Monday, October 26, 2015

A Timeless Prayer for Life

A marvelous Marian month devoted to respect for all human life, October invites us to recommit ourselves to the cause of Life.

Twenty years ago, St. John Paul II concluded his encyclical letter The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) with the prayer below. As poignant as ever, it may sound eerily similar to some of the themes proposed by Pope Francis in Praise Be to You (Laudato Si'); after all, the Holy Spirit is always young!

O Mary,
bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life
Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers
of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women
who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed
by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son
may proclaim the Gospel of life
with honesty and love
to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace
to accept that Gospel
as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude
throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it
resolutely, in order to build,
together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God,
the Creator and lover of life.

+St. John Paul II, pray for us!

P.S. Check out the following resources from the USCCB, if you're interested in praying for life year-round.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Lean into Laudato Si'--11.1.15

Subscribe to Read Laudato Si'--one-paragraph-per-day
If Holy Father Francis called the home phone, it would be awfully hard not to answer.  Well, in his new encyclical, Laudato Si' ("On Care for our Common Home"), Pope Francis comes calling, knocking and perhaps even pleading for some response!

Laudato Si' is literally a magisterial synthesis of the Church's social teaching--including insights from St. John XXIII, Bl. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and our humble Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI.  Perhaps as importantly, it is an impassioned invitation from Pope Francis to engage in meaningful dialogue about the social and environmental challenges we face as a human family.

Now that his apostolic visit to the U.S. has passed, and as we await the final drama from the synod on the family to unfold, the question becomes whether we will open our hearts to the message which Pope Francis repeats throughout Laudato Si': everything is connected; everything is connected; everything is interconnected....

Will we stretch ourselves beyond the divisive categories of "right vs. left", "liberal vs. conservative", "progressive vs. traditionalist"?  Will we at least listen to the Holy Father's own words, rather than the countless talking heads and media moguls who long use catch phrases for their own devices?

Whether or not you have already read the document, please consider joining hundreds of brothers and sisters around the country in a simple but steady meditation on the pope's encyclical:  Read one paragraph-per-day from Laudato Si' starting Sunday, November 1, 2015.  A blog entitled has recently concluded the daily dissemination of the pope's document on the New Evangelization will soon shift to sharing Laudato Si'. (Those already subscribed to "A Joy" will be automatically enrolled for the new encyclical, while new subscribers are invited to enroll by using the "follow by email" feature.)

Just as St. Francis of Assisi became who he was created to be through a radical imitation of the poverty, penance and peace of Jesus, so Pope Francis has become the global bridge-builder through a total commitment to the Gospel.  Praise be to you, O Lord, for the gift of this moment in human history--and for the opportunity to engage the fullness of the Christian faith as it is articulated in the Holy Father's new encyclical!

So, spread the word to family and friends on your contact list(s); share the idea on social media or at the coffee shop :)  The Holy Father has provided a non-threatening conversation starter for anyone who cares about the future of our common home, so let's share the good news!

Finally, here are a few resources related to the encyclical:

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

Monday, October 12, 2015

7 Steps to Stopping the Senseless Violence

7)  Without exception, look upon all people with a merciful gaze.  "For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you" (Mt 7:2).  We know how much mercy means to us when we receive it, so shouldn't we be more willing to show it?

6)  Start seeing all violence as senseless.  A spade is still a spade, and violence is still violence, even if it serves my self-interest or appeases my thirst for vengeance.  Christ exhorts us to resist violence non-violently, in order to break the vicious cycle.

5)  Stop dissembling about our own forms of domestic and international violence.  "Death with dignity" and "assisted" suicide still involve killing, so that others no longer need to act with mercy; "collateral damage" still means the murder of innocent civilians; the "termination of an unwanted pregnancy" still entails the elimination of an unborn child of God.

4)  Reject state sponsored assassinations, torture, and preemptive military strikes.  If we cannot ourselves resist such crimes against humanity, how can we smugly condemn other nations or terrorist groups from doing the same to us?

3)  End the use of the death penalty.  If it is OK for the government to solve problems by resorting to capital punishment, even when bloodless means of protecting citizens clearly exist, then who is to tell civilians that they shouldn't do the same?  "You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic 6:8).

2)  Create meaningful compromise about rights which are meaningless without restrictions.  Just as the right to bear arms implies reasonable limits (machine guns, grenade throwers, nuclear weapons?!), so the right to privacy as the basis for legalized abortion implies a limit when another person's privacy is at stake.  Opponents of each want to impose reasonable restrictions on the other, so why not a political compromise as a step toward national healing?

1)  Start practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  If we were busier feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, we would have fewer enemies; if we bore wrongs more patiently and prayed for the living and the dead, we would become the peacemakers which the world wearily awaits.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Flipping the Script on the Family

"Therefore it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted
by the saint who contradicts it most."
+G.K. Chesterton 

Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. was a call to conversion.  The aftershocks continue to reverberate, of course, and the Holy Father's opening homily has now launched the much anticipated Synod on "The Vocation and Mission of the Family and the Church in the Contemporary World".

But Pope Francis' incredible impact on the hearts of people from all walks of life is a testimony to the fact that there is something more at work here.  Something so much More.

There might be different ways to describe this reality, but the following sentences from the pope's apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization seem to capture what is going on here: "Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world... It is an irresistible force" (EG, n. 276). 

The witness of Pope Francis is a reminder to us that Christ is really risen.  His leadership as the successor of St. Peter is a humble invitation to allow the irresistible force of the Resurrection to transform all of our daily interactions--including our vision of the family.  Moreover, our Holy Father is showing us that holiness looks like something:  It looks like each of us becoming more Christ-like, letting Christ live and love in us.

The only long-term solution to today's suffocating secularism is to see the Christian family reclaim its central role as the "seminary of sanctity"--the place where seeds of selfless love are first sown.  So let's pray that the Synod on the Family turns out to be less a weary debate over the "new normal" of our often wounded or broken experiences of family life, and more a call to mobilize the family as the fundamental evangelizing unit of the Church in the world.