Monday, January 30, 2017

Catholic Schools as Centers for the New Evangelization

The promise and the peril of Catholic education in the U.S. may well hinge on questions related to schools becoming "Centers for the New Evangelization":
  • Will Catholic schools continue to help students and families foster a personal relationship with Jesus in and through the Church, or will they merely strive for worldly goals and measure their successes by SATs rather than Saints? 
  • Will Catholic schools manage to transform almighty athletics into a virtue-based and character-building dimension of the educational experience (Christ-centered, even?), or will they blindly adopt the sports-olatry of these obsessive times? 
  • Will Catholic schools continue to explore new funding models and sources to make their counter-cultural alternative accessible to families of all socio-economic backgrounds, or will they quietly become elite private academies?
  • Will Catholic schools serve the mission of the Church by finding new ways to convey a Catholic world view in an aggressively secular context, or will they merely mirror the values and mores of the prevailing culture--blindly separating reason from revelation, knowledge from faith, mind from heart, science from religion? 
While cultural, economic and academic questions rightly gain much attention in conversations about Catholic schools, Pope Francis' evangelical challenge cuts to the root of all these issues: "I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are...Throughout the world, let us be 'permanently in a state of mission'" (EG, n. 25).

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why Pro-Lifers are More Like Abolitionists than "Single Issue Voters"

A half-million Marchers will descend upon D.C. this week. As in past years, the vast majority will be under age 30, the self-proclaimed pro-life generation. They will march for a cause: the legal protection of the least among us.

Pundits will opine that these are unsophisticated, "single issue" folks. Abortion advocates, who have long since stopped arguing that abortion does not kill a new human life, will reaffirm the mythical power of "Choice." The main-stream media will yawn, since the story doesn't fit their pre-fab narratives.

But courageous witnesses of all races and religions will continue to prod the collective conscience of our country:  Freedom must mean doing the right thing for all, not just for some; legitimate "choice" must exclude the decision to resort to violence; rights must be limited by the responsibility to respect human life; health care must do no harm, especially to the most vulnerable.

Marchers will ask, provocatively, "Why can't we love them both?" And pro-lifers will continue to offer hope after abortion to the millions who now know what they didn't understand then.

The abolition of slavery in the United States was never just one issue among many amid the 19th century political scene. It was a hinge, a turning point, on which the trajectory of our nation would swing.  Even though it meant change to the status quo, the cancer in the body politic had to be uprooted and eliminated, so that all human beings might have a chance to flourish.

In the days of legalized slavery, decades of inculturated crimes against humanity left many citizens with confused consciences, and yet Abolitionists were able to help our nation see the light. The pro-life movement will accomplish the same, in due course.

After all, if we fail to reverse flawed public policies in the light of irrefutable medical evidence about the true identity of the unborn child, then we will miss the opportunity to become the stronger and healthier nation we are capable of becoming. If we fail to protect unborn girls, then our claims to care about women's rights look vacuous.

Uprooting objective evil is a necessary condition for the possibility of taking all other issues seriously. It will create a new aperture through which the good and true and beautiful can stream.

Grace and Peace,

P.S. To make a difference TODAY, click this link to Urge Congress to Support the No Tax-Payer Funding for Abortion Act.

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:

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.