Scripture’s place in liturgy

Spirit and truth

Father Aaron Williams

By Father Aaron Williams
Fifty-five years ago, when the Second Vatican Council promulgated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), there was a great move in the Church for an increased emphasis on the role of Sacred Scripture in the lives of Catholics. The Council, at that time, called for a reworking of the lectionary readings in order to allow for a wider selection of scripture to be read in the Mass. In order to meet this demand, a three-year cycle of readings was developed and a third reading was added to the Mass on Sundays and Feast days — thus allowing for a much wider exposure of Sacred Scripture to the faithful at weekend Masses.
But, I am not sure if many Catholics understand the structure of the modern lectionary. Besides simply giving us more varied readings, the new lectionary also gives a sort of systematic approach to reading the Bible, by demonstrating both the way that the New Testament is a fulfillment of the Old, and also by providing a community with a more continuous reading of various passages. So, I thought it would be helpful to give insight into this structure, as well as provide a few comments on other ways the Scriptures may be opened to us in all our liturgical gatherings.
Generally speaking, the Gospel readings of the lectionary during the three-year cycle are taken from the Gospel of Matthew (in year A), Mark (in year B), and Luke (in year C). The Gospel of John, as is tradition in the Church, is reserved to major feasts of the Church — except during the summer of year B when six weeks are devoted to the reading of the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse from John’s Gospel (as we just completed a few weeks ago).
During Ordinary Time, these passages from the Gospel are read semi-continuously. In other words, they generally flow one story to the next as laid out in the Gospels, so that if we are paying attention we will hear the full story over the thirty-four weeks of Ordinary time in the Church’s liturgical year. During this time as well, the first reading at Sunday Masses is selected to as to comment on the Gospel. In this way, the Gospel demonstrates the fulfillment of the passage chosen as the first reading. The psalm of this Mass is chosen to comment on the first reading. For this reason, when I prepare my homilies, I always read the Gospel first, then the first reading, and then the psalm.
The second reading is always a passage from an Epistle (a New Testament letter). During Ordinary Time, these passages are also read semi-continuously. That means that the second reading is selected not to comment on any other reading that day, but to simply be read from start to finish as its own separate text. This essentially means that a priest could choose for three years to focus just on the Gospel and first reading, and then for the next three years to focus on the epistles — providing a six year rotation of readings. (That’s one term as a pastor!)
In the other seasons of the year, all the readings are selected thematically in order to represent a unified expression of the mystery of that particular feast or season.
Another area where Sacred Scripture is used in the liturgy, which is less-commonly seen in parishes today, are the texts chosen as antiphons. An antiphon is a short passage of scripture which is traditionally sung at various moments of the Mass. The Roman Missal gives antiphons for each Mass at the Entrance and at Communion. The chant editions published by the Church also give antiphons at the offertory. Some parishes may read these texts at daily Mass, but they are intended to be sung — and many settings of these texts are available today from various publishers (even for free).
The benefit of these texts is that often they are chosen to comment on the particular mystery being celebrated, or to reflect the readings. In this way, they are sort of an extension of the lectionary. During Ordinary time, for example, the Communion Antiphons on Sunday are selected to comment on the Gospel passage read that day. Sometimes they are even direct excerpts in order to remind us that the presence of Christ and his works which we heard in scripture is now made manifest to us in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.
The Entrance Antiphons are beautiful passages given to introduce the feast. Thus, on Christmas morning we hear: “A child is born for us, and a son is given to us” (Is., 9:5). Or, on Easter Sunday: “I have risen, and I am with you still, alleluia. You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia, too wonderful for me, this knowledge, alleluia, alleluia.” (cf. Ps. 139:18, 5-6).

(Father Aaron Williams is the parochial vicar at Greenville St. Joseph Parish.)

