Jubilee underway as Holy Doors open across the world

JACKSON  – Bishop Joseph Kopacz knocked and then opened the Holy Door at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle before the start of 10:30 Mass on Sunday, Dec. 13, as a sign of the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Diocese of Jackson has designated 10 pilgrimage sites across the diocese so everyone will have an opportunity to participate in a pilgrimage to a holy door. A full list of the sites, along with other activities for the year is posted on the diocesan website www.jacksondiocese.org.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With the opening the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis declared that the time for tenderness, joy and forgiveness had begun.
As holy doors around the world were opened at city cathedrals, major churches and sanctuaries Dec. 13, the pope said this simple gesture of opening God’s house to the world serves as “an invitation to joy. The time of great pardon begins. It is the Jubilee of Mercy.”
Dressed in rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the pope began the ceremony outside the basilica in front of the bronze holy door. The door depicts a bas relief of the crucified Christ looking down on Mary tenderly holding the baby Jesus, whose small foot shone like bright gold from the countless kisses and touches of visiting pilgrims.
“This is the door of the Lord. Open for me the gates of justice. I will enter your house, Lord, because of your great mercy,” the pope read solemnly before climbing two marble steps and pushing open the large door.
The church and the people of God are called to be joyful, the pope said in his brief homily.
With Christmas approaching, “we cannot allow ourselves to become tired, no form of sadness is allowed even if we have reason for it with the many worries and multiple forms of violence that wound our humanity,” he said.
Amid the bullying, injustice and violence wrought, “above all, by men of power, God makes it known that he himself will rule his people, that he will never leave them at the mercy of the arrogance of their leaders and that he will free them of all anguish,” the pope said.
God always protects his people, he is always near, the pope said, and that is why “we must always be joyful and with our kindness offer everyone witness of the closeness and care God has for everyone.”
The Holy Year of Mercy is meant to be a time for people to rediscover God’s real presence in the world and his tenderness, he said.
“God does not love rigidity. He is father. He is gentle. He does everything with fatherly tenderness.”
As Christians are called to cross the threshold of “the door of mercy,” they are asked to welcome and experience God’s love, which “re-creates, transforms and reforms life.”
From there, people of faith must then go out and be “instruments of mercy, aware that we will be judged by this,” the pope said. Being a Christian calls for a lifelong journey and a “more radical commitment” to be merciful like God the father, he added.
Christians are asked to be joyful as they open their arms to others and give witness to “a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no limits. This is the love we are responsible for despite our contradictions,” and weaknesses, he said.
Later in the day, the pope appeared at the window of the apostolic palace to recite the noonday Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.
He focused on the day’s Gospel reading according to St. Luke, in which people in the crowd, including tax collectors and soldiers, asked St. John the Baptist “What should we do?” in order to convert and become acceptable for the coming of the Lord.
St. John does not leave them waiting for an answer, the pope said, and replies with concrete instructions: to live justly, in moderation and in solidarity toward those most in need. “They are the essential values of a life that is fully human and authentically Christian,” the pope said.
The saint said to share food and clothing, do not falsely accuse others, do not practice extortion and do not collect more than the tax prescribes, which means, the pope said, “no bribes. It’s clear.”
By addressing people who held various forms of power, the prophet showed that God excludes no one from being asked to follow a path of conversion in order to be saved, not even the tax collectors, who were considered among the worst of all sinners.
God “is anxious to be merciful toward everyone and welcome everyone in the tender embrace of reconciliation and forgiveness.”
Advent is a time of conversion and joy, he said. But today, in a world that is “assailed by so many problems, the future weighed down by the unknown and fears,” he said, people really need courage and faith to be joyful.
In fact, life lived with Christ brings the gift of solid and unshakable joy because it is rooted in knowing “the Lord is near” always.
The same morning, U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, opened that basilica’s holy door.
Pope Francis was scheduled to open the fourth and last holy door in Rome at the Basilica of St. Mary Major Jan. 1, the feast of Mary, Mother of God.
(A video to accompany this story can be found at https://youtu.be/MteWoKGc9qw)
(Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

