/he matters to you. If you are blessed not to be so afflicted, these simple, consistent actions mean more than you'll ever know. We live in a society and culture that induces existential angst and produces mental disorders.

Heather went on to write this about her tatoo -
Another thing: my tattoo is just slightly crooked. At first that bothered me. And then I remembered that life’s a little crooked, too. And now I love it even more
I am more than a little off-center, that is, eccentric, which, I strongly believe, makes the One who loves me with an unfathomable, unfailing love, love me all the more.

For further reflection, I invite you to pray with Psalm 139.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UPDATED: On the eve of the encyclical "Laudato Si'"

Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si' is now officially promulgated and available here.

And so, on eve of the release of Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', the onslaught of the cafeteria Catholics on the right has begun in earnest.

I just finished reading several articles that either sought to refute the Holy Father or undermine the authority of papal encyclicals. One article in particular did not so much seek to refute what Pope Francis promulgated (the author was apparently working off a translation of the leaked draft), but, by his less-than-attentive or charitable reading of it. Hence, he refuted his very dubious interpretation of what the Holy Father wrote, in draft no less.

I would hope that anyone who considers himself or herself Catholic in any meaningful sense would agree that a dogmatic declaration made by an ecumenical council is binding on his/her conscience. It is with that hope that I seek to draw attention to this from Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which, in my view, supercedes any discussion about the relative doctrinal authority of papal encyclicals, which is quite high:
This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking (par 26)
Without a doubt in his encyclical letter Laudato Si', Pope Francis will make manifest his mind and will on the matter of ecology. I suppose it is up to us to determine whether we acknowledge it with reverence and sincerely adhere to it, or whether, caving in to certain ideological preconceptions, we will refuse to acknowledge his mind and will with reverence and avoid adhering to what he teaches.

Judging from the vehement reactions of some very public Catholics and Catholic publications, it seems to me that the promulgation of Laudato Si' may well lead to the worst public dissent in the Catholic Church since Bl Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae. In addition to Luman Gentium, something Bl Pope Pius XII wrote in section 20 of Humani generis comes to mind.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A short note on history and theology

Here's a thought that occurred to me today, after reading another acrimonious thread on women's ordination prompted by comments made by the most recent member of the Irish hierarchy, Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore, grasping at straws as to how the Church might be revived in Ireland: history and theology are very intricately and inextricably bound together.

This is a point that also needs to be made with reference to the many live discussions in the Church today about the nature of marriage, the relationship of matrimony to orders, as well as with regard to issues arising from orders and gender.

Theology that is ahistorical is disincarnate. History devoid of theology is either deterministic or relativistic, depending on your approach, neither one being providentially guided.

This is true, too, of more fundamental matters. While the historical arguments about the defective way the filoque came to be in the Credo are demonstrably correct, I also think the double procession of the Spirit is more scriptural and simply better Trinitarian theology.

Hence, the ploy of invoking something that was either done only for a very short time and/or done on a localized basis can only be used to refute attempts at absolutizing statements, of which I have made a few- hopefully fewer over time, of the kind "The Church has never..." Take for example the canon from the Council of Ancyra, held in AD 314, permitting certain men being ordained deacons to request, prior to ordination, permission to be married after ordination. But such instances hardly stand as refutations of more normative practices, or even very interesting rebuttals.

When it comes to most matters of importance, it is useful to reflect on why the exception is the exception and did not become the rule. As Pope Francis recently told priests, a Church in which there is no discussion is a dead Church.

Ordinary mustard seeds and the kingdom of God

Readings: Ezk 17:22-4; Ps 92:2-3.13-16; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

Today Roman Catholics begin Ordinary Time in earnest. Technically we've been back in Ordinary Time since the Monday after Pentecost. The twin solemnities of Trinity and Corpus Christi that fall on the two Sundays immediately following Pentecost always seem to me as extensions of Easter, which is just fine, Easter is awesome. The two are glorious celebrations that help enter more deeply into the Paschal mystery mysterium tremendum.

The "Ordinary" in Ordinary Time does not refer to something ho-hum, or ordinary. It is derived from ordinal, meaning part of a numbered series. What are numerically ordered in Ordinary Time are Sundays. Today is the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, the week following is the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time. As Christians, we order time according to Sunday. Each Sunday is a "little Easter." In short, by participating in Mass each Sunday our lives are ordered to the mystery of faith.

Nonetheless, in our Gospel for this Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear two parables of Jesus in which He seeks to communicate to us something about the kingdom of God. Parables were Jesus' ordinary way of teaching. As we have all, no doubt, experienced, in His parables, Jesus usually takes something very ordinary and uses it explain something very mysterious, like the kingdom of God, which bears little to no resemblance to any kingdom in this world.

Mustard seed

One way of understanding the first parable is to see that the bringing about of God's kingdom is first and foremost the work of God. Like farmer who scatters the seed, those who hear and respond to Christ's invitation to live the way of God's kingdom, are to do our part in spreading the Word, as it were, in scattering the seed by word and example. Pope Francis calls this "missionary discipleship."

Jesus' second parable is one His more popular ones, the parable of the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that grows into a really big tree. It's easy to forget how small were the beginnings of what we now call Christianity. During Jesus' life and ministry it really consisted of very few people. It's safe to say that whatever following Jesus had apart from the faithful women, who took care of Him and His closest disciples materially and the twelve, was greatly diminished after His crucifixion, which had to be seen by many of His followers as the end, causing them to walk away disappointed. Just think of the disposition of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who would've been stalwart followers; they were puzzled about what had happened and trying to make sense of it all, they weren't sure what to make of the claims that some made about seeing Jesus alive.

Mustard tree

As the Church continues to spread throughout the world, sometimes in the form of being well-established, leveled, and re-established, its beginnings are always small. These dynamics are expressed well in our reading from Ezekiel. We tend to panic as we see the final stages of the long, slow collapse of Christendom. Last night I was reading A.N. Wilson's Dante In Love about the state of the Church in the mid-to-late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Let me just that, by way of contrast, the Church today, with all our challenges, both internal and external, is in far better shape both internally and externally now than then.

We must resist the temptation to despair, the temptation to fall prey to "decline-ism." As Pope Benedict XVI noted in Deus caritas est, the Church's deepest nature is always expressed "in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia) (par 25a). This is the "work" we do that is akin to the farmer's planting in the first parable.

Think about the parish to which you belong, When was it started? By whom was it started? How many were there at the beginning? How many are there now? How many are there now in contrast to when you first came? Chance are, even if the number of people remains the same, I'll bet there are changes, even if you've been there no longer than a year. As we are reminded by our reading from St Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops, and the environment

It's been a long time since I last posted three times in a day. But a piece in the New York Times by Laurie Goldstein, "Pope Francis May Find Wariness Among U.S. Bishops on Climate Change," prompted me to write something about it.

First, I don't know that Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato sii (i.e., "praised be"- in Italian, not Latin) is going to be exclusively about climate change per se as much as it will be about a genuine ecology that arises from humanity's God-given stewardship of the earth with an emphasis on this affects the poor and dispossessed of the earth.

Reading Goldstein's piece made me wonder if anybody at the NY Times (except, perhaps- and only perhaps- Ross Douthat) will ever really understand the Catholic Church. I think it's more a question of ideology than it is of a desire to understand.

Taken by me at Cheese Park Bountiful, Utah, February 2015

Contra Goldstein, I really don't think there are an appreciable number of U.S. bishops (I doubt there are any) who are not in favor of better environmental stewardship and who are not eager for Francis' encyclical. Waiting to read it before commenting on it strikes me as simply prudent. The collective witness of the U.S. bishops, going back decades, gives us a decisive record of their insistence on our need to care for the environment, to establish a true ecology. Besides, being good stewards of the environment does not hinge decisively on some of the more controverted issues surrounding human-caused climate change. Environmental stewardship is just another case of reason and revelation working together.

