Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Blog? Some thoughts on St Frances of Rome

In his letter on ministry in a digital world, Pope Benedict SVI encouraged priests to use digital media: "Priests are thus challlenged to proclaim the Gospel by empoying the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis." I noted when I began this blog that I wanted it to be dedicated to the teachings of Blessed John Paul II. One of the teachings that this great pope implemented was the universal call to holiness.

One person who fulfilled this calling is today's saint-saint Frances of Rome. She was married, a mother, and a foundress of a religious community.She was one of the greatest mystics of the 15th century. She was born in Rome to a noble family and died there in 1440. I had the privilege of staying at her home in the Trastevere section of Rome in 2001. She married Lorenzo de' ponziani. Among her children we know of Battista, Evangelista, a child of great gifts who died in 1411, and Agnes who died in 1413. She became a member of the oblates attached to the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria Nuova; later she became the superior of this group that became known as the Congregation of Tor di Specchi. At the death of her huband in 1436 she became superior. All through her life she was known for her mystical life. She was a miracle worker and was given the gift of seeing her archangel. She is most noted, however, for her charity. She would spare no personal cost in going out to the poor, the sick, and those who were suffering from the plague. She would take their soiled and dirty garments, bring them home, wash them, iron them and even perfume them, such was her charity. She is patronness of widows. What is most strking about her life is that she never let personal tragedies stop her divinely inspired mission. She was the subject of calumny and ridicule but returned goodness and love in exchange for enmity. At the death of her son Evangelista she was given the constant presence of an Archangel to guide and protect her on her way. She predicted her own death, March 9th, and was proclaimed a saint on March 9th by Pope Paul V.

What is so strking about her life is that she allowed the setbacks and crosses (which were many) to become a stepping stone to holiness, rather than a stumbling block. Her life as a mother, a wife, and a superior of a religious community, should teach us that all the pathways of life can become means of great holiness if we are open. She also provides inspiration for those who may have lost a husband, wife, or child. As painful as the loss of a loved one can be, it is not the end of the world. God may, indeed, have other plans in store for such people.

Saint Frances of Rome pray for us!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Religious Liberty homily-3/4/12

"Religion is the source of all the problems in the world." This is a sentiment that often gets expressed when people become disconcerted with the church. Undoubtedly, there have been many grave abuses of power in the name of religion over the years....the Inquisition, religious wars, immorality, and so on. To categorically reject religion as a source for good is to deny the marvelous history of the Catholic Church, specifically in this country. The reason you and I are able to worship in this space today is because Jesuits from France risked their lives to bring Christianity to North America. Many of them, including St. Isaac Jogues, risked their lives to spread the good news. If you ever travel in Central New York stop into the North American Martyrs shrine in Auriesville. It is a beautiful, peaceful place overlooking the Mohawk River valley.

Religion, and specifically the Catholic Church has been a tremendous source of good for the country and the world. Fr. Michael J. McGiveny founded the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, CT. He saw the need to offer concrete specific aid to widows who were in financial difficulty because of a death of a spouse. St. Elizabeth Seton established the Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, MD and their successors now run one of the largest Healthcare systems in the country. St. John Neumann travelled the Pennslvania countryside establishing schools. Dorothy Day experienced a profound conversion and established the Catholic Worker movement. On and on the list goes. There have also been some inspiring witnesses to truth who died rather than violate church teachings. St. Thomas More, friend to King Henry VIII, was put to death in the London Tower because he would not and could not support the King's decision to divorce his wife. St. John Fisher died just at the same time because he refused to accept that King Henry VIII could make himself head of the church. St Catherine of Siena was able to get dissenting popes in Avignon, France, to come back to Rome and more recently we had the wonderful example of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador. When Romero was appointed he was of a gentle, timid nature. He was quite friendly with the wealthy establishment and military in the country. However, when Jesuit priests began to show him the horrors of poverty and killing being undertaken by the Government, he began to speak out. Speaking out cost him his life. While celebrating mass at a convent one day a gunmen came into the chapel and shot him just at the moment of consecration.

