Matrimony in America

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A new study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty indicates that the best predictor of economic mobility is the percentage of children who live in intact families.

In January, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a special issue about a federal program to promote healthy marriages, run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The “HHS family of agencies,” as it likes to call itself, comprises 11 operating divisions and 10 regional offices. One of these is the Office of Family Assistance, which runs (among other things) the Healthy Marriage Initiative. It’s hard to say exactly how much the initiative costs, but it has about $60 million in grants outstanding.

Here’s how it works. Recruiters seek out poor parents, in places like hospitals and food-stamp offices, and offer them money and other inducements to attend 13 weeks of relationship education. Everyone agrees that children are better off with doting parents who love each other. The program aims to create families like this. A mere $60 million is small potatoes for an agency like HHS, but it comes to about $11,000 per couple for the program participants.

The results have been quite disappointing. A three-year study of eight grantees found that couples who took part were no more likely to stay together or get married than the control group. Fathers did not spend more time with children. Children were not more emotionally secure. Some programs actually showed negative outcomes, which is to say, the control group did better. The article in the Chronicle article asks, “So why aren’t we pulling the plug?” …..

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to spend money to encourage young parents to marry and stay married. However ineffective this program has been, it does focus on a principal cause of the ills that afflict children and families. Consider the much-discussed problem of growing economic inequality. A new study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty indicates that the best predictor of economic mobility is the percentage of children who live in intact families.

The program’s failure is more disappointing still because it is that rare solution that can claim bipartisan support. Presidents Bush and Obama have both been fans.

Then again, isn’t it odd that we have engaged the federal government to teach young people about healthy marriage and relationship skills? I don’t just mean “odd” in a constitutional or political sense. I mean “odd” because HHS, as an institution, knows so little about love and marriage.

In the past we learned about those things from our families, our churches, parochial schools and a dozen other private associations. Today we look to Washington.

I am reminded of the passage in “Democracy in America” where Alexis de Tocqueville speaks about the progress of the temperance movement: “I came to understand,” he says, “that these hundred thousand Americans, frightened by the progress of drunkenness around them, wanted to support sobriety by their patronage. … One may fancy that if they had lived in France each of these hundred thousand would have made individual representations to the government asking it to supervise all the public houses throughout the realm.”

These days, we’re more like France.

Private institutions and individuals will always understand love, marriage, child rearing and families better than the government does.

Remitting to them the task of restoring marriage asks each of us to contribute a lot of arduous and unpaid work. That may explain the appeal of asking the government to manage our relationships. But — no surprise — the evidence indicates that that doesn’t work.

Garvey is president of The Catholic University of America in Washington.

 

Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Two messages about sex

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Chastity is an unfashionable virtue nowadays, but the idea is not hard to understand.

At The Catholic University of America, where I serve as president, we have been working on some revisions to our code of student conduct. We’re finding that it’s challenging because we need to send students two different messages about sex that can at times clash awkwardly.

One pertains to sexual abuse — rape, sexual assault, sexual battery. The message here is fairly obvious. It is both a crime and a sin against justice and charity. Its distinguishing mark is the element of coercion — of forcing sex on an unwilling victim.

Sexual abuse is not only forbidden by state criminal law. It is also addressed by federal laws that apply to colleges — Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Clery Act (which requires colleges to report sex offenses near campus).

College student conduct codes will usually tell students that the difference between sex and sexual abuse is the element of consent. And they will use a formula something like this to define consent: “Consent is informed, freely given, mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in sexual activity.”

But that’s not the end of the story from a Catholic perspective. Consensual sex between students matters, too. It’s not a crime (fortunately), but it is a sin against chastity when it takes place outside of marriage…..

Chastity is an unfashionable virtue nowadays, but the idea is not hard to understand. Casual sex is harmful even if there is no coercion. It plays at love for sport. It makes promises that the players don’t intend to keep. It insults the dignity of the other person by treating him or her as a sex toy rather than a child of God. It divorces sex from the creation of new life and the unity of a family.

At The Catholic University of America, as at other universities, there should be exact and uncompromising justice for the crime of sexual abuse. At the same time, we want to steer our students toward something better than merely avoiding violence. We want them to embrace virtue and avoid vice.

Risk managers (accountants and lawyers) want us to be very clear with our students about what counts as sexual abuse: “Make sure your partner is a willing participant in any sexual activity. Get consent for every move you make.” If we’re not explicit about this, they say, we may be guilty under Title IX of creating a hostile environment, and risk losing federal funds.

That makes some sense. But if we do follow the accountants’ and lawyers’ advice, it’s a bit awkward to turn around then and say, “But wait — that sexual activity we told you to get consent for? You should not be doing it at all.”

There is no logical inconsistency between the goals of preventing sexual violence and promoting chastity. The two are actually quite harmonious. The awkwardness in explaining this arises because our culture doesn’t want to hear the message it needs. It wants to prevent violence while preserving promiscuity. It is forbidden to consider that for some subset of the population, the latter can lead to the former.

Casual sex is a disordered activity. If you engage in it, it creates terrible habits in you and degrades your partner. For some, it will also create a sense of entitlement to sex without commitment. And this sense of entitlement is quite dangerous. To discuss such topics as date rape without providing this context is to play a game of pretend.

Like all virtues, chastity produces good habits in those who practice it. The promise to avoid and prevent sexual violence is one we can all keep. We can keep it more easily if we practice and respect this old-fashioned virtue.

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

The virtue of religion; man’s obligations to God and to one another

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It is only right and just to give worship and adore our God for all that He is to us.

Our Magisterium or the teaching authority of our Roman Catholic faith teaches that ‘religion’ is a distinct moral virtue because it regards man’s duties to God and to one another, and it inclines us toward the proper way of doing things.

For one reason or another, people outside the Church are very often surprised to hear how we Catholics recognize religion as a virtue and will question if not outright deny its legitimate placement among the virtues. They believe that living what they call decent lives is enough of an acknowledgement to God. Theirs is a notion that seems compatible to that of a dumb animal with no other means to respond to its creaturehood than by simply living its dependent existence.

As to why the Magisterium teaches religion as a virtue, we must consider how we humans are creatures that differ from every other creature in the world in that we are rational beings.

As rational beings, we Catholics have the assertion that we owe God. He is our Creator. We reason that we owe him because we are not only dependent upon Him for our very existence, but also for our intellect and our will. We believe all that we have is due to God’s loving and preserving will without which we cannot continue to be.  Therefore, we reason that we are physically bound to Him…..

It is our faith that we differ also in the fact that we humans have been created to be in communion with God and are, therefore, imbued with a natural knowledge of Him.

This means we can look at the world as rational beings and see it as a consequence of intelligence.  Since the intelligence cannot be conceived without the will, we now have a nominal definition of God, on the principle of causality, by conceiving Him as the first source of all that is.

Many of our Church fathers and scholars have written on this subject of causality or put another way; the cause demonstrated by existing facts. In his book Realty, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange discusses St Thomas’ illustrative example of how the footprint in the sand “presupposes the foot from which it came…” The example continues: “but if the foot were eternally placed on the sand, the footprint too would be eternal, without beginning, but not without origin. The priority of the foot is a priority, not of time and duration, but of origin and causality. Thus the whole world, with or without beginning, has its origin in Supreme Cause.” This is the natural law.

It, therefore, corresponds that given our independence upon God and the fact that we are so physically bound to Him, it is only right and just to give worship and adore our God for all that He is to us. To refuse this is to deny the very essence and purpose of our status among God’s creation. It is also to defy the natural law.

Now the question becomes if the acts of worship can be done as an exclusively private matter or if man owes God public worship. The Magisterium teaches that the answer is both.