As to the idea expressed in the piece that a significant number of U.S. bishops are worried that environmental stewardship conflicts with the Church's teaching on contraception, how about things like the fact that that orally-taken hormonal contraceptives, in addition to being carcinogenic, is now a measurable source of water pollution? Was it not Pope Francis, back in January, while on his way home from the Philippines, who railed against the ideology of the "neo-Malthusians? (see "The predictable provocations of the Pope of Rome"

All one needs to do is look at what I call the triptych of Bl Paul VI's papal magisterium- Populorum progresso, Humanae vitae,' and Evangelii nuntiandi - to see how integrated all of this already is in Catholic teaching.

As Mark Shea noted in his blurb for Radically Catholic in the Age of Francis: An Anthology of Visions for the Future-"To be radically Catholic in the Age of Francis is, therefore, to be rooted in the whole of the Catholic tradition. That is emphatically what Francis is..." I seriously doubt that Laudato sii will be any departure from Catholic tradition, even as I expect it to be provocative for many.

Unsurprisingly, Kevin Jones writing for the Catholic News Service strikes what I believe will prove to be a much more accurate note in "Here's what the US bishops expect from the Pope's new encyclical". Jones, in his article, makes mention of the U.S. Bishops' “Renewing the Earth,” issued in 1991, and their document specifically on climate change “Global Climate Change, a Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good,” issued in 2001.

Notre Dame Center for Liturgy 2015 Symposium

Apart from live-blogging the keynote addresses and panel discussions on Facebook, which was a lot, I didn't post anything here from my participation in this week's Notre Dame Center for Liturgy's Symposium. Among the many wonderful experiences packed into three and-a-half days, was the privilege of serving at the altar during the Symposium's Mass, which we celebrated in the university's Basilica of the Sacred Heart. I assisted the main celebrant, Fr Michael Wurtz, CSC. Courtesy of one of the Symposium's other participants, Michael Bayer, here is a photo of that event:

I am on the far left of the photograph, to Fr Michael's right. Later that evening, I was able to enjoy drinks and fellowship with Fr Michael at Dr Patrick Deneen's house, where, with great humility and in a fraternal spirit, I poured some water into his Laphoraig. Fr Michael and I also had a fairly in-depth discussion on deacons in parish life. It is a good and important that we have places where these conversations can occur and that they do occur.

Below is a picture of those of us who gathered a bit early for Morning Prayer on Tuesday morning in the Duncan Hall chapel. Michael also took this picture. I am at the back on the right in the light blue shirt.

Finally, a photo taken by the Notre Center for Liturgy Director, Dr Tim O'Malley, during the first day of the two-day Seminar I led, "The Deacon in the Life of the Church."

What can I really say apart from "What a great experience both in and outside the classroom and lecture hall"?

Deacons are evangelizing disciple-makers

For many different reasons I have been thinking a lot recently about evangelization. More specifically, I have been pondering ways I can be a better evangelist in my own diaconal ministry. As ministers of the Word, sacrament, and charity, there can be no question whatsoever that evangelization is inherent to being a deacon. This is what two of the original seven men set apart by apostles and, taken from at least the time of St Irenaeus of Lyon, to be the first deacons, show us, especially Stephen and Philip. In addition to their witness, the diaconate has a long and illustrious history of evangelists: Ephrem the Syrian, Lawerence, Francis of Assisi, Nicholas Ferrar, to name several of the most prominent.

But I am a little ahead of myself. What is evangelization? Stated most simply, evangelization is proclaiming the Gospel. It is from the Greek neuter noun εὐαγγέλιον, transliterated as euaggelion, that we derive our English word "Gospel," which simply means, as does euaggelion, "good news." It is with the important understanding that because Jesus, in His person, makes the kingdom of God a present reality, described in the writings of Origen by his reference to the Lord as autobasileia, we can point to Jesus' words on evangelization: "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose" (Luke 4:43).

Jesus gave His apostles (apostle meaning one who is sent) what we call the Great Commission (see Matt 28:16-20). It seems to me that we often skip over the first part of our Lord's commission in order to more quickly get to the second part, which is to baptize people in name of the Holy Trinity. What part is that? "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (Matt 28:19a).

