Monday, July 29, 2013

Belonging to Something Bigger

Though I love Chicago, I begrudgingly have to admit that New York sure feels like the "first city" of the world at this moment in history.  From its sheer size and pace of life, to its impact on global markets and the culture at large, the Apple truly is Big.

In a recent visit to New York, my wife and I were able to catch up with her wonderful family, who all live in the city.  We took walking tour through Times Square and made our own mini-pilgrimage to Saturday evening Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Even though the Cathedral is undergoing major renovations--both interior and exterior--, it felt like we were entering one of the great Cathedrals of Europe.

At the end of Mass, as we walked out the center aisle, I was startled to notice that the main doors opened directly onto the figure of Atlas across the street in Rockefeller Plaza.  The juxtaposition of this sculpture opposite the great Cathedral made me feel sorry for the poor fella--bearing a weight that is just too much for him to handle.  I felt like calling out: "Don't worry, you don't have to go it alone!"

Of course, as a Christian I can say this with confidence:  We are never alone.  As disciples of Christ and members of his Church, we are part of a living body that transcends space and time.  Indeed, every time we walk into a Church building, however humble or grand it might be, we are immediately connected with hundreds of millions of Christians around the globe, not to mention billions of believers who have kept the faith for centuries.  We are supported in our earthly journeys by a "cloud of witnesses," the Communion of Saints, who are much closer to us than we could ever imagine.

Monday, July 22, 2013

An Open (Love) Letter

Given the ongoing political and social questions concerning human sexuality,
a recurring thought has crossed my mind:
“What would I like to say to my children, God-children, nieces and nephews
about human sexuality, love and life?"....

Dear Fab Five, Super Seven, and Elite Eighteen,

Most of you have now entered your adolescent and teenage years (though a few of you will have to read this at some point down the road, and one of you is already a noble twenty-something!).  I wanted to use the occasion of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week as a springboard to write to you about some very important matters.

As you know, God created us male and female.  It is part of his plan "from the beginning," as Jesus himself liked to say.  And yet we live in a time when there are a lot of questions about human sexuality.  Fortunately, Bl. John Paul II has left us a beautiful teaching entitled the “Theology of the Body.”  As some of you already know, the theology of the body provides a profound response to all of the deepest questions about love and human sexuality; I hope you'll have a chance to explore it in the near future.

In the meantime, I'd like to share a "super seven" list of insights on these topics.  These have been very helpful in the development of my own understanding of what it means to live the Christian life:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Surviving a Tsunami

Ever feel as if you were living in the midst of a "tsunami of secularism" (to coin Cardinal Wuerl's phrase)?  Ever feel battered or beaten down or even swept away by a world which seems less and less open to beauty and truth and goodness?

Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it seems like we are awash in indifference to what's really Real.  It seems like we are surfing on a wave of meaninglessness, with its inevitable undertow of emptiness.  And sometimes I find it very difficult to reach out like a "Good Samaritan"--one who is moved with compassion, and one who puts mercy into action--in the face of so much cultural wreckage.  Sometimes I feel like I'm just in survival mode.

As a Christian, I know that my faith needs to be embodied in concrete acts of love, but I also know that my faith and my love must be rooted in hope.  So where do you see signs of hope amid the current cultural maelstrom?  What can help me remember that the ocean ultimately engulfs even the most mighty storm?

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, emissary of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, once wrote:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Be Holy, Be Happy

Are you more drawn to "be holy," or to "be happy"?   Maybe it's just me, but it seems easier to talk about "being happy" than about "being holy."  The universal call to holiness, which has echoed from Christ himself through the Church's preaching of the Gospel down through the centuries, was particularly reinforced by the Second Vatican Council some 50 years ago.  And yet some kind of false modesty keeps us off the path of holiness.

It's so easy to lift the saints up on a pedestal, and then reassure ourselves that they were somehow more precious in God's eyes than we are.  Somehow it's comforting to remind ourselves that "no one's perfect," and yet we shy away from asking the Lord's help in making us perfectly who he wants us to be.  But what if the title above--July's theme for the Diocese of Joliet's ongoing celebration of the Year of Faith--suggests that there's an inextricable link between holiness and happiness?  In other words, what if being holy is the only path to true happiness?

To be holy is to be fully alive.  Perhaps we have a more immediate experience of the converse: To be un-holy brings pain and misery to ourselves (and others!).  Sin fails to deliver on its false promises of power, pleasure and prestige, and we find ourselves less than fully alive--always seeking another "hit" of whatever false god we're bowing to.  So to be holy is to die to sin; it is to live with and in and through Christ.  To be holy is to embrace the path of ongoing conversion of heart, which alone will help us "enter through the narrow gate" (Mt 7:12). 

During the month of July, the Church's Sunday liturgies lift up consecutive passages from Luke's Gospel, in order to illuminate the path of daily discipleship and authentic human freedom: