Supreme Court Questions Whether Marriage is a Federal Issue

What the Court says in questions does not necessarily reflect how they will rule.

However, two days’ of questioning concerning Proposition 8, which was heard yesterday and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was heard today, seems to form a consistent pattern. The justices have remarked twice now on the fact that marriage has always been a state issue.

I don’t know if that’s an indicator of how they will rule, but I sincerely hope so. I think it would be disastrous for the Court to wade into this explosive issue that the states are actually handling through the electoral process with a judicial fiat. There is no reason that I can see for the justices to silence the voice of the people with thunder from the Court.

No one knows, but questions for the justices themselves seem to echo this sentiment. Justice Kennedy questioned whether the Court should be hearing these cases at all. On the other hand, Justice Gader-Ginsberg commented that DOMA reduced gay marriages to “skim milk” marriages.

I honestly don’t know what a “skim milk” marriage would be, but I assume that the question was meant to support gay marriage. I could be wrong, but that’s my guess.

From the Wall Street Journal:

By EVAN PEREZ, BRENT KENDALL and JESS BRAVIN

WASHINGTON—Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday questioned whether the federal government has the right to define marriage, a role traditionally reserved for states, in the second day of Supreme Court arguments on gay marriage.

The comments by Justice Kennedy, seen as holding a key vote on the court, came after several justices sharply challenged the Obama administration’s handling of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Some questioned whether the court should be hearing the case at all.

Former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger tells WSJ’s Jerry Seib that arguments in the Supreme Court suggest justices may be seeking a narrow ruling that clears the paths for state action on gay marriage, rather than a sweeping ruling to settle the issue.

The arguments concluded shortly past noon Wednesday, a day after the justices heard a case on California’s gay-marriage ban.

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, defending the 1996 federal law, said it merely defines marriage for the purposes of the federal government and doesn’t bind states, regardless of whether they want to approve gay marriage.

Justice Kennedy, however, jumped to express concerns with that argument, questioning whether the federal government was intruding on the states’ territory. He said the Defense of Marriage Act ran the risk of conflicting with states’ role in defining marriage.

Liberal justices joined Justice Kennedy in questioning the law. Justice Elena Kagan said it raised red flags, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the federal law diminished same-sex marriages to “skim milk” marriages. (Read more here.)

 

Christian Persecution and Blood Red Shoes

Pope Francis is the Pope. If he decides to go for all the pomp his office allows ….

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That’s fine with me.

Because he’s the Pope.

If on the other hand, he decides to wear sandals and walk rather than ride – or some black-shoed something in between the two extremes — that, too, would be ok with me.

Because he’s the pope.

It appears that most Catholics are like me: Over the moon about our new papa. But, you can’t please everyone. Human beings are too contrary for that to ever happen in this world. In their displeasure with our Holy Father, some of these displeased ones have fixated on one thing: The color of his shoes.

The red of the red shoes refers to the blood of the martyrs they tell us.

I’ve been thinking about this for days, largely because I don’t understand why we need to see red shoes to think about the blood of the martyrs. The blood of people dying for Christ is not an ancient artifact from a long ago history that has passed. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground in a hundred places around the world as I type this.

This is the blood of the marytrs:

Nigeria

 

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India

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North Korea

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I have interviewed survivors of Christian persecution in Uganda and Nigeria. They are different from us. Their faith has been through the fire and this fire burned away the impurities of trivial concerns.

One of the many things about these people that impressed me is their gentleness; that, and their absolute faith in heaven. I never heard anything from them about the people who persecuted them being damned to hell. The harshest thing I heard was from an Anglican bishop who called them “ignorant.” Their focus is on Jesus. It is not on the ones who attacked them. They see past the persecution to heaven and the gift of eternal life.

More than once when I asked them how they got through it, they said two words: The cross.

They are different from you and me, these people who have been purified by the fires of persecution for the name of Jesus. I never asked any of them about red shoes. But if I had, I imagine that the response would have been incomprehension.

What Jesus Told Us

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Holy Week, March for Marriage and Two Days with the Supremes

Priests processing for chrism mass

Priests processing for Chrism Mass

This is Holy Week.

It is also the week in which the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The potential is there for a major change in the way American law defines marriage. This could have far-reaching effects which none of us can predict for foresee.

What better week to issue a call to prayer than Holy Week? Tuesday is the day we have the Chrism Mass. Priests renew their vows at this mass and the holy oils which will be used throughout the upcoming year are blessed. It’s a beautiful mass and I urge anyone who can to attend.

Blessing of the oil

Blessing the oil

History is coming at us so fast it’s hard to keep up. But we need to remember that this week, above all weeks, is a time for extra prayer and penance. I don’t want to make too much of it, but it seems poignant that so many points of history are converging on this one week. Proponents of traditional marriage are also staging a march in Washington, DC on Tuesday. 

The cross, which defines this week and the life of the world, is not just a point of history. It is history. The cross is the fulcrum of all history. There was the world before the cross and the world after it, which is to say that there was the world without hope and the world without despair.  Despair is impossible to anyone who understands the power of the cross.

We suffer in this life. We experience loss, setbacks, pain, loneliness, failure and grief. But we are never without hope because our hope is in the One who died for us on Calvary.

We need to pray this week, and not just for ourselves and our families, but for all the world that this light of Christ will shine in the darkness of the human heart everywhere.

This article, by our brothers and sisters at The Baptist Press, has details of the upcoming arguments before the Supreme Court:

NASHVILLE (BP) — On Tuesday and Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases regarding the issue of same-sex marriage. Few issues rise to this level of importance. 

These two cases will do much to answer the question for how marriage is going to be viewed in the United States for the foreseeable future. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop. 8). In this case, the court is being asked to decide the fate of Proposition 8 in California. At stake is whether or not the people of California can define marriage in their constitution as only the union of one man and one woman. In a worst-case scenario in deciding Hollingsworth, the court could rule unconstitutional the definition of marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, repudiating two and a quarter centuries of American jurisprudence in which marriage has been defined and regulated by each state, not the federal courts. Every state that has passed such laws would be affected. It would also be going against several millennia of the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage.

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments in United States v. Windsor. That case deals with the constitutionality of section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Windsor case creates the possibility that the court could overturn DOMA in its entirety. DOMA is important at many levels. For one, it protects states that do not support same-sex marriage from being required to recognize same-sex marriages that have been performed in states where the practice is legal. For another, it provides a standard definition of marriage for all federal programs, assuring that only heterosexual marriage is recognized across all federal government programs. It also provides protections for federal workers from being forced to violate their consciences regarding marriage. If DOMA is overturned, military chaplains will be especially vulnerable to pressures to accommodate an expanded definition of marriage in their ministries. (Read the rest here.) 

Shroud of Turin to be Broadcast Live Holy Saturday March 31

Shroud face

Pope Benedict XVI authorized the televised showing of the Shroud of Turin before he left office. The Shroud will be televised next Saturday, which is Holy Saturday.

The Shroud of Turin has been the subject of intense discussion for hundreds of years and still fascinates both believers and unbelievers worldwide. A radio carbon dating several decades ago indicated that the Shroud dates from the middle ages. However, this finding has been challenged based on the way the samples for the dating were taken and the possibility of a corrupt sample having been used that would have given inaccurate results.

No one knows exactly were the Shroud came from. Many people, including Pope Benedict himself, feel that the Shroud was the burial cloth of Christ. Others dismiss it as a fraud. One thing is certain and that is the Shroud is an inexplicable artifact that defies simple explanations. Even the most dedicated opponents of the idea that the Shroud is the authentic burial cloth of Christ are unable to explain how it was made. 

Shroud fully body

The most challenging aspects of the Shroud are how was it made and why a medieval forger would do something so complex and difficult in the first place. Also, the anatomical facts of the figure on the Shroud are consistent with what a real crucifixion would do rather than what people in the Middle Ages thought.  

I’ve read several books about the Shroud, but I have never seen it. I’m like a lot of people who find it fascinating and wonder if it really is the burial cloth of Christ. 

I don’t know if the televised viewing will be available here in Oklahoma, but if it is, I plan to record it so I can watch it later. 