So, the question is, in our parishes are we "making disciples" or just baptizing? Yes, the sacraments confer grace. Baptism, in a particular way, infuses the baptized with sanctifying grace, thus restoring the one baptized to the state of original grace, which is communion with God, with each other, and with creation. In our dying, being buried, and rising with Christ in and through Baptism (see Rom 6:4) we are not only to see, but to experience firsthand, that eternal life is not life that begins after mortal death, but starts now. In baptism we are reborn as children of God through Christ by the power of the Spirit, thus making what is implicit explicit. But because the sacraments do not work and were not instituted by our Lord to work like magic, preparation is required in order to live this new life freely given.

Whether it is preparing adults through RCIA - "The [year-long] catechumenate is an extended period during which the candidates are given suitable pastoral formation and guidance, aimed at training them in the Christian life. In this way, the dispositions manifested at their acceptance into the catechumenate are brought to maturity" (RCIA par. 75) - or preparing parents and godparents to keep the solemn promises they make when having infants and children who have not yet reached the age of reason baptized, we must be mindful that we are engaging in disciple-making. It is useful here to point out that the Christian initiation of children is modeled on that of adults, not the other way around.

Considering the above, an important question arises, In all of these "ordinary" parish activities are we rushing to baptize or taking seriously Christ's mandate to "make disciples"? In other words, are those being baptized, along with those having their children baptized, being formed in the disciplines that constitute Christian discipleship, the way of Christian life, which was initially known as "the Way" (see Acts 9:2)? Judging by the often truncated nature of RCIA (i.e., the school year September to Easter model, which frequently does not include a Period of Evangelization and discernment called "Precatechumenate"), coupled with the lack of a truly mystagogical approach to the periods of catechumenate and purification and enlightenment (the approach is usually didactic- it needs to be formational, not merely informational), along with the very often cursory nature of baptismal preparation for parents and godparents (being a godparent is usually reduced to an honorary and titular role), which, at least in my experience tends to be quite didactic, sometimes consisting of watching a video and being handed a booklet, I'd have to say that with regard to disciple-making we have much work to do.

During a panel discussion this past week at the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy's annual Symposium on Formation for Marriage and Priesthood, one of the panelists, Msgr Bill Schooler, pastor of a large parish in Indiana, stated simply, "Marriage preparation, more than anything else, is evangelization." As indicated above, so is baptismal preparation and RCIA. It seems to me that this would also hold true for funerals. Evangelization is not just proclamation, but also consists of formation. While catechesis and evangelization can be distinguished one from the other, there is a rather large overlap between them. After all, don't both fundamentally consist in handing on the good news? Just as evangelization refers to the proclamation of the good news, which is nothing other than proclaiming the great Paschal mystery, to catechize is to "resound" (to fill a place with sound loud enough to make it echo) the teaching of Christ and the apostles (i.e., to unpack the good news). The content of evangelization and catechesis are the same, the Paschal mystery, only the methods differ. So, while distinct, these two activities are inextricably bound together. The result of our recognizing how bound together evangelization and catechesis are, as well as recognizing they are oriented to (they flow out of and back to) the Eucharist, is a mystagogical approach.

How does this tie back to deacons? In addition to preaching, which, at least when done well by expounding the Scriptures, deacons exhort by both evangelizing and catechizing. Deacons preach both in the context of the Mass and other liturgical celebrations, like graveside committal services, funeral vigils, the funeral rite that takes place outside of Mass, and Rites of Marriage outside of Mass, which are usually between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, increasingly between a Catholic and a non-Christian. Deacons are usually deeply involved in marriage and baptismal preparation and very often in RCIA. How the deacon engages in his secular work is yet another way he evangelizes, by the sacramental grace he received in ordination, he makes the Church present, as a cleric, in a wholly unique and singular way. For the married permanent deacon, this extends to living out marriage and family life according to the good news. In a similar way single, never married, deacons serve as a powerful sign by providing support and encouragement for lay single Christians; widowed deacons to the widowed; the divorced deacon (there are some) to those who have suffered the pain and anguish of a divorce.