Search for indubitable faith

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

In a book, 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos, that’s justifiably making waves in many circles today, Jordan Peterson shares about his own journey towards truth and meaning. Here’s that story:
At one point in his life, while still young and finding his own path, he reached a stage where he felt agnostic, not just about the shallow Christianity he’d been raised on, but also about most everything else in terms of truth and trust. What really can we believe in? What’s ultimately to be trusted?
Too humble to compare himself to one of the great minds in history, Rene Descartes, who, five hundred years ago, struggled with a similar agnosticism, Peterson nonetheless could not help but employ Descartes’ approach in trying to find a truth that you could not doubt. So, like Descartes, he set off in search off an “indubitable” (Descartes’ term), that is, to find a premise that absolutely cannot be doubted. Descartes, as we know, found his “indubitable” in his famous dictum: I think, therefore, I am! Nobody can be deceived in believing that since even to be deceived would be indisputable proof that you exist. The philosophy that Descartes then built upon the indubitable premise is left for history to judge. But history doesn’t dispute the truth of his dictum.
So Peterson sets out with the same essential question: What single thing cannot be doubted? Is there something so evidently true that nobody can doubt it? For Peterson, it’s not the fact that we think which is indisputable, it’s the fact that we, all of us, suffer. That’s his indubitable truth, suffering is real. That cannot be doubted: “Nihilists cannot undermine it with skepticism. Totalitarians cannot banish it. Cynics cannot escape its reality.” Suffering is real beyond all doubt.
Moreover, in Peterson’s understanding, the worst kind of suffering isn’t that which is inflicted upon us by the innate contingencies of our being and our mortality, nor by the sometimes blind brutality of nature. The worst kind of suffering is the kind that one person inflicts upon another, the kind that one part of humankind inflicts upon another part, the kind we see in the atrocities of the 20th century – Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and countless others responsible for the torture, rape, suffering and death of millions.
From this indubitable premise he submits something else that too cannot be disputed: This kind of suffering isn’t just real, it’s also wrong! We can all agree that this kind of suffering is not good and that there is something that is (beyond dispute) not good. And if there’s something that is not good, then there’s something that is good. His logic: “If the worst sin is the torment of others, merely for the sake of the suffering produced – then the good is whatever is diametrically opposed to that.”
What flows from this is clear: The good is whatever stops such things from happening. If this is true, and it is, then it is also clear as to what is good, and what is a good way of living: If the most terrible forms of suffering are produced by egotism, selfishness, untruthfulness, arrogance, greed, lust for power, willful cruelty and insensitivity to others, then we are evidently called to the opposite: selflessness, altruism, humility, truth-telling, tenderness and sacrificing for others.
Not incidentally, Peterson affirms all of this inside a chapter within which he highlights the importance of sacrifice, of delaying private gratification for a greater good long-range. His insight here parallels those of Rene Girard and other anthropologists who point out that the only way of stopping unconscious sacrifice to blind gods (which is what happened in the atrocities of Hitler and what happens in our own bitter slandering of others) is through self-sacrifice. Only when we accept at the cost of personal suffering our own contingencies, sin and mortality will we stop projecting these on to others so to make them suffer in order to feel better about ourselves.
Peterson writes as an agnostic or perhaps, more accurately, as an honest analyst, an observer of humanity, who for purposes of this book prefers to keep his faith private. Fair enough. Probably wise too. No reason to impute motives. It’s where he lands that’s important, and where he lands is on very solid ground. It’s where Jesus lands in the Sermon on the Mount, it’s where the Christian churches land when they’re at their best, it’s where the great religions of the world land when they’re at their best, and it’s where humanity lands when it’s at its best.
The medieval mystic, Theresa of Avila, wrote with great depth and challenge. Her treatise on the spiritual life is now a classic and forms part of the very canon of Christian spiritual writings. In the end, she submits that during our generative years the most important question we need to challenge ourselves with is: How can I be more helpful? Jordan Peterson, with a logic and language that can be understood by everyone today, offers the same challenge.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Una ueva Apologética: Por Obispo Robert Barron.

(NOTA: El Obispo José Kopacz cede su espacio para el análisis de esta intervención del Obispo Robert Barron, quien es el fundador de los Ministerios Católicos de Word on Fire y Obispo Auxiliar de la Arquidiócesis de Los Ángeles. También es el anfitrión de CATOLICISMO, un documental, innovador y galardonado, sobre la Fe Católica, que se emitió en PBS.)

