Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Flavor"-ite Memories: Reasons to be grateful

It smells so delicious in my house. The combination of special holiday recipes -- pumpkin pies, apple pies, lasagna, stuffing -- intermingled are making my mouth water. Yes, my Italian\American home combines the traditions of Italian cuisine with the American standards for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The sauce for the lasagna, though -- Wow! It's just unbelievable how a certain aroma can conjure up a memory.  In my house many special memories are associate with a certain food or menu.

The aroma of that sauce cooking took me right back to my childhood when dad would make the sauce on Sunday mornings. We'd all go to Church while it simmered away. When we returned, he'd begin by putting up the water for the macaroni, but we were all starving after Mass -- no doughnut Sundays in the parish hall back then. So, dad would spoon out some sauce onto a piece of bread, put a bit of pepper on it and say, "How does it taste?"

I knew he wasn't in need of my opinion, but he didn't want me to think I could just get away with spoiling my appetite before the meal; it was his sly way of giving me a snack before Sunday supper. It always made me smile.

This morning as I smelled the sauce simmering, I thought about those times with a grateful heart. I recalled a passage from one of my favorite books of Scripture: "Those who are cheerful and merry at table benefit from their food." (Sirach 30: 25) Then, I took a spoon and put some of that wonderful memory on a slice of bread with crushed pepper and was transported back to a "flavor"-ite memory of my youth.

Do you have a flavor memory that makes you smile and feel grateful? Share it here.

Happy Thanksgiving from my Italian/American kitchen to yours!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Francis -- The Family Pope

 (photo credit: Aleteia Image Department via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Pope Francis has been called, "The People's Pope", and perhaps that is true. He does seem have an appeal among all people, including those of different faiths or no faith whatsoever. Regardless of his overarching appeal, his catechesis is narrowly focused. He has his laser pointer fixed on the family.

In his general audience today, he continued to preach about the value and necessity of family through the lens of forgiveness. This unites his teaching on the family to the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy which begins on the Solemnity of the Immaculate, December 8, 2015, and ends on November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.

Pope Francis begins by reminding the world about the Synod that just ended:
 Following the recent Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which reflected on the vocation and mission of the family, today we reflect on the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness. 
In the family "we learn the value of forgiveness". Families live in close quarters, and it is in the home that most often the stress of the world is released in a safe and secure environment. His statement hearkens back to the old adage: "You always hurt the one you love." This isn't a fallacy, it's truth. We tend to lash out at those we know will love us even in our bleakest moments. It reminds me of the song by the same title sung by The Mills Brothers in 1957. The lyrics go: 

You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn't hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall

You always break the kindest heart
With a hasty word you can't recall
So if I broke your heart last night
It's because I love you most of a-all 

It sounds harsh and cold, but it is true. It is a common occurrence in the family because there people are truly and naturally the best and worst of ourselves. It is often thoughtlessness, exhaustion, illness, the stress of the day, that pile up and leave us vulnerable to hurt those "with hasty words you can't recall... because I love you most of all".

Holy Father takes it to heart today in his general audience. He reminds us:
Each day, in the words of the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us and to grant us the grace to forgive others.  As difficult as forgiveness may be, it is essential for our personal growth, our capacity to acknowledge our failures and to mend broken relationships.
Pope Francis reminds us each day to pray -- not just reciting the words, but hearing, internalizing and living the words of the Lord's Prayer. He recognizes how hard forgiveness is, but call the faithful nonetheless to reach higher, to draw from the indwelling power to restore broken or strained relationships.

The pope goes on to say:
It is a virtue we learn first in the family.  Forgiveness strengthens families in love and, through them, makes society as a whole more loving and humane.  It is a solid rock on which to build our lives and an eloquent sign of our Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father’s will.
Virtue. Forgiveness is a virtue that all are called to perfect through its practice. It makes man more "loving and humane" and builds up society. So many people are struggling with disordered behaviors and thoughts about family and family life. In many cases, it is not their fault that they can't see past the error of their own judgements and behaviors -- society has given them a false perception of personal dignity and freedom.

The decline of loving witness to living a virtuous life, a witness that first shows charity and compassion and then teaches truth, beauty and goodness, leaves the lost and lonely right where they are, stuck in their own demise. Pope Francis speaks of "Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father's will"; it is the mission of the Church to teach the virtue of forgiveness, but it must first be learned through interaction and socialization within the family. Ite missa est, the Latin words of the Concluding Rite of the Mass, means "Go, she [the Church] has been sent" -- and we are sent first to those to whom we are first responsible -- our family. Within the family exists the domestic church where parents, in good times and bad, teach the faith through living good and holy lives, giving witness to the teachings of the Church, and preparing children to live in and among those who need this example in their lives.

The Holy Father concludes his audience with these words, a prayer of hope and mission:
May the coming Jubilee of Mercy encourage families everywhere to rediscover the power of forgiveness, and enable the great family of the Church to proclaim the power of God’s reconciling love at work in our world.
 Pope Francis' words reach beyond Catholic boundaries. "Families everywhere" are enjoined to rediscover the power of forgiveness, to search their own brokenness, and attempt to heal it with the power of mercy. And, the "family of the Church" is called to be representative witnesses of this powerful mercy within their family and in the world.

He may carry the moniker of "People's Pope", but he truly is the "Family Pope", working and building a body of teaching on the beauty and virtue of the family for all the world to discover and consider in the depths of their hearts.

Friday, October 23, 2015

St. Maria Goretti -- Pilgrimage, relics and the family

photo credit:
The Major Relics of St. Maria Goretti made a stop on pilgrimage through the US at our little parish in Chantilly, VA yesterday. St. Veronica was the only parish in VA to host the relics on their journey of mercy. It was estimated that nearly 10K people came to venerate the relics throughout the day. And in what was the most miraculous of events, it all went off without a hitch. Thank you, wondrous, little saint of  great mercy!

Yesterday was also the feast of St. John Paul II. A friend posted a picture of the saint touching the reliquary of St. Maria Goretti, so as we all touched the 1st class relics of the little saint of purity, we were also touching a third class relic of St. John Paul II.

Amazing that the dates should align for us that way!

And then there were the families -- lots and lots and lots of families. They came in cars, on bikes, on buses -- they just kept coming. Some were broken and searching for wisdom and forgiveness, some were filled to overflowing with children; no one who came was or ever has been without a family. That is what is most striking and often forgotten -- we are all part of a family, somewhere, somehow -- we have a mother and a father, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, whether we try to manipulate the science or the definition, the truth of how we are conceived and become living human beings doesn't change. These pilgrim families were such a sign of hope, especially as the Synod on the Family meets for its final week in the Vatican.

Pope Francis offered this during his General Audience this past Wednesday, 10/21:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the family, we spoke last week about the promises we make to our children by bringing them into the world. Today we consider the promise of love and fidelity made between husbands and wives, which is the basis of all family life. This promise is called into question nowadays, and seen as somehow opposed to personal freedom. Yet the truth is that our freedom is shaped and sustained by our fidelity to the choices and commitments we make throughout life. Fidelity grows through our daily efforts to keep our word; indeed, fidelity to our promises is a supreme expression of our dignity as human beings. There is no greater “school” to teach us such fidelity than marriage and the family, which are, in God’s plan, a blessing for our world. Saint Paul tells us that the love which grounds the family points to the bond of love between Christ and the Church. In these days of the Synod on the Family, let us pray that the Church will uphold and strengthen the promise of the family, with creativity and with unfailing trust in that faithful love by which the Lord fulfills his every promise (emphasis added).
What a statement! "...[O]ur freedom is shaped and sustained by our fidelity to the choices and commitments we make throughout life." We have the freedom to make choices and we are shaped by the consequences of those choices.

St. Maria Goretti had to make the ultimate choice -- to die to preserve her freedom and dignity, her purity. She chose to remain faithful to Christ in his gift of virginity, caring as she was attacked for the eternal soul of her attacker. How many of us could say with certainty that we would do the same thing in those terrible circumstances, with death as our only option? To serve God with such joy, even in tremendous suffering.

And St. John Paul the Great -- his choice -- to show the world the value of fidelity through long suffering. It is God's plan to give and to take life, our choice comes in whether we submit to the plan or try to create one of our own. St. John Paul gave us a long and vibrant pontificate, one filled with wisdom, conviction, love and devotion. In the end, it was filled with the joy of redemptive suffering. In these two saints the work of the family comes into focus.

Pope Francis offered: "Fidelity grows through our daily efforts to keep our word; indeed, fidelity to our promises is a supreme expression of our dignity as human beings." It is in the family that we work through our struggles, learn to face difficulties and keep moving forward in faith, where we learn to honor and keep our promises. This is our dignity -- and it must be nurtured in the heart of the domestic church, preserved from all impurity, and given the proper perspective of purposeful sacrifice for the benefit of others.

It was a glorious day yesterday at St. Veronica Parish  -- one that took many helping hands so that others might partake of the experience. It was a day of two saints, a day of pilgrimage, a day of honoring the family, and a day of welcoming the wonders of God into our own hearts so as to carry it out into the world. 

For more information on other pilgrimage sites and schedules, click here

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dear Synod Fathers: Language Matters

Archbishop Coleridge (photo courtesy of Catholic
The first week of the Synod is behind us, and the language working groups offered their first summary of their deliberations on the "first section of the Synod’s working document, or Instrumentum Laboris, focused on the challenges facing family life today." (Vatican Radio, 10/09/15)

Vatican radio reported on the comments of Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia regarding the English language working groups.

A couple of the English language words he used to express the progress of the groups struck me as unusual. Here are two of Archbishop Coleridge's quoted remarks:
  • "We came to feel that there are issues that need to be addressed, analysis that needs to be done and decisions that need to be taken at the local or regional level." (emphasis added) 
  •  "What’s really in crisis is our understanding of what marriage is and what the family is…It’s easy to look back to a golden age when there was mum, dad and three of four kids……that’s not the reality today…" (emphasis added)
Let's start with something truly basic in the first sentence of the first quote: No, indeed you came to deliberate; the Synod was not gathered to express "feelings". These groups were assembled to discuss and consider issues related to the family and society, and address strategies to assist in their resolution in accordance with Church teaching. It is wise that these issues be analyzed at the regional and local level, but based on facts, not sentimentality.

In the second quote, I find a fundamental flaw in reporting. How can a Catholic reporter quote an Archbishop in such an ambiguous way, potentially calling into question whether he's supporting a change in definition of marriage and family? That's a truly irresponsible quote!

What did he say that those ellipses are leaving out?

And whether the reality of the circumstances currently do not match the definition of family in the 50's, the 20's or before Jesus became Incarnate doesn't make much difference. The definition is the God appointed definition -- simple. It is our obligation to stay the course and influence the culture. In that case, using language that doesn't compromise the original definition, but is more accessible to the current culture is admirable, if not completely daunting.

In conclusion, the article reads:
Finally there was a lot of talk about language, words lost in translation and why it’s important to do away with the kind of ‘Church-speak’ that means nothing at all to young people today. Instead many bishops cited Pope Francis’ own down-to-earth, colourful choice of words that has made people from all countries and all cultures sit up discover a new, fresh face to the unchanging truths of the Church. (emphasis added)
We need to make the language accessible -- I agree. We do not need to dumb the language down!

Do away with Church-speak?

What on earth does that mean (speaking of language)? Should we just become a philanthropic, non-profit NGO? Are we not about the salvation of souls? Wait, is that Church-speak?

This particular language is confusing.

Concerning the use of precise language, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia put it plainly in his address to the Synod Fathers:
“Imprecise language leads to confused thinking,” the archbishop said Oct. 10 at the Vatican, giving “two examples that should cause us some concern”: 'inclusive' and 'unity in diversity'.
Language matters: in the way we articulate the faith, in the way we show respect for people's intelligence and faith, and in the way we report the Synod to the world.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Carpe Diem! -- Unselfishly

Today is a big day -- a new decade begins for me.

I am 50!

I remember -- and you do, too -- when that teacher in school who was over, say, 30 was "ancient".

Funny thing is, I don't feel ancient. And, I've actually thought about this quite a bit on my approach to 50.

My mom is 90 years old -- do the math, she had me when she was 40. And, she will repeatedly tell me that but for her tired body, she doesn't "feel" her age. The interior impression of herself is still very young.

That's a tremendous gift -- and it's a wisdom for each of us on our journey to cling to in order to keep moving forward on our way with joy. And how exactly do we do that?

Carpe Diem!

It's such a simple little phrase. Seize the Day! This is taken from Horace in Odes, Book I:

Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero
It means, to paraphrase:

While we converse, time is fleeing: seize the day and put little trust in the future.

(caveat: Latin Scholar, I am not -- do not criticize)

Matthew's Gospel offers us this: "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself." (Mt. 6:34)

It's so easy, especially when you are faced with the challenges of getting older, i.e.:
  • Preparing to send your children out into the world
  • Health issues
  • Caring for an elderly parent
  • Moving from working to retiring, etc.
 to forget that the future is not in our control. If we are concerned for the future, we need to look to those who have navigated it well, and remember that God's holding our tomorrows in His hand. We have to live this day, this moment well as the Gospel of Matthew reminds us.

It's a deceit perpetrated by Satan himself to befuddle the mind and drive away hope. That's the worldly interpretation of carpe diem -- who cares, do what you please, this day may be your last, defy authority, enter into whatever presents itself with defiance. This is a false assertion of freedom disregarding the dignity of man -- a lonely and isolated existence without hope. If all I have is this world, and my moments count nothing more than for personal pleasure and gain, then I am dead.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal." (Mt 6: 19) The Gospel reminds us of just how pointless it is to live for material gain. Our purpose is loftier, our presence is richer, our future is brighter than the collection and utilitarian  consumption of worldly things.

The Gospel of Matthew continues:

"All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." (Mat 6: 32-33)

The Kingdom -- in our souls, marked in Baptism and Confirmation, sealed to be His own, heirs of the Kingdom. With this knowledge, why would we seek to be kings in this world? How many people do we need to witness head down the path of destruction before we realize that we are ordained to a higher purpose as heirs to the Kingdom?