In his address to permanent deacons in the Jubliee Year of 2000, Pope St John Paul II said, "Whoever believes that Christ the Lord is the way, the truth and the life, whoever knows that the Church is his continuation in history, whoever has a personal experience of all this cannot fail, for this very reason, to become fervently missionary. Dear deacons, be active apostles of the new evangelization. Lead everyone to Christ! Through your efforts, may his kingdom also spread in your family, in your workplace, in the parish, in the Diocese, in the whole world!"

Another avenue worth some exploration, along with the renewed and restored diaconate as a successful and concrete example of the primary goals of the Second Vatican Council (i.e., ressourcement and aggiornamento), is the relationship of the three-fold service of the deacon that consists of Word, Liturgy, and Charity to what Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical Deus caritas est, insisted were expressions of the "Church's deepest nature," which is also three-fold: "of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia)" (par 25a). "These duties," Benedict explained, "presuppose each other and are inseparable" (par 25a). In his life and ministry, in his very person, the deacon is to be a concrete sign of the inseparability of these expressions of the Church's deepest nature.

Hence, the very essence of being a deacon is to be an evangelist, or, to use the phrase so central to Pope Francis' teaching, a missionary disciple.

Friday, June 12, 2015

My return and our anniversary

The dip in blogging this week has been due to my participation in the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy's annual Symposium on campus in South Bend, where I led a 2-day seminar on "The Deacon in the Life of the Church." I did make it home in time for my twenty-second wedding anniversary, which is today.

How wonderful it is to have the anniversary of the day we began living out the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony fall this year on the Solemnity of the Sacred of Jesus! All of this made choosing a Friday traditio a bit more complex than I would care for it to be, which only shows that, a per usual, I take all of this way too seriously.

Since it is a long-standing traditio for us to watch the movie "So I Married an Axe Murderer" on our anniversary each year, I'll go with this:

So, to my still lovely bride, whose seemingly effortless and never-failing love for me, because I do not deserve it, is a great grace and a sacramental sign of Christ's love both for me and our children:

There she goes
There she goes again
Pulsing through my veins
And I just can't contain
This feeling that remains

After 22 years and six children, I know very well that love that lasts not only a lifetime but forever cannot be reduced to a mere feeling. The truth is, if that were the case it's highly unlikely we'd celebrating our marriage today. And so while it should not and, in fact, cannot be so reduced, to insist that feeling, that affectivity, plays no role at all, only serves to reduce love and marriage to a white-knuckled act of the will, a view that strikes me as equally disastrous. Married love is multi-faceted and multi-layered, the layers built struggle-by-struggle, grace-by-grace over the years. Deo gratias!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Corpus Christi: The Eucharist "makes" us

Readings: Ex 24:3-8; Ps 116:12-3.15-18; Heb 9:11-15; Mark 4:12-16.22-26

The second reading for this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) is one of the passages that I think best demonstrates the reality of the hypostatic union. Hypo...stat...ic what?, you may ask. The "hypostatic union" is theological shorthand for the uniting of the divine and human nature in the one person of Jesus Christ.

This reality was defined at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451:
One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He were parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ
Why I think the ninth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews serves as great scriptural evidence (inspired, and so, revelatory evidence) is that in order to suffer, bleed, and die, Christ Jesus had to be fully human.

One of the earliest heresies, one we see being combated in the pages of the New Testament, was docetism. The word docetism, or docetic, is derived from the Greek verb dokeĩn, meaning "to seem." This heresy held that Jesus only seemed to be human, but was really a spirit, a kind of phantom. This is very probably one of the reasons why the resurrection accounts in the Gospels go to great lengths to demonstrate that, even after His rising from the dead, Christ was embodied.

In order for His death to cleanse our flesh and our consciences "from dead works to worship the living God" (Heb 9:13-14), Christ had to be fully divine. If our Lord was not fully divine, then His death is just that of another peasant killed by the Roman imperium.

Offering sacrifice is what priests do, even in the New Covenant. The sacrifice now offered is not a bloody sacrifice, but a participation in the once-for-all efficacious sacrifice our Lord made on the Holy Cross. We will participate in this until He returns in glory. This is exactly what St Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes" (11:26).