To understand this, we must first define interior and exterior acts of worship. Interior acts of worship are those that occur through the soul and within the mind.  They are deliberate acts of intellect and will. Exterior acts are those that have some outward sign of worship. They are necessary because man is both soul and body. If the whole man is to recognize his dependence on God, soul and body must work in cohesion.

Mere exterior acts if not accompanied by interior acts are empty and thoughtless. Consequently, they have no moral value.

The obligation for public worship is the result of man being both a private and a social animal with inherent social responsibilities to God and to one another. Just as the individual is dependent on God, so is human society. It then follows that human society must acknowledge the supremacy of God just as much as the individual. Therefore, the Church teaches that public worship must be given to God. The good of society depends on it.

We have to ask what we would have to rely on to make laws that justly define and reflect the truth of our humanity, if it weren’t for the standards religion gives us to judge by.

It also follows that those laws must be based on a cohesive knowledge about the truth of man’s creation. Or,how will there be any unity among the people? Ergo, organized religion.  As we Catholics call it: Holy Mother Church, a visible society and as such a creature of God.

Religion is the virtue that inclines us to worship God according to His will, and we Catholics have inherited a very good religion. The Magisterium gives us a reliable and unified knowledge of Scripture and Christian Tradition. With that knowledge, we are enabled to develop a well-informed conscience whereby we can regulate our duties to God and to society.

Yet, there are many who claim there is no need for organized religion. They look at religion as an unnecessary imposition on their lives. There are many, even among Catholics today, who argue that they do not need and will not accept a religion that tells them what they ought to think. They have the folly of being restrained within the confines of their own minds. By that way of thinking, there’d be no building up of knowledge from one generation to the other.  There would be no progress.

It is essential to realize how each of us belongs to the entire continuum of human history and plays no small part in its destiny. What we do and whom we become, individually and collectively, is relevant to the rest of the visible world in that by our actions we extend good or evil into society—with transcendent consequences.

It is no small matter to belong to a religious community that has a reliable and unified knowledge to lead us in the ways of God.

The real problems in today’s world arise from the fallacious thinking of those who believe we can do without Scripture and Christian Tradition.

In the words of our Lord: “You shall honor the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might…”

St Thomas teaches that putting religion first among the moral virtues is the just response to God’s initiative in the world.

St Aquinas teaches that it is through the virtue of religion that all our actions are related to and offered up to the Lord our God.

Above all, we have the example of those at the foot of the Cross attending the very public sacrifice of our Lord Jesus the Son of God surrendering on the Cross to God the Father.  By that example, we too are given to attend Holy Mass where we make our public attendance on the Lord.

The Holy Sacrament of the Mass is the principle way for all Catholics to worship God. By attending Holy Mass and living the virtue of religion in its other acts (devotion, prayer, adoration, sacrifice, the use of the other sacraments, vows and oaths), we share in Christ’s Holy Sacrifice, and we, too, make of our lives a holy sacrifice to God.

From the time of Christ, we have heard from pontiffs and Church elders alike that Christians are called to be “the light of the world.” We are to awaken in our fellow men and in society, in general, the love of the true and good God and this requires us to evangelize the virtue of religion by word and by deed in private and in public.

 

 

The Lay Catholic

Pope: Christian love is a selfless state

6745210_lVatican Radio reports that during morning Mass today, at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis’ homily was on the subject of Christian love, reaffirming the constant teaching of the Church that it is the Christian vocation to love God and neighbor.

Pope Francis began his homily with the words taken from the First Letter of John: “If we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.”

And, this echoes what Christ said. “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:15)

The pope’s words today echo all that the Church, Holy Scripture and Christian Tradition have to say about Christian love being the supreme virtue…..

Everything we have handed handed off to us, from Christ, the Church Fathers, John Paul’s Theology of the Body, to Pope Francis today, defines Christian love al being all about the other person.

It is the constant teaching of the Church, Holy Scripture and Christian Tradition that Christian love is a selfless state.

Pope Francis said today that what we Christians should think of as love is is not soap opera drama nor is it the work of romanticism.

He said. “We are in God and God is in us. This is the Christian life. Not remaining in the spirit of the world, not remaining in superficiality, not remaining in idolatry, not remaining in vanity.

“No, no, remaining in the Lord. And, He reciprocates. He abides in us. But, he remains in us first. Many times we push Him out, and we cannot remain in Him. It is the Spirit that remains.”

He went on to say.  “Christian love is not so much an ecstasy of the heart, a nice thing to feel…Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness. Jesus Himself, when He speaks of love, speaks to us about concrete things: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and many concrete things…..

“And, when this concreteness is not there, you can live a Christianity of illusions.”

The pope echoes the age-old adage: Deeds speak louder than words.

He said.  “The one who does not love, who is selfish, always seeks to receive, always seeks to have things, to have advantages.“

The message is clear: Love is about giving.  It is not about receiving.

 

Copyright © 2014 The Lay Catholic

Virtue matters; nothing nice comes from deception

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We must understand that compassion; if it is in its true and virtuous form, has as its outward consequences desirable results.

Obama said. “If you like your insurance you can keep it. Period. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.”

Almost 6 million people are losing their insurance and suffering the consequences of those lies told so that President Obama could calm the nation’s nerves, get himself re-elected and his agenda passed through Congress.

Nothing nice comes from such deception. It is evil and cruel to do what the president and his administration did to the American people. Despite what they tell us now, this new healthcare system is not designed to improve our healthcare choices; it is designed to ration our healthcare options…..

Proponents of the Affordable Healthcare Act tell us that the new law will save lives.  It is more likely that the new system will shorten the lives of many, especially the sickest and most costly to keep alive.

If this new law is ever to create a more compassionate healthcare system, we must put new people into office, and we must begin by choosing prudent people of virtue: people who have the habits of sticking to the truth and playing by the rules and who don’t use compassion as an argument or code word for ideologies foreign to our freedoms.

And, we citizens must understand that compassion; if it is in its true and virtuous form, has as its outward consequences desirable results.

True compassion would help us to identify with the suffering and to do the right thing by them.  It is not rooted in expedience.  It is rooted in love and does not treat the suffering as if they are a burden on society; it doesn’t result in the elimination of care and medicine options and it doesn’t treat the gravely ill as castaways.

It cannot be too often said that we must keep in mind how this nation was founded.  It was structured with an eye to the existence of God and on the importance of His will and our role in it.

God bothered to make humans in His own image. Therefore, we are not to be treated like numbers in a Marxist world. It should be unthinkable for our leaders to devise systems that have us treated as if we are merely an expendable herd of highly developed quadrupeds on hind legs.

It is critical to keep in mind that this president, his administration and his supporters have the unmitigated hubris to try to change a country and its people, beginning with a healthcare system that they do not understand.  Simple logic will reveal that whenever you try to change something that you do not understand you are most likely going to destroy it.  With any luck at all, these people will likely destroy their chances for leadership in the process. At least we can hope for that because we need elected officials who know what they are doing and who are more carefully vetted as leaders.  (That would lead us to take a closer look at those we put into office and to a whole new subject on the proper role and conscience of the media. But, that’s a discussion for another day.)

There are those in Washington who want us to believe that the present debacle is all about the website.  The truth is that this isn’t a botched website so much as it is an egregious and nefarious healthcare system designed by people who have no understanding of economics or the healthcare industry and whose urge for what they call justice is sated by deciding whom they are willing to be unfair to.

For decades, our bishops and church leaders have been calling for a more equitable way of dealing with the ill, disabled and elderly.  Their aim was to foster a more compassionate and accessible healthcare industry.

However, the bishops do not adequately recognize the importance of working with the right people. And, by now we should know that this president and his administration do not fit into that category. They are driven ideologists who must believe that the end justifies the means.