National Migration Week celebrations planned

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognizes the first week of January as National Migration Week. Catholic Charities has organized a number of activities to celebrate this week in the Diocese of Jackson. Here is a brief schedule of activities:
– Sunday January 3, 5 p.m., Tupelo St. James will host a screening of the documentary “One border, One body,” followed by dialogue and a potluck.
– Tuesday January 5, 6 p.m., Catholic Charities of Vardaman offers the workshop:  “Future of Migration Reform in the U.S.A,” followed by a free legal clinic from 7 – 9 p.m.
– Wednesday, Jan. 6, 5 p.m., Pontotoc St. Christopher will host a presentation from Amelia McGowan, attorney, about migration resources for those in Hispanic ministry. Pastors, Lay Ecclesial Ministers and others in Hispanic ministry are especially invited. At 6:30 p.m. the parish will celebrate Spanish Mass in the context of National Migration week including a traditional celebration of the three wise men. After Mass, share a traditional “Rosca de Reyes,” or three kings cake.
– Thursday, January 7, 6 p.m., Corinth St. James will host the workshop:  “Future of Migration Reform in the U.S.A,” followed by a free legal clinic.
– Friday, January 8, 6 p.m., Tupelo St. James will host the workshop  “Future of Migration Reform in the U.S.A,” followed by a legal clinic.
– Saturday, January 9, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Tupelo St. James will host a free legal clinic. Mass to close National Migration week will start at 4 p.m. celebrated by Father Mike McAndrew, C.SS.R., migrant missionary. A potluck will follow.

Historia de Navidad invita a la transformación

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
Y la Palabra se hizo hombre y vivió  entre nosotros, y hemos contemplado su gloria, la gloria que corresponde al Hijo unigénito del Padre, lleno de gracia y de verdad. (Juan 1:14)
El prólogo del Evangelio de San Juan se eleva como un águila, el símbolo del Evangelio del discípulo amado, y es un perfecto cumplimiento de los relatos de la infancia en los evangelios de Mateo y de Lucas. Los tres Evangelios tienen profundos mensajes de alegría y esperanza para el creyente, para la Iglesia y para el mundo, todos envueltos en el misterio de la Encarnación.
Estos evangelios son notablemente diferentes, cada uno revelando una matizada teología de este misterio insondable de Dios que se hace como uno de nosotros, pero juntos nos abren al mundo de asombro y de sabiduría, de esperanza y de salvación, de Emmanuel, Dios con nosotros.
La fiesta de Navidad nos llama a celebrar el nacimiento de Jesús, el Cristo, pero nunca desvinculado de su vida, su muerte y su resurrección, y su posterior transformación en su cuerpo glorificado. En Navidad nuestro Dios salvador nos cubres en el misterio de la Encarnación, cuna y Cruz; Emmanuel no nos envuelve en la fantasía de las ilusiones.
Muchos claman a gritos por esperanza y salvación en nuestro mundo y nuestra fe en Jesucristo nos obliga a responder de maneras que van más allá de lo humanamente posible porque estamos agraciados en el amor de Dios. Consideren el nacimiento del Señor en el establo, anunciado por el grupo de ángeles y rodeado por María y José, los animales, los pastores, y eventualmente los magos, y sólo Dios sabe cuántas personas fueron a verlo por curiosidad.
Qué reunión de improbable huéspedes. Ésta supera en mucho cualquier escena de la barra galáctica que Star Wars: la Fuerza Despierta puede producir. Es una escena de belleza y de verdad, pero en un instante es destrozada por la furia homicida de Herodes que no puede vivir con alguna amenaza a su poder, real o percibida. La vulnerabilidad de la vida toma el centro del escenario, y nunca está ausente de la vida terrena del Señor, consagrada plenamente en su cruz.
Por casualidad encontré una punzante caricatura que relata la historia de la Navidad. En el primer fotograma alguien toca la puerta de una iglesia. En el segundo fotograma cuando la persona va a abrir la puerta otra intenta detenerla gritando que podrían ser terroristas del Medio Oriente. En el tercer marco las puertas se abren y José y María con el niño Jesús en el burro entran buscando un descanso a lo largo de su huida a Egipto. Ellos eran refugiados que huían de la violencia en su patria. ¿Les suena familiar? El estar inspirados por la historia de la Navidad implica también la llamada y el reto de ser transformados por el poder del mensaje del Evangelio. La Palabra se hizo carne, llena de gracia y de verdad, y fue robada en la vulnerabilidad de la vida que está alrededor de cada vuelta.
Dios amaba a José y a María más allá de la imaginación, pero en sus respuestas a su invitación de acoger al Salvador sus vidas estuvieron inmediatamente en peligro. Jesús amaba a sus apóstoles y murió por ellos, y a su vez ellos se convirtieron en mártires por amor a él. Eran vulnerables y lo sabían intensamente después de la crucifixión, pero el Señor resucitado los transformó en Pentecostés.
Si respondemos a nuestro constante estado de vulnerabilidad en la vida con temor de una manera de reflejo rotuliano, entonces nos encerramos en la pared, ladrillo por ladrillo. Cautela y sentido común son siempre necesarios para salvaguardar nuestras vidas y las vidas de nuestras familias, pero la demanda de la Navidad no nos sacará de apuros muy fácilmente. La Sagrada Familia está encarnada en las innumerables familias que son parte de la crisis de refugiados que está envolviendo el mundo occidental en este momento.
Como el Papa Francisco le recordó a la nación en su discurso ante el Congreso con respecto a los refugiados, estamos experimentando la mayor crisis humanitaria desde la segunda guerra mundial. Por supuesto, nuestros líderes electos están obligados a vigilar nuestra seguridad nacional cuando se ven amenazados por otras naciones o individuos, físicamente o a través del espacio cibernético, pero ¿dónde en todo esto está la llamada del Señor a aceptar un nivel de vulnerabilidad en nuestras vidas en aras de la compasión, la justicia y la paz?
¿Cuáles son algunas de las bendiciones de la Navidad?
Con alegría y debidamente celebramos el don de la salvación con himnos y reverencias, con reuniones y regalos de Navidad, en nuestros hogares y con familiares y amigos, con fiestas en el lugar de trabajo o afuera cantando villancicos. Estas son grandes bendiciones.
También vemos las bendiciones de los muchos que se acercan a los pobres de modo que las buenas noticias no sólo les pueden ser predicadas sino hechas realidad en sus vidas a través de amorosa generosidad. Respondemos a su vulnerabilidad sin olvidar nunca nuestra propia. Damos también las gracias a todos los que sirven a la población vulnerable en nuestra sociedad a lo largo de todo el año, en temporada y fuera de temporada, a través de tantas organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro, gobierno y organismos patrocinados por la Iglesia, y especialmente nuestra propia Caridades Católicas.
En su discurso ante el Congreso el Papa Francisco dijo que ser un constructor de puentes es lo que el Papa es, en el cielo y en la tierra. Esto es Navidad. Qué la Palabra de Dios encarnada, llena de gracia y verdad, y sigue siendo la carne en este mundo a través de su Iglesia, nos inspiren a aplicar su sabiduría, luz y verdad en todos los rincones de nuestra vida, a fin de que podamos seguir construyendo nuestras vidas de una manera que de gloria a Dios, y mayor dignidad a cada persona viviente, especialmente las más vulnerables en nuestro medio, que es el Señor mismo.

