Pope Francis: The Church is a Love Story

The Catholic Church is a human institution. Human frailty and sin affect the Church just as they do you and me. 

“Wars of religion” are an example Pope Francis gave of this human frailty in action, a “wrong path … that is not the story of love.”

Despite the human weaknesses of the people who make up the Church, he said the Church itself is “a love story that continues thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us together are a family in the Church, who is our Mother.”

From CNA:

.- The Church is not merely “a human enterprise,” but rather “a love story,” said Pope Francis, and the faithful must remember that it is only in the path of love that the Church can grow.

The Church began “in the heart of the Father,” said the Pope at an April 24 Mass for Vatican Bank employees in the Chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

“So this love story began, a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended,” he explained. “We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.”

Pointing to the growth and persecution of the early Church, Pope Francis stressed that the faithful must not compromise to get “more partners in this enterprise,” Vatican Radio reported.

He cautioned that “the Church does not grow by human strength” but through the path of love. (Read more here.)

Cardinal Dolan Receives William Wilberforce Award

My idea of ecumenicism isn’t that Christians should try to undo the Reformation. My idea is that we should all stand up for Jesus together. 

When someone cuts one of us because we are Christians, as in Syria, Nigeria and in many other places, we all should bleed. When the freedom to follow Christ of any Christian is attacked, we should all stand together with our beleaguered brother or sister. When Christian bashers bash Christ, they are defaming my Lord and Savior and yours. We need to stand against them together.

That’s why I find it is important that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend. 

The award, which is bestowed by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, has a decidedly evangelical origin. This doesn’t stop the organization from recognizing that Cardinal Dolan’s work for religious liberty is a Christian, rather than a Catholic endeavor.

Dr Timothy George, chairman of the Center, said that Cardinal Dolan has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience and religious liberty in the face of the HHS mandate.

“We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including children waiting to be born, and religious freedom,” he added. “On these particular issues as well a concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

These are excellent words. Christians need to lay aside our petty differences and stand together for Jesus. If we do that, we will be unstoppable. 

From CNA:

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend from a group of Christians for his leadership in standing up for religious freedom.

“I resonate with Cardinal Dolan as much as any public religious leader in our country today,” Dr. Timothy George, chairman of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview which is bestowing the award, told CNA April 16.

“Cardinal Dolan has just been tremendous, he’s one of the major leaders not just of the Catholic Church in the United States today, but of all Christians, and really all people of goodwill.”

George, who is also a Baptist minister and dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, noted that the prelate has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience protection and religious liberty in the face of the HHS contraception mandate.

“But that’s only one of a variety of concerns,” he added. “We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including those children waiting to be born, and religious freedom.”

“On these particular issues as well as concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

The William Wilberforce Award was established in 1988, and honors those who “have done something significant, noteworthy and consequential to show the importance of a positive witness related to the values and character of the Christian faith in our time today,” George said.

Cardinal Dolan is the third Catholic to be given the award, following Father John Neuhaus in 1998 and Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid, in Sudan. (Read the rest here.) 

Faith in the Trenches: The 911 Call You Will Never Forget

A mother who works as a 911 operator gets a call from her own house. The shooting victim is her son. This is a real-life walk of faith.

YouTube Preview Image

Praise You in This Storm


Where is God when we’re hurting?

He’s right beside us.

YouTube Preview Image

 

3 Quick Takes: Vampire Atheists, Jesus Stomping Class Assignments and Gay Marriage

Religious freedom and gay marriage have taken a couple of turns while we were looking at other things. Here are 3 Quick Takes.

1. Vampire Atheist Case Against 9/11 Cross Tossed by Judge

The bizarro case filed by American Atheists claiming that the sight of the 9/11 Cross caused them to experience  “depression, headaches, anxiety and mental pain and anguish” was tossed out of court by a federal judge. The case had sought to have the cross removed from the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

 

2. Florida Atlantic University Drops Charges Against Student Who Refused to Stomp on Jesus’ Name

Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon student, refused to stomp on the name of Jesus as he was requested as part of a class exercise. After complaining to administrators, Rotela says he was suspended from the class. The university has now dropped all charges against Rotela and apologized.


3. New Zealand, Uruguay, legalize gay marriage. 

New Zealand’s Parliament voted 77-44 to legalize gay marriage on April 17. Uruguay Chamber of Deputies voted to legalize gay marriage on April 10.

We are Going to Have to Learn to Live with This

 

We have to learn to live with this.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.

The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.

They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.

We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.

In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.

Our society, our world, needs conversion.

But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.

Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.

This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.

If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.

The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.

Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of  disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.

We are going to have to learn to live with this.

If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.

I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.

God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.

We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.

We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity. 

Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now. 

Pope Francis: Do Not Get Into this Game of a Life of Complaints

Pope Francis gave a homily at morning mass a few days ago that hits this lady right between the eyes. 

It was about one of my favorite hobbies: Complaining. 

My husband and I sometimes joke about a former member of the Oklahoma House that we both know. If you gave this guy a check for a million dollars all he would do is gripe about the taxes. One of my husband’s jokes is that you can walk outside with this guy and remark that it’s a beautiful day and he would reply, “Yeah, but that makes for darn dark nights.”

I’m not in this man’s league when it comes to complaining and looking on the dark side, but I do have more than a small dose of the same disease. It can seem that focusing on the bad that might happen is a way to ward off disappointment when it really does happen. But in truth, all it does is ruin the good times you’re having now. If something bad happens, worrying about it ahead of time won’t make it hurt one bit less.

As for complaining, you can beat people down with too many complaints. You can blight their happiness and take away their joy. Constant complaining dampens initiative and makes people feel helpless when they’re not. You can push them down to their emotional knees and them hold them there with your carping and complaining and hand-wringing and whining.

I once knew a woman who was never able to just say “Thank you.” If her husband worked all day painting the house for her, when he was finished she would look at it and say, “We really need to re-seed the lawn” She didn’t mean to be a Debbie downer. In fact, I don’t think she knew what she was doing. It was habitual; something she probably learned as a child. But how sad for her that she wasted so many good moments by focusing on the negative, and how destructive to her relationships that she complained when she should have been complimenting.

This is where Pope Francis’ homily comes in. He preached on the Gospel story from St Luke about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These men were bereft and broken-hearted because of Jesus’ death on the cross. I have not been able to find the full homily on the Vatican web site. But here are a few quotes that resonated with me:

“And they stewed, so to speak, their lives in the juice of their complaints and kept going on and on and on with the complaining,” the pope said. “I think that many times when difficult things happen, including when we are visited by the cross, we run the risk of closing ourselves off in complaints.”

When all people can think of is how wrong things are going, Pope Francis said, the Lord is close, “but we don’t recognize him. He walks with us, but we don’t recognize him.”

Like the disciples joined by the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, people can hear beautiful things, but deep down, they continue to be afraid, the pope said.

“Complaining seems safer. It’s something certain. This is my truth: failure,” he said.

But the Gospel story shows how very patient Jesus is with the disciples, first listening to them and then explaining things step by step, until they see him.

“Jesus does this with us, too,” the pope said. “Even in the darkest moments, he is always with us, walking with us.”

Complaining and griping — about others and about things in one’s own life — is harmful “because it dashes hope. Don’t get into this game of a life of complaints,” he said.

“Do not get into this game of a life of complaints.”

I need to print that out and put it on my bathroom mirror. The Holy Father is exactly right when he says that “when we are visited by the cross, we run the risk of closing ourselves off in complaints.” At least, he certainly is about me. My most public cross has been the many attacks I’ve endured for being a pro life Catholic Democratic elected official.

When I speak of deliberate slander and character assassination for gain, I am describing what was done to me.

instead of remembering that Jesus told us to “rejoice and be glad when men say all manner of evil against you falsely on my account,” I complained and whined and focused on my hurt and anger. “Great is your reward in heaven,” Jesus told us, but I concentrated on how much it hurt me at the time.

Pope Francis’ words cut right across my own behavior like a giant x mark. God gave me the opportunity to suffer just a little bit for Jesus, and for the babies. It was never a punishment. It was always a gift. I saw that some of the time. But far too often, I looked right past the honor of taking a hit for Jesus to my own anguish about how much it hurt.

Part of stepping out in faith means laying aside our complaints about the way the world reacts to us when we do it. In truth, when they attack us and revile us for standing for Jesus, they are handing us the Kingdom of Heaven. 

If we can just remember that, we’ll realize that there is nothing for us to complain about.

 

 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus Christ

Pope Francis and the Orthodox: We are going to Be a Christian Family

This interview with the Metropolitan Tarasios Primate of the Greek Orthodox of South America. The interview sheds light on Pope Francis, as well as the gracious personality of the Primate himself.

YouTube Preview Image

Popes Benedict and Francis: Differences in Style, Continuity in Teachings and Faith

Pope Francis is an outgoing informal man, while Pope Emeritus Benedict is shy and introverted. But don’t let those differences in style confuse you. Both are holy men of fidelity to the truth of our Catholic faith. To learn more, watch the video below.

YouTube Preview Image

Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

 

Easter isn’t all new clothes, gorgeous masses in stunning church buildings and arguments about red shoes and foot washing. 

In some places, Calvary is present in the lives of the people. The Church itself and all its Christian people hang on the cross of persecution.

In other places, such as the United States and Great Britain, society is moving along the continuum toward violent persecution. Christians in those two countries have come to expect and accept that they will be subjected to hate speech against Christians, Christian-bashing on web sites. They are increasingly being forced to accept that they face growing legal discrimination against Christians and moves to force Christian speech and expression out of the public sphere. We are at the “you can go to church all you want, but leave it there,” phase of discrimination, and this discrimination is rapidly becoming government-enforced.

At the same time, Christians in Egypt fear being kidnapped with no police support to stop it. Christians in Bangladesh have their children stolen and trafficked and again, the police do not punish the traffickers. Christians in North Korea are imprisoned and worked to death. Christians in Nigeria are murdered, tortured and their churches are burned.

I could go on. But there is too much of it for one post.

Here is this week’s roundup of Christian persecution in Six Quick Takes.

 

1. Nigeria: Easter Attacks Kill 80, Thousands of Christians Flee to the Hills 

By BosNewsLife Africa Service – “Nigerian Christians appealed for prayers Tuesday, April 2, after Easter season violence in troubled central Nigeria left as many as 80 people dead and displaced some 4,500 others.

At least 19 people were killed since Easter Sunday when gunmen believed to be nomadic Muslim cattle herders attacked the mostly Christian Atakar group in Kaura district, a remote area of Kaduna state, officials said.

Witnesses said the attacks on three communities, including the Mafang and Zilang villages, killed many women and children. Kaduna police spokesman Aminu Lawan told reporters his forces were still investigating.

Ataka Christians live near Plateau state where authorities claimed fighting between cattle herders, who are mainly Fulani Muslims, and Christian villages killed nearly 60 people in recent days.

The area is on the uneasy dividing line between Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and largely Christian south…

Christians said that following Sunday’s violence, thousands of villagers fled to the nearby hills. (Read more here.)

 

2. Bangladesh: Christian Children Re-Captured By Trafficker

Eleven of the 16 Christian children who were rescued from Muslim traffickers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Jan. 2 have again gone missing. Sources in the Christian community, as well as reports in local newspapers, report that they believe the children were re-trafficked and taken to madrassas, Islamic training centers, where they will likely be forced to convert to Islam and study the Quran.

Eleven Christian children, originally from the Rangamati district of Chittagong Hill Tracts, disappeared for the second time earlier this year after being given back to the custody of their parents. “We were not aware that our child would be taken to a madrassa,” one parent told International Christian Concern (ICC).

The children, along with five others, had been rescued by police from a madrassa in the Abuzor Giffari Mosque Complex in Dhaka. The children had been missing for months. They were returned to their parents soon after their rescue, but traffickers continually threatened the parents until the recent re-disappearance of the children. Local authorities say the children were likely trafficked again to madrassas and are concerned that they will be forcibly converted to Islam.

“The [leader] of the traffickers gives a large sum of money to the traffickers to take the kids to the madrassa,” said an ICC source. “Because of this, they threatened the parents and took their children, again, to a madrassa. It is all because of large sums of money, and because there are no punishments for the trafficker.” (Read more here.)

 

3. North Korea:  Number 1 for Christian Persecution

North Korea is the most hostile place for Christians around the globe,  according to the annual “World Watch” list from the Open Doors Organization.

The list ranks the 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. North Korea tops the 2013 list, thus holding its ranking for the eleventh year running.

“Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution,” the Open Doors report said. (Read more here.)

4. Great Britain: Majority of Church-Going Christians Feel Persecuted and Marginalized

Over two-thirds of Christians in the United Kingdom feel part of a victimized minority, and David Cameron is making that worse by redefining marriage, the Coalition for Marriage says.

In a new poll commissioned by the group, almost eight in 10 said the prime minister’s same-sex marriage plan will lead to those who back traditional marriage facing the sack.

More than two-thirds (67 percent) said they felt part of a “persecuted minority.”

Marginalized
The survey also showed that over half of the U.K.’s Christians who voted Conservative in 2010 would “definitely not” do so again in 2015.

Colin Hart, campaign director of the Coalition for Marriage, said the poll showed “widespread and continued opposition towards David Cameron’s plans to redefine marriage.”

He added: “More worryingly it shows how Christians and those of faith are being treated like illegal aliens in their own country. They are being marginalized and persecuted for their beliefs. (Read more here.)

5. Egypt: Christians Targeted for Kidnappings

MATAI, Egypt (AP) — Ezzat Kromer’s resistance to his kidnappers did not last long. One of the masked gunmen fired a round between his feet as he sat behind the wheel of his car and said with chilling calm, “The next one will go into your heart.”

The Christian gynecologist says he was bundled into his abductors’ vehicle, forced to lie under their feet in the back seat for a 45-minute ride, then dumped in a small cold room while his kidnappers contacted his family over a ransom.

For the next 27 hours, he endured beatings, insults and threats to his life, while blindfolded, a bandage sealing his mouth and cotton balls in his ears.

Kromer’s case is part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targetingChristians, including children, in Egypt‘s southern province of Minya, home to the country’s largest concentration of Christians but also a heartland for Islamist hard-liners.

The kidnappings are mostly blamed on criminal gangs, which operate more freely amid Egypt’s collapse in security since the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Crime has risen in general across Egypt, hitting Muslims as well. But the wave of kidnappings in Minya has specifically targeted Christians, and victims, church leaders and rights activists ultimately blame the atmosphere created by the rising power of hard-line Islamists.

They contend criminals are influenced by the rhetoric of radical clerics depicting Egypt’s Christian minority as second-class citizens and see Christians as fair game, with authorities less likely to investigate crimes against the community.

Over the past two years, there have been more than 150 reported kidnappings in the province — all of them targeting Christians, according to a top official at the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police. (Read the rest here.)

6. United States: Pro Life Student Group Banned at Johns Hopkins University

.- A pro-life student group at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., is appealing a denial of official recognition, saying that it is being discriminated against for its views against abortion.

Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, told CNA that this decision is surprising, given that Johns Hopkins administration and students “pride themselves on being a ‘free speech campus’ – allowing dissenting opinions on campus and allowing a free exchange of ideas on campus.”

She added that there is a need for “upholding freedom of speech that isn’t popular.”

Voice for Life, a pro-life organization that is trying to re-start on the Johns Hopkins campus after several years of dormancy, has been rejected multiple times by the university’s student government, despite receiving clearance from the necessary committees as having met all campus requirements. (Read more here.)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X