Por Obispo Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron/Obispo Robert Barron

El encuentro de Jesús con dos antiguos discípulos en el camino a Emaús ofrece un hermoso ejemplo para el trabajo de acompañamiento de la Iglesia. El Señor camina con la pareja, incluso cuando estos se alejan de Jerusalén, y espiritualmente hablando, van en dirección equivocada. Él no comienza a juzgarlos, sino más bien presta atención y estimula silencioso. Pero luego, sabiendo que les falta toda la magnitud de la información, los reprende y luego informa “Y, empezando por Moisés y continuando por todos los profetas, les explicó lo que había sobre él en todas las Escrituras. “ Jesús escucha con amor y habla con fuerza y claridad.
Innumerables estudios en los últimos diez años han confirmado que los jóvenes mencionan razones intelectuales cuando se les pregunta qué los ha llevado a abandonar la Iglesia o perder la confianza en ella. Entre las principales hay convicciones como: la religión se opone a la ciencia o no puede resistir un examen racional, sus creencias están pasadas de moda, la Biblia no es confiable, las creencias religiosas dan lugar a la violencia o Dios es una amenaza para la libertad humana. Puedo verificar, por veinte años de ministerio de evangelización, que estas preocupaciones son obstáculos cruciales para la aceptación de la fe entre los jóvenes
Lo que se necesita vitalmente hoy, para el acompañamiento de los jóvenes, es una renovada catequesis y apologética. En algunos círculos de la Iglesia, el término apologética es sospechoso, e indica algo racionalista, agresivo, condescendiente. Espero que esté claro que el proselitismo arrogante no tiene cabida en nuestro alcance pastoral, pero espero que sea igualmente claro que es una explicación inteligente, respetuosa y culturalmente sensible de la fe. Existe un consenso entre personas pastorales, hemos experimentado una crisis en la catequesis, en los últimos cincuenta años.
Por lo tanto, ¿cómo sería una nueva apologética? Primero, surgiría de las preguntas que hacen los jóvenes espontáneamente. No se impondría desde arriba, sería una respuesta al anhelo de la mente y el corazón.
En segundo lugar, una nueva apologética debería profundizar en la relación entre religión y ciencia. Sin negar por un momento las ciencias, tenemos que demostrar que existen caminos no científicos y, sin embargo, eminentemente racionales que conducen hacia el conocimiento de lo real. La literatura, el drama, la filosofía, las bellas artes, todos primos cercanos de la religión, no solo entretienen y deleitan; también llevan verdades que no están disponibles de ninguna otra manera. Una apologética renovada debería cultivar estos enfoques.
En tercer lugar, nuestra apologética y catequesis deben recorrer la vía pulchritudinis, como lo caracterizó el Papa Francisco en Evangelii Gaudium y como argumentó Hans Urs von Balthasar, la belleza más convincente de todas es la de los santos. He encontrado una gran tracción evangélica en la presentación de las vidas de estos grandes amigos de Dios.
Cuando Jesús se explicó a los discípulos a Emaús, sus corazones comenzaron a arder. La Iglesia debe caminar con los jóvenes, escucharlos con atención y amor, y estar listos inteligentemente para dar “una razón para la esperanza que está dentro de nosotros”. Esto, confío, encenderá los corazones de los jóvenes.

(El obispo Barron ofreció esta intervención en el Vaticano, durante el Sínodo sobre los jóvenes, la fe y el discernimiento vocacional de 2018. Para obtener más contenido visite )

A New Apologetics: Bishop Barron’s Youth Synod Intervention

(Editor’s note: Due to attending convocation, Bishop Kopacz does not have a column this week. His column will return in the next edition)

By Bishop Robert Barron
Jesus’ encounter with two erstwhile disciples on the road to Emmaus provides a beautiful template for the Church’s work of accompaniment across the ages. The Lord walks with

Bishop Robert Barron

the couple, even as they move away from Jerusalem, which is to say, spiritually speaking, in the wrong direction. He does not commence with a word of judgment, but rather with attention and quiet encouragement. Jesus continues to listen, even as they recount, accurately enough, all the data having to do with him. But then, knowing that they lack the interpretive pattern that will make sense of the data, he upbraids them (“Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”), and then he lays out the form (“beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”). He listens with love, and he speaks with force and clarity.
Innumerable surveys and studies over the past ten years have confirmed that young people frequently cite intellectual reasons when asked what has prompted them to leave the Church or lose confidence in it. Chief among these are the convictions that religion is opposed to science or that it cannot stand up to rational scrutiny, that its beliefs are outmoded, a holdover from a primitive time, that the Bible is unreliable, that religious belief gives rise to violence, and that God is a threat to human freedom. I can verify, on the basis of twenty years of ministry in the field of online evangelization, that these concerns are crucial stumbling blocks to the acceptance of the faith among young people.
What is vitally needed today, as an aspect of the accompaniment of the young, is a renewed apologetics and catechesis. I realize that in some circles within the Church, the term apologetics is suspect, since it seems to indicate something rationalistic, aggressive, condescending. I hope it is clear that arrogant proselytizing has no place in our pastoral outreach, but I hope it is equally clear that an intelligent, respectful, and culturally-sensitive explication of the faith (“giving a reason for the hope that is within us”) is certainly a desideratum. There is a consensus among pastoral people that, at least in the West, we have experienced a crisis in catechesis these last fifty years. That the faith has not been effectively communicated was verified by the most recent Religious Landscape Study, from the Pew Research Center in America. It indicated that, among the major religions, Catholicism was second to last in passing on its traditions. Why has it been the case, over the past several decades, that young people in our own Catholic secondary schools have read Shakespeare in literature class, Homer in Latin class, Einstein in physics class, but, far too often, superficial texts in religion? The army of our young who claim that religion is irrational is a bitter fruit of this failure in education.
Therefore, what would a new apologetics look like? First, it would arise from the questions that young people spontaneously ask. It would not be imposed from above but would rather emerge organically from below, a response to the yearning of the mind and the heart. Here it would take a cue from the method of St. Thomas Aquinas. The austere texts of the great theological master in point of fact emerged from the lively give-and-take of the quaestiones disputatae that stood at the heart of the educational process in the medieval university. Thomas was deeply interested in what young people were really asking. So should we.
Secondly, a new apologetics should look deep and long into the question of the relationship between religion and science. For many people today, scientific and rational are simply equivalent or co-extensive terms. And therefore, since religion is obviously not science, it must be irrational. Without for a moment denigrating the sciences, we have to show that there are non-scientific and yet eminently rational paths that conduce toward knowledge of the real. Literature, drama, philosophy, the fine arts—all close cousins of religion—not only entertain and delight; they also bear truths that are unavailable in any other way. A renewed apologetics ought to cultivate these approaches.
Thirdly, our apologetics and catechesis should walk the via pulchritudinis, as Pope Francis characterized it in Evangelii Gaudium. Especially in our postmodern cultural context, commencing with the true and the good—what to believe and how to behave—is often counter-indicated, since the ideology of self-invention is so firmly established. However, the third transcendental, the beautiful, often proves a more winsome, less threatening, path. And part of the genius of Catholicism is that we have so consistently embraced the beautiful—in song, poetry, architecture, painting, sculpture, and liturgy. All of this provides a powerful matrix for evangelization. And as Hans Urs von Balthasar argued, the most compelling beauty of all is that of the saints. I have found a good deal of evangelical traction in presenting the lives of these great friends of God, somewhat in the manner of a baseball coach who draws young adepts into the game by showing them the play of some of its greatest practitioners.
When Jesus explained himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, their hearts began to burn within them. The Church must walk with young people, listen to them with attention and love, and then be ready intelligently to give a reason for the hope that is within us. This, I trust, will set the hearts of the young on fire.

(This article first appeared at Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.)

Be grateful to parents, never insult them

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone’s parents, Pope Francis said.
“Among us there is also the habit of saying awful things, even profanity. Please, never, never, never insult other people’s parents. Never! Never insult a mother, never insult a father,” the pope said Sept. 19 during his weekly general audience.
“Make this decision: from today forward, ‘I will never insult someone’s mom or dad.’ They gave life! They should not be insulted,” he told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Gray clouds forming above the square did little to dampen the spirits of thousands of pilgrims who cheered as they waited for the pope to pass by in his popemobile.
As customary, the pope greeted them, blessed religious articles and kissed children who were brought up to him.
During the general audience, the pope continued his series of talks on the Ten Commandments and reflected on the obligation to “honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
To love and respect one’s father and mother, he said, means “recognizing their importance with concrete actions that express dedication, affection and care.”
“Honor your parents: they gave us life. If you have distanced yourself  from your parents, make an effort and return, go back to them, perhaps they are old. They gave you life,” the pope said.
Pope Francis explained that the promise of a long life that comes from honoring one’s parents associates happiness with one’s relationship with them.
“This centuries-old wisdom declares what human science has only been able to elaborate upon a little over a century ago: that the imprint of childhood marks a person’s life,” he said.
However, this commandment does not require mothers and fathers to be perfect and regardless of the merits of one’s parents, “all children can be happy because the achievement of a full and happy life depends on the proper gratitude to those who have brought us into the world.”
The pope recalled the example of saints who despite being orphaned or having lived through painful childhoods grew up to “live virtuous lives because, thanks to Jesus Christ, they reconciled with their life.”
Recalling the life of Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio, who will be canonized alongside Blesseds Paul VI and Oscar Romero Oct. 14, the pope said that although Blessed Sulprizio lost his mother and father when he was very young, he “reconciled with so much pain” and never betrayed his parents.
“We should also think of St. Camillus de Lellis, who, out of a dysfunctional childhood, built a life of love and service; St. Josephine Bakhita, who grew up in horrible slavery; or Blessed Carlo Gnocchi, orphaned and poor; and even St. John Paul II, who was impacted by the death of his mother at a tender age,” he added.
In the light of love, Pope Francis said, sad and painful experiences “can become for others a source of well-being.”
Thus, he said “we can begin to honor our parents with the freedom of adult children and with merciful acceptance of their limitations.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Bridging unbridgeable gaps

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
“Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so and no one can cross from there to us.”
Abraham speaks these words to a soul in hell in the famous parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16, 19-21) and they are generally understood to mean that there exists between heaven and hell a gap that’s impossible to bridge. Nobody passes from hell to heaven. Hell is forever and no amount of regret or repentance there will get you to heaven. Indeed, once in hell, nobody in heaven can help you either, the gap between the two is eternally fixed!
But that’s not what this parable is teaching.
Some years ago, Jean Vanier delivered the prestigious Massey Lectures and he took up this parable. The point he emphasized is that the “unbridgeable chasm” referred to here is not the gap between heaven and hell as this is understood in the popular mind. Rather, for Vanier, the unbridgeable gap exists already in this world in terms of the gap between the rich and the poor, a gap that we have forever been unable to bridge. Moreover it’s a gap with more dimensions than we first imagine.
What separates the rich from the poor so definitively with a chasm that, seemingly, can never be bridged? What would bridge that gap?
The prophet Isaiah offers us a helpful image here (Isaiah 65, 25). Drawing upon a messianic dream he tells us how that gap will finally be bridged. It will be bridged, he submits, in the Messianic age, when we’re in heaven because it’s there, in an age when God’s grace is finally able to affect universal reconciliation, that the “the wolf and lamb will feed together” (or, as this is commonly read, “the lion and the lamb will lie down together.”)
The lion and the lamb will lie down together. But lions kill lambs! How can this change? Well, that’s the unbridgeable gap between heaven and hell. That’s the gap between the victim and the killer, the powerless and the powerful, the bullied and the bully, the despised and the bigot, the oppressed and the oppressor, the victim and the racist, the hated and the hater, the older brother and his prodigal brother, the poor and the rich. That’s the gap between heaven and hell.
If this is what Isaiah intuits and I think it is, then this image contains a powerful challenge which goes both ways: It isn’t just the lion that needs to convert and become sensitive, understanding and non-violent enough to lie down with the lamb; the lamb too needs to convert and move to deeper levels of understanding, forgiveness and trust in order to lie down with the lion. Ironically, this may be a bigger challenge to the lamb than to the lion. Once wounded, once victimized, once hated, once spit on, once raped, once beaten-up by a bully, once discriminated against because of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation and it becomes very difficult, almost impossible existentially, to truly forgive, forget and move with trust towards the one who hurt us.
This is a tough saying, but life can be grossly unfair sometimes and perhaps the greatest unfairness of all is not the injustice of being victimized, violated, raped or murdered, but that, after all this has been done to us, we’re expected to forgive the one who did it to us while at the same time knowing that the one who hurt us probably has an easier time of it in terms of letting go of the incident and moving towards reconciliation. That’s perhaps the greatest unfairness of all. The lamb has to forgive the lion who killed it.
And yet this is the invitation to all of us who have ever been victimized. Parker Palmer suggests that violence is what happens when someone doesn’t know what else to do with his or her suffering and that domestic abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and contempt for the poor are all cruel outcomes of this. What we need, he suggests, is a bigger “moral imagination”.
He’s right, I believe, on both scores: violence is what happens when people don’t know what to do with their sufferings and we do need a bigger moral imagination. But understanding that our abuser is in deep pain, that the bully himself was first bullied, doesn’t generally do much to ease our own pain and humiliation.
As well, imagining how ideally we should respond as Christians is helpful, but it doesn’t of itself give us the strength to forgive. Something else is needed, namely, a strength that’s presently beyond us.
This is a tough teaching, one that should not be glibly presented. How do you forgive someone who violated you? In this life, mostly, it’s impossible; but remember Isaiah is speaking about the messianic time, a time when, finally, with God’s help, we will be able to bridge that unbridgeable chasm.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Lawmakers should focus on tax, wage reforms

