Monday, December 9, 2013
1. Pope Francis was the most discussed topic around the world on Facebook in 2013.
2. Today is the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, officially marked December 8. The Immaculate Conception is among the most misunderstood doctrines of the Catholic Church. Here's a breakdown of what it means.
3. This month Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago celebrates 50 years as a priest. As he prepares for this milestone, our blog draws comparisons between him and another Francis, the pope.
4. Catholic Relief Services and the USCCB will have an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion Wednesday on What You Did to Confront Global Poverty in 2013: Celebrating Your Advocacy Successes.
5. God loves you.
The cardinal archbishop of Chicago is a Francis who is also a George. The pope is a George [Jorge] who became a Francis. And more than a couple people briefly thought the new pope was from Chicago when they heard the names "Georgium" and "Franciscum" announced from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
Cardinal George celebrates his 50th anniversary as a priest this month. Reflecting on this in the context of this year's election of Pope Francis, it's clear the two men share more than intertwined names. Born within a month of each other, both carry scars of illness from early in life, and both joined religious orders. Each was appointed archbishop of his hometown in the late 1990s and made a cardinal by John Paul II shortly thereafter. Each went on to serve as president of his national episcopal conference (Bergoglio from 2005-2011, George from 2007-2010). Perhaps not surprisingly then, their ideas also overlap. A few themes rise to the top:
1. God makes a difference in our encounter of other people.
In his 2009 book, "The Difference God Makes," Cardinal George also addresses the connections between people. He says relationships are fundamental to a person's identity (father, mother, daughter, brother, etc.) and says God extends such relationship to include the whole world. "You can't possibly be Catholic if you're not open to the world God loves," Cardinal George said. And to be part of a universal Church is to care for the whole world. This has ramifications for how we relate to the poor, the unborn, the elderly, the sick, and victims of violence and natural disasters, whether in our back yards, or half a world away.
2. God never tires of forgiving everything.
"The Lord never tires of forgiving," Pope Francis said in his first Angelus message. "It is we who grow tired of asking for forgiveness." As it turned out, this was the opening line of one of the major, oft-repeated themes of Francis' pontificate: God's mercy.
Pope Francis' condemns a "throwaway culture" that treats people as disposable commodities. The Church envisions a society in which every person is included and has what is needed to flourish. This principle underpins the U.S. bishops calls to reform the immigration and criminal justice systems, as well as Pope Francis' powerful pastoral visits to Lampedusa island and Rome's youth penitentiary.
3. Freedom and Surprises.
As the College of Cardinals deliberated over the qualifications and identity of the next pope, they frequently invoked words like discernment and governance. Cardinal George, however, used a word that might have seemed unusual: freedom. The cardinals must be free to share their thoughts on the needs of the Church in total confidence, he insisted. The cardinals must be free from all outside influence to choose the man they believe to be best suited. And the new pope must be free of any baggage that interferes with his ability to govern the Church.
The words have proved prophetic. In the months since his election, Pope Francis has shown the world what the freedom of God looks like, imbuing usually scripted moments with spontaneity and his informal style. Even the people who knew him in Argentina, including his sister, have observed that this isn't the same man. John Allen reported in October that Pope Francis has explained privately that a deep sense of peace and freedom came over the pope following his election and has remained with him.
"God's word is unpredictable in its power," Pope Francis writes in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. A surprising, unpredictable God is how Cardinal George describes the experience of the Holy Spirit and Pope Francis' election. Surprise over the choice of pope. Surprise over the pope choosing the name Francis. It's been a year of surprises. And as Pope Francis celebrates his first Advent as pope and Cardinal George celebrates 50 years as a priest, Catholics can thank God for both men and for his gift of surprises.
(Top photo: CNS Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, other photos: CNS Photos/Paul Haring)
Friday, December 6, 2013
1. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the USCCB, welcomed the decision of Pope Francis to establish a commission on the protection of minors. The move was urged by the Council of Cardinals, an advisory group to the pope that met at the Vatican, December 3-5. Archbishop Kurtz praised the effort in a December 5 statement.
