Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 10

Click here to access day 10's reflections.  Today's questions are:  Within our contemporary world, where is religious equality denied or religious discrimination tolerated?  Are there instances where one religion violates the rights of other religions?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 9

Click here for the Fortnight for Freedom reflections for day 9.  Today's questions are:  How do governments protect and promote the religious life of their citizens?  Do governments take this into consideration today?  In the U.S., how does the government foster religious life while respecting the principle of separation of church and state?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 8

Click here to access day 8's Fortnight for Freedom reflections.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 7

Click here to access day 7 of the Fortnight for Freedom reflections.   Today's questions are:  What contemporary examples are there of religious bodies using coercion in an attempt to spread their faith or hindering others from exercising their faith?  What contributions does the Catholic Church make to society and culture?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 6

Click here to access the day 6 Fortnight for Freedom reflections.  Today's question is:  What is the relationship between the religious freedom of individuals and institutions? 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 5

Day 5's reflection is available here.  Today's questions:  How does religion contribute to the good of society?  In what ways might it hinder the good of society? Do contemporary Western governments view religion in a positive or negative light?  How can governments today foster or aid the good of religious belief?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 4

Click here to access the Fortnight for Freedom reflection for day 4.  Today's questions:  In what ways is religion being reduced to the merely personal and private?  Why should religion have a voice in the public square?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 3

Click here to access day 3 of Fortnight for Freedom reflections.  Today's questions:  What are the contemporary means of seeking, finding and sharing truth?  In what ways can this freedom to seek, find and to share be inhibited?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 2

Click here to access the day 2 Fortnight for Freedom reflections.  Today's questions:  Why does the Council stress the need to seek freely religious truth?  Why do those who believe what is actually false still possess religious freedom?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom: Day 1

Click here to access the daily Fortnight for Freedom reflection.  While it's one page long and will not take long to read, here are some questions that accompany the reflection (to whet your appetite):  What challenges to religious liberty do you see within our contemporary world?  When the Council says that religious liberty must be upheld "within due limits," what would fall outside of "due limits"?  What religious belief would seriously offend the moral order or a just law?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Devastating Cost of Cheap Outsourcing

Click here to read the June 16 Financial Times article about the significant safety concerns in the global garment industry supply chain, especially in Bangladesh.   Why is this important?  You may recall that in Bangladesh over 1,100 clothing industry workers died in a building collapse in April 2013 and over 100 workers died in a November 2012 fire.  Interestingly, at least 14 North American retailers, including Wal-Mart, Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy's and the Gap, still refuse to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Initiative, citing the control the initiative gives to labor unions.   However, these retailers propose the "Safer Factories Initiative" as an alternative.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mobilizing Hospitality Industry to Fight Human Trafficking

On Friday, June 14, the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking and ECPAT-USA held a training to help mobilize the local hospitality industry to fight trafficking in anticipation of Super Bowl 2014.  Michelle Guelbart of ECPAT-USA spoke about the "do's and don'ts" of pressuring the hospitality industry to address human trafficking.  Sister Ann Oestreich, IHM, of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, spoke about the efforts to fight human trafficking when the Super Bowl was held in Indianapolis two years ago.  This training was touted as a first step rather than an immediate call to action.  Stay tuned for more details about how you can engage in these efforts.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How's Your Heart?

About a year ago, we posted this information about the Arbinger Institute's book, Anatomy of Peace.  One of the key themes of the book is that we can only make peaceful choices from a heart at peace and never from a heart at war.  When our hearts are at peace, we see others as people -- that is, their cares and fears are as real to us as our own.  When our hearts are at war, we see others as objects -- that is, they are obstacles, vehicles or irrelevant. 

Another book that challenges us to improve our interactions with each other is Crucial Conversations.  Its authors speak of "mastering" our stories and not making another person out to be a villain while making ourselves out to be helpless victims. 

The Gospel for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 7:36-8:3 (proclaimed just two days ago), speaks of a woman who wipes Jesus' feet with her hair and anoints them with ointment.  We are told that this woman is "sinful." What does that mean?  If our hearts are at war, it means that we need not treat her like a human being -- that is she is an obstacle or irrelevant in society.  We justify this by telling ourselves stories about her and her sin.  She's obviously a villain , we are obviously helpless victims of her presence, and Jesus is obviously unaware of her sinful status or he would never interact with her.  At least, that's what we tell ourselves. . . .

In this Gospel, however, Jesus is undeterred by the hearts at war around him.  Additionally, he is unaffected by the stories others are telling themselves.  Jesus points out that the woman has "shown great love," and that's good enough for him. 

What about our hearts?  Do we treat those around us as obstacles or, even worse, as irrelevant?  What stories do we tell ourselves about the actions of others in order to make ourselves feel better and to make others less than human in our eyes?  Why do we do this?  What does Jesus say about this? 

This blog occasionally offers the reminder that peace and justice begin with individual actions.  While signing petitions and calling our senators seem like greater actions, paying attention to our attitudes toward those we meet every day is more important in the grand scheme of things.  After all, Jesus didn't say that the woman's many sins were forgiven because she contacted her elected official in Congress, but because she had shown great love.