Those of us who are old enough to have seen the day and age when the truth mattered, can no doubt recall the expressions like:  “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are; Be careful of the friends you make because you will be judged by their company; Birds of a feather flock together; If you don’t want the name (in this case liar) don’t play the game.”

Then, there’s the one that priests, religious and laity should keep uppermost in mind: “Bad friends corrupt good morals.”

The president’s words are being called ‘the biggest lies of the year.’ I would say they are the biggest lies that have ever been told by any American president looking into a camera and politicking.   I would also add that they are lies that very well could forever change the face of America–and not for the better.

For one thing, we will be more cynical than ever about our politicians. Of course, that would be the wrong focus.  We must shoulder the blame as an electorate.  We believed what we wanted to believe.  We refused to tune in to any news outlet that would hint of opposing views.  To this day most of us remain culpably ignorant of what we can expect from what is being done.

Many of us in the cheap seats continue to believe elective officials who promote a rosy picture of life with Obamacare.

Can we not see how United Healthcare, one of the largest providers in the Medicare supplemental market, is dumping thousands of specialty physicians nationwide in an obvious effort to get rid of its sickest patients? If this trend continues, the ways to fix this problem can only be totalitarian in nature.  We would have to threaten the licenses of all physicians who will not play by the new rules, toe the line and withhold care and medicine as directed by the bureaucracy.  Perhaps a new totalitarian approach is exactly the goal of this administration. Period.

 

Modesty is akin to temperance; teaching the virtue

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Overall, it must always be recognized that the airs, practices and overt beliefs of others influence us all.

Before we embark upon teaching modesty to our children, we should first explore our own understanding of it.

David Isaacs in his book Character Building identifies three notions associated with modesty. He says that, before all else, modesty is a human virtue akin to the virtue of temperance. As such, he says, it has much to do with our human dignity.

On the heels of that notion, comes to mind the notion of restraint. We can all agree; this is a necessary virtue for anyone seeking compatibility in a family or a society. Restraint is not just something we owe to ourselves; it is an obligation we owe out of respect to others; it is what keeps us subject to the order of reason and compassion.

Thirdly, modesty also involves the notion of privacy, which is something usually considered only within the context of our homes, our dress and our personal communications…..

Thus, we can conclude that the distinctive nature of the human virtue of modesty is restraint, which, as Isaacs points out, makes this human virtue akin to the moral virtue of temperance that in a broader sense covers all that rules the impulses of physical pleasure and the use of worldly goods.

Ergo, teaching modesty to our children is also part of the teaching of temperance.

All of this is the acquired practice of self-denial, which operates solely on the individual practicing it and can only be observed from the outside.

For example, when we see a virtuous person we see someone who is modest and humble and respectful. When we see modesty, we see it in practice. We look at home, dress and language.

Is the home more or less a monument to a big ego or is it built to accommodate the security, privacy and intimacy of the family? Is a person’s dress done with proper decorum or is it worn to excite the instincts of the opposite sex in such a way as to encourage immodest thoughts? When it comes to language, is it emotional based and likely to incite immoral or angry behavior; does it reveal too much of one’s privacy or the intimacies of another; is it designed to help or to hurt.

Overall, it must always be recognized that the airs, practices and overt beliefs of others influence us all.

So, the question becomes how do we teach virtue to our children and in particular, what are the issues and challenges to teaching modesty?

While it can be said that every child is born innocent, no child is born virtuous. Virtue is acquired. Good habits and moral character do not come with the family’s DNA. They must be taught and then practiced with arduous determination.

However, aside from relying upon our own behavior as a consistent model for our children, there is no repeatable process we can specifically rely upon that will perfect our children.

That is not to say we can’t set up effective means to deal with our children in ways that will help to incline toward the habits we want for them.

Naturally, the best way to teach a virtue is to live it. Children are mimics. You live it; they’ll learn it, both the good and the bad of it.

We can refer to actions and circumstances we can set up to help our children develop the will for a particular virtue.

On the subject of modesty and with respect to the notion of restraint, for example:

· We can teach our school age children to undress in the confines of bathrooms and bedrooms.

· We can teach our children on the proper decorum of dress.

· We can teach our children to knock before entering the private space of another family member.

· We can make sure we are fully dressed when we walk about the house.

· We can keep from asking personal questions or scolding on private matters when other children are present, and we can make it known to our children that this is our practice.

· We can teach our children to avoid conversations that are ‘not nice.’

On the notion of privacy we can:

· We can see to it that our children realize the importance of keeping certain aspects of their lives to themselves.

· We can encourage our children to find times to be with themselves.

· We can give very young children their own little box or space where they can keep their personal items safe.

· We can give our teens their own space where they can be alone and begin to develop a sense of self.

Then how do we know what signs we should look for to determine how our children are practicing this virtue in ways that will suit themselves and God?

We can ask:

·How do our children demonstrate respect and decorum in dress and manner. Do our children behave with respect and decorum?

· How do our children make it easier for others to behave in right ways? Do they act in ways that make it easier for others to behave in right ways?

· Do they show moderation and restraint in the way they dress and behave?

· What do we see of them in terms of acting generously on behalf of others?

Thinking in these ways helps us to see more clearly how we can parent with a goal in mind–from day to day.

Saints aren’t superheroes, they just never strayed from God, pope says

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Regarding the virture of faith: Jesus shows the way.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Saints aren’t superheroes, they are regular people who just never left God’s side after encountering him and his love, Pope Francis said on the feast of All Saints.

“Being a saint is not a privilege of the few, like someone getting a large inheritance. All of us have inherited through baptism the ability to become saints,” he said Nov. 1.

Before reciting the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pope talked about God’s call to holiness.

“The saints are friends of God,” he said. But they “are not superheroes, nor were they born perfect. They are like us, each one of us.” …..

What makes them stand out, he said, is once they encountered Jesus, they always followed him.

“The path that leads to holiness has a name and has a face, it’s the face of Jesus Christ; he teaches us to become saints.”

Jesus shows the way in the Gospels, especially with the beatitudes, Pope Francis said.

Saints were people who followed God “with their whole heart — unconditionally and without hypocrisy; they spent their lives serving others; they put up with suffering and adversity without hatred; they responded to evil with goodness and spread joy and peace,” he said.

The kingdom of heaven is for those who put their trust in and derive their sense of security from God’s love, not material things, he said.

The kingdom is for those “who have a simple, humble heart; who don’t assume to be righteous and don’t judge others; who know how to suffer with those who suffer and rejoice with those who rejoice; they aren’t violent, but are merciful; and they seek to be builders of reconciliation and peace,” the pope said.

Saints always tried to reconcile people and help bring peace to the world, the pope said, and that is what makes holiness beautiful; “it’s a beautiful path.”

Saints “suffered lots of adversity, but without hating,” he said.

“The saints never hated” others because love comes from God and hatred “comes from the devil, and the saints stayed far away from the devil.”

“The saints are men and women who have joy in their hearts and bring it to others. Never hate, serve others — the neediest, pray and be joyful, this is the path of holiness.”

The pope said the saints’ message to women and men today is to “trust in the Lord because he never disappoints.”

“He’s a good friend who is always at our side,” he said.

With the example of the way they lived their lives, the saints encourage all Christians “to not be afraid to go against the tide or to be misunderstood and derided when we speak about (Jesus) and the Gospel.”

After praying the Angelus, the pope asked for a moment of silence and prayer for the more than 90 people from Niger, most of them women and children, who died from hunger, thirst and fatigue while trying to cross the Sahara desert, heading to Algeria.

He said he also was praying for “victims of violence, especially Christians who lost their lives because of persecution.”

The pope greeted the many men and women who ran in the annual 10-kilometer Race of the Saints.

“St. Paul would say that a Christian’s whole life is a race for winning the prize of holiness; you are giving us a good example. Thank you for this race,” he said.

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Pope says hope is not mere optimism but a link to eternal life

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Early Christians represented hope as an anchor fixed on the shore of the hereafter, he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christian hope is not mere optimism or a “positive attitude” toward the world but a vital link to eternal salvation, Pope Francis said.

The pope spoke Oct. 29 during a morning Mass he celebrated in the Vatican guesthouse, where he lives. The congregation included a visiting group of Mexican priests celebrating the 25th anniversary of their ordinations.

Taking as his text the day’s reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans (8: 18-25), which deals with the theological virtue of hope, Pope Francis distinguished the virtue from an “ability to look at things in a good spirit and move ahead.” …..

The pope said that hope was harder to understand than the other two theological virtues — faith and charity — whose results are more evident to the senses…..

Early Christians represented hope as an anchor fixed on the shore of the hereafter, he said.

“Where are we anchored, each of us?” Pope Francis asked. “Are we anchored right on the shore of that distant ocean or are we anchored in an artificial lake we have made, with our rules, our ways of behaving, our schedules, our clericalism, our ecclesiastical — not ecclesial — attitudes?”

“It is one thing to live in hope, because in hope we are saved, and another thing to live as good Christians, nothing more,” he said.

The pope drew on St. Paul’s use of childbirth as an image of hope, which he said involves waiting to give life.

“When a woman gets pregnant, she is a woman, but she is never just a woman, she is a mamma,” he said. “And hope is something like this. It changes one’s attitude. We are ourselves, but we are not ourselves. We are ourselves, seeking what is over there, anchored over there.”

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

An age that’s out of order requires reordering

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When God created the world, God put order in it. To seek that order is to practice the virtue of temperance,

Within a week’s time, I experienced a shooting at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard a mile and a half from where I live and two lockdowns in our neighborhood on Capitol Hill. I’m sad to say these disorders, for lack of a better word, are becoming more common and will happen again.

Shootings and heightened security concerns aren’t the only new millennium challenges confronting us. Protest groups are forever marching around the U.S. Capitol or Supreme Court, demanding rights or objecting to abuses they contend are out of order…..

Video games now exist that have reached new heights of violence. These and a surge in obscene music have many feeling that something is radically wrong in our society.

Reports of an unsteady economy, people out of work, the growing gap between the haves and have-nots, and barbaric atrocities entering our living rooms daily cause us to wonder, “Is this now an accepted part of daily life?”

These experiences are but a few bombarding our human psyche, causing us to question if they are one reason why some disturbed people go over the edge.

Life has always been complicated, but never has our psyche had to digest its complexities as it does today. Our senses are drinking in more than they ever saw or heard before at a speed unlike before. Not only that, but we have now created virtual-reality sensations never experienced by past generations. We have entered a “new order” in need of reordering. How can we cope with it?

When God created the world, God put order in it. To seek that order is to practice the virtue of temperance, and it is temperance we need most in order to cope effectively.

To generate order, we need to stop what we are doing and earnestly reflect on the causes of the disorder we keep witnessing. Conscientious reflection on what is adversely affecting us is our optimum means for generating order.

For example, let’s ask ourselves: Is our electronic age and media, as wonderful as they are, generating more tensions than peace of mind? What do we need in our daily life to correct this? Have we entered an age of hyper stimulation that is damaging our psychological well-being? If so, how do we control its intake? Have we entered an age of fascination with the bizarre? If so, why are we fascinated with it?

Temperance not only prompts restraint. It especially encourages us to avoid being matter-of-fact and to actively seek the causes of disorder. Equally important, it inspires us to reflect on the beautiful order within God’s creation and to rededicate ourselves to it for the well-being of all.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Pope: Church must show what unity looks like, avoid divisions, gossip

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He asked people to have the humility to repair the divisions in one’s life “with patience and sacrifice.”

(RE:THE VIRTUE OF HUMILITY)– Backstabbing and gossip hurt people and harm God’s desire for a united human family, Pope Francis said.

Unity is a gift from God, “but often we struggle to live it out,” he said. “We are the ones who create lacerations.”

The pope also asked people to pray for persecuted Christians in the world and to be genuinely concerned about their plight, just as one would be for a family member in distress.

At his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 25, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the creed — looking at what Catholics believe about the church — and focused on the Catholic belief in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”…..

Catholics of every culture, language and part of the world are united in their common baptism and in sharing the church’s one faith and sacramental life, the pope said.

This unity in faith, hope, the sacraments and ministry “are like columns that support and hold together the one great edifice of the church,” he said. And it also helps Catholics feel like members of one family, “united no matter the distance” between them.

But the pope asked people to reflect upon whether they live out this unity or are they uninterested — preferring to be closed off from others, isolated within their own community, group of friends or nation.

“It’s sad to see a ‘privatized’ church because of egoism and this lack of faith,” he said.

It’s especially sad when there are so many fellow Christians in the world who are suffering or being persecuted because of their faith, he said.

“Am I indifferent or is it like someone in the family is suffering?” he asked.

He asked everyone to be honest with themselves and respond in their hearts: “How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted” and for those who are in difficulty for professing and defending the faith?

“It’s important to look beyond one’s own fence, to feel oneself as church, one family of God,” he said.

But throughout history and even today, people within the church have not always lived this unity, he said.

“Sometimes misunderstandings, conflicts, tensions and divisions crop up that harm (unity), and so the church doesn’t have the face we would want, it doesn’t demonstrate love and what God wants.”

“And if we look at the divisions that still exist among Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, we feel the hard work (needed) to make this unity fully visible.”

The world today needs unity, he said: “We need reconciliation, communion, and the church is the home of communion.”

Building unity starts with oneself and starts at home, the pope said.

“Everyone ask yourselves: Do I build unity in my family, parish and community or am I a gossiper? Am I the reason for division and difficulty?”

The pope said talking badly about others hurts everyone, including the church and communities.

“Christians must bite their tongues before gossiping,” he said. “That will do us good because that way the tongue swells up, and you can’t talk” badly about others, he said to laughter and applause from the crowd.

He asked people to have the humility to repair the divisions in one’s life “with patience and sacrifice” and follow the Prayer of St. Francis to be instruments of God’s peace.

“Humility, gentleness, magnanimity and love for preserving unity are the real pathways of the church,” he said.

Because the Holy Spirit is the real “engine” behind the life and renewal of the church, prayer is important. Unity in diversity comes from the Holy Spirit, which everyone received with baptism and confirmation, he added.

The true richness of the church “is what unites us, not what divides us,” he said.

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The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130626_udienza-generale_en.html.

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130626_udienza-generale_sp.html.

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Virtues of Faith and Charity: Being grateful stewards and grateful believers

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We are called not only to say thanks to God, but to do thanks as well.

The Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI a year ago will conclude the end of this church year on the feast of Christ the King Nov. 24. All year long we have been thinking about the mystery that is Christian faith.

Faith is a gift. It is a beacon of light that shines in our darkness. We all experience the pain, suffering and confusion that are caused by darkness in our lives.

Sin and death are the primary expressions of darkness that no human person — except the Blessed Virgin Mary, by the grace of God — can escape. We cannot overcome the world’s darkness by our own efforts, but our faith tells us that we can open our minds and hearts to the light of Christ and, so, “journey through time” illumined by his brightness…..

The church teaches that faith comes as the result of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. How well do we know him? How deeply do we love him? How effectively do we serve him by responding to the most profound needs of our sisters and brothers in faith?

The light of Christ shines through our darkness. It illumines the shadows of our life and touches us in what Pope Francis describes in his encyclical, “Lumen Fidei” (“The Light of Faith”), as “the core of our being.” When we see with faith, we recognize the meaning of life — and of our individual lives.