Christmas story invites transformation

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory of an only begotten Son coming from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1,14)
The Prologue of John’s Gospel soars like an eagle, the symbol for the Gospel of the beloved disciple, and is a seamless fulfillment of the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. All three Gospels have profound messages of joy and hope for the believer, for the Church, and for the world, all gift wrapped in the mystery of the Incarnation.
They are remarkably different with each revealing a nuanced theology of this unfathomable mystery of God becoming one like us, but together they open us up to the world of wonder and wisdom, of hope and salvation, to Emmanuel, God with us.
The feast of Christmas beckons us to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, but never detached from his life, death, and resurrection, and his ultimate transformation into his glorified body. At Christmas our saving God cloaks us in the mystery of the Incarnation, cradle and Cross; Emmanuel does not gift wrap us in the fantasy of swaddling clothes.
Many cry out for hope and salvation in our world, and our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to respond in ways that go beyond what is humanly possible because we are graced in God’s love. Consider the Lord’s birth in the stable, announced by the Host of angels, and surrounded by Mary and Joseph, the animals, the shepherds, and eventually the Magi, and God only knows how many townspeople who stopped by out of curiosity.
What a gathering of unlikely guests. It surpasses by far whatever galactic bar scene that Star Wars: the Force Awakens can produce. It is a scene of beauty and truth, but in an instant it is shattered by the murderous rage of Herod who cannot live with any threat to his power, perceived or real. Life’s vulnerability takes center stage, and is never absent from the Lord’s earthly life, embodied fully in his Cross.
I happened to come across a poignant cartoon that portrays the Christmas story. In the first frame there is a knock at the Church doors. In the second frame as the person goes to open the doors another tries to stop him shouting that it might be terrorist from the Middle East. In the third frame the doors open and Joseph, and Mary with the child Jesus upon the donkey enter seeking rest along their flight into Egypt. They were refugees fleeing violence in their homeland. Does this sound familiar?
To be inspired by the Christmas story also involves the call and the challenge to be transformed by the power of the Gospel message. The Word became flesh, full of grace and truth, and was robed in the vulnerability of life that is around every turn. God loved Joseph and Mary beyond imagining but in their response to his invitation to welcome the Savior their lives were immediately at risk. Jesus loved his apostles and died for them, and in turn they became martyrs out of love for Him. They were vulnerable and they knew it intensely after the crucifixion, but the risen Lord transformed them into Pentecost.
If we respond to our steady state of vulnerability in life with fear in a knee jerk manner, then we wall ourselves in, brick by brick. Caution and common sense of course are always required to safeguard our lives and the lives of our families, but the demand of Christmas will not let us off the hook too easily. The Holy Family is incarnated in the countless families who are part of the refugee crisis that is enveloping the Western world at this time. As Pope Francis reminded the nation in his address to Congress with respect to refugees, we are experiencing the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Of course, our elected leaders are compelled to monitor our national security when threatened by other nations or individuals, physically or through cyber space, but where in all of this is the Lord’s call to accept a level of vulnerability in our lives for the sake of compassion, justice and peace?
What are some of the blessings of Christmas?
We joyfully and rightly celebrate the gift of salvation with hymns and worship, with Christmas gatherings and gifts, in our own homes and with extended family and friends, with holiday parties in the workplace, and outdoor caroling. These are great blessings.
We also see the blessings of the many who reach out to the poor so that the Good News can not only be preached to them, but made real in their lives through loving generosity. We respond to their vulnerability while never forgetting our own.
We also give thanks to those who serve the vulnerable populations in our society throughout the year, in season and out of season, through so many non profit, government, and Church sponsored agencies, especially our own Catholic Charities.
In his address to Congress Pope Francis shared that being a bridge-builder is what being the Pope is all about, to heaven and across the earth. This is Christmas. May the Word of God who became flesh, full of grace and truth, and remains flesh in this world through His Church, inspire us to apply his wisdom, light and truth to every corner of our lives, in order that we may continue to build our lives in a way that gives glory to God, and greater dignity to every living person, especially the vulnerable in our midst, the Lord himself.

