Monday, August 31, 2015

World Day of Prayer

Perhaps this video -- released by the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace -- could be part of our prayer for the World Day of Prayer for Creation.  It is six minutes long (which seems to be an eternity in cyberspace), but it is worth the time to read excerpts of Laudato Si superimposed on videos of  "our common home."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reminder: World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Remember that Pope Francis -- following the lead of the Orthodox Church's remembrance since 1989 --  declared September 1 (that is, this Tuesday) as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.  An outline for a one-hour Eucharistic Adoration to mark this day is available here from the Vatican Office of Justice and Peace.  The Global Catholic Climate movement offers resources (available here) for individuals, groups and parishes.  Additionally, the USCCB offers resources (available here). Finally,  Laudato Si offers this prayer:

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live 
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, 
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summer List, Part 4

All summer long, we have been suggesting films and books.  Our last suggestion for the summer --  Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out, by Kevin Clarke -- is another book in the Liturgical Press "People of God" series.  How timely this book is, given Romero's beatification in May 2015.  In the Introduction, Clarke suggests that this beatification could only occur because of the "unblocking" of Romero's cause by Pope Francis, who seemed to follow "parallel spiritual and practical tracks" with Romero.  Clarke suggests that Romero, while not a member of the Society of Jesus (the religious community of Pope Francis), was greatly influenced by his Jesuit education and by having undertaken the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises as a young man.  Clarke considers their simplicity, humility, modesty, renunciation of creature comforts, and delight in the people as some of the most obvious parallels between the two men.

While the discussion of Archbishop Romero often leads to debates about the role of clergy in situations of political upheaval, let us focus on one of Romero's greatest teachings, echoing the greatest teaching of Jesus Christ:  "Love one another."

One of the many stories Kevin Clarke chose to include in Love Must Win Out demonstrates this well (p. 103).  Archbishop Romero offered the homily at the funeral Mass of Father Alfonso Navarro Oviedo, a priest who was murdered just a few months after Romero's dear friend, Father Rutilio Grande had been murdered in 1977.  At Navarro's funeral, Romero told this story:  "A caravan was traveling through the desert, being guided by a Bedouin.  They had become desperate and thirsty and were searching for water in the mirages of the desert.  Their guide said: 'Not there, over there.'  He had spoken these words so many times that the members of the caravan became frustrated, took out a gun, and shot the guide.  As the guide was dying, he extended his hand and said one last time: 'Not there, over there.'  He died pointing the way.

"This legend becomes a reality in our midst: a priest dies forgiving and praying for his assassins. . . . Let us receive this message. . . .  We believe in God; we preach a hope in this same God, and we die convinced of this hope. . . . Hope is an ideal that never dies.  It is like the guide in the desert that says: 'Not there, not for those mirages of hatred, not for that philosophy of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth -- no, that is criminal.  Over there: 'Love one another.'

"Do not walk on those roads of sin and violence. . . . You are going to build a new world, so walk on the road of love."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Pope Francis has announced a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to be observed annually on September 1. Click here for more information.  (Providentially, yesterday this blog supplied a prayer for the care of creation.  Perhaps it will come in handy for you on September 1, as well.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Observing the 11th of the Month

Click here to access a prayer prepared by the SCC North American Western Region to observe August 11th as a day to pray for peace.  This month's theme is "Protecting All of God's Creation." The Sisters of Christian Charity observe the 11th of each month by praying and fasting for peace.  For more prayers, go to the Western Region's website.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Month of Prayer

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, of the Diocese of Paterson, NJ -- where the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Christian Charity's Eastern Province is located -- has designated August as the Month of Prayer for Those Suffering Religious Persecution.  Bishop Serratelli asks that the Prayer for Those Suffering Religious Persecution (below) be prayed together at all Masses.  Additionally, the following may be added:  1. Petitions for Persecuted Christians in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass; 2. Holy Mass using the liturgical texts designated "For Persecuted Christians"; 3. A Holy Hour with Scripture Readings, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction for this specific intention; 4. An invitation to undertake some personal acts of prayer, sacrifice and charity for our suffering brothers and sisters.

Prayer for those suffering religious persecution

Good and gracious Father, whose own Beloved Son suffered violence and death for the salvation of the world, listen graciously to our cry for all who are being persecuted for their faith.

In your great mercy, comfort them with the Holy Spirit.
Give them strength in the face of hostility and courage in the face of trial.

Open the eyes of those who raise their hands in violence to see others as their brothers and sisters, children of the one Father of all.  By your grace, turn their hearts from hatred to love.

Through the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Queen of Peace, may justice and peace prevail so that all may have the freedom to worship you, the one true God and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

Laudato Si: We Need One Another

We continue our reading of Laudato Si:
228.  Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion.  Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and that this makes us brothers and sisters.  Fraternal love can only be gratuitous; it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us.  That is why it is possible to love our enemies.  This same gratuitousness inspires us to love and accept the wind, the sun and the clouds, even though we cannot control them.  In this sense, we can speak of a "universal fraternity."  

229.  We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.  We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty.  It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good.  When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment.

230.  Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship.  An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.  In the end, a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

August Issue of Stop Trafficking

Click here to access the August 2015 issue of Stop Trafficking, which highlights the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Forming the Watchman

Have you read Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman?  There was certainly a lot of hype prior to its July release -- everything from the seemingly new racist tendencies of Atticus Finch to whether the novel is the sequel or prequel to Lee's other novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

In all of the monologues, dialogues, reviews, praise and criticism surrounding the novel, is enough attention being paid to the origin of the title and its meaning for 26-year-old Jean Louise ("Scout") Finch, the main character?

The title, Go Set a Watchman, comes from Isaiah 21:6: "Go, station [set] a watchman, let him tell what he sees."  This verse is the focus of the Methodist minister's Sunday sermon in the novel.  However, during the sermon, Jean Louise pays little attention to this verse as she daydreams about the music director's use of a new musical setting for the Doxology.  She wonders what could have possessed him to replace the Doxology music that had stood the test of time since her childhood with something so modern, northern and, quite possibly, Catholic.

It seems that the incorporation of the "watchman" verse with Jean Louise's internal railing against the loss of her childhood Doxology brings us closer to the point of the novel -- that is, Jean Louise's painful acceptance of becoming an adult.  While the Doxology music will return to "normal" the next Sunday, what Jean Louise is asked to endure during the 24 hours following the church service will affect her forever.

With the help of her uncle, Dr. Jack Finch, Jean Louise is brought to the realization that she is holding on to a childlike, uninformed conscience ("watchman"), largely the result of her father's influence and her lack of effort toward ongoing formation of  her own conscience.  Dr. Finch says:

"Every man's island, every man's watchman, is his conscience. . . .  Now you, Miss, born with your own conscience, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle onto your father's.  As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God.  You never saw him as a man with a man's heart, and a man's feelings. . . . You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting the answers from him, assuming that your answers would always be his answers.

"When you happened along and saw him doing something that seemed to you to be the very antithesis of his conscience -- your conscience -- you literally could not stand it.  It made you physically ill.  Life became hell on earth for you.  You had to kill yourself, or he had to kill you to get you functioning as a separate entity."  [Note:  The killing reference is not literal.]

As Jean Louise struggles to understand her uncle, he drops this bombshell:  "You're very much like your father. . . . Except you're a bigot and he's not. . . . What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinion?  He doesn't give.  He stays rigid.  Doesn't even try to listen, just lashes out.

"You've no doubt heard some pretty offensive talk since you've been home, but instead of getting on your charger and blindly striking it down, you turned and ran.  You said, in effect, 'I don't like the way these people do, so I have no time for them.'  You'd better take time for 'em, honey, otherwise you'll never grow.  You'll be the same at sixty as you are now. . . . You have a tendency not to give anybody elbow room in your mind for their ideas, no matter how silly you think they are."

We would do well to reflect on Dr. Finch's words to Jean Louise:
  • How has my conscience matured as I have aged?  While I am grateful to those on whose shoulders I have stood, have I allowed their influence on me to be a crutch that prevents me from embracing my own, well-informed conscience?
  • How do I continue to educate my conscience?  Do I regularly speak with people who will present opposing viewpoints?  Are those people welcome within my "circle"? Do I read books and articles that will open my mind to how "the other side" feels?  
  • Who is my "Uncle Jack" -- the one who will say the tough things to me whenever I need it?  Do I speak with this person when I am making a decision or do I avoid him or her, thinking I know best?
Conscience formation is an important element of our Catholic faith.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart" (1784).

How and when did you last educate your "watchman"?

[If you've read the novel, why not start a conversation here?  Click on the comment section and let me know your thoughts about the book or about my interpretation of it.]

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Laudato Si: Attitude of the Heart

We continue our Sunday reading of portions of Laudato Si:

226. We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full. Jesus taught us this attitude when he invited us to contemplate the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, or when seeing the rich young man and knowing his restlessness, “he looked at him with love” (Mk 10:21). He was completely present to everyone and to everything, and in this way he showed us the way to overcome that unhealthy anxiety which makes us superficial, aggressive and compulsive consumers.

227. One expression of this attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.