Through faith, our minds and hearts are opened to the truth. We are not orphans. We are the sons and daughters of God, the brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus, who are called to see and to believe with great joy!

As people of faith, we are called to thank God for this great gift. But giving thanks, expressing our gratitude in thought and word, is only an initial aspect of being a grateful believer. We are called not only to say thanks to God, but to do thanks as well. This expression of gratitude to God in action is called stewardship.

In their pastoral letter “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” the American bishops teach that authentic Christian stewardship is a disciple’s response in faith to all the gifts we have been given by a loving and generous God.

When somebody gives us a gift or does us a favor, we spontaneously say “thank you.” That’s the expected response our parents taught us to make at a very early age.

But just saying thanks isn’t really enough. Yes, we are expected to acknowledge in words the gift or benefit we have received, but we are expected to acknowledge it in action, too. This acknowledgment in action is not supposed to be a “payback” in which we calculate the value of what we have received and give exactly that much back to the giver.

Rather, it’s intended to be a more intense expression of grateful acknowledgment, a more emphatic way of showing that we are aware of what we have received and that we want to express our sincere appreciation by giving something in return.

Gratitude in action is more demanding than just expressing thanks with words. It’s more substantive. It costs more. It’s more complicated. But it is also more expressive, and the more we have been given, the more we are expected to give in return. Unless there is a willingness to give in return, the gratitude we express with words can easily become a mere formality.

Stewardship is the term used to express our “sacrificial giving” in return to the Lord who has given everything to us. Stewardship is not just giving our “time, talent and treasure.” It’s not simply a technique for asking people to contribute more to the church in order to pay the light bills and keep parish and school ministries going. Stewardship is the practice of putting our faith in action — or as one theologian has said, “Stewardship is what we do after we say we believe.”

The practice of stewardship should not be a once in a while thing, any more than gratitude to God is a once in a while thing. Gratitude, and the expression of it in word and action, is supposed to be habitual in our lives. Stewardship and gratitude are part of what we are about in our day-to-day lives, every day. They are constituent elements of our Christian spirituality of faith in action.

Let’s thank God for all his gifts. Let’s be grateful stewards whose words and actions show that we are responsible, generous and willing to give back to the Lord with increase. Let’s be grateful believers who do thanks as well as say it.

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The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Catholic News Service or of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or The Lay Catholic.

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Why is Pope Francis so appealing to some and not to others?

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Regarding the virtue of charity: we must put ourselves into the shoes of the poor.

To answer the first question, Pope Francis loves the poor and is opposed to those who can alleviate their suffering but fail to do so because of corruption. He is more than a champion of social justice. He speaks to our conscience and its spiritual yearning for true joy.

More often than not, the picture of joy the world presents (mainly materialism) leaves us empty and wondering if it can ever be achieved.

In his treatise on joy, Pope Paul VI tells us we can achieve the true happiness we yearn for by being grateful for God’s wonders in our world, and especially by serving others…..

Pope Francis personifies these virtues in his emphasis on solidarity. He urges us to put ourselves in the shoes of the poor and feel their pain, and to campaign against poverty and injustice. Solidarity prompts us to leave our comfort zone, to bring comfort to others. Pope Francis speaks directly to a conscience that knows deep down that this is the highest means for achieving true joy. Why? It is because Christ chose those virtues to redeem us.

One reason some Catholics are displeased with Pope Francis is that he is making them feel uncomfortable. For example, many of us have more material goods than we need. Our closets and pantries are filled to the brim. The solidarity Pope Francis calls for prompts us to do with less in order to give it to those who have less.

True, we do this at Thanksgiving time, but true solidarity asks of us to continuously give, not just at Thanksgiving time, but throughout the year. Options like this prick the conscience and create discomfort most of us would like to avoid because it calls for self-sacrifice and a change in our routine.

Dissatisfaction with Pope Francis goes even deeper than this. Some people feel religion is about God and “me,” and not about God and everyone else. To be religious is to go to church and be with God. Catholicism should be a conclave onto itself.

Pope Francis represents the theology that says, The church belongs to everyone and to follow God’s love it is important to leave the confines of the temple and minister to them — too many Catholics have been lost to evangelicals because of neglecting this principle.

Then there are those who love pomp and a church triumphant. To their dismay, Pope Francis stands for less church trappings and more religious substance.

In Pope Francis, we have a man who is redefining the meaning of real joy and being a true church. It is something we all yearn for,

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

 

We are taught: the authentic practice of virtue and reason is the imitation of Christ

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We must not reason separately from God.

Too many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking we can reason without God. We put too much confidence in ourselves, in our institutions and in our government—and what we have to show for it is not pretty.

We need God. Without Him, our notions are cockeyed.

Nowadays, very often what we consider to be ‘kindness’ in character or ‘charity’ in action is actually an outrage against God.  In fact what has always been known to be absolutely wrong, such as the killing of the unborn, has come to be tolerated by those who reason ‘social justice’ comes before ‘right.’ This can only be the result of not following the moral principles of truth as they are manifested in scripture, tradition, the teachings of the church and natural law…..

One has to step far away from the dictates of faith and conscience to rationalize abortion; yet, we do rationalize it.  Our laws and reasoning surrounding abortion are or should be anathema to a nation like ours, claiming to be a beacon of hope and justice for the rest of the world.

Sadly, the government, our institutions and even many of our friends are quite comfortable  legalizing abortion. Some even deem it an act of charity. The argument is that keeping abortion legal insures proper medical access for a young girl or woman who wants to increase her chances for success in school or career. Access to legalized abortion is considered as a way to empower feelings of self-control.  It’s suppose to keep girl or woman from feeling like a human container and spare her the burdens of forced motherhood.

I’ve heard this reasoning come right out of the mouths of so-called ‘social justice’ catholics. I don’t understand this.  By my way of reasoning, abortion seems to be an extraordinarily brutal and selfish act, unlike anything we know of our God.  It is simply irrational to think God would for any reason sanction the deliberate mutilation and killing of a baby—at any stage of development, be it pre or post natal.

As a measure for just how ugly things can become, last month YouTube published a video of MRCTV’s Dan Joseph on a college campus asking students to sign a petition showing their support for legalizing what he termed ‘4th trimester abortion.’ If you watch the video, you will see he collected 14 signatures in just one hour.

That is the way things are going, because even Christians continue to support the cockamamie attitude that this un-Godly business is a mere matter of choice or an issue not as imperative as the likes of immigration reform and the restraint of wealth. Many social justice Catholics attend every pro-life rally. Then, in the name of the ‘common good,’ vote for the champions of abortion because ‘helping the poor’ is their primary concern.

There are those preoccupied with the  forced redistribution of wealth

A few years back my parish held its first session of the “Forward in Faith” series that the archdiocese promoted as a way of renewing our connection to the ‘strength and beauty’ of Catholic doctrine and our relationship with Jesus Christ. We were assigned to tables for 6 to 8 of us.  At my table was an elderly man who attended Holy Mass every Sunday, was very involved in serving the parish and believed that there was literally nothing more important in life than the forced redistribution of wealth. He went so far as to suggest that farmers should not be allowed to grow, sell and distribute their crops at a profit. In the world he wanted to force upon us, food and healthcare would be under the control of the state. It apparently did not occur to this man to look at the areas in the world where the state had this sort of power.

There are those preoccupied with the pursuit of wealth

At the other extreme we have those who are utterly preoccupied with wealth. Take, for instance, the pharmaceutical industry. This is a matter close to my heart because my sister has stage 4 breast cancer. The drug Herceptin could possibly extend her life but to stay on that drug costs over $100,000 a year. She can’t afford it. Who can?