Carpe Diem!

Live today -- seize it -- at 50 or 90 or 10 -- seeking the kingdom, the glory of God, in all we do. Put on the armor of God (cf. Eph 6: 10), and with confidence take on this day and make it your gift to God in return for His goodness. Don't let age, illness, or the constraints and problems of this life bog you down. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! ( cf. Ps 118: 24)

And as a dear friend has shown me in her marvelously joyful way all week -- Embrace it!

Embrace the comfort, embrace the beauty, embrace the nuttiness even!

Embrace it all and grow in age, grace and wisdom in imitation of our Lord (cf. Lk 2:52) each and every day.

Thank you, Dear Lord, for all your gifts to me. Although I may not see the struggles as gifts all the time, I know that they are truly for my benefit, so that I, and those around me, may be sanctified, grow closer, and live with You in eternal joy forever. Amen.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pope Francis -- What the Synod IS and IS NOT

This morning in Rome, Pope Francis offered an address to formally open the first session of the Synod on the Family; a Synod that will carry forward the work of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of Bishops which caused quite a bit of controversy last October.

Instead of back tracking to the controversy, let's take a look at what the Pope offered this morning in his address to the assembly (full text of the remarks here).

Pope Francis sets the stage:
The Synod, as we know, is a journey undertaken together in the spirit of collegiality and synodality, on which participants bravely adopt parrhesia, pastoral zeal and doctrinal wisdom, frankness, and always keep before our eyes the good of the Church, of families and the suprema lex, the Salus animarum.
I think we may need to unpack this sentence a bit.

spirit of collegiality and synodality --  in ecclesial definition, collegiality is the shared responsibility of the bishops for their flocks, and synodality (hadn't heard the word synod/synodal "verbed" before)  is the ecclesial mission/journey/work to be done along the way as they are gathered in collegiality. Basically, the Pope wanted them to remember that this is a joint assignment to better prepare the Church for her mission in the world.

participants bravely adopt parrhesia, pastoral zeal...always keep before our eyes the good of the Church, of families... -- parrhesia means frankness or boldness in speech. Pope Francis seems to want to drive home this point because he mentions it twice in the sentence; but he doesn't mention it without its proper relation to doctrinal wisdom. In other words, don't go off half-cocked on ridiculous worldly notions to change the Church, but rather act with pastoral zeal to increase the holiness of yourselves and your flock.

always keep before our eyes...the suprema lex, the Salus animarum -- translation: the supreme law of the salvation of souls; this is a Canon Law term that relates to "OBSTINATE HERESY". Well, that seems pretty clear. We're not going to be changing any doctrine here.

What IS the Synod then? Pope Francis defines the Synod this way:
The Synod Ecclesial expression, i.e., the  Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.
He then breaks it down into three distinct characteristics:

1. The Synod moves necessarily within the bosom of the Church and of the holy people of God, to which we belong in the quality of shepherds – which is to say, as servants.

It is a place to serve, to serve the flock which depends on the quality of the shepherd. He's asking the bishops to set aside personal human biases and look to what will get their flock to heaven, not make them more popular among their flock. It is the quality of the shepherd that leads the flock to eternity or to damnation. Pope Francis says self-examine, put aside personal political design, and serve the flock.

2. The Synod also is a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit. In the Synod, the Spirit speaks by means of every person’s tongue, who let themselves be guided by the God who always surprises, the God who reveals himself to little ones, who hides from the knowing and intelligent; the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations.

The Synod is where the Holy Spirit acts; but Pope Francis reminds that Spirit only speaks through those who "let themselves be guided by God who always surprises...who reveals himself to little ones...hides from the knowing and intelligent..." He is calling for the bishops to experience kenosis -- and emptying of self to allow the Spirit to fill them. Again, he encourages them to put aside the temptations of the world and allow the Spirit to illuminate the law and the prophets, to bring the teachings of Christ to life by reminding them of their duty to guide their flock by imitating "the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations". He reminds them that pride and arrogance can cloud the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and to avoid the folly of the devil by falling prey to our own intelligent notions of what is best, what will make people happy. Rather Pope Francis calls them to be little, to listen and to engage in the ways of God through the Holy Spirit's influence on their hearts and minds.

3. Let us remember, however, that the Synod will be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if we participants vest ourselves with apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trusting prayer: with that apostolic courage, which refuses to be intimidated in the face of the temptations of the world – temptations that tend to extinguish the light of truth in the hearts of men, replacing it with small and temporary lights; nor even before the petrification of some hearts, which, despite good intentions, drive people away from God; apostolic courage to bring life and not to make of our Christian life a museum of memories; evangelical humility that knows how to empty itself of conventions and prejudices in order to listen to brother bishops and be filled with God – humility that leads neither to finger-pointing nor to judging others, but to hands outstretched to help people up without ever feeling oneself superior to them.