When we are tempted to roll our eyes at the actions of another, make a snide comment to or about another, e-mail our friends to rally dislike against someone we perceive as having wronged us, or to do one of a whole host of other things that a heart at war would dictate, think of Jesus saying, "Your many sins are forgiven because you have shown great love."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Let it begin with me ...

Are you following the Pope's Twitter feed?  Here's today's thought:  "Are you angry with someone?  Pray for that person.  That is what Christian love is."

In today's media-saturated atmosphere in which there is so much information (and accompanying misinformation) delivered so quickly, we tend to assign labels to our "enemies" quickly and never (or rarely) remove the labels.  (Tomorrow's blog post will consider treating people like objects, by the way.)  When we feel wronged by someone, do we pray for them?  Really, really pray for them?  According to the Word of God, our faith, and today's reminder from our Holy Father, as Christians we MUST pray for them.  This becomes more difficult when they have political views that are polar opposites of our own.  It becomes difficult when we can get another person to agree with us that the enemy is, indeed, an enemy and should be treated as such.  In fact, there are a thousand reasons why praying for someone with whom we are angry is difficult.  All the more reason to pray for them -- and for the grace to treat them like a person.

Follow the Pope on Twitter at @Pontifex.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Anti-Trafficking Documentary

"What I've Been Through Is Not Who I Am," a documentary by ECPAT USA, gives a very insightful overview of how a child turns into a trafficking victim. What makes this documentary so compelling is that it focuses on trafficking of children in the United States.  So often, we give ourselves a "pass" by thinking of trafficked children as coming from developing nations.  If you want to be informed in a most compelling way, take 21 minutes and watch the entire documentary. 
(E-mail subscribers: Click here if you do not see the video link above.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom Begins in One Week

The USCCB website provides more information and resources for the Fortnight for Freedom (June 21-July 4).  Click here to access the site.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

(Link updated) Report on abortion's effect on mother's health

Click here to read an article about Dr. Byron Calhoun's June 6 presentation on Capitol Hill about the effect of abortion on the safety of the mother.
(A previous version of this post contained an incorrect link.  The link has now been updated.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Band of Sisters" Film in Lancaster, PA

Band of Sisters, a film by Mary Fishman about the "remarkable journey of nuns in the United States from daughters of the Church to citizens of the world" will be screened in Lancaster, PA from June 26-30.  Click here for more information about the film and show times. (It will also be shown in Cleveland, San Francisco and Houston this summer.) The film's makers are asking that this information be shared widely on websites, Facebook pages and in parish bulletins.

Here's a description of the film from its website: 

In Band of Sisters, two nuns advocate for the rights of immigrant detainees and deportees in and around a Chicago-area deportation center. It is 50 years since Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council to let a little fresh air into the church, and most Catholic nuns in the U.S. have never looked back. Fascinating scenes of convent life prior to Vatican II contrast with those of nuns in the tumultuous and exciting years after the Council, when sisters became engaged with the great social movements of our day.

Adeptly illuminating the path from direct service to social justice to the transformation of consciousness, Band of Sisters travels with sisters who continue their mission as organic farmers, environmental attorneys, peace activists, holistic health care practitioners, podcasters, and more. With poignancy, drama, and humor, the film fosters well-deserved recognition for its engaging characters and the thousands of sisters like them.

In the face of obstacles and threats cast by government agencies, the military, and the hierarchy of their own church, the forward-thinking U.S. nuns are on a mission of love, and it appears that nothing can stop them.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

New Jersey: Stop Assisted Suicide Legislation

From the New Jersey Catholic Conference:  Oppose A-3328 and S-2259

A-3328 -- a bill authorizing assisted suicide -- has been released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. S-2259, an identical bill, has been referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Services Committee. These bills would allow a person who has a "terminal disease" to request a prescription from a physician for lethal drugs that would end their life. "Terminal disease" is defined as "an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, result in a patient's death."  The New Jersey Catholic Conference invites us to oppose A-3328/S-2259.  Click here to send a message to your elected officials indicating your opposition to assisted suicide in New Jersey.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Interfaith Panel Exploring Economic & Environmental Sustainability

On Sunday, June 23 an interfaith panel of experts will discuss economic and environmental sustainability by examining the impact of our sacred stories on our ability to live with one another and nature as a peaceful, creative, just and sustainable Earth Community.  Consider attending in person at Trinity Church, New York City, or online.  Here are the details:

Panelists:  David Korten, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Acharya Judith Lief, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rev. Richard Cizik

Date/Time:  Sunday, June 23, 2013, 2-4 pm

The event is free, but RSVPs are required.  RSVP to with the subject line "Attending Sacred Earth" and indicate if you'll be joining in person or online.  If you're joining online, you'll be sent the webcast link in advance.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom 2013

The U.S. bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week (June 21 to July 4) period of prayer and action, to address many current challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate and other religious liberty concerns.  Click here for more information.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Blue Campaign: New and Improved

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced the "new and improved Blue Campaign," an effort of the Department to speak with a unified voice.  Click here to learn more about the announcement and the Campaign.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Trafficking Education

Are you familiar with the Trafficking Education Network?  Its mission is to use various educational activities to create leaders needed to address human trafficking.  Click here to learn more.