Monday, January 16, 2017

How to Heed God's "Waze" as a Post-Partisan People

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD."

If you haven't yet seen it, Bishop Barron's YouTube commentary on the Ways of "Waze" sketches some brilliant analogies between the App and our lived-experience of Divine Providence. 
The basic idea is that we often think we know the best way to get somewhere, but the "eye in the sky" sees things we don't and redirects us accordingly. Following the Waze App can be counter-intuitive and hard to accept, of course, and to ignore its promptings can lead to lots of wasted time sitting in traffic. But it is the surest and safest path to where we really want to be.
This analogy with divine Providence makes perfect sense intellectually, but what might it mean existentially--particularly in light of such a divisive presidential election and inauguration?  
Flawed political parties continue propping up flawed candidates, and it is time for Catholics to explore new avenues for transforming the political landscape. If God's thoughts are going to be our thoughts, then here are four paths toward rethinking the how the Lord's Waze might become our ways:
  1. Let go of our usual modes of doing business. Familiar categories of thought are always more comfortable, but just being a faithful Republican or a faithful Democrat will not do justice to building the Kingdom of God here and now. We need to forge creative coalitions and new partnerships, starting with the defense of all those who are most vulnerable.

  2. Admit that we don't know what the future holds, but that Someone else does. The road of life takes some surprising twists and turns, and the other drivers may be just a entrenched in their positions as we once were. But the Lord's Waze will take all of this into account in a single glance and will invite us to humbly accept our own limitations, along with the limitations of others. We'll never be abandoned on the side of the road, as long as we keep following the recommended detours.

  3.  Embrace the fact that Someone else knows the best way to get from point A to point B. After all, the "best way" implies being best in all senses, as well as best for promoting the common good, rather than just being the easiest or least complicated. To follow the Lord's Waze will require that we disregard the usual Democratic or Republican "playbooks" in order to take the next right step today. Trusting the Lord's Waze will prove to be a liberation from worn-out world views--even if our ultimate destination might remain just beyond the horizon of our present vision.

  4. Acknowledge that we're not really in charge of our own destiny, even though we are responsible for responding appropriately to God's promptings deep within our hearts. The Lord's Waze reminds us not only that our lives are not all about us, but also that our daily directional decisions are not just our decisions.

We need some new navigational devices to guide us on new political paths. After all, the Lord reminds us that, "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts" (Is 55:9). If we can accept the Waze of divine Providence and respond faithfully, we might even find common ground where we least expect it.
P.S. Check out the 9 Days for Life campaign (a 60 second video intro), and sign up to join the novena of prayer for the legal protection of the unborn, from January 21st-29th!



Monday, January 9, 2017

Pastoral Perspectives on the Family (AL, ch. 6)

The Baptism of the Lord

Meaningful artistic perspectives, like meaningful pastoral perspectives, do not change the fundamental realities which they reflect and serve. Rather, they open up new dimensions for consideration and help promote a deeper appreciation of what is really real.


In Chapter Six of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis proposes pastoral perspectives on love in the family which would avoid both the "torture chamber" and the "playpen" mentality. Real families have real issues, after all, and the Holy Father has little time for pastoral approaches which would simply keep repeating seemingly intractable rules (read: "torture chamber"). However, neither does he want pastoral approaches which merely embrace and institutionalize the problems, disregarding doctrine and denying the transforming power of God's grace (read: "playpen").

In a dramatic push-pull dynamic, Pope Francis is propelling the Church toward a more creative fidelity toward the profound dignity revealed by the "Gospel of the Family." Witness a few examples from the Holy Father's ongoing both-and approach in "On Pastoral Perspectives" (AL, ch. 6):

  • Preparing engaged couples for marriage: Pope Francis calls for marriage preparation which would be "a kind of 'initiation' to the sacrament of matrimony" (n. 207); he also speaks a direct word to fiances about having the courage to be different--"Don't let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances" (n. 212)!