Even knowing that their intellectual property rights run smack up against the rights of others to live, pharmaceutical business men and women will argue that their right to ownership is sacrosanct and should be absolute. Swiss drug maker Roche Holding Ltd. has held the patent on Herceptin since 2007. I wonder what good they think they’ve accomplished by pricing their drug beyond the reach of almost every breast cancer patient and healthcare institution, private or public.

I’m not arguing that private business isn’t always entitled to recoup its investment and operate at a profit. Extremists are continuously battling on behalf of that viewpoint; they need no help from me. However, I do pray for the day when we can get a genuine effort to enact laws that will facilitate greater harmony between profit and compassion.

There are things we must not do

God created and put this world into His order, and we are taught that evil is in essence a contradiction to that reality. If that is so, simple logic ought to determine that some things just are not right and must not be done.

Same sex marriage is another gross infraction against God because it is a contradiction to the very thrust of how He determined human life comes to be. Still, there are those Christians who will defend and argue on behalf of this practice, no matter how much their interpretation contradicts the teachings of the church. I guess it does not occur to them to widen the field of inquiry and question the possible consequences that will likely come from violating the very nature and purpose of family, which, as the pope reminds us, is at the very core of the inviolable dignity of human life.

Overall,  we cannot deny that we are becoming people who reason without God, who put man first, worldly goods and affairs second and–if we consider Him at all, God last of all. I think it’s time to ask if we can anymore be identified as Christians from what we say and do.

There are things we must do

What Christian hasn’t heard the commandment: love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbor as our self?

To do that, our faith teaches we should look at everything in light of the example of Christ. Theological scholars teach that the imitation of Christ is the highest practice of virtue.

If our eyes are set on Christ, surely we notice how whenever we see Him in relation to any conflict between God, man and the goods of the world, Christ puts God first, man second and the material goods or affairs of the world last of all. In imitation of Christ are we not to do the same?

Then, why do we create notions separately from God? Why do we invert the order: put man first, the goods and affairs of the world next and God last of all?

Christ said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The way I reason we could not be given a more straightforward insight into how God wants us to act. If we were in the womb would we want life taken from us? If we were in need of life-saving drugs would we want them priced beyond our means? If we were hungry would we want to be fed? If we were lost would we want to be found? If we were to want heaven would we want to be led astray from God?

We can see that Christ was always and everywhere kind. What we don’t often see or fail to consider is that his kindness was always for the very evident purpose of joining souls to God. To my way of thinking, one of the greatest lessons we must take from Christ is his determination to follow the will of the Father.

We must imitate Christ

In other words, if any one of us were to be asked what kindness of character is or what charity in action does, the answer would be well put to say. “It is the imitation of Christ.”

From all that we see of our God, if we are each to follow the example of Christ, we must love God above all else, deny our self for the sake of his will and give to others what we would want for our self in their position.

Kindness is the character that moves the virtue of charity into action

Certainly, charity is not only one of God’s greatest gifts to the world, it is also the greatest of all virtues.  Biblical scholars point out that faith and hope are resolved issues in heaven but charity is a major part of what everlasting life with God is all about.

Pope Francis recently said that even atheists often have a hand in doing good things. That is true.

Nevertheless, I do think the caveat should be that away from the hand of God kindness and charity can become tactical weapons for evil. History is full of examples of this.

There is no running from the fact that, no matter how grand the intentions, kindness and charity, if it they are not considered in relation to God, have no relationship to the truth of God. God created the world.  It is His truth that must be our concern because His truth is our reality. God’s truth crosses all boundaries of life.

There is great charity in God’s truth

Without God’s truth, we have no reality, no basis for goodness. What we have, instead, is the path to ruin.

Think about it. Just the notions of kindness and charity make people feel important and gives everyone, giver and taker, hope and purpose. It is no wonder how easily people are called into action–even evil action–under the banner of charity.

We must remind ourselves that true kindness is the practice of truth, and when it is not, its alluring ways can lead people astray, into a false sense of charity and away from God.

I think it’s fair to say that God has given us a decent shot at salvation. I think we should do all we can to abide by His truth. It, therefore, makes no sense at all to help people feel good about what they are doing when we see them on the path to hell. That would not be kind. That would not be charitable.

Pope Francis is always reminding us that virtue authentically lived is the example of Christ, to live with the sole purpose of joining with him in everlasting life. From all that I see and hear, it is only a fool that believes otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I look fat in this?

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I have noticed a fairly non-Christian tendency to attach moral weight to what’s on the menu.

St. Peter had a vision, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, that has shaped the way we live as Christians. He saw something like a big sheet lowered from the sky, with every kind of animal on it.

“Get up, Peter,” a voice said, “slaughter and eat.” Three times the voice encouraged him to do this, even though many of the animals were forbidden by Mosaic law. “What God has made clean,” Peter was told, “you are not to call profane.”

This was an important revelation of Christian doctrine and a demonstration that food matters in our faith. The Mass, celebrated daily around the world, is centered around an act of eating. Our bodies, which food and drink replenish, are temples of the Holy Spirit…..

Recently, though, I have noticed a fairly non-Christian tendency to attach moral weight to what’s on the menu. People frown more on bad eating (what that is varies from one school to another) than on what my mother would have called worse forms of self-destructive behavior.

If you eat the wrong stuff, or overeat, or run health risks with some of your entrees, you are a bad person. In a famous essay, “Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism,” Ludwig Feuerbach coined the phrase “a man is what he eats.” I think that magazines like Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Self and Shape are Feuerbach’s intellectual heirs.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with going organic or even adopting a trendy or radical diet (vegetarian, vegan, pescaterian, flexitarian, paleo, gluten-free, etc.). Some folks take this stuff really seriously, though. There are treatises against corn syrup and genetically modified foods. Some people bring such passion to the debate over breast milk versus formula that you’d think they invented breast-feeding. It’s an ersatz religion.

To be sure, the modern obsession with diet has some resonance in Christian tradition. The Old Testament and the Fathers of the Church have plenty to say about eating and abstaining from certain foods. The church always has encouraged temperance and fasting (though historically more so than today). Eastern churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, require fasting during Advent and Lent. They demand abstinence not just from meat but also, on certain dates, from milk products.

But there are aspects of the contemporary practice that would puzzle any serious Christian. The church disciplines and purifies the body for the sake of the spirit. Its practices are not about fitting into summer outfits, nor about being in tune with terrestrial harmonies. Today’s foodies treat the body as divine and as an end in itself.

The body matters a lot for Christians, but it matters only so much. It isn’t all we are. Great saints come in all different shapes and body sizes. G.K. Chesterton famously compared St. Francis of Assisi, “a lean and lively little man; thin as a thread,” to St. Thomas Aquinas, “a huge heavy bull of a man, fat and slow.” Chesterton observed that the saints are all different, each one “restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the … world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age.”

Neither the fat Thomas nor the slight Francis (nor, in our time, the rail-thin Blessed Teresa of Kolkata) would have gotten a good rating from the health-food police. But they were all great saints, and they certainly didn’t get there by obsessing over what they ate.

“What God has made clean,” after all, “you are not to call profane.”

Garvey is president of The Catholic University of America in Washington.

 

 

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Caring For a Family Member is a Blessing and Benefit

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Our parents and grandparents are not some nuisance whose management every well-run home should outsource. They are the people whose love brought us into the world.

Washington, D.C., where I live, is a government town, and reminders of this fact crop up in places you might not expect. Many cities run ads in their transit systems for consumer goods and services. The ones in the Washington Metro often focus instead on advocacy and policy.

I noticed one this month decrying cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. “Today you’re an accountant,” it reads. “Tomorrow you’re dad’s nurse. Further cuts to Medicaid and Medicare will impact 78 percent of post-acute and skilled nursing care patients. We have a solution.”

The “we” refers to the American Health Care Association, a trade organization of long-term and post-acute care providers. I have mixed feelings about the cuts the ad refers to, but I really hate the ad itself. It makes caring for your dad seem like a personal disaster. It’s not. It is actually a blessing from which many families would benefit.