Today I am encouraging you to be public witnesses. Live your life courageously in the public square. Much of the material I will now share comes from a book titled Unspeakable by Os Guinness. Guinness was born in China and fled the country during the Chinese revolution.

I would like for us to consider Davy Crockett. Remember him? Soldier, hunter, woodsman, storyteller, marksman, backwoods statesman-he was a man who had become a legend in his own lifetime. We all knew his signature coonskin cap. What set Crockett apart was that...he was a congressman with a conscience. Every age has its civil rights issues. The chalice I use belongs to my mother's uncle, Fr Paul Mullaney, who hosted Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Selma march. In college I remember shantytowns protesting the Harvard Corporation's investment in Businesses that supported Apartheid in South Africa. The civil right question in the day of Davy Crockett was the Cherokee question. It was a long festering sore. You see, the last 15,000 of the Cherokees were settled in a part of the nation who were living on their own ancestral lands. The Georgia Cherokees fought with General Jackson on the side of the Union against the Creek Indians. Gold was discovered where the Cherokee lived, and would-be settlers were eager to get their hands on it. The whole situation was a glaring contradiction of the Declaration of Independence. Many of the greatest voices in the country-Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, President Andrew Jackson, and John C. Calhoun were openly in favor of Indian removal or could be quoted favorably by those who were. Powerful voices were raised against the removal-Chief Justice John Marshall, Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the U.S. Congress the loudest voice in opposition to the President from Tennessee was a congressman from Tennessee-Davy Crockett. The pressure on him was intense. As he described it later when Jackson's Indian bill was brought forward, his colleagues in the House gathered around, told him that they loved him, but warned him that they were ruining himself. "They said this was a favorite measure of the President, and I ought to vote for it." Crockett told his colleagues-"I believed it was a wicked, unjust measure, and I should go against it, let the cost to myself be what it might; that I was willing to go in with General Jackson in everything I believed was honest and right; but further than this I wouldn't go for any other man in the whole of creation. I voted against the Indian bill and my conscience yet tells me that I gave a good, honest vote, and that I believe will not make me ashamed in the day of judgement."

The outcome was brutal. Crockett lost his seat after three terms, the Cherokee nation lost its land after a thousand years, and many Cherokees lost their lives. In May 1838, General Winfield Scott and 7,000 U.S. soldiers invaded the Cherokee nation, forcibly rounded up all the men, women, and children and drove them out on a thousand mile march with too little food and shelter. By the time they arrived in Oklahoma that winter, four thousand had died on the way and the journey became known as the Trail of Tears. Nearly two centuries after Davy Crockett's stand, the Cherokee rose is the official flower of Georgia, but many Cherokees would rather caryy two ten-dollar bills than carry a single twenty dollar bill bearing the face of president Jackson. For many native Americans Jackson is the worst President ever and Davy Crockett is the hero who stood up for them at the cost of his political career. But the principle for which he stood-living and acting "under God" and therefore not being "ashamed in the day of judgement" has become a cliche and a controversy in America today.

Davy Crockett's stand, the ground on which he took it, and its disappearance today lead to the second great modern transformation of evil. The modern world has marginalized traditional responses to evil-by dismissing traditional categories and sidelining traditional ways of responding. The categories in which we speak about evil have been transformed: "sin" became "crime" which in turn became "sickness" which in turn became "dysfunction." When men dare not call it evil, evil does not disappear-it is all the freer to surprise us and do its deadly work. Solzhenitsyn, who saw first hand the evils of an atheistic society in Russia, calls this "the tilt of freedom toward evil."

Just in recent years we have seen some amazing footage of people standing up to dictatorships. Remember the one young person standing in front of the tank in Tianenmen Square in China? Remember Cardinal Sin going on the radio in the Phillippines and encouraging citizens to come out and protest against Ferdinand Marco? Hundreds of thousands jammed the streets of Manilla praying the rosary. The Government was overthrown and not one shot was fired! Today religious liberty is under attack. Our country was founded on the principle of Freedom of Religion.....not Freedom from Religion. Cardinal Dolan just spoke with reference to the HHS mandate that Catholics have one year before they must violate their consciences and submit to the mandate. Just this weekend Carinal George from Chicago said that within two years every Catholic healthcare institution will be forced to close because they will not comply with the mandate! That is roughly 17% of all healthcare facilities in this country. Pope Benedict warned the Bishops at their ad limina that rising secularism in this country is a danger to religious liberty.