2. Read more about the pope's commission on the protection of minors.
3. The USCCB's Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions awarded nearly $3.4 million in grants to six dioceses and two archdioceses that have been severely impacted by naturaldisasters in the U.S. The grants were awarded at the Subcommittee's meeting in Baltimore on November 12.
4. Archbishop Gerald Kicanas, who served as chairman of Catholic Relief Services for the last three years, says what it takes to be a Catholic organization in this Catholic News Service.
5. God loves you.
1. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the U.S. bishops for their “Ethical and Religious Directives” (ERDs) “misguided” and promised to defend Catholic teachings “in season and out.”
2. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, said the death of Nelson Mandela marked the passing of an era and an icon, Dec. 6, the day after the South African and world leader died in his homeland.
3. We wrap up our series of retired religious today with a story from a 94-year-old nun who serves as the chaplain for Loyola Chicago's men's basketball team.
4. Jesuit Father Michael Paul Gallagher discusses the historic Christian meaning of the Christmas tree.
5. God loves you.
It is both easy and complicated to reflect on one’s life when you reach 94. Easy because there are so many dear memories that flood my brain and touch my heart, and complicated because it is difficult to place so many thoughts, joys, lessons and experiences. “There by the grace of God I go” is a line full of meaning for me as I reflect on my 76 years in religious life.
My roots are deep and strong in the Catholic faith. I come from a faith-filled family and realized in third grade – yes, I know how young that was – that I wanted to be a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM). Once I knew what I wanted, I prayed that God wanted that for me as well.
In elementary and secondary school in San Francisco, I was taught by the BVMs, whose primary mission is education. They encouraged a way of life that included prayer, respect and care for others. They shared with us the lives of Mary Frances Clarke, our foundress, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis of Assisi, and countless other holy persons
I have shared my love with many people in the places I have taught and served: Los Angeles, North Hollywood, and Chicago. In my travels, my world has expanded and I have related more closely to God through prayer, study, community living, and sharing my life with others.
Reflection and discernment have always been a priority for me. Daily reflection refreshes me, keeps me current and connected in my life of service.
Often I reflect on the many gifts with which God has blessed me: good health, good friends, people who remember and support my community. I am also blessed by the students who have touched my life. I have had the privilege to pray, work, and enjoy these special individuals. They keep me young at heart. I currently serve at Loyola University Chicago in Campus Ministry as a chaplain. The work is a privilege, and I am thankful for the people who flow through my life: family, friends, students, alums, and often, unexpectedly, strangers who need to tell their stories and discuss their search for God to an unhurried ear. I am also chaplain to the men’s basketball team as well as in a campus residence hall where I live and interact with 400 freshmen and other students who enrich me and give me a sense of hope as we prepare them to lead extraordinary lives.
Serving as chaplain to the basketball team is a special gift. I never miss a game. I pray and reflect with the team and am always happy to discuss game strategy, scouting, our strengths and our weaknesses. As a team, we keep in mind Ignatius Loyola’s message to do all “for the greater glory of God,” but we also have our own mantra: the 3 W’s: Worship, Work, and Win!
These years of my religious life continue to go by quickly. I feel a sense of freedom that lets me praise, reverence and serve God as He continues to show me the way. The love from our BVM community and so many others enriches me.
Sr. Jean Dolores Schmidt is a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and chaplain at Loyola University, Chicago.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath, OSFS
There is a saying in our community, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, that it takes forty years to make a good Oblate. It didn’t mean anything to me in my youth, when projecting forty years into the future seemed inconsequential, but it has taken on meaning now that those forty years represent my past. I have come a long way: I have done interesting things and have always loved what I do. I have been blessed to travel the country and a good bit of the world and have made many friends. I suppose I have evolved into a passably good Oblate, but as an eternal novice, I admit that I see room for improvement.
Why I entered religious life is not anywhere near as important as why I have stayed. I am not that same young man with the same dreams and motivations. When I entered, I thought I wanted to be a priest, but changed my mind during the novitiate when I realized that priesthood could totally interfere with my vocation as an artist, shifting it to secondary importance, or worse. I cherish my role as a brother and the freedom it affords me to soar and explore.
Next year, 2014, will mark the fortieth anniversary of my entrance into the community right out of high school from a family of seven in Philadelphia. If I hadn’t chosen the Oblates, I would likely have gone to art school. From the start, the Oblates have helped me find ways to nurture the gift of art and express it. After I received my Master of Fine Arts degree in painting, I taught studio art and art history for 11 years at De Sales University, but left that world twenty years ago to pursue full time the ministry of art.
Here is how it works for me: first and foremost, I paint. I paint holy pictures of Jesus, Mary, and whatever saint grabs my attention. Then, I share those paintings and the stories behind them in retreat talks and presentations. Next, often, I publish them as books or prints. Whatever the format or medium, my message is the same: that beauty heals us and helps us find God in our hearts. It is a form of prayer without words and brings us inner peace. Who could ask for more than that?
Forty years ago, when I entered the Oblates, I just wanted to learn how to paint and pray, in that order. I never dreamed that one day I would find myself living and working in Camden, New Jersey, doing what I love more than anything else, surrounded by dear and encouraging confreres. When you open your heart and soul to the workings of the Spirit, when you discover the spirituality that works for you and helps you define your life and set your limits, then it doesn’t get any better than that.
As St. Francis De Sales used to say, “Be who you are and be that perfectly well.” And that, my friends, is why after forty years I am still, happily, a religious brother.
Brother Mickey McGrath, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, is an award-winning artist, author and speaker whose work explores the connections between art and religious faith. His eleventh book, SAVED BY BEAUTY: A Spiritual Journey with Dorothy Day, (World Library Publications) was honored in 2013 with two first place awards: one from the Catholic Press Association and one from the Association of Catholic Publishers.
Los obispos de los Estados Unidos recientemente aprobaron la traducción al inglés de textos litúrgicos utilizados para la bendición del Lazo y Velo, y la entrega de las monedas o “arras,” tradiciones que son populares en bodas en América Latina y entre hispanos en los Estados Unidos. Esto significa que esas adaptaciones que ahora son realizadas en español a petición, también podrán realizarse en ingles si la pareja lo solicita.
Esas costumbres que se practican principalmente en México, Centroamérica y algunos países suramericanos, son parte de nuestra identificación cultural hispana y otra manera de expresar nuestra fe católica.
Si usted va a una boda entre hispanos, frecuentemente vera algunas o todas estas adaptaciones. La pareja comparte la entrega de las monedas o “arras” mientras expresan verbalmente su promesa de cuidar del hogar y proveer para la familia.
El Lazo simboliza la nueva unión a través del Sacramento del Santo Matrimonio. Este es frecuentemente incorporado después del rito del matrimonio. Los padrinos o el Best Man y Maid of Honor colocan un rosario de doble vuelta sobre los hombros de la pareja, luego el sacerdote dice una oración invitándoles a seguir y reflexionar sobre el ejemplo de la Sagrada Familia. Si la adaptación del Velo también se incluye, entonces se coloca una parte del velo que cae sobre los hombros del esposo y este es sostenido con el Lazo. El Velo que lleva puesto la novia representa la castidad y extender el velo para cubrir los hombros del novio representa el llamado en común a tener un matrimonio casto y puro.
Para mi boda, yo deseaba incluir la tradición del Lazo, y le expliqué al sacerdote y a mi entonces futuro esposo, que practicar esta tradición era una forma de expresar mi herencia hispana, mi devoción por la Virgen Maria, y lo consideraba una linda forma de visualizar el lazo que se comenzaba a formar entre nosotros como pareja. Esa tradición también tenía un significado especial para mi madre y mi tía que también crecieron apreciando esas tradiciones.
Varios de nuestros invitados que no eran hispanos, además de mi esposo y sus familiares, desconocían esas tradiciones, sin embargo expresaron admiración y preguntaban más al respecto. Ellos también hubiesen querido haber entendido mejor las oraciones, pues la bendición fue hecha en español.
Las traducciones de estas tradiciones culturales serán de gran ayuda para parejas en las que uno de los integrantes no es de origen hispano. También beneficiará a personas de origen hispano que no hablan español y quieren incluirlos en la ceremonia de la boda.
Estas nuevas traducciones también demuestran que los obispos están poniendo atención a nuestras necesidades y aprecian nuestras contribuciones culturales a la sociedad.