In my family, we tend to live long lives and the survivors frequently end up in somebody’s home. My parents cared for my grandparents. My mother moved in with my sister. My wife’s mother lived with us for her last three years. It wasn’t always bright and cheery, or easy. She was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. If we weren’t careful, she would light up a cigarette (and risk blowing up the house)…..

Eventually she needed help with feeding, and then with other things. She was in and out of the hospital. Sometimes she thought it was 1927. She shared a room with our youngest child, who, at age 4, would toddle into our room at 3 a.m. and mumble, matter-of-factly and without removing her pacifier, “Grandma fell out of bed.”

Despite all of this, everyone was better for the time we had together. Old people have the kind of grace that takes a lifetime to acquire. They have many hours in the day, so they can be patient with little ones. They’ve committed and repented of a lifetime of sins, so they are good confidantes for teenagers. They have the humility and charm to accept care without making you feel awkward or embarrassed for them. And if they are at all self-deprecating, they can be a lot of fun.

We all live through good and bad phases. My mother-in-law had a long bad phase, but she was a great old lady. She thanked my wife every day for being so good to her. Her genuine appreciation healed years of unhappiness. She died at home, surrounded by children and grandchildren singing her off to heaven. The American Health Care Association’s solution, however wonderful it might be, does not include this service.

Health providers do something really important for old people, and sometimes they’re indispensable. But I don’t like the implication that they do this so we can get on with the more important business of being accountants or lawyers or software engineers.

Our parents and grandparents are not some nuisance whose management every well-run home should outsource. They are the people whose love brought us into the world. They spent their best years raising us to adulthood. And they still have a lot to teach us — like how to grow old, how to deal with infirmity, how to prepare for death.

Those lessons may be more important than the ones they taught us when we were 6. We owe it to ourselves to have a chance to learn them.

Garvey is president of The Catholic University of America in Washington.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Two Messages About Sex

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Like all virtues, chastity produces good habits in those who practice it.

At The Catholic University of America, where I serve as president, we have been working on some revisions to our code of student conduct. We’re finding that it’s challenging because we need to send students two different messages about sex that can at times clash awkwardly.

One pertains to sexual abuse — rape, sexual assault, sexual battery. The message here is fairly obvious. It is both a crime and a sin against justice and charity. Its distinguishing mark is the element of coercion — of forcing sex on an unwilling victim.

Sexual abuse is not only forbidden by state criminal law. It is also addressed by federal laws that apply to colleges — Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Clery Act (which requires colleges to report sex offenses near campus).

College student conduct codes will usually tell students that the difference between sex and sexual abuse is the element of consent. And they will use a formula something like this to define consent: “Consent is informed, freely given, mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in sexual activity.”

But that’s not the end of the story from a Catholic perspective. Consensual sex between students matters, too. It’s not a crime (fortunately), but it is a sin against chastity when it takes place outside of marriage…..

Chastity is an unfashionable virtue nowadays, but the idea is not hard to understand. Casual sex is harmful even if there is no coercion. It plays at love for sport. It makes promises that the players don’t intend to keep. It insults the dignity of the other person by treating him or her as a sex toy rather than a child of God. It divorces sex from the creation of new life and the unity of a family.

At The Catholic University of America, as at other universities, there should be exact and uncompromising justice for the crime of sexual abuse. At the same time, we want to steer our students toward something better than merely avoiding violence. We want them to embrace virtue and avoid vice.

Risk managers (accountants and lawyers) want us to be very clear with our students about what counts as sexual abuse: “Make sure your partner is a willing participant in any sexual activity. Get consent for every move you make.” If we’re not explicit about this, they say, we may be guilty under Title IX of creating a hostile environment, and risk losing federal funds.

That makes some sense. But if we do follow the accountants’ and lawyers’ advice, it’s a bit awkward to turn around then and say, “But wait — that sexual activity we told you to get consent for? You should not be doing it at all.”

There is no logical inconsistency between the goals of preventing sexual violence and promoting chastity. The two are actually quite harmonious. The awkwardness in explaining this arises because our culture doesn’t want to hear the message it needs. It wants to prevent violence while preserving promiscuity. It is forbidden to consider that for some subset of the population, the latter can lead to the former.

Casual sex is a disordered activity. If you engage in it, it creates terrible habits in you and degrades your partner. For some, it will also create a sense of entitlement to sex without commitment. And this sense of entitlement is quite dangerous. To discuss such topics as date rape without providing this context is to play a game of pretend.

Like all virtues, chastity produces good habits in those who practice it. The promise to avoid and prevent sexual violence is one we can all keep. We can keep it more easily if we practice and respect this old-fashioned virtue.

 

 

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Musings From San Diego: Ignoring the Virtue of Obedience, Receiving Communion In a State of Mortal Sin, No Grace

9694416_sMy parish held Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 1-5 pm today. Since I really wanted to ‘pray with the Pope,’ I went to a parish that has Perpetual Adoration so I could pray from 8-9 am in conjunction with Pope Francis and for his intentions.

Afterwards I attended Mass at this same parish. Here is a snippet from an excellent homily on Corpus Christi:

Father talked about the grace we receive from confession and from receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion. He said mortal sin sets up a barrier, though, between God and us. If we receive Communion during this time we commit a sacrilege and we do not receive grace.

He then stated that many people complain about bishops not using Canon 950 in refusing Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion and same-sex marriage (which he made no comment on). His next statement, however, really drove home the point or us personally: anyone (Catholic) who votes these politicians into office and still receives Holy Communion does not receive any grace, because they have a barrier between them and God.

This was not a ‘fire and brimstone’ homily, but I thought it had quite an impact on our voting responsibility and its effect on our reception of the sacraments. We are not responsible for the sins of the politicians or the bishops. We are responsible, though, for our own salvation.

Selfishness Is a Downer, Proclaiming Christ Brings Joy, Pope Says

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“Without prayer, what we do becomes empty and our proclamation lacks soul, it isn’t enlivened by the Spirit,” the pope said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Selfishness only brings sadness and bitterness, while stepping outside of oneself to evangelize is the ultimate “pick me up” and source of joy, Pope Francis said.

“Let’s live the Gospel with humility and courage. Give witness to the newness, hope and joy that the Lord brings to your life,” the pope said May 22 at his weekly general audience.

Speaking to more than 80,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis also called for prayers for those struck by a deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., which left at least 24 people dead, including at least eight children, as it destroyed numerous homes and leveled an elementary school May 20.

“I invite all of you to pray with me for the victims, especially the children, of the disaster in Oklahoma,” he said.

“May the Lord himself console everyone, in particular parents who have lost a child in such a tragic way.”

The pope made the call for prayers after leading his weekly general audience in which he continued a series of talks about the affirmations of faith in the creed. He focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” church.

The Holy Spirit gives the church life and guides her steps, he said.

“Without the presence and constant action of the Holy Spirit, the church could not live and could not fulfill the task the risen Christ entrusted her to go and make disciples of all peoples.”

The church exists to evangelize, which is the mission of all baptized Christians, not just a few, he said.

However, it takes prayer and the Holy Spirit to truly evangelize, he said…..

Proclaiming the Gospel “must always start from prayer,” he said, since “only a faithful and intense relationship with God” lets people break out of their shell to share the Good News with others.

“Without prayer, what we do becomes empty and our proclamation lacks soul, it isn’t enlivened by the Spirit,” the pope said.

The Holy Spirit provides courage and unity, helping people proclaim the Gospel out loud and “with frankness” at every time and in all places.

The Holy Spirit brings unity because it brings “a new language” — a language of love that everyone can understand and express in every culture and part of life.