Benjamin Franklin once said "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." The challenge for our country is not to win freedom, or even to order freedom; the challenge is to sustain freedom. In the words of Benjamin Franklin-"only a virtuous people are capable of freedom." To be a virtuous people we need God.

We need more people to be like Davy Crockett. Perhaps you don't feel you have the right words or the education to speak on these issues. Don't worry, the Holy Spirit will give you the words. Be courageous. Be Faithful. Be full of life, and as today's second reading so beautifully says "If God is for us who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

Friday, March 2, 2012

who are some of the saints and blesseds of Pope John Paul?

One of the most amazing stats from the pontificate of Pope John Paul II is the sheer number of people he elevated to the status of Blessed or Saint. He truly believed that because of our baptism we are all called to be saints. A common misconception in Protestant Evangelical circles is that Catholics pray to dead people. They believe, falsely, that we are huilty of the sin of necromancy. Saints are alive and are very active and real in our lives. My patron is St Michael, it happens to be my middle name and I call on him often. I also have a great devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, St Andre Bessette, St Josemaria Escriva, St Elizabeth Seton, St Francis of Assisi, St Phillip Neri, St John Bosco, and St John Vianney. To me, they are friends.....they have taught me by how they followed Jesus and their prayers give me encouragement to keep on striving for holiness. Get to know them! They want to be your friends as well.

Consider the following saint. The excerpt which follows comes from a book by Matthew and Margaret Bunson entiyled John Paul II's book of saints. The saint's name is Rafqa Pietra Chobuq Ar-Rayes (1832-3/23/1914). "In 1853, Rafqa entered the Marianist sisters and was given the name Annisa in religion. She was born in the mountain village of Himlaya, Lebanon. She taught young girls in the congregation's schools from 1856-1871, but was drawn more and more to the contemplative life. In that year the Marianist congregation was dissolved, an event that allowed Rafqa to enter the Maronite order of St Anthony, and she became a member of the community of St Simeon. She was given the name Rafqa in her new community. On Rosary Sunday, 1885, Rafqa prayed to become a victim of divine live. Sge was struck blind that night and endured terrible pain in her right eye. That eye was eventually removed in an operation without an anesthetic. Rafqa had hemorrhages from her eye two or three times a week as a result, yet this suffering did not prevent her from performing all of her normal convent duties. She did the washing, baking, and weaving, and even memorized the Divine Office so that she could join her sister religious in choir services.

In 1897the Rafqa was assigned to the monastery of St Joseph of Gerbata. There, she suffered paralysis from disarticulation of her bones. Rafqa faced death eith a calm spirit if joyful surrender, saying, "I am not afraid, I have been waiting for my Lord for a long time."

Pope John Paul II beatified Rafqa on Nov 17, 1985, and canonized her on June 10, 2001, declaring: "By canonizing Blessed Rafqa, the Church sheds a very particular light on the mystery of love given and received for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. This nun of the Lebanese Maronite order desired to love and to give her life for her people. In the sufferings which never left her for Twenty-nine years of her life, St Rafqa always showed a passionate and generous love for the salvation of her brothers, drawing from her union with Christ, who died on the cross,

Thursday, March 1, 2012

being over having

As a student at Harvard in the 1980's I could not understand why Shanty Towns were necessary. It was the year of "wall syreet"..."greed is good" said Gordon Gekko. Greed is not good. It leads to the Culture Of Death. Pope John Paul II realized this and gave us a way out....The Theology Of The Body!"

Long suffering Love and the renewal of moral theology

I will never forget the day. The rector of our seminary, mount st mary's, emmitsburg,MD, just announced that the upcoming papal trip to Baltimore had been cancelled. We were devestated. Pope John Paul II had fallen in his tub and fractured his hip. He would never walk without a limp again. He, however, saw a greater spiritual significance to his suffering. "How fitting", he would later comment, "that in this year, the year of the family, the Pope should have to suffer." Pope John Paul could see the attacks coming on the human family.Under the terminology "women's health "Pope the United Nations, prompted by International Planned Parenthood Federation was looking to use the day Cairo conference on population development to have contraception, sterilization, and abortion written into International The Vatican emerged victorious when Pakistan's Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto( Harvard educated)that managed to rally the Muslim world to defeat the initiative.