Our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice is what makes us together what we are, the ekklesia, the Church, the veritable Body of Christ. By our gathering at Mass to be formed and informed by the Word of God and by our participation at the table of the Eucharist the Holy Spirit also transforms us into who we are individually: priest and prophets, a royal people. It is here that we are conformed more and more, by the grace of God and our worthy participation (our "worthiness" is also effected by God's grace in the sacraments of Baptism and Penance), into what and who God created, redeemed us, and is now sanctifying us to be. It has been noted more than once that "the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist."

Rather than comment on today's Gospel, I will give our dear Lord, whose institution of the Sacrament of His Body and Blood insures that He remains not merely with us, but in us by the power of this Sacrament, the last word:
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many" (Mark 14:22-24)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Angelic Bread

Depending on where you live and whether or not you worship in the Extraordinary Form, Corpus Christi was either yesterday or it is Sunday. For the vast majority of Roman Catholics in the United States, who worship according to the Ordinary Form of the Liturgy, including your humble scribe, Corpus Christi, or the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood Christ is this Sunday.

From the Preface for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ:
Nourishing your faithful by this sacred mystery, you make them holy, so that the human race, bounded by one world, may be enlightened by one faith and united by one bond of charity
Our Friday traditio is Cambridge's King's College Choir singing the beautiful hymn, composed by the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas, Panis Angelicus (i.e., "The Bread of Angels," or "Angelic Bread").

In Eucharistic I, the Roman Canon, we encounter this beautiful part of the epiclesis:
In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God:
command that these gifts be borne
by the hands of your holy Angel
to your altar on high
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar
receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,
may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing
Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In facing reality, we're protagonists or nobodies

This morning I am aware of very many things, which sounds good, but such awareness is not really good for me. It usually causes me to be anxious and run the risk of falling, again, into depression. I remember gaining this kind of what I call "universal awareness" at about the age of 9. I don't mind saying that it results in a most unwelcome and exhausting struggle.

In the midst of my struggle this morning, which began early, I came across this on Facebook:

Given the incontrovertible truth of Malcolm Muggeridge's observation - "The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact" - I can't grasp believing in any religious or philosophical schema that does not provide some explanation for this human predisposition, what Francis Spufford, in his book Unapologetic, denoted as the HPtFTU (i.e., "Human Propensity to Fuck Things Up"), let alone in a religion, claiming to be Christian, that explicitly denies original sin.

Just before seeing Fr McCabe's meme, I prayed the Office of Readings (I prayed this office because one can pray it at any time during the day and I missed the window for Morning Prayer). The Scriptural reading for today was Job 11:1-20. This passage is a discourse by Zophar the Naamathite giving his "take" on Job's afflictions. Zophar's disquisition includes this: "An empty head will gain understanding, when a colt of a wild jackass is born human" (Job 11:12).

But what really resonated with me in light of McCabe's insight was the responsory to the reading from Job, taken from the fourth chapter of St Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians:
"We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body" (verses 8-10)
In light of the many things that prompted my anxiety today, it occurred to me that, as Christians, we have to face our difficult and painful cultural/societal/political situation in the West and elsewhere head-on. This means we need to stop acting defeated.

We're not defeated. The hope that comes from being a Christian, which can never arise from being merely a cultural Christian, is precisely that in Christ Jesus we are always, already victorious no matter what. We need to live in and engage from this perspective.

Evangelization is not some defensive, rear-guard action. If I am not mistaken, I think this the most urgent message Pope Francis is trying with all his might to convey. Let's face it, no matter what happens, we will never return to the status quo ante.

I have to say I would not be able to cope without what I have learned from Msgr Giussani and what I am reminded of and have reinforced by reading and re-reading what he wrote and said, along with following the charism given him, even if in my own, distant way. According to Don Gius our choice is clear: We're protagonists or we're nobodies. Our protagonism does not depend on living in circumstances that we find favorable. To engage reality according to all the factors that constitute it is always a provocation (Pro+vocaton= "for your call"). This is what Paul constantly emphasized in light of his lived experience.

On loving like Jesus loves

Readings: Acts 10:25-26.34-35.44-48; Ps 98:1-4; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17 In the first reading for today, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, t...