It wasn't enough for our pontiff to call the bishops to humble and sincere trust once. He knows his brothers; he knows they face the same if not greater pressures from the temptations of the world as a result of their office. In light of this, he calls them to evangelical humility, and to resist the "temptations of the world" that "tend to extinguish the light of truth in the hearts of men." He calls the to judge the situation, not the man, and to remember their place as servant.

What is the Synod NOT?

Pope Francis doesn't mince words:

"...[T]he Synod is neither a convention, nor a parlor, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises."

What should we make of this statement to the bishops ready to enter into conversation and deliberation at this Synod?

Basically, the pope is saying to leave your arrogance, your political interests, your gossip, your bureaucracy at the door. Enter in with an heart open to the will of God, and assess today's family, their societal situation, their challenges and their gifts, and hear how the Holy Spirit wishes you to assist them on their journey.

It will be an interesting month watching how the Synod unfolds and whether his brother bishops will heed the wisdom of the pope's words to them. Ours is to do what St. Pio recommends: "pray, hope and don't worry".

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Keep Calm and Let the Synod Carry On

Photo courtesy of: (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Obviously not happy with his work as a priest of God and the need to live a lie any longer, Monsignor Charamsa decided that he would attempt to change the Church to suit his desires by creating a scene; neither a dignified nor a humble decision.

Even Jesus had a Judas.

Why do we expect to be spared embarrassments, wrongs and humiliations? This is nothing new in the life of the Church.

As Jesus was not silent at his betrayal asking: "Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Lk 24: 48), the Director of the Vatican Press Office cannot remain silent.

In response to Fr. Charamsa's statements, the Vatican Press Office issued a response, which included the following statement:

"Msgr. Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities, while the other aspects of his situation shall remain the competence of his diocesan Ordinary." Read the Father Lombardi's full statement from Vatican Radio here.

Was this an attempt to embarrass the Church before the Synod?

Or, is it a chance for the Synod to pick up its cross and defend the entirety of the Truth?

This is an opportunity to show charity through obedience to the Truth. It would be irresponsible and against what the pope had just said about abuses for anyone to look the other way. There is no rethinking of any teaching -- the door has not and will never be opened to tolerance; the door is open to mercy and charity. 

This behavior is wrong and an egregious offense against solemn vows which is always wrong. The Monsignor has succumbed to being misled by his passions; he will be mercifully corrected.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Building Momentum -- From a Culture of Waste to a Culture of Care

With millions gathered and many more millions viewing Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the US, one could safely say this pope has garnered some favorable attention. His demeanor is kind and merciful; but like a good father, he is just and sets boundaries for his children. His words often need to be parsed – I presume it is because he speaks to each of member of his flock as if they should already know what is written on their hearts. The undeniable fact that we are human and fallen and need to be boldly reminded has been a resounding criticism of this pope. I’m not so sure if Pope Francis’ approach is calculated or just simply who he is; or whether it is the best approach to spread the Gospel in our current tumultuous world, or not. I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus often left people scratching their heads, only explaining things more fully to the Apostles.

 Pope Francis did comment on important issues for the Church and society during this visit – many of which were directly taken from his encyclical Laudato Si’. Some people with whom I’ve spoken were shaken by what they perceived as a distinct lack of conviction before Congress. There was no hammering down on the Planned Parenthood scandal, not once was the word abortion mentioned, nothing explicit about gay marriage. And the banter from the critics was that this was a missed opportunity,  this was the audience that needed hear the doctrine professed loudly and clearly. Our elected officials with the power to change unjust laws, and the audiences in attendance and listening via the media who may suffer from a divided heart on these issues due to ignorance or faulty teaching needed to hear the teachings.

Many were discouraged, and even disgusted.

I, too, had some misgivings about his delivery of Catholic content in the speech to Congress. Where was the authoritative presence that wrote: “Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (Laudato Si’ 231)?

Reality check -- this was just the beginning. There was more to come, and I rested my hope there.

“He’s not done,” I thought to myself, “pray and stay hopeful.”

That’s what I did, and many, many others did, as well.

It was a visit that built in momentum. In his address to the UN the following day, the pope came through, touching on all the hot button issues that weren’t mentioned explicitly in the Congressional address. Quoting from the Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis drove home this essential point regarding respect for marriage and life:
Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. Laudato Si’ 123, 136, 155). 

This quote, among others, made clear to the world that the Church’s teachings on life and marriage will not and cannot change. Justice demands that we give to others what they are due; this means that we offer them the truth with compassion and mercy, and always in the context of charity.