Jubilee: a call to recover mercy

Guest Column
Our Sunday Visitor
The timing of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which opened Dec. 8, is providential.
It comes at a time when the world is dumbstruck by the massacres in Paris and Mali, and across the Middle East and much of Africa, murder is committed in the name of religion and for the sake of power.
Here in the United States, we are debating whether to accept refugees fleeing these war-torn countries because our fears of terrorism outweigh our generosity. This year will encompass our bitter and angry national election. The Internet is full of mercilessness and venom, and the streets of our cities are full of division and distrust.
This Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis comes at a time when so many of us are feeling anything but merciful. Vengeance, fear, anger, resentment, envy: yes. Mercy, not so much.
Pope Francis, who has echoed his predecessors in declaring the centrality of mercy in the church’s mission and message, has observed that mercy “seems to have dropped out of use” in the modern lexicon. Indeed, one of the most common uses of the word mercy is now associated with death: mercy killing.
So how providential it is that when our age is barren of mercy, the church is reminding us that mercy is at the heart of the Christian witness. The good news we proclaim is that “the Lord is kind and merciful,” that God’s “mercy endures forever.” In Advent, we are reminded that the greatest act of mercy of all history was God sending his Son to redeem us; the innocent saving the guilty.
Mercy is the most radical of messages in a world where survival of the fittest and the most unforgiving is more the order of the day. Mercy calls for the virtue of humility, for we who know that our own salvation depends on God’s mercy are called to bring a message of mercy to our families, our communities, our nation. Mercy does not require us to turn a blind eye to sin, nor does it deny justice. Mercy goes beyond justice, however. In the Gospel story of Jesus and the adulteress, Jesus recognizes the sinfulness of the woman (“Go and sin no more”), yet saves her life – despite what the law says is the punishment for adultery. He does so by identifying the sin in the hearts of those who were about to stone her, making it clear that they, too, were in need of God’s mercy.
This Holy Year is a blessing from God, calling all of us to acknowledge the mercy we have experienced and to share that mercy with others, perhaps in the following ways:
– Share it in our families, where mercy is sometimes the most lacking and the most needed. In the family, mercy can be found in the smallest of gestures, yet sometimes is the most difficult to show.
– Share it in our parishes and dioceses, where the pope invites us to make pilgrimages, to put into practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to reach out to those who may feel most unloved or unwelcome.
– Share it in our nation, where the powerful witness of mercy may be an antidote to the anger and the bitterness that seems so prevalent.
In the psalms and the parables, in the lives of the saints and teachings of the popes, in the words of the Mass that we say every week, lessons of mercy abound. This week, Catholics should begin a yearlong reflection on the mercy we have received and the mercy we are being called to live.
(This editorial first appeared in the Nov. 24 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, Indiana. It was written by the newspaper’s editorial board.)

Make mercy a priority in word and deed

kneading faith
By Fran Lavelle
This is a very special year and a very special Christmas season as we begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy. While “mercy” is a very common word in our vocabulary, what exactly does it mean? Mercy for many of us was the proclamation we were expected shout out when an older sibling had us in a death grip.
But for our purposes, mercy is the compassionate treatment of those in distress. Mercy is a virtue that, when possible, inspires us to alleviate their distress. The Church encourages us to exercise this virtue through the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; to ransom the captive; and, to bury the dead.  We find these directives rooted in Christ’s teaching in Scripture:
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:34-40
Christmas is a great time to focus on our many blessings and share our abundance with others.  Some parishes participate in local community angel tree programs, purchase special holiday foods for food pantries, or purchase gifts for the children of inmates of our county and state penal institutions.
Some families have their own traditions by doing something special for a neighbor, friend or family member in need.  Some of you may visit a local children’s hospital or old folks home to sing Christmas carols to the residents.  All of these big and little acts are works of mercy.  They are all lovely ways to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  Moreover, they are intentional ways honor the directive he gave us in loving neighbor as self.
During the days of Advent between the Thanksgiving and Christmas it is easy to be reminded of our need to care for one another.  There are bell ringers at every shopping outlet in town ringing clear that the time of giving is here.
But what do we do when the angel trees are put away and the bell ringers have gone home and all other outward symbols of the suffering of others are retired for another year? How do we keep ourselves accountable to the suffering and distress of those around us? For each one of us we must find our place of service as our gifts are different so they will be manifested in different circumstances.
We must make it a priority to give or do as we are called. Several years ago, when I was working as a lay missioner with the Glenmary Sisters, my brother lamented that he seemed to not have the time to “do” for others and felt like all he was doing was writing a check. He is a husband and the father of five beautiful (and busy) girls, he is a son, a brother, a friend, the assistant dean of a major university’s college of engineering, and is a textbook author.
I told him that people in the ministry of mercy need check writers and there are seasons of life when writing a check is totally appropriate. I reminded him that when his “sorority” house of daughters empties and the expectations of his professional life lessen he would have time to do more than write a check. Some times our expression of mercy is as simple as taking food for a luncheon after a funeral or driving an elderly neighbor to the doctor’s office.
The important thing is that we are intentional about making mercy a priority in our life.  If we want to be better at something, we practice.  In practicing these corporal works of mercy, we recognize and build up the dignity of the human person. We see God’s perfect imprint not only in ourselves, but in those not known to us.
They, then, are no longer strangers, they are members of the family of God.  These are opportunities for grace in our daily lives. In exercising the works of mercy, we truly follow the commands that Christ gave us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy (Merciful) New Year!
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Peace Day message addresses death penalty, debt