Father Ed Dougherty

Light one candle
Father Ed Dougherty, M.M.
St. Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
The secret of contentedness that St. Paul refers to is all about having gratitude to God for the gift of life itself. One particular story exemplifying this kind of gratitude is that of Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray, two life-long friends who traversed the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in northern Spain despite Justin’s confinement to a wheelchair.
“I’ll Push You” is a documentary chronicling Justin and Patrick’s journey across the Camino, and earlier this year the book version of their story won a Christopher Award. “I’ll Push You” details their harrowing yet joyful trek along rocky and sometimes muddy trails, over mountains, and down winding roads to reach Santiago de Compostela.
At one point in their journey, Justin says, “You know, it’s inevitable we all die at some point. But I’m making the best of it now.” Suffering from a rare autoimmune disease that has left him paralyzed and uncertain how long he will live, Justin must allow Patrick to push, pull and carry him all the way to Santiago de Compostela, where their wives await them after being apart for several weeks.
They cross mountain ranges, pass through old world cities like Pamplona and Leon, follow trails through vineyards, and make pit stops at ancient Cathedrals and monasteries.
Justin talks about the difficulty of having to rely on the assistance of Patrick and other generous travelers who help along the way, but then later he shares a profound realization, saying, “When you deny someone that opportunity to help you, you deny them the joy in life.”

I’ll Push You

Padre Pio once said, “In all the events of life, you must recognize the Divine will. Adore and bless it, especially in the things which are the hardest for you.” He meant that God can draw good out of all things, and Justin’s realization demonstrates his recognition of the good being drawn from his suffering.
Reflecting on the natural desire for independence that his condition has forced him to let go of, Justin says, “Once I’ve let that go, love can flourish and there’s this weird beauty that lies around that.” Understanding the insight this love has brought to him, he says, “I’d love to have my independence back, but I’m kind of wondering, if I got that back, would my life change and would love change, in that aspect? And would I trade it for that? I’m not so sure.”
Justin’s gratitude for the gift of life regardless of his condition sets an example for us all. He has achieved that state that St. Paul speaks of in terms of knowing how to live with abundance as well as sacrifice.
When we begin to appreciate life in all its stages — the joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains, moments of triumph and even defeat — we realize that God is utilizing all our experiences to draw us closer to His love. So embrace every moment of life with a heart open to transformation, and you will be content in knowing that God is leading you through it all to a state of everlasting joy.

(For free copies of the Christopher News Note THE ENDURING VALUE OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

Dialogue – dialogue fearlessly

Father Jeremy Tobin

Millennial reflections
By Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem
Tuesday September 18, a large group of priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders spent the day, together with Bishop Kopacz, at St. Dominic Toulouse Center along I-55 near Lakeland Drive experiencing “Gathering for Mission.” (See page 8 for related story about the event). I participated in this, and, together with Glenmary Father Les Schmidt and FatherTim Murphy, I serve on the board of directors of the Catholic Committee of the South (CCS) which created it. Google Gathering for Mission is a five-year project sponsored by CCS and the Glenmary Home Missioners.
Inspired by Pope Francis, Gathering for Mission makes available to Church leaders practical experience in the dialogic process.
This is a most timely project to fully engage in. Our country, yes our world, is divided, fractured’ uncivil, and the list goes on. Racism, sexism, xenophobia are raging. Much on this I have to say will be for future columns. This one is on the antidote for division, healing for the hurting soul. Thoroughly inspired by Pope Francis, Gathering for Mission is more than learning new skills. It is a way to bring a group of people only partially familiar with each other to bond and form community. If that sounds a bit lofty, it enables a group to say their piece without fear, and to collectively solve problems.
It creates an atmosphere without fear. It breaks barriers
Taking Pope Francis oft quoted saying “Dialogue! And dialogue fearlessly! Never stop the dialogue!” Dialogue breaks down walls. It seeks genuine common ground. It is not winning an argument, it is finding common ground.
To our country faced with double down divisive arguments, Pope Francis says dialogue fearlessly. If we engage all parties in dialogue the goal changes from winning and losing to collaborative solutions. What Gathering for Mission does is to pour cool water on a flaming fire of negativity – even hatred.
Gathering for Mission is about teaching dialogue. We may think we know what that is, but more likely we confuse it for what it is not. It is more than a process it is transformation. It changes the situation as perceived into a new reality. The best way to see this is to compare it to often what we think it is. It is not a debate. It is not about one set of ideas vanquishing another set of ideas. It results in real actual change.
In a debate winning is the goal. In dialogue common ground is the goal. Right here we see a solution in this polarized world we live in. Dialogue is a method to approach issues and arrive at common ground and openness to change.
Dialogue supports open mindedness, and openness to being wrong, and openness to change.
This can be a threat to those who see everything as us against them, but this is precisely a non -violent rather peaceful way to create a new reality of understanding.
CCS is offering Gathering for Mission to dioceses, seminaries, religious groups and more, but I believe it can adapt as a way to confront hostile groups. Dialogue, by its nature, is expansive. It is open. It is flexible. It does not accept winning and losing. It works for common ground.
By learning and experiencing this process we, who are committed to the world view of the Gospel, can reach out to those who promote division in a way that is not confrontational but challenging.
Yes this can be threatening to those who approach us with their divide, rigid, everybody-has-a-label view of the world. This makes it effective.
The website,, has a list of videos, their titles alone pour soothing balm on polarizing situations. This program is designed for church settings, parishes, diocesan and religious groups , but I suggest that it can be adapted to other less compatible settings to effect a change in perception, in point of view, and even degree of openness to labeled groups.
To take it out of a church setting and use it in the way I suggest means that people have been trained thoroughly in the method, strong enough to wear down opponents. The key is creative patience.

(Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, lives at the Priory of St. Moses the Black, Jackson.)

Take courage and be not afraid

Sister Constance Veit

By Sister Constance Veit, LSP
Growing up, many of my family’s summer vacations took place at the ocean. Whenever we could afford it we would head for Cape Cod, New Hampshire or Maine. As we kids splashed around in the salt water or searched for shells, my mother loved to just sit and watch the waves crashing against the rocks. “I could stay here all day,” she’d often muse. We’d cringe at these words as we quickly grew bored and looked for the next great adventure!
But as I grew older and began to progress in a life of prayer, I came to understand my mother’s fascination with the sea. Whenever I visited the ocean I’d find a good spot where I could watch the waves crashing against the rocks or rolling across the sand, pull out my Bible or my rosary and reflect on the majesty and Providence of God.
This summer I found myself thinking about the sea for a special reason, for it was 150 years ago this September that seven Little Sisters of the Poor set off from our motherhouse in Brittany, France, on a long ocean journey. The Sisters traveled across the Atlantic in an immigrant ship named Napoleon III, arriving in Brooklyn, New York on Sept. 13, 1868. The massive iron vessel had been built in 1865 expressly for transatlantic travel, but the trip must have been harrowing just the same. An etching of the Napoleon III shows the ship being tossed about by waves during one of its voyages.
Beyond the normal anxieties associated with such an undertaking, the young Little Sisters on their way to New York surely entertained a host of other fears – for they were about to begin a new life and a new mission in a foreign country, with no expectation of ever returning to their homeland.
But this little band of Sisters had been formed in the school of Saint Jeanne Jugan, whose charity and trust in God’s loving Providence had led her to establish a new religious community despite a virtual lack of resources and preparation. Our pioneering Little Sisters surely rode out many a storm, leaning on their formation and trusting in the Lord whom even the winds and the waves obey (cf. Mt 8:27).
Despite their lack of proficiency in English and their ignorance of American culture, within two days of their arrival in New York the Sisters ventured out into the city to collect alms and procure all that would be necessary for the care of the elderly. Within a week they welcomed their first residents.
By the end of September a second group of Little Sisters destined for a foundation in Cincinnati had set out on the long journey to America. A third group arrived in New Orleans in December. In just four years the Little Sisters established 13 homes for the elderly in the United States; many more would follow. All were founded in extreme poverty but with great trust in God’s Providence.
Amazed at how completely God provided for their needs, the Sisters in one home wrote to the motherhouse, “Divine goodness never disappoints us in our expectations and often surpasses them.” Father Ernest Lelièvre, a French priest who served as the Congregation’s ambassador in America, encouraged the Sisters, “The Lord is with you; that says everything … Are you not his family, his people? Has not each of your homes had proof, a hundred times over, of his predilection? … Do not things happen every day which repeat to you: ‘You are in the house of the Lord, and it is here that he delights to dwell?’”
As we prepare to launch our sesquicentennial celebrations in our homes across the country, I find peace and confidence in remembering our story and thanking God for his Providence everyday and in every undertaking.
At the same time, I am conscious of how much the barque of the Church has been subjected to violent storms this summer and I confide to Our Lord those whose faith has been shaken in recent weeks. My prayer for all of us is that each day we may hear the voice of Jesus deep in our hearts as he calms our inner storms: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

(Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)

Support for catechists greatly needed

Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson

By Fran Lavelle
The first days of September usher in so many good things and I’m not referring to Pumpkin Spice Lattes. College football has returned as a favorite pastime, cooler temperatures are right around the corner, and our young people are back in school. Life takes on a different cadence in the Fall. In the Church, we begin our religious education programs. Every year the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops discerns a theme for the catechetical year. This year the theme is, “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ.” At first glance, I was a bit put off by the theme as it sounded so jingoistic. However, after some thought I have come to appreciate the wisdom of the sentiment.
A deeper dig led me to come to understand what the bishops were thinking. This year’s catechetical theme is meant to address a growing population of Americans today known as the “nones.” The “nones” have no religious affiliation. Unfortunately, most “nones” once were affiliated with a church. American Evangelical preacher Francis Chan hits the nail on the head. He said, “We need to stop giving people excuses not to believe in God.” And by we, he means all of us. If our faith is to grow and thrive, the church needs all baptized Christians to accompany those who are on the peripheries, all who have been dismissed, all who have been injured in God’s name, and all who have been left without hope. It is a tall order. But, left undone our churches will quickly become historic landmarks of days and faith gone by.
The single best way to ensure the propagation of the faith is to give support to our catechists and formational leaders in our parishes. We have a responsibility to equip our catechists with both the competency and confidence to teach the faith. Catechesis is more than learning; catechesis engages the whole person both intellect and heart. One without the other fails to fully form. The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) and the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) identify the tasks of the catechetical ministry:
• To promote the knowledge of the faith.
• To promote a knowledge of the meaning of the Liturgy and Sacraments.
• To promote moral formation in Jesus Christ.
• To promote prayer and how to pray.
• To promote living in community and participating actively in the life and mission of the Church.
• To promote a missionary spirit that leads God’s people to be the living presence of Christ in society.
In 2016, the Diocese updated the Catechist Companion: A Curriculum Guide for Catechesis and Religious Education. GDC, NDC, and other appropriate catechetical materials, the Catechist Companion is divided by grade level. The major themes include: 1) the Trinity; 2) the centrality of Christ in the Church, Sacraments, and prayer life of the Christian; 3) the treatment of the theology of Church; 4) the Sacramental life of Christ; 5) the moral and social teachings of the Church; 6) the Church’s teaching on the dignity of human life and value of a chaste life. Each of these themes should be developed on an age appropriate level with the goal of bringing children into closer relationship with God to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Every catechist in our religious education programs should be familiar with the guidelines for curriculum for their grade level. The Catechist Companion is available online. To download a copy, visit our website:
A goal of the Department of Faith Formation is to provide a quality certification program to help develop both competency and confidence for our catechists. We knew it had to be flexible and enjoyable. To that end, I am thrilled to announce the availability of the new on-line catechist certification program. The program completed earlier in the spring has been tested by several catechists enrolled in the old on-line program. The new program has several features that I hope make it convenient for catechists to engage in the courses. The best feature is that the courses are free and can be taken at any time. We wanted to give the catechist flexibility in when they begin a course. The classes should take three weeks to complete and we are asking that the catechist take one course at a time. However, it is not problematic if a catechist needs a little extra time to complete a class. The learning management system that we developed creates learning communities. The program is available on-line at: I invite priests, LEMs, DREs and CREs to email me at and we can set up a time to do a tutorial for your catechists. We are all enlisted to be witness for Jesus Christ. Our witness can accompany, our witness can catechize, our witness can transform. It is time to take up that mantel as competent and confident Catholic witnesses.

(Fran Lavelle is the director of the Department of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)