Pope Francis: Living Our Faith Publicly in the End Times

These words of Pope Francis are especially important to those of who are living in post-Christian America.

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Christianity Helps Women Rise Out of Poverty, Domestic Violence

Jesus Christ is the world’s greatest revolutionary.

People who believe Him and follow His teachings are empowered on every level of their existence. It is impossible to be a true follower of Christ and not realize that you are worth something, no matter what the larger world has to say to the contrary.

This revolutionary aspect of Christianity is most evident in its impact on marginalized people, including women.

The women who are part of the “untouchable” or “Dalit” class in India are currently experiencing and demonstrating this powerful revolutionizing effect of Jesus Christ. It begins, as Christian revolution always does, with one individual who says “yes” to Jesus. This “yes” starts this person on the life-long walk with Christ that slowly changes who they see themselves to be and what they want to do.

Jesus doesn’t change what you do. He changes what you want to do. And by changing that, He works through you to change the world.

This power of conversion is what is so sadly lacking in the hearts and minds of tepid Christians here in the West. The rich-kids Catholic school in Seattle that I wrote about earlier today is an example. These people are salt that has lost is savor and is no longer of any use in the work of Kingdom building.

On the other hand, the Spirit is moving and empowering the “untouchables” of India to be more than their society has allowed them to be. That is the power of Jesus Christ. He levels the mighty and elevates the cast-offs.

Perhaps no one is more cast off and marginalized than the women of the bottom tier of a caste society. India is a caste society where women are so far down the scale that baby girls are routinely murdered both before and after birth simply because they are girls. A Dalit woman occupies the bottom of the bottom in that world; the place from which there is no arising.

Yet, by the grace of God and the leavening influence of Jesus Christ, these women are rising. They are seeking education, buying homes and reporting domestic abuse. They are exercising their freedom as full human beings made in the image and likeness of the living God.

That is the revolutionary force of Christianity when we live it as it is given to us instead of trying to shape it to fit the society in which we reside. We each face a choice every day of our lives as to who or Whom we will follow. We chose. And we make this choice one day, one moment, at a time every day of our lives.

In course of living out our choices, we become what we do. You can not turn your back on God when it is socially convenient and use Him for your puny purposes when you need a dose of feel good. That is an illusory Christianity, a “cheap grace” as Bonnhoeffer called it, that avails nothing.

From CNA/EWTN News:

From CNA/EWTN News:Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2013 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A researcher at Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University has found that impoverished women in India are more likely to improve their economic circumstances after converting to Christianity.

“Conversion actually helps launch women on a virtuous circle.”…  said Rebecca Samuel Shah, research fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Shah presented her initial findings of a pilot study looking at “patterns and directions where conversion had an impact” on Dalit women in Bangalore, India at a conference on “Christianity and Freedom” held in Rome on Dec. 13-14.

Dalits are considered the “outcasts” of or “pariahs” of society in India.

“One is actually born a Dalit, you cannot leave a Dalit status. You’re born and you live and you die a Dalit,” Shah explained. “Dalits are employed in the some of the worst jobs…they scavenge, they sweep, they’re tanners. They do the smelliest, dirtiest work, and therefore they ‘polute’… they’re ‘untouchables.’”

… Shah’s study yielded some surprising results about the impact of Christian conversion on the lives of Dalit women in “a very violent urban slum.”

The majority of Hindu, Muslim and Christian Dalit women interviewed were illiterate. Many belong to a microfinance program which gives them access to loans which they then use towards their children’s education or to run a small business.

The first “unexpected pattern” Shah encountered was in housing. “The converts converted their loans to purchasing houses, and turned dead capital into resources to generate additional capital.”

…  The impact of home ownership is crucial, since “by being able to own a house, these poor women were able to get bank loans, commercial loans, which they didn’t have access to before that. When you have a house you can get a loan at 3 percent, instead of from a money lender at 18 percent.  So having a house is a very important investment in your future, so you can have access to very affordable credit.”
The second “dramatic” finding in Shah’s study concerned domestic violence.

