Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Preparing for the Journey of Lent 2013

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

PHILADELPHIA, February 12, 2013 (Zenit.org) - More than 70 years ago the great French Catholic writer Georges Bernanos published a little essay called “Sermon of an Agnostic on the Feast of St. Théresè.” Bernanos deeply loved the Church, but he could also be brutally candid when it came to himself and his fellow believers. Above all, he had a piercing sense of irony about the comfortable, the self-satisfied and the lukewarm who postured themselves as Catholic – whether they were laypeople or clergy.

In his essay he imagined “what any decent agnostic of average intelligence might say, if by some impossible chance the [pastor] were to let him stand awhile in the pulpit [on] the day consecrated to St. Théresè of Lisieux.”

“Dear brothers,” says the agnostic from the pulpit, “many unbelievers are not as hardened as you imagine. … [But when] we seek [Christ] now, in this world, it is you we find, and only you. … It is you Christians who participate in divinity, as your liturgy proclaims; it is you ‘divine men’ who ever since [Christ’s] ascension have been his representatives on earth. … You are the salt of the earth. [So if] the world loses its flavor, who is it I should blame? … The New Testament is eternally young. It is you who are so old. … Because you do not live your faith, your faith has ceased to be a living thing.”

Bernanos had little use for the learned, the proud or the superficially religious. He believed instead in the little flowers – the Thérèses of Lisieux – that sustain the Church and convert the world by the purity, simplicity, innocence and zeal of their faith. That kind of innocent faith is a gift. It’s a gift each of us can ask for, and each of us will receive, if we just have the courage to choose it and then act on it. The only people who ever really change the world are saints. Each of us can be one of them. But we need to want sainthood, and then we need to follow the path that comes with it.

Bernanos once wrote that the optimism of the modern world, including its “politics of hope,” is like whistling past a graveyard. It’s a cheap substitute for real hope and “a sly form of selfishness, a method of isolating [ourselves] from the unhappiness of others” by thinking happy or seemingly progressive thoughts. Real hope “must be won. [We] can only attain hope through truth, at the cost of great effort and long patience. … Hope is a virtue, virtus, strength; an heroic determination of the soul. [And] the highest form of hope is despair overcome.”

We can only attain hope through truth. And what that means is this: From the moment Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” the most important public statement anyone can make is “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on February 13. It marks the beginning of Lent. For Catholics, this is a time to be honest; to take an unblinking look at the truth of our lives. Every year God offers us this great season of humility as a chance to remember who we are as believers, reflect soberly on our actions and refocus ourselves on the source of our hope, the only real hope of a bloody and despairing world: Jesus Christ. We do this through prayer, silence, the sacrament of penance, seeking out and reconciling with those whom we’ve hurt, forgiving those who’ve hurt us, generosity to the poor, and fasting, not just from food, but from all those many things that distract us from the God who made and loves us.

If we call ourselves Christians, then let’s live like we mean it – beginning today, with this Lenten season; so that people who look upon us will see the presence of Jesus Christ instead

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Love (Charity) without Justice is not Love; and Justice without Love (Charity)is not Justice!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The New Evangelizetioin which includes the end to abortion must begin with an increase of justice within the Church Herself.

As you know we celebrated a very sad anniversary last week, the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision of the Supreme Court legalizing the modern day slaughter of the innocents.

Estimates are that that decision has resulted in more than 50  million children who have not been allowed to live since 1973.

In his column last week our Bishop, Bishop Malloy presented A few calculations to give us some interesting comparisons with regards to how many children have been murdered since Roe vs. Wade. To put it in perspective, the population of the state of Illinois is said to be about 12.8  million people.

Can we imagine that abortion has taken from us the lives of the population of the state of Illinois, nearly four times over?

The population of California is currently about 37.6  million people. So Illinois and California would both be completely depopulated.

The state of New York has 19  million people. The number of abortions since Roe v. Wade is about two and one half times the population of the whole state of New York.
The population of Spain is 46   million people. The population of England is about 53 million people.

You get my drift. Because of abortion, it is as though whole countries and states simply do not exist.

Bishop Malloy went on to say, “There is another consequence that we need to keep in mind as we ponder our modern slaughter of the innocents. It is the often unspoken pain and regret of the women who have had abortions.”

Last Week, I also read a very interesting pastoral letter by the Bishop of Denver, Samuel Aquila marking the sad anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. In his letter, Bishop Aquila admits that he didn’t practice the faith in his first three years in college. During that time, he worked as hospital orderly assisting in the emergency room at a student health center and a hospital. It was here that he encountered the gruesome reality of abortion.

“At that time, he said, some states had approved abortion laws that I wasn’t even aware of. Because of those laws, when I was in college I witnessed the results of two abortions,” he writes.

“The first was in a surgical unit. I walked into an outer room and in the sink, unattended, was the body of small-unborn child who had been aborted. I remember being stunned. I remember thinking that I had to baptize that child.”

The second abortion experience was even more shocking.

“A young woman came into the emergency room screaming. She explained that she had had an abortion already. When the doctor sent her home, he told her she would pass the remains naturally. She was bleeding as the doctor, her boyfriend, the nurse and I placed her on a table. I held a basin as the doctor retrieved a tiny arm, a tiny leg and then the rest of the broken body of a tiny unborn child. I was shocked. I was saddened for the mother and child, for the doctor and the nurse. None of us would have participated in such a thing were it not an emergency. I witnessed a tiny human being destroyed by violence.”

He said, not surprisingly, that the memory haunts him to this day.
“I will never forget that I stood witness to acts of unspeakable brutality. In the abortions I witnessed, powerful people made decisions that ended the lives of small, powerless, children. Through lies and manipulation, children were seen as objects. Women and families were convinced that ending a life would be painless, and forgettable. Experts made seemingly convincing arguments that the unborn were not people at all, that they could not feel pain, and were better off dead.”

The experience left the bishop a changed man. “I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that. And I have never been the same. My faith was weak at the time. But I knew by reason, and by what I saw, that a human life was destroyed. My conscience awakened to the truth of the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. I became pro-life and eventually returned to my faith.”

What has happened in the last 40 years of sanctioned killing of the unborn is that we, as a people, have become coarsened. “We’ve learned to see people as problems and objects,” the bishop writes. “In the four decades since Roe vs. Wade, our nation has found new ways to weaken the family, to marginalize the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill—we’ve found new ways to exploit and abuse. Today we must recognize that 40 years of sanctioned killing has given the culture of death a firm footing and foundation in our nation.”

Catholics must become holier to loosen the grip of the culture of death.

“Protecting life is our obvious duty as Catholics, and ending legal protection for abortion is imperative. 40 years have passed and still we have not found a successful strategy to end the legally protected killing of the unborn. But we have also failed to win public opinion. Polling today suggests that 63% of Americans support legal protection for abortion. The bishop said this is where change must begin.

Here with all do respect to bishop Aquila I disagree with him in this sense. Where change must begin is within the Church herself; change must begin with both laity and clergy alike; change must begin in our parishes and yes, in our dioceses.

I heard that it was over 53% of the Catholics in this last election that supported one of the most radical left wing pro death politicians ever. And far too many even priests and bishops either support pro-choice or are conspicuously quiet with regards to the defense of the dignity of the human person.

Bishop Aquila writes. “If we want to build a culture of life, we need to begin with charity. Social charity, or solidarity, is the hallmark of a culture of life and a civilization of love. . . . This charity must begin in the family,” But I would humbly add this charity must also begin in the parish family and in the diocesan and Church structures at large. Our Church is so divided. There is so little trust, sadly especially among priests and even trust between priests and bishops and between bishops and bishops. Remember our Lady of Akita Japan, echoing the message of LaSalette and Fatima, said the time would come when Cardinal would oppose Cardinal, bishop oppose bishop; and this includes priest against priest. This must stop; we must repent; we must respect the human dignity one another, but we must do so with regards to the truth, the truth that comes from God. This the basis of the New Evangelization.

The reversal of our culture of death both within the Society and within the Church is then, intricately, intricately tied into the New Evangelization that our Holy Fathers Blessed Pope John Paul and Benedict are so ardently calling for. But again the New Evangelization begins within the Church.

This is also why what I about to say at first doesn’t seem to be part of the pro-life moment; But it is, because it is tied to the new Evangelization. Let me use recent address by Cardinal Archbishop Burke to the bishops of Kenya to make my point. The Cardinal indicated in His address that the New Evangelization (and so the dignity of man defended properly) will never be realized until we work more diligently for justice with-in the Church herself.

The cardinal pointed out that in so many chanceries of the world, while canon law is being quoted, often it is not being followed especially with regards to the rights of priests, but also with the rights of the laity as well. He said the following of Canon law is not only a matter of justice it is a matter of pastoral concern for the faithful and is matter of promoting unity within the Church herself, including unity in our parishes. It is also a matter of respecting the rights and the dignity of the catholic faithful; again, priest and laity alike.

“Like our families, which are the first place where those who are marginalized, and whose dignity is forgotten, can be supported,to build a culture of life we must commit to strengthening our own families, and to supporting the families of our community.” Said Bishop Aquila. But again, this must begin within the Church; within our dioceses, our chanceries and with in our parishes.

We must accept the full truth of the Gospel but this truth must be lived out in Charity. Charity must support works of mercy, apostolates of social justice and support. Charity also includes solidarity and loyalty with one another. In the Christian community, in parish and in diocese we Christians have to bond together, to care more for each other, to support each other more and to quit turning on one another.

Back to bishop Aquila. He said and rightly so, “A true culture of life is infectious. The joy which comes from living in gratitude for the gift of life—and treating all life as gift—effects change. When Christians begin to live with real regard for human dignity, our nation will awaken to the tragedy of abortion, and she will begin to change.”

Finally, he encourages all to remember and rely upon the power of prayer.
“Our prayer and sacrifice for an end to abortion, united with Christ on the cross, through Mary, will transform hearts and renew minds. In prayer we entrust our nation to Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. In doing so, we can be assured of his victory.”

I want to end with a wonderful quote from Blessed John Paul II which sums up today’s message. “If you want peace work for justice; if you want justice defend life; if you want life accept the truth the truth which comes from God!”