He spoke about how exclusion is a primary cause of great concern. The Pope noted that we have become a disposable people:
Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste” (Papal Address to the United Nations, 9/25/15).
Pope Francis didn’t want to spend this wisdom exclusively on the US Congress – this was a message for the world. He took the world stage and he laid the enormity of the moral complexities that surround our world on the shoulders of all those who lead. He identified the global crosses and asked the world leaders to pick them up and carry them forward.

His journey from Washington, D.C. to New York and the development of his comments spoke volumes about his concern for the universality of the Church’s teachings and about his inordinate care for his flock – all peoples. Eliminating the culture of waste and becoming a culture of care is a work for all mankind, no exclusions.

This pattern of building momentum must also inform the hearts and minds of those who were puzzled by what they witnessed and/or heard in Philadelphia.

Take courage.

His comments there were meant to enliven the dialogue for the upcoming Synod on the Family which opens October 4th. He is not spending all his wisdom yet, but there was a pearl shared in Pope Francis’ press conference on the journey back to Rome:
Pope Francis was asked about his decision to streamline the process for declaring the nullity of marriages. He insisted the change was strictly juridical and not doctrinal. It is not ‘Catholic divorce’ he said. The annulment process needed reform because with automatic appeals ‘there were processes that lasted 10-15 years.’ 

There is more to come. And just as the UN address did not disappoint, I am of the hope and conviction that we will see the same building of momentum from the World Meeting of Families to  the Synod.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

For BSA it's officially openly SSA -- How will the Church respond?

Image courtesy of
A little over two years ago I wrote this about the Boy Scouts of America and their decision to allow young boys who professed to be same sex attracted (SSA) to enter their ranks openly. Yesterday it was announced that BSA has decided to allow openly homosexual leaders to join their ranks. 

Families take note (especially of the pictured Boy Scouts for Equality who marched in this parade fraught with debauchery and licentiousness), here is what your boys may be presented with as leaders.

I wonder how they will reconcile this with the "morally straight" declaration in the oath (accessed 7/28/2015 on the BSA website).

And, what will the Church decide to do about all their charters? I have a feeling I know what the Diocese of Arlington, VA will do based on our bishop's past comments.

Now, we pray and wait for the USCCB to respond. As of this morning, there is nothing on the USCCB site.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Untamed Temperaments": O How Can I Change Thee?

Photo credit:
I'm a strong extrovert with mild melancholic tendencies. I only fall into melancholic tendencies when the exertions of being a Choleric-Sanguine push me past my limits.

Can anyone relate to this? 

Does it seem a little bipolar*?

My highs can be very high, but my lows are never so severe as to warrant intervention. They are just exhausting and require rest and rejuvenation.

The Temperaments chart above delineates a person's behavioral tendencies. People's behavior can be differentiated into four distinct categories of temperament: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholic. Each temperament has particular behavioral traits associated with it.

As I noted at the start, my primary temperament is Choleric -- you can all feel sorry for my husband and children now. I have tried over the years to rid myself of many of the choleric tendencies in my behaviors. Each time I would try, I would get angry and frustrated. I'd behave, in essence, more and more like a choleric!

Often, I would grouse, "Can it even be done? Can I possibly be rid of these nasty tendencies that drive me and others crazy?"

It certainly seemed impossible. I was praying, of course -- a bitter, tantrum-like prayer. Not so surprisingly, I wasn't making much progress (actually, no progress). It became necessary to ask myself if I was praying for the right thing?

I wanted those particular temperaments to go away and be gone for good. I didn't want to be responsible for them anymore.

I thought I would be better if I was different. Wouldn't it be great if I could be a Sanguine/Phlegmatic? That's a wonderful combination -- as if I could simply put on a new temperament as easily a I could change my clothes.

I realized that I was asking God to change the essence of me -- "who" he made me to be.

That couldn't be right.

What was I supposed to do with that nasty choleric list then? How would I be able to go on being that?

St. Augustine came to mind one afternoon as I brooded over my situation (he and I share some temperament traits). He's an inspiring saint, and offered many wonderful words to ponder. I found part of the answer I needed in this less commonly quoted phrase spoken by the dear saint:

Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

This wasn't really a new concept to me. It had been recommended to me previously as a means of penance for Lent; I should try to cut down on something I found pleasant and stick to it, rather than abstain from it entirely. My confessor hadn't attributed the idea to St. Augustine. And I had never really applied it to anything besides my Lenten penances.

Imagine my delight when I recognized that it was a more universally applicable notion. It was an epiphany!

I didn't need to change temperaments! I needed to "temper" my temperaments, make them holy and gradually move to a more moderate expression of them.  I began to ask God to show me how to perfect my primary temperament.

I quickly came to this realization: I couldn't undo my temperaments, I couldn't "un-be" who I was. I would be destroying the fabric of who I am, and possibly undermining the purpose of what I was meant for in this life.  I needed to look at each of the attributes of the choleric temperament and find a way to make them virtuous. (I honestly believe that without the tenacity that comes along with being a choleric, I would have buckled under the strain of some of life's circumstances.)

For instance, aggression -- It doesn't sound like an attribute that anyone would aspire to. I didn't want to lose my edge, though -- I liked that don't tangle with the tiger part of me. So, what was I to do? I attempted with God's grace to refine its expression. I no longer felt compelled to make minced meat out of those who got under my skin. Instead, when I used that tendency to defend and protect, I'd start with a prayer and operate with love and with mercy; even if anger was necessary, it wouldn't be released in a negative form of aggression -- it now looks more determined and self-assured.

This choleric temperament is a gift, not a curse. And I have a responsibility to use it wisely.

Lately, it has become exceedingly commonplace to expect the world to conform to our whims. Accept me for how I am -- You -- accept Me -- whether my behavior deserves acceptance or not. There is very little, if any, personal responsibility for being good, or moral, or truthful. Concerning? Absolutely!

It unnerves me to consider: What if I had continued down the path of the "untamed choleric"? I'd have been miserable, angry, defiant, rebellious, etc. In actuality, I have already been those things (through my teens and early 20's -- I'll let you imagine that for yourselves). I know for certain that if it had continued unchecked, no one with any real joy would want to be around me; that would have been a great sadness to me because I truly love to be social (my Sanguine side) and yearned to be truly and consistently happy.

It would have been pointless, fruitless, and ultimately a detriment to me to expect others to accept the "untamed choleric". I would have been asking to remain in my misery -- a repellent to anything good, true and beautiful. I would have been surrounded my people of like temperament.

Sadly, I do notice many of them, they're hard to miss -- angry, depressed, leading others astray, good natured, but easily swayed -- and mostly miserable because they are trapped in their "untamed temperament". 

Beyond any doubt, I came to realize that the only way to be happy was to take responsibility for my behaviors that left me feeling angry and unhappy. God and I were finally on the same team in this regard; I wanted to perfect my temperament, and He wanted it for me all along.

I am grateful for my little epiphany. It helped me make a positive behavioral revision in my life (one that requires continuous attention). It allowed me to be strong and confident, with more obvious Sanguine undertones. I became more pleasant, and for that I'm sure many people are grateful.


That and prayer have helped me turn a corner to perfect and put to good use my choleric temperament. I now gratefully take what the Lord has given and employ it with his grace each day. Each day, I start anew to keep what is best, cast off what causes pain, anxiety, unrest.

It's been a life changer, a change that this Choleric/Sanguine can live happily with -- and so can everyone else around me.

For more information about the temperaments, I recommend: The Temperament God Gave You, by Art and Laraine Bennett.

*Bipolar disorder is real and requires medical intervention. The strains of daily life and the inability to control mood swings as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain must be addressed, of course. But, here I am speaking of behavioral tendencies more so than psychological diagnoses. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sexual Sins and Fraternal Correction -- Did St. Paul Really Suggest We Ignore Society?

I feel like we should all take a time machine back to the 70's where people were too confused (among other things) to teach the truth. We should sit down and make God's eyes and sing kumbaya. This desire comes after reading an article by a Catholic author in the Christian emagazine, Relevant. The article claims that Christians are not the appointed morality police of those outside the Church, and uses proof texting of Scripture, forgets that disciples are sometimes called to rebuke the sinner, and wants us all to just get along. Tell that to a martyr! The author begins with a derogatory quote from Gandhi about Christians, and then bases the entire article -- dealing with sexual morality and contending with the sexual sins/sinners that surround us -- around ONE quote from Paul to the Corinthians. ONE QUOTE!

In order to understand what Paul was teaching, you need to understand the context. What was the situation in Corinth? Why did Paul need to rebuke them initially? Was Paul really suggesting that the Church ignore society? Why did he write again? After all, there are two letters to the Church in Corinth, not just one quote. Two full letters of teaching, and correcting. It's a dangerous thing to pick a quote and think you know to who and about what Paul was teaching.

Back to the point. Yes, we are called to enlighten the culture to the truth of the Gospel! And sometimes, the message does need an edge -- think Jesus in the temple courtyard and when He casts out demons, and even the statements to eat true flesh and drink true blood or have no life within you from the Sermon on the Mount. Fraternal correction -- especially about sexual  morality -- isn't always comfortable. And I just can't stomach being corrected so politely and inaccurately with information taken out of context and and argument built upon personal opinion. (Oh, how I despise proof texting!)

Defending the truth -- sharing the Gospel -- doesn't have to be a nasty ordeal, but it does have to remind the sinner to go and sin no more!