  • Accompanying the first years of married life: First, the Holy Father reminds newly married couples that "Each marriage is a kind of 'salvation history,' which from fragile beginnings--thanks to God's gift and a creative and generous response on our part--grows over time into something precious and enduring" (n. 221); then, the pope encourages newly married couples to be generous in bestowing life, emphasizing that "the use of methods based on the 'laws of nature and the incidence of fertility' are to be promoted, since 'these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favor the education of an authentic freedom'" (n. 222).

  • Casting a light on crises, worries, and difficulties: Pope Francis observes that "when marriage is seen as a challenge that involves overcoming obstacles, each crisis becomes an opportunity to let the wine of their relationship age and improve" (n. 232); he also devotes extended comments to accompaniment after breakdown and divorce, as well as to complex situations such as same-sex attractions (nn. 241-250).

  • When death makes us feel its sting: On the one hand, the Holy Father writes that "It consoles us to know that those who die do not completely pass away, and faith assures us that the risen Lord will never abandon us" (n. 256), and on the other hand, Pope Francis challenges us with the thought that "If we accept death, we can prepare ourselves for it" (n. 258).

Seemingly ancient insights seem somehow new. Pope Francis wants the Church to champion pastoral perspectives marked by both sensitivity and fidelity.


Faithful artistic perspectives open hearts to the deeper reality made manifest, just as faithful pastoral perspectives create apertures for perceiving God's full revelation of love in the family.

John the Baptist knows who Jesus is, but doesn't understand his ultimate mission--let alone all of its implications for human existence. Jesus reassures him, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness
" (Mt 3:15).  This pastoral reassurance seems to speak to the ongoing challenges posed by Amoris Laetitia: Even when we do not fully comprehend the newness of life in Christ, the Lord longs to fulfill all righteousness with and for us. 

If only we allow it.

Grace and Peace,

P.S. This is the sixth of nine installments on Pope Francis' "Love in the Family"; previous reflections include: "In the Light of the Word" (AL, ch. 1); "The Experiences and Challenges of Families" (AL, ch. 2); "Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family" (AL, ch. 3); "Ten Tips on Love in Marriage" (AL, ch. 4); "Love Made Fruitful" (AL, ch. 5).

Monday, January 2, 2017

"Soul of Jesus": A Prayer for 2017

"Soul of Jesus," by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Soul of Jesus, Sanctify me.
Blood of Jesus, Wash me,
Passion of Jesus, Comfort me.
Wounds of Jesus, Hide me.
Heart of Jesus, Receive me.
Spirit of Jesus, Enliven me.
Goodness of Jesus, Pardon me.
Beauty of Jesus, Draw me.
Humility of Jesus, Humble me.
Peace of Jesus, Pacify me.
Love of Jesus, Inflame me.
Kingdom of Jesus, Come to me.
Grace of Jesus, Replenish me.
Mercy of Jesus, Pity me.
Sanctity of Jesus, Sanctify me.
Purity of Jesus, Purify me.
Cross of Jesus, Support me.
Nails of Jesus, Hold me.

Mouth of Jesus, Bless me in life, in death, in time and eternity.
Mouth of Jesus, Defend me in the hour of death.
Mouth of Jesus, Call me to come to Thee.
Mouth of Jesus, Receive me with Thy saints in glory evermore.

Let Us Pray:
Unite me to Thyself,
O adorable Victim.
Life-giving heavenly Bread,
feed me,
sanctify me,
reign in me,
transform me to Thyself,
live in me;
let me live in Thee;
let me adore Thee in Thy life-giving Sacrament as my God,
listen to Thee as to my Master,
obey Thee as my King,
imitate Thee as my Model,
follow Thee as my Shepherd,
love Thee as my Father,
seek Thee as my Physician
who wilt heal all the maladies of my soul.
Be indeed my Way,
Truth and Life;
sustain me,
O heavenly Manna,
through the desert of this world,
till I shall behold Thee unveiled in Thy glory.