Here’s the story from Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) As part of the Year of Faith a conference gets underway here in Rome (Friday) tomorrow entitled “The Shroud and the New Evangelization. The two day event is being sponsored by the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum and will feature speakers including Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

The conference will deliver a programme presenting the shroud of Turin, which is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, as a sign of faith that speaks to contemporary society.

“The message is this, the shroud is a sign, a sign that speaks to contemporary man and so I think in this year of faith this Holy Shroud has something to tell us in a very graphical view,” says Father Rafael Pascual LC, Director of the Science and Faith Institute at the Regina Apostolorum.

He told Lydia O’Kane that the face Jesus left us is one of suffering but also of love and donation. Listen RealAudioMP3

Does Raising Boys to be Manly Christian Men Require Discriminating Against Girls?

Bergoglio foot washing woman

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, washing a woman’s foot on Holy Thursday.

I was jittery before I published Women and the Church yesterday. 

I was afraid that, since I mentioned the presence of homosexual priests in our Church, I would stir up a hornet’s nest of attacks on homosexual priests.

Silly me.

Women are sooo much more the object of discrimination than homosexuals. No group of people on this planet can outrank women on the hated scale.

I was inundated with comments from men (While I know there are women-hating women and lots of them, my commenters yesterday were ALL male) explaining basically two things to me:

053 AltarGirls

1. They are not prejudiced against women. They most certainly are not misogynist. It is the Church that requires them to go on and on and on ranting against any participation by women in the liturgy. If the bishops — and three popes — allow this, they say, then the bishops and three popes are wrong. Their teaching authority is bankrupt. And they’ve got some pet priest somewhere who tells them the bishops and three popes are wrong.

These folks seem to be hung up on the use of the Latin word for “man,” which they claim does not — and I mean does not — mean all of humanity, but rather only people who are genetically and anatomically male. The odd part of this is that they are accidentally making one of the best arguments for something I would guess they see as anathema — using more inclusive language — that I have ever encountered.

If “man” does not mean all of humanity, then many of the Church’s most compelling statements concerning the universal value of all human beings go right in the trash bin. To me, the issue is simple. I won’t belabor this except to ask: Does masculum et feminam creavit eos mean what I’ve always been taught it means or not?

Licht

2. Boys can not survive in a world where girls are allowed to compete. The whole reason for the priest shortage is altar girls. These commenters simply ignored every point I raised in the post and repeated this tired old argument as if no one had challenged them. The gist of their argument was versions of the cliched boys-won’t-be-called-to-the-priesthood-because-of-altar-girls stuff. Then, it took an interesting twist, and one I’m going to talk about here, by broadening it to say that there are so many troubled young men in our society today because girls are competing against them.

This second line of reasoning is the one I want to explore in this post.

Just for the record, I’ve raised boys. Or rather, my only husband, who is their biological father, and I have raised boys. We successfully managed to bring them to productive adulthood as manly men who believe in Jesus, say their prayers, do not shoot people, are not on drugs, and who go out to work, succeed in higher education and respect women.

Based on the interesting logic of some of my commenters, we must have oppressed every girl in the neighborhood to achieve this miracle. We certainly must have refused to let them participate in swim teams where girls might beat them or go to chess tournaments where girls sometimes did beat them. After all, manliness, according to the version I’ve seem in the comboxes these past few hours, is such a fragile flower that it cannot grow unless girls are sidelined and silenced.

Father and son

In truth, my husband (and he was the one who did most of this) taught them to respect women. “Treat them like people,” he advised when they reached adolescence and were agawk at the loveliness of the girls around them. “Just remember that they are people and treat them that way and you won’t have any trouble with girls.”

The message I’m trying to convey here is not what my husband said to our sons, although I think it was, like my husband, both wise and chivalrous. It’s that my husband, their father was on the beat to say it. Young men are different from young girls in a number of ways, all of them, when they are channeled according to Godly manliness, beautiful. They are physically stronger. They are more physical, period. They are bursting with that wonderment of a hormone, testosterone, which gives them beautiful male bodies, energy and a propensity to take action.

They are not inherently violent, cruel or sadistic. All this comes from the harm we do to them in the environment we provide for them and the way we treat them.