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis called for abolishing the death penalty worldwide, lifting the burden of debt on poor nations, global aid policies that respect life and revamped laws that welcome and integrate migrants.
He urged individuals, communities and nations to not let indifference, information overload or pessimism discourage them from concrete efforts “to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors and places of employment.”
Building peace, he said, is not accomplished by words alone, but through the grace of God, a conversion of heart, an attitude of compassion and the courage to act against despair.
The pope’s multifaceted plea came in his message for World Peace Day, Jan. 1. The message, which was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican Dec. 15.
The message, titled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” contained a three-fold appeal to the world’s leaders.
He asked that countries: “refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts of wars,” which not only destroy a nation’s infrastructure and cultural heritage, but also their “moral and spiritual integrity;” forgive or make less burdensome international debt of poorer nations; and “adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of the local populations” and not harm the “fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.”
Also part of building peace in the world, he said, is addressing the urgent problem of improving the living conditions of prisoners, especially those still awaiting trial. Since rehabilitation should be the aim of penal sanctions, effective alternatives to incarceration should be considered as well as the abolition of  the death penalty.
The pope called on national governments to review their current laws on immigration and find ways they could “reflect a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration” as well as respect the rights and responsibilities of all parties concerned.
All nations’ leaders should also take concrete measures in alleviating the problem of a lack of housing, land and employment, the pope wrote, as well as stop discrimination against women in the workplace, which included unfair wages and precarious or dangerous working conditions. He said he hoped those who are ill could be guaranteed access to medical treatment, necessary medications and home care.
The pope’s message focused on the dangers of cynicism and indifference against God, neighbor and creation.
“With the present Jubilee of Mercy, I want to invite the church to pray and work so that every Christian will have a humble and compassionate heart” and that all people will learn “to forgive and to give,” he said in his message.
The credibility of the church and its members rests on their willingness to live and act with the same tireless mercy God has for the world, the pope said. “We, too, then are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another,” he said.
Since these attitudes of compassion and solidarity are often handed down from person to person, the pope emphasized the importance of families and teachers in showing what love, respect, dialogue, generosity, charity and faith mean.
He also reminded the media and communicators of their responsibility to “serve the truth and not particular interests.” They don’t just inform people, he said, but also form and influence their audience.
“Communicators should also be mindful that the way in which information is obtained and made public should always be legally and morally admissible,” he said.
In his message, the pope praised those journalists and religious who raise awareness about troubling and “difficult situations,” and defend the human rights of minorities, indigenous peoples, women, children and the most vulnerable people in society.