Monday, December 26, 2016

How to Make a Return on our Gifts this Christmas?

Though the bills may still need to be paid, at least the shopping is complete :)
Here's an inspiring 3-minute video reminder of what Christmas means moving forward:
The Jesus Memo!


We have celebrated Jesus' birth again this year, in the hopes of opening the door of our hearts to Christ in new ways. We have tried to offer the beloved Son the best of ourselves, in the hopes that he will multiply our meager gifts and talents for the greater glory of his Father and our Father.

But what should we do about all the extra stuff that has accumulated once again?  How might we make a "return" on our gifts this Christmas season?

What if we clear out something old to make room for each new item?  St. Vincent de Paul stores and customers would certainly be grateful!

Might it be possible to re-gift a new but not necessary item in a suitable and discreet way, of course--in the hopes of turning the treasure shared into an even greater gift for those who are in desperate need?  Not the kind of re-gifting that can hurt feelings or prove embarrassing, but a re-directing to a worthy cause.

In perfect time for the Christmas season wrap-up, Catholic Relief Services has prepared an invitation to Donate to Iraqi Families and Syrian Refugees.

What if we translate ten percent of the gift cards we received toward a donation for those who face brutal conditions at this very moment?  Or how about re-calibrating some of our returns and store credits to help cover regular weekly expenses, and then translating at least a portion into help for families in dire need?

To do so need not mean that we feel guilty for our surfeit.  On the contrary, it would be to recognize the fact that "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more" (Lk 12:48).

To do so would also become a small step toward breaking the cycle of violence and desperation.  It would help demonstrate that we "got" the Jesus Memo!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christ+Mass = Meaning

Gift. Sacrifice. Offering. 

If you're looking for meaning in your life, then you're looking for Christ.  But Christ is not some figment of our imaginations, some mythological figure who responds to the "moralistic therapeutic deism" of the day (C. Smith).

Rather, Jesus Christ is the one who has ushered into human history the fullness of meaning, which hinges on three interwoven experiences:

1) Gift. The indwelling of Eternity in time begins ever so gradually, and then arrives all of a sudden. God's self-donation is anticipated by his promises to the chosen people, but manages to arrive unexpectedly.

The breakthrough of the Infinite into the finite emerges in a seemingly insignificant experience at an apparently uneventful moment of human history. A mother gives birth in transit; a faithful husband does the best he can; a newborn Son settles into a make-shift crib. To those who lack eyes to see, the presence of Meaning itself might be almost too commonplace to notice.

The Christ Child arrives as eternal and infinite Love in the flesh.  Divine Life itself, the perfection of Self-giving, makes a Self-donation to the Virgin Mother. The Creator entrusts everything to one of his own creatures.  This event stands as a scandal to philosophers, and an impossibility for the religions of the world, but the God of Jesus Christ responds to the eternal and infinite longing of the human heart by freely entering into it and taking it up.

2) Sacrifice.  From the first visits of the heavenly messengers, Mary and Joseph know that Jesus "will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21), and "of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:33). Love enters the world destined to exit via self-sacrifice, but this self-emptying will open the door for an endless new beginning. The fullness of existence reveals itself as other-centered and finds itself by losing itself for the Other.

At every Mass, but especially this Christmas, let's look for new ways to enter into this dynamic of self-giving and self-sacrificing love.

3) Offering.  The call of Chirst+Mass is to spiritually place all that we have received and all that remains of our short time on earth at the foot of the Child's manger and the God-Man's altar.  It is an invitation to enter into the dynamic of Trinitarian Love by offering our very selves to the divine Communion of Persons.

Eternal Life and Infinite Love are destined to be poured out as gifts for the sake of the whole world. This is the drama to which Christ and Christmas--indeed, every Mass--invites us. What do we have to lose, that we haven't already received?


In our quest to draw closer to Christ and so find meaning everywhere, let us respond with shepherds, angels, and saints: "Glory to God in the highest"!