Today the attacks are still there. Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, using strongly worded language in his blog spelled out the difficulties for Catholics with the current HHS mandate. What is the response? We can learn from the example of Pope John Paul II, who united his sufferings to the cross of Christ. There is a passage in scripture that is problematic for many. St Paul states: "I make up in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." Listen to the Pope on the establishment of the world day for the sick: "I have called for the yearly celebration of the World Day for the sick, emphasizing 'the salvific nature of the offering up of suffering which experienced in communion on with Christ, belongs to the very essence of the redemption."Pope In the Gospel of Life he notes: "In a word, we can say that the cultural change which we are calling for demands from everone the courage to adopt a new lifestyle, consistent in making practical choices-at the personal, family, and social and international level- on the basis of a correct scale of values:THE PRIMACY OF NEING OVER HAVING, OF THE PERSON OVER THINGS. This renewed lifestyle involves a passing from indifference to concern for others, from rejection to acceptance of them. Other than people are not rivals from whom we must defend ourselves, but brothers and sisters to be supported. The are to be loved for their own sakes, and they enrich us by their very presence."

Aren't those beautiful words? You and I are sinners. Because we are sinners we suffer. What the Pope is saying has the power to transform the world! If we unite our sufferings to Jesus not only do we change ourselves but we change the world as well! Who does not suffer on a daily basis? All of us are incomplete but if we unite ourselves to Jesus we are can conquer the world. Listen to the words of St Therese of Lisieux, she never left the convent, did nothing great in the eyes if the world except put up with grumpy she is patronness of the missions, a doctor of the church, and considered by some to be the "greatest saint of all time":...."I thought of the mystical body of the church, but I could not recognize myself in any of its members listed by St Paul-or rather, I wanted to recognize myself myself in any them the all. Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I realized that if the church was a body made up of different members, she would not be without the greatest and most esstial of them all. I realized that that love includes all vocations, that love is all things, and that, because it is eternal, it is embraces. every time and place. "

Love the one you are with is the message. If that means you are alone, love yourself. If you are mother or father love your spouse and love your children. Does it hurt? Of course it does. Pope John Paul II offered up the pain if a broken hip and all the discomforts of Parkinson's for you and I. Don't you think we can offer the setbacks, the pains of everyday life as well. Got Suffering? As the milk commercial says...give it to Jesus...change yourself and change the world

contraception: bad economic policy

It may surprise some readers that Pope John Paul II was not a fan of what we now know to be the Milton Friedman School of economics. So often in our sound-bite oriented culture and political dialogue church teachings often get presented in political terms. Take an opportunity to read his teachings on economic development. Remember, this is the "Solidarity" Pope whose constant rallying cry was the dignity of the human person. He saw many inherent dangers in a capitalism run wild. Materialism is a grave moral evil and one that needs to be addressed. Pope John Paul spoke of this at the United Nations.

In contrast to the oft-ridiculed and scorned position of the church's stand on contraception in developing countries is the concern for economic well being that is at the heart of the Pontiff's thought. Even church opponents such as Nafis Sadik, UN under-secretary for the conference on population and develooment in 1994, had to cede this point in a private meeting that is retold in the book His Holiness by Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi. She went on to criticize church teaching on family planning. Not much has changed in eighteen years. Planned Parenthood is now very active in school based clinics in almost every educational system in our country. Planned Parenthood authors many of the sex ed programs. They have been very succesful in promoting the lie that less children equals greater economic su cess. How has this worked? The world is hanging on the precipice of economic collapse. The US is about to see the baby boomers retire but there is no one to care for them. Through contraception, abortion, sterilization we have killed our future. How many great minds who could invent life-saving drugs or techologies that allow greater resourcefulness of our food supply have never been born.

How is this for an economic stimulus package! America have more children! Say yes to the Lord of Life!