Most often, that sinner is us! And I know what I would do if I tried to convince myself to just be a good example instead of mortifying the body and rebuking the intellect that would continue to sin on the inside, but try to be a loving example on the outside. Read 2 Tim 1 and see how Paul in prison counsels Timothy on the preaching of the Gospel; and, as I mentioned above, what does Paul actually say in 1 Corinthians, and then in 2 Corinthians?

My advice to the author:

Knowing who to correct and how to correct in a way that will be heard and understood is a grace. Know your audience -- that's what Jesus did by dining with sinners -- and recognize that the audience in most cases is YOU -- so, start by pulling that plank in your own eye, pray and ask God the best way to reach those in society to whom we are called to evangelize. It begins with self-knowledge and self discipline to better know how to love and serve God and neighbor. Our neighbor doesn't exist only inside the Church!

Let's start here:

"O Eternal Father, I accuse myself before You, in order that You may punish me for my sins in this finite life, and, inasmuch as my sins are the cause of the sufferings which my neighbor must endure, I implore You, in Your kindness, to punish them in my person." (from the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Same Sex Marriage, Love Thy Neighbor, and Rodney King

Rodney King. Remember him? May God rest his soul, he died a few years back -- his story, that sparked riots in CA after his beating by police, echos in the stories we have recently grappled with concerning police brutality vs. necessary force.

But, that's not what I want to focus on here, although there is much to be said regarding that, as well.

Mr. King may be best remembered for his quote: "Can we all get along?"

It was a simple phrase -- and one that very few have considered attempting, even remotely, since its utterance.



We can't all get along. If we could, there wouldn't be strife in the world, terrorism, hunger, racial tensions, abortion,  same-sex marriage legalization, etc.

No, we can't all get along. Not under our own power.

Christ never said this life would be easy. He emphasized the narrow gate that led to heaven (cf. Mt. 7:13, and that persecution was to be expected (cf. Mt 5:11; Mk 13:13; Jn 15:19; Lk 6:22) if we were to follow him.

Here's where the "get along" statement becomes even more problematic for a Christian. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us -- it's paradoxical.

As we are confronted with issues, situations, laws that assault our Christian sensibilities (notice I didn't say offend -- which would make it merely sentimental), we are to become more humble, more loving, more charitable, more gracious, more, etc. -- you get the picture.

What are we to do?

Our outcry is first to the Lord to protect us in this battle against the world of darkness that is ever more encroaching on our freedom to do what we ought, not what we want. Then, we must reach out --- gently, peacefully -- to our hierarchy and beg them to teach the truth with courage and perseverance, reminding them that we are praying and will support them with our very lives. How can they be courageous if they don't believe that God has provided them an army of angels and men to fill them with fortitude?

Then, we need to practice what has been preached to us. What a joy it was this past Sunday to hear our priest be so loving, yet unapologetic in his defense of marriage and family.

He wasn't being a bigot or a hater.

On the contrary, he was being a lover of God, a lover of his fellow man, and was upholding the directive to do both (cf. Mt 22: 35-40). And, we are called to do the same.

Granted, it would be easier if the Gay Pride Parades were not filled with pornographic, lewd and crude representations of sex (didn't look too much like marriage to me). It would be easier to love that particular neighbor if what was witnessed was representative of loving same sex couples with a desire to try and live out what marriage looks like to them (yes, I am saying they don't understand what "true marriage" is).

And believe me, the decline in fruitful and faithful heterosexual marriage hasn't made it easy to defend the sanctity of marriage either. People will note that the divorce rate is declining, which on the surface would appear to be a good thing. The problem is that this "marriage" that everyone wants is also in decline -- people aren't getting married at the same rate as they once were. (And, to be completely cynical here, divorce attorneys are probably champing at the bit for what will likely be an increase in their revenue as same sex couples marry and divorce.)

Ultimately, Jesus never promised us that being his disciple would be easy (cf. Lk 9:23; Mk 10:38), and he never said that we would all get along (cf. Mt. 10:21; Lk 12:53). We are going to be judged, separated and placed where our lives have led us -- in eternal glory or eternal damnation (cf. Mt. 25:31-33; Lk 10:16; Mt. 12: 37).

It is our objective, then, to live lives that glorify God and keep his commandments ( cf. Jn 10:27; Jn 15:14). We must love our neighbor and try to help him see that it is in love that we reject his behavior, not his dignity as a human person. And, utmost in our minds and hearts should be to preserve God from this further indignity to his glory.

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ", St. Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Cor 11 -- that's a tall order, but a necessary one. Jesus loved the sinner, with the directive to go and sin no more; with the authority and gentle presence to have the crowd, ready and willing to inflict harm, shamefully disperse and drift away inflicting no harm whatsoever (cf. Jn 8:11).

That is how to proceed -- be imitators of Christ.