Speak the truth in charity

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
Some years ago I was challenged by a bishop regarding an article I’d written. We were talking in his office and the tone eventually got a little testy: “How can you write something like that?” he asked. “Because it’s true,” was my blunt reply. He already knew it was true, but now, realizing that, he became more aware of his real agenda: “Yes, I know it’s true, but that doesn’t mean it should be said in that way in a Catholic newspaper like ours. This isn’t a university classroom or the New York Times. It’s a diocesan newspaper and that’s not the best context within which to say something like that. It will confuse a lot of readers.”
I’m not immune to pride and arrogance and so my spontaneous reaction was defensive. Immediately there were certain voices in me saying: “I am only saying what’s true. The truth needs to be spoken. Why are you afraid to hear the truth? Are we really doing people a favor by shielding them from things they’d rather not hear?”
But I’m glad I swallowed my pride, bit my tongue, muttered a half-sincere apology, and walked out of his office without saying any of those things out loud because, after my initial feelings had subsided and I’d had a more sober and prayerful reflection on our conversation, I realized he was right.
Having the truth is one thing, speaking it in a place and a manner that’s helpful is quite another. It’s not for nothing that Jesus challenged us to speak our truth in parables because truth, as T.S. Eliot once quipped, cannot always be swallowed whole and the context and tone within which it is spoken generally dictate whether it’s helpful or not to speak it at a given time or to a given person. Simply put, it isn’t always helpful, or charitable, or mature, to throw a truth into someone’s face.
St. Paul says as much in his Epistle to the Romans in words to this effect: We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. (Romans 15, 1) That can come across as patronizing, as if Paul were telling a certain elite to tone down some of their enlightened views and actions for the sake of those who are less enlightened, but that’s not what’s at stake here.
Undergirding this kind of admonition is a fundamental distinction that’s critically important in our teaching, preaching, and pastoral practice, namely, the distinction between catechesis and theology, the distinction between nurturing and shoring-up someone’s faith as opposed to stretching someone’s faith so as to make it more universally compassionate.
Catechesis is meant to teach doctrine, teach prayers, teach creeds, clarify biblical and church teachings and give people a solid, orthodox framework within which to understand their Christian faith. Theology, on the other hand, presupposes that those studying it are already catechized, that they already know their creeds and prayers and have a solid, orthodox foundation.
Theology’s function, among other things, is then to stretch its students in function of giving them the symbolic tools with which to understand their faith in a way that leaves no dark, hidden corners into which they are afraid to venture for fear of shaking their faith. Catechesis and theology have different functions and must respect each other since both are needed: Young seedling plants need to be protected and gently nurtured; just as older, mature plants have to be given the wherewithal to live and thrive inside all the environmental challenges in which they find themselves.
Thus the challenge coming to me from the bishop was, in effect, to be more careful with my audience so as to distinguish theology classrooms and academic periodicals from catechetical situations and church newspapers.
This challenge is reminiscent of the example, shown by scientist-philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Elderly, retired, and in declining health, he still found himself “silenced” by the Vatican in that we has forbidden to publish his theological thoughts. But, rather than reacting with anger and arrogance, he reacted with charity and humility.
Writing to his Jesuit Provincial, acknowledges needs beyond his own: “I fully recognize that Rome may have its own reasons for judging that, in its present form, my concept of Christianity may be premature or incomplete and that at the present moment its wider diffusion may therefore be inopportune. … [This letter] is to assure you that, in spite of any apparent evidence to the contrary, I am resolved to remain a child of obedience. Obviously, I cannot abandon my own personal search – that would involve me in an interior catastrophe and in disloyalty to my most cherished vocation; but I have ceased to propagate my ideas and am confining myself to achieving a deeper personal insight into them.”
Recognizing the importance of sensitivity as to where and how we speak the truth, Jesus advises: “Speak your truth in parables.”
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Parish hosts seminarian endowment Mass, brunch

PEARL – St. Jude Parish hosted a Mass and brunch to raise money for the Catholic Extension Seminarian Education Endowment Saturday, Dec. 12.
The Knights of Columbus from Flowood St. Paul provided the food, serving a barbecue-and-biscuit-based ‘southern’ eggs benedict.
More than two dozen people attended. If the Office of Vocations can top out donations at $75,000 by the end of the year, Catholic Extension will add another $25,000 to the endowment.
Contact Father Matthew Simmons, Vocations Director at matthew.simmons@jacksondiocese.org or Aad DeLange, CFO for the diocese, to donate. Donations must be received by Dec. 31.