A national family health survey in India in 2005-2006 indicated that 86 percent of the women interviewed nationally had never told anyone that they had been abused.

According to Shah, this large scale study indicated that a woman’s religion was an important indicator of whether or not she would seek help. “Only 24 percent of Hindu women sought help, and 22 percent of Muslim women, but 32 percent of Christian women sought help,” she noted.

Shah’s own study “echoed” the national health data, in that “57 percent of women – a very large number of women – actually tell their pastor” about domestic violence.

…  “It was a unique finding. We were not looking for this,” added Shah.

The Georgetown researcher then pointed to the underlying factors that accompany an improvement in circumstances after conversion.

“Conversion activates in the converts a powerful new concept of value and initiative,” she explained.

It offers “a radically different way of seeing themselves: seeing themselves as a new creation, a new identity, made in the image of God, seeking a better life for themselves.”

“Poverty is inherently depressing. It’s discouraging. It’s debilitating. It breeds hopelessness: ‘why bother?’” she reflected.

Yet with a new Christian vision, “The future is not terrifying. It can be achieved. Because God is with them, they can invest in the future. It’s not something to ignore, not something to be terrified of.”

Dozens Protest Catholic School for Firing ‘Married’ Gay Vice Principal

According to news stories, Eastside Catholic High School in Seattle dismissed its vice principal because he was a gay man, ‘married’ to another gay man. This action resulted in what news stories have characterized as a walk-out by students of the school.

I looked on the school’s website and found that tuition at this school is almost $19,000/year. The motto, Discover You, is emblazoned on the web site. That motto would seem to fit in with the overall sense of entitlement that goes with privileged kids, whose parents pay high tuition to buy them an education that shapes them to fit into a narcissistic secular world.

It also points to a failed Catholic school. Based on the behavior of its students, this school appears to have failed in what most people think is the real mission of a Catholic school, which is raising up young people who can stand for the faith.

We live in a post Christian America and we need Catholic schools to equip our young people to follow Christ in a hostile world. From the behavior of these students, I would guess that this school has been equipping young people to follow the world within the Church. It would appear that it has succeeded so well that their first loyalty is not to the Church, but to the trendy morality of the larger culture. That equals a failed Catholic school in my books.

This post ties in rather nicely with an earlier one about the Vatican’s call for Catholic schools to maintain their Christian identity. Based solely on the behavior of its students, along with photos and verbiage on its website, I’m guessing that Eastside Catholic has fallen rather short of this. Their website portrays a glitzy school with high tuition and white bread students who are being prepared to fit in with the secularized Christian-bashing post Christian larger society.

I wonder if any of these students at this school are being prepared to follow Christ and be the leaven that actually converts the world?

The students who have walked out should be dismissed from the school. If that means temporarily closing the school, or maybe even lowering the tuition a bit so that a less entitled group of young people can study there, so be it.

From KOMOnews.com:

According to Eastside Catholic attorney and spokesperson Mike Patterson, Mark Zmuda has violated a signed contract that states he would follow the official teachings of the church. Patterson maintains that gay marriage is against the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

After meeting with Patterson, Zmuda resigned his position – for personal reasons – with the school, effective Friday, Dece. 20, 2013.

Zmuda was a good administrator says Patterson, and they plan to give him a good reference.

Students are outraged, and have protested the resignation by walking out of school on Thursday.

“We are standing outside the school protesting for equality in the church, and equality everywhere,” high school senior Alex Kovar said.

The students say Zmuda is a great man and a great faculty member.

“We’re all here because we love him and we want to feel like we can accept people for who they are here at Eastside, and I think by firing him because he’s gay is not portraying that message,” Eastside Catholic senior Julia Troy said.

The students say it is widely known that Zmuda is gay, and they aren’t sure why the school has decided to act now.
“What a lot of us are questioning is why it took them this long to decide to fire him, because this man has, and continues to make a really big impact on our school,” Troy added.

All grade levels are reflected as dozens of students currently stand outside the school, and voice support for Zmuda.

Blasphemy for Breakfast: God our Father

Scott Hahn describes a conversation he had with a Muslim scholar. The point for me in this conversation is the great beauty of what Jesus did for us.

Jesus is God made Human. He gave up His deity to become one of us in order to redeem us. By doing this, He became the Way by which we can enter into genuine communion with Our Father Who Art in Heaven.

No other faith has an empty tomb. No other faith has a Brother God Who has suffered as we suffer, been tempted as we are tempted and who understands with the knowing of personal experience what it is to be human.

There is no other Way except Jesus. We are the children of God, and He tells us to call Him our Father. Think about that, and rejoice.

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Do You Believe Jesus is Alive?

Never forget that we are resurrection people.

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Making a Holy Advent: Allow Christ to Enter into Our Lives

Don’t waste Advent. It’s a wonderful season that allows us to prepare for the coming of Our Lord, as well as look forward to His coming again.

The words for Advent are: Peace, Hope, Joy, Love.

Don’t waste Advent. Live it and allow Jesus to be born again in your heart.

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Pope Francis Trades Caps with Boston College Students

I have got to go to Rome. I just want to see my Papa, even if it’s from a distance and I have to stand on tiptoes to get a glance.

Boston College students Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, got a lot more than that. They actually traded caps with the Holy Father.

From The Boston Globe:

Two Boston College juniors walked away from the Vatican with a treasured memento Wednesday, after Pope Francis gave them his white papal skullcap.

Philosophy majors Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, who are studying in Rome this semester, waited along the barricades with a skullcap, called a zucchetto, and a note attached that read, “Boston College loves our Jesuit pope,” the students of the Jesuit-run university said Thursday in e-mail messages from Rome.

“We thought he wouldn’t see us, but we both yelled, ‘Papa!’ and at that second he turned around, saw us, and asked the driver to stop,” said Rich, 20, a native of Minnetonka, Minn.

They extended the zucchetto, bought for 50 euros, or about $68, the night before near St. Peter’s Square, and the pope sent over a guard who carried it to him, they said.

Pope Francis exchanged white papal skullcaps with two Boston College juniors on Wednesday.

KATHERINE RICH

Francis smiled at the note and donned the cap after making sure it was the right size, they said, then handed his own zucchetto to the guard.

“The pope then gave a nod and smiled right at us,” said Mack, 21, who is from Portland, Maine. “He took off with the one I bought, and the guard gave us his original one.”

Evangelii Gaudium Cliff Notes Part 2: The Beam in My Eye

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. 

Jesus Christ

Pope Francis is calling all of us to take up what Protestants call the Great Commission.

That is the direct command from Our Lord to Go and make disciples of all nations. The Holy Father is teaching in exactly the same way Jesus taught by advising us to cleanse ourselves of our own sins before we head off diagnosing the sins of other people.

This is an call to evangelize the world, but like the good pastor that he is, Pope Francis calls us first to evangelize our own hearts through genuine conversion to Christ. Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document. If you read it with an honest and open heart, it will convict you of the need to change your ways.

No one is more prey to the error of condemning others while wrapping themselves in a cloak of self-righteousness than politicians and bloggers. It is an occupational hazard.

Since I am a politician blogger, I get a double dose of the temptation to become a bargain-basement Pharisee. Blogging at the intersection of faith and politics is a location fraught with all sorts of annoyances and frustrations. It’s easy to lose track of the love and desire to do good that brought me here in the first place.

Evanglii Gaudium reminded me that the joy of Gospel, the freedom of the Gospel, the absolute certainty that everything I do matters to God, belongs to me. It is a free gift from a God Who loves me so much that He was willing to suffer the extremities of humiliation, public torture and a hideous death to give it to me.

When I focus on protecting my petty little sins, I toss those joys to the ground and turn to the bitterness and alienation of the lost people I claim I want to help.

That, in the final analysis, is the price for clinging to your precious little sins: Anger, bitterness, self-righteousness. The fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, are all lost to us and replaced by an angry obsession with what is wrong with other people.

As those of us in the West move more deeply into a post-Christian world, we are going to find that the only thing that sustains us is the Spirit, and that our call to follow Christ will either be sustained by these gifts of the Spirit, or it will fail.

The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a call to personal housecleaning. It is a diagnosis of how we have cast ourselves out of the garden all over again by biting into the bitter fruit of our own cherished sins.

Since Evangelii Gaudium is a call to the whole Church to evangelize the whole world, it focuses its diagnosis of sin on the corporate sins we commit against one another as part of groups. The Pope doesn’t go over the obvious. He doesn’t remind us of what we should very well know: That when we live our lives built on the cheats of greed, lies of adultery and the brutality of murder we are not God’s people and if we do not repent, we will not go to heaven.

He focuses instead on what the political power brokers and money changers of our times don’t want us to see. That is the vast corporate and social ways in which we commit these same private sins and the enormous price in human suffering that this behavior exacts on so many of the 7 billion people living on this planet today.

A few paragraphs in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium have raised the ire of the corporatist apologizers in the media. Most of this particular group has spoken out against abortion down through the years, along with gay marriage. They have not been so eager to condemn other forms of killing, ranging from embryonic stem cell research to wars of conquest, and, as has been revealed from time to time, many of them do not practice a private sexual morality that matches their public statements.

This has confused many good Christians who’ve been taught — by fallen clergy and these same corporatist apologizers — that economics is entirely outside the reach of the Gospels. They have exempted themselves from the piercing eye of Gospel teachings in matters of money, and a lot of good Christians have bought this deal because these same people condemn abortion.

But the same Jesus Who taught that every life is valuable to God sent the young rich man away and said, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

It was Christ the Lord who drove the money changers out of the temple.

I would imagine that what some of these people are saying about Pope Francis would look mild and mannerly compared to what they might say about Our Lord.

Pope Francis is asking us to stop putting fetters on the Gospel and accept it in all its demanding power. He is asking us to throw off our chains of political fealty and approval seeking and step out on the ice and live the teachings of Christ as the transforming, Kingdom building powerhouse that they are.

Part of this is his condemnation of what he calls “the new idolatry of money.” The pope calls us directly and explicitly to work for economic systems that are based on the good of human beings.

Despite the media focus on these few paragraphs, they are a small part of the message of Evangelii Gaudium, and economic sins are just a few of the things the pope addresses.

He speaks eloquently about the challenges Christians face concerning Christian persecution (emphasis mine):

We also evangelize when we attempt to confront … the attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideology which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian.

The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal … completely rejecting the transcendent. It has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin and a steady increase in relativism.

… As the bishops of the United States of America have rightfully point out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid of everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray these teachings as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights … the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom.”

the negative aspect of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family.

Evangelii Gaudium takes an uncompromising position in support of the sanctity of marriage.

The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. The family … is the fundamental cell of society. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.

There is much more in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium. But I hope that you are getting the message. The document itself is a call to evangelize the world. The much-picked-over paragraphs about money are a small part of the message of the second chapter of the document.

The second chapter deals with the areas where we need to give ourselves, both as individuals and as a Church, a spiritual house cleaning. Money is a part of this. If economics have no moral requirements, then Jesus Christ Himself was a fraud, because that is certainly not what He taught.

People who attack the Pope for saying what has been Church teaching for two-thousand years and who try to subvert him when he challenges us to give up our greed and venality about money, are attacking the Gospels themselves.

But the primary injustice they are committing by focusing on these few paragraphs is that they are depriving the people of God of the convicting power of this document. If all you know about Evangelii Gaudium is what you’ve read in the press, then you know nothing about it all.

Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on the New Evanglization. The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on some of our most glaring social and personal sins. The Holy Father focused this second chapter on the sins that, as he says, damage or even destroy the ability of the Church and individual Christians to effectively evangelize the world.

He is calling us to reclaim for ourselves the joy of the Gospel by yielding up all our precious sins to the teaching, transforming power of the Gospels. He is calling us to conversion, to walk the walk of our Christian faith in the real world.

Powerful people hated this message two-thousand years ago. Powerful people hate it today.

Part of our job as Christians is to ignore them and follow our Christ. The teachings in Evanglii Gaudium help us do that.

 

 

To read part one in this series, go here.

 

Baptists Teach Catholics How to Follow Church Teaching

 

This is basically what Pope Francis teaches about economics in Evangelii Gaudium.

There is nothing “Marxist” about it. It is basic Gospel teaching that every serious Christian should seek to follow.

It comes from an Oklahoma Southern Baptist family, talking about their business. This is the brave Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby.

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Defenders Describe Attack on Argentine Cathedral as “Satanic, Part of an Anti-Christian World Revolution”

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I thought when I began work on this post that I would have a lot to say. But the more I read, the less I understood.

My first thought was that the nudity of some of the women protesters might link the riot in the video above to the activities of Fenem in Europe. That may be true, but I can’t find anything that says one way or the other.

Fenem is a small group of young women who began their activities in the Ukraine and have since moved to Paris. They show up nude from the waist up at various public events, and are known for doing outlandish things such as tossing water in an Archbishop’s face and urinating on photos of the Ukrainian president.

I’ve looked at their website and their Facebook page and I can’t find anything that explains what they are doing. If they have a manifesto or a philosophy or even a set of demands, I can’t find them. On the other hand, I did find a listing of things they oppose on Wikipedia, and I have to admit, I agree with them about some of these things.

According to Wikipedia, Fenem began in the Ukraine under the leadership of Anna Hutsol. The group opposes legalizing prostitution, sex tourism and human trafficking. These are all things where I agree with them.

Fenem is also evidently pro abortion and strongly in favor of gay rights, although I am not sure what particular form this support of gay rights takes.

I don’t have any idea what the point of stripping to the waist and tossing water in people’s faces is about. I do get the message in urinating on the president of the Ukraine’s photo. I’m just think there are better, more effective and less vulgar ways to make the statement.

Does Fenem have any connection to the riot in the video at the top of this post? I don’t know.

I haven’t had much luck finding press coverage of the incident recorded in the video. According to the articles I did find, the rioters gathered for the National Meeting of Women in San Juan de Cuyo, Argentina. Evidently, this group has a history of these kinds of “excesses” which have been documented in other videos.

Prior to the attack on the Cathedral, the rioters marched through the city, painting anti-Catholic slogans such as “burn the churches” or “set fire to the churches” on signs and homes. They then moved to attack the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which, based on the things they were painting on signs and buildings, they probably intended to burn.

Some of the female rioters stripped to the waist, but the rioters were not just women. It also wasn’t a feminist demonstration, at least not as I would think of it. While Fenem does at least talk about legitimate feminist concerns such as human trafficking, sex tourism and prostitution, this group of about 1500 men and women seems to have been focused almost entirely on attacking the Church. The only issues raised that I read anything about were homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion.

However the real issue appears to have been the Church itself.

After tormenting and degrading what appear to be mostly young men who formed a human chain to protect their church, the rioters burned Pope Francis in effigy, dancing around it while it burned. Local law enforcement refused to protect the Cathedral or interfere with the vandalism.

I can hear the young men on the video, praying the Rosary while they are being attacked. I think we owe these young men a great debt. I am proud of their courageous and non-violent defense of my faith. We should be grateful to them.

I imagine they will have bad dreams about this for long time. Many of them described the experience afterwards as a “satanic attack, with demonic figures” and as “part of an anti-Christian world revolution.”

“I think that this goes beyond religious discrimination,” Bishop Juan Martinez of Posadas said. “If this had been done to a synagogue, everyone would have condemned it as anti-Semitism. They do this against Catholics and many people look the other way.”

This is a new kind of movement, in that it does not appear to have any real purpose or plan. I saw spiritually sick people in that video. It was disturbing on many levels to watch it.

I think the world needs Christ and that, whatever else we eventually decide about all this, our call to evangelize is appallingly clear.

Sources: Wikipedia, Catholic News Agency, TFP Student Action, Protect the Pope, Women of Grace

 

 


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