We are very cruel to our children in this society. Boys or girls, it doesn’t matter, we always put them last on our list of musts. Oh, we shower them with toys and things. But we also put their interests last in our lives and our society. We indoctrinate them in nihilism and sexual disorder in our schools. We tear their homes apart with our divorces and adulteries. Mothers disrespect their fathers. Fathers disrespect and bully their mothers.

Then we act surprised that they grow up to be emotionally and socially damaged adults who can not create families of their own and nurture children of their own.

Father and son black

Instead of admitting our own failings, we play the blame game, writ large. That is what this nonsense about boys being unable to thrive unless girls are oppressed is. It’s the blame game, writ large and cruel. Boys need their mothers to teach them about tenderness, love and women. Boys need their fathers to teach them about men. 

I am not talking about a lecture once in a while from dad who’s not there the rest of the time. I’m talking about raising boys the same way that Joseph raised Jesus, by being there, every day, and by interacting with them all the time, in big things and small things.

I’m talking, actually, about being a man like my husband, who is the best man I’ve ever known. I am convinced that if more fathers were like my husband, we would not have violent young men terrorizing our country with random mass murders.

This business of blaming young girls for the failure of a generation of men to be the Dad on the beat for their sons is one of the most blatantly stupid and self-serving examples of prejudice I’ve seen in a quite a while. 

If you sincerely want someone to sacrifice to raise up a generation of manly men, then men, you should start with yourselves. Go home. Love their mother. And spend time with your children. Love your kids. Enjoy them.

My advice to men who want to raise their sons to be manly men is to be men themselves. Then everything, including vocations, will follow.

How Do You Do Lent in a Time of Feasting?

Lent

It’s still Lent.

We’ve got a week and a half of the deepest, darkest passage in human history to relive. Jesus arrested, betrayed, beaten, tortured, shamed and murdered; that’s what lies ahead of us in these next days.

We are approaching the depths of Lent; the remembrance of humanity’s greatest crime against innocence in the flesh. And we are almost there. 

But how do you do lent in a time of feasting? 

Last week, the Papal Conclave elected the first non-European pope in 1200 years, the first American pope and the first Jesuit pope in history. That conclave turned the Catholic world upside down … and left it unchanged.

Pope francis

Pope Francis is the continuation of an unbroken line of popes going back to the moment when Jesus said “I will call you Peter.” The Church as a conduit of grace, a connection to the divine and a highway to heaven is untouched, unchanged and unchangeable. Despite the rancorous demands from some quarters that the Church re-write 2,000 years of Christian teaching to excuse the fashionable sins of our day, it will never do that. It has never done that; not for kings and princes, not for tanks and guns. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church, despite its human failings, is like Him in that. Nothing that matters, nothing that’s central to what the Church is, changes, has changed, or will change. 

Last week, we elected a pope. Yesterday, he celebrated his inaugural mass. It has been a week of spiritual feasting, a time to get drunk on the Spirit and wave flags, cheer and experience the jubilation of this proof of His continued presence in our lives. 

How do we come down from that to Passion Week and the awful reality of the crucifixion? 

Transfiguration

Perhaps, we do it the same way Peter, James and John did when they came down from the mount of Transfiguration. They saw something that no one had ever seen before or since, at least not in this life. They saw the transfigured Christ in His glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah — the law and the prophets. They saw the promise of what is to come, of the meaning on the other side of the cross that they were to preach for the rest of their days. 

We saw a glimpse of that same promise in this election and inauguration. Not the transfiguration, of course, but the promise of what it meant when Jesus told us “I am with you until the end of the world.” He was promising us that when we are lost, He will call us without ceasing. When we are found, He will walk with us through whatever we must face. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our deepest hearts. He will come to us in the Eucharist and forgive us in confession. In all the years of our lives, he will never leave us without a shepherd to guide us and teach us and show us the way to Him.

This past week of two living popes and one unchanging church has not been the same mountain-top view of the Transfiguration that the three chosen Apostles experienced. But it has been the Transfiguration that the whole wide world needed at this time in history. 

Now, we must, as the Apostles had to, come down from the mountaintop and turn our faces toward Jerusalem. It is Lent, and the way we do Lent in a time of feasting is to face the magnitude of our sins and the unbelievable mercy that God has shown us. 

This year, like no other, we have been given our own view of Transfiguration. 

White crucifixion

The Bible: Topping the Charts Again

I don’t watch tv very often. Too busy.

But when I do, I ignore the network channels altogether. The only exception is when we’re under a tornado alert. Then I watch Gary England on Channel 9 to learn which way to duck. 

Tornado

Other than that, I spend most of my viewing time in the bigger numbers on the viewing chart, far away from the oddball take on the world that the network channels provide. But I do read about television from time to time. (Go figure.) What I’ve read says that “viewers” are attracted to more up-to-date entertainment with lots of cursing, sex and degrading insults to women. 

Uh-huh.

Maybe the reason “viewers” tend to watch these shows is because they are the only shows being offered, and the kind of “viewers” who don’t like this trashy entertainment don’t watch at all. I can’t be the only person who doesn’t watch network programming. In fact, I know I’m not. In my circle — and that includes, family and friends — no one watches network programming.

We do however, all of us, every single one of us, watch Gary England when tornadoes are flying.

Gary england

Some of the rest of us (Not me. Not my girlfriends.) watch football. But that’s really it for our network tv viewing. The reason? There aren’t any shows on that we want to see. We aren’t entertained by what they’ve got. We tend to be insulted and disgusted by it. 

All this is a lead up to the surprising news that the series the Bible scored another hit this week. It came in first, beating out 60 Minutes, and The Walking Dead. 

Now, who, in this “post-Christian” world would have predicted that? After all, isn’t the Bible (the book, not the show) irrelevant, out-of-date and totally embarrassing? 

I remember shortly after Mel Gibson’s smash hit The Passion of the Christ came out, whoever it is that makes these decisions evidently decided that there was gold in that religion stuff. They put on a “Jesus” miniseries, presumably to try to cash in. My family tried to watch it, but we couldn’t make it through the first 15 minutes. Ever since then, “surfer Jesus” has been a joke line around our house to refer to the lame way that the networks approach our faith. 

Now that I’ve typed that line, it all comes clear. No wonder we don’t watch network tv. Except for tornadoes and football, the people who decide what to put on network tv don’t “get” us. I’m sure that they would regard me and mine as a bunch of religious fanatic, unwashed, redneck hill-billies to whom the truth has not yet come. 

The odd part is that we feel kinda the same way about them.

An article from The Baptist Press describing the success of the Bible series says in part: 

NASHVILLE (BP) — History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries climbed back into the top slot in its third week Sunday (March 17), finishing No. 1 for the night among all broadcast and cable programs thanks to an increase in viewership. 

The episode drew 10.9 million viewers, better than its previous week of 10.8 million. It bested AMC’s “Walking Dead” (10.8 million) and CBS’ “60 Minutes” (10.2 million). 


The series was No. 1 among broadcast and cable shows in its first week but dropped to No. 3 in its second week. 

Unlike most History Channel documentaries — which generally cast a skeptical eye on the truthfulness of Scripture — the five-part, 10-hour miniseries has placed the Bible in a more positive light. The final two episodes will be broadcast over the next two weeks, wrapping up on Easter Sunday.  (Read the rest here.)

Holy Father’s Inauguration: Videos of the Day

It was a historic day in Rome!

Once again, I wish so much that I could have been there. It’s hard, being tied down with a job, isn’t it? But then, jobs that pay the bills and provide meaningful work are blessings in themselves.

Since I couldn’t be there and film with my own camera, I trolled for videos that would capture the day for all of us. My personal favorite is when the Holy Father stopped the procession and got out of the Popemobile to bless a disabled man. Look at the expression on that man’s face. It says it all.

Here, for your enjoyment, are a few videos that I hope help you feel as if you were there.

Pope Francis receives the Papal Ring. 

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Pope Francis delivers Inaugural Mass homily.

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Pope Francis greets pilgrims after Inaugural Mass.

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Festive atmosphere at St Peter’s 

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