“The language of the Spirit, the Gospel and communion invites us to overcome being closed up, the indifference, divisions and polarization,” he said.

Sometimes today it seems like it’s Babel all over again with divisions, the inability to understand each other, rivalries, jealousies and selfishness, the pope said.

People have to ask themselves: “What am I doing with my life? Do I create unity around me or do I divide, divide and divide with gossip, criticism and jealousies?” he said.

People should reflect on whether they bring, through their words and deeds, “the reconciliation and love” of the Gospel to every aspect of their lives.

“Bringing the Gospel is us, first of all, proclaiming and living reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity and love that the Holy Spirit gives.”

The pope asked people to never close themselves off to the action of the Holy Spirit and to receive his gifts of courage and strength to share the Gospel.

It’s something every Christian should do “because evangelizing, proclaiming Jesus gives us joy while egoism gives us bitterness, sadness; it drags us down and evangelizing picks us up,” he said.

He asked that people have faith the Holy Spirit is “acting within us, he is in us” giving people the apostolic zeal, peace and joy that are needed to bring God’s unity and communion to the world.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis asked people to pray for the Catholics in China so that they may have grace to proclaim Christ with humility and joy, and be faithful to the church and the pope.

The pope recalled the church’s May 24 celebration of feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, which Pope Benedict XVI established as a world day of prayer for the church in China.

Mentioning Chinese Catholics’ devotion to Mary at the Sheshan Marian shrine in Shanghai, Pope Francis asked the Our Lady to help Catholics in China “continue to believe, hope and love, amidst their daily efforts, so that they may never be afraid of telling the world about Christ and talking to Christ about the world.”

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The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130522_udienza-generale_en.html.

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130522_udienza-generale_sp.html.

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05/22/2013 9:19 AM ET

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Pope: Satan Tricks People Into Being Selfish, Leaving Them Loveless

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If people want to follow Jesus, they have to “live life as a gift” to give to others, “not as a treasure to keep” for one’s own,” he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Payback with Satan is rotten as he pushes people to be loveless and selfish, finally leaving them with nothing and alone, Pope Francis said.

“Satan always rips us off, always!” he said during a morning Mass homily.

The pope concelebrated Mass May 14 with Archbishop Ricardo Tobon Restrepo of Medellin, Colombia, in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

During the Mass, attended by employees of the Vatican Museums and a group of alumni from Rome’s Pontifical Portuguese College, the pope said selfish people don’t understand what giving and love are.

Judas exemplified this self-centeredness when he complained that the expensive oil Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet could have been sold for money to give to the poor, the pope said.

The account from the Gospel of John explains that Judas didn’t care about the poor and wanted the money instead because he was a thief and would steal the contributions.

The account from the Gospel of John suggests that Judas’ attitude toward money was a form of idolatry, the pope said…..

“This is the first reference that I have found in the Gospels of poverty as an ideology,” Pope Francis said, according to the Vatican Radio website.

“The ideologist doesn’t know what love is because he doesn’t know how to give himself,” he said.

Judas was “distant in his solitude” and his selfishness grew to the point of betraying Jesus, he said.

The selfish person “takes care of his own life, grows in this egoism and becomes a traitor, but always alone.”

People who isolate their conscience within their egotistical world end up losing their conscience, like Judas who “was an idolater, attached to money.”

“This idolatry led him to isolate himself” from the community and from others.

“This is the ordeal of an isolated conscience, when a Christian begins to isolate himself, he also isolates his conscience from the sense of community, the sense of the church and from the love that Jesus gives us,” he said…..

On the other hand, it’s only by giving one’s life and by “losing” it, as Jesus says, that one regains it in fullness, the pope said.

People who “give their lives for love are never alone, they’re always in a community, in a family,” he said, reflecting on the day’s reading from the Gospel of John in which Jesus tells his disciples, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

People, like Judas, who want to keep their life all for themselves end up losing it, he said. That is why “Satan’s payback is rotten,” he’s always tricking people into a bad deal.

If people want to follow Jesus, they have to “live life as a gift” to give to others, “not as a treasure to keep” for one’s own, he said.

Pope Francis asked people to pray to the Holy Spirit “to give me this big heart, this heart that is able to love with humility, with meekness.” May people also call on the Holy Spirit to “always free us from that other path of selfishness, which eventually ends badly.”

 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Only Defense Against Devil & Hatred Is Word of God & Humility Pope Says

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There is no Christian life without the vitality of the Holy Spirit.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Dialogue doesn’t work with the devil; the only defense is the word of God, humility and meekness, especially in response to his works of hatred and persecution, Pope Francis said.

“Humility and meekness: These are the weapons that the prince of the world, the spirit of the world does not tolerate, because he makes proposals for worldly power, proposals of vanity, proposals for riches,” he said in his daily morning Mass homily May 4.

The pope celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives, with members of the Swiss Guard, including their commander, Col. Daniel Anrig.

In his homily, the pope talked about the origin of hatred and how Jesus told his disciples of the spite and persecution awaiting them, as told in the day’s reading from chapter 15 of the Gospel according to St. John.

“Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecute me, they will also persecute you,” he cited from the Gospel.

The Christian journey is Christ’s journey; there is no other way to follow him, the pope said…..

“Many Christian communities are persecuted today, more now than in the early days of the church: today, right now, on this day and at this hour,” Pope Francis said. The reason for this persecution comes from the devil and his hatred; the path of persecution “is a consequence of the hatred of the world and the prince of this hatred in the world.”

The devil hates Christians, he said, because “we have been saved and the prince of the world doesn’t want us to be saved, he hates us and gave rise to the persecutions from the time of Jesus to today.”

With his death and resurrection, Christ “ransomed us” and all humanity from worldly power and the devil’s grasp, the pope said.

Just as the devil tried to trick and tempt Jesus, he tries to trick others, too, Pope Francis said. Jesus did not respond by bargaining with the devil or trying to fight him on his own; he responded with the word of the God.

“You cannot dialogue with the prince of this world. This is clear,” the pope said.

“Dialogue comes from charity, from love,” and it comes from habit, he said. It is necessary for peace and it must be the way “we hear each other, understand each other.”

However, dialogue doesn’t work with the devil, he said. He tries to “soften us” with flattery, convincing people to do something small, just “a tiny swindle” or scam that seems insignificant, but then it’s just the beginning of leading people along the wrong path and “we fall into the trap.”

Jesus told his disciples that he was “sending you out like sheep among wolves. Be cautious, but innocent,” he said.

If people let themselves be taken over by a spirit of vanity and think they can fight the wolves by being wolves themselves, then the wolves “will eat you alive,” the pope said.

He prayed that “we all stay sheep so that way we will have a shepherd who defends us.”

That is why the best defense against the devil’s “seductions, fireworks and flattery” is Jesus, the word of God, and Jesus’ own example of humility and meekness, he said.

In his morning homily May 6, the pope talked about the role of the Holy Spirit as a friend and guide leading the way to Jesus.

Celebrating Mass with workers who are in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said the Holy Spirit is God who “defends us” and “is always by our side supporting us.”

There is no Christian life without the vitality of the Holy Spirit, he said. Otherwise, “it would be a religious, pagan, pious life that believes in God but without the vitality that Jesus wants for his disciples.”

It is the Holy Spirit who opens people’s hearts and prepares them for knowing Jesus, the pope said.

“The Holy Spirit works in us during the whole day, during our whole life as a witness that tells us where Jesus is” and “what Jesus is saying to us,” he said.

Jesus told his disciples he would not leave them all by themselves, and he left the Holy Spirit “as a friend” and “traveling companion.”

The pope asked that at the end of every day, people pray and reflect on the ways the Holy Spirit worked in them. This “examination of conscience” is an exercise “that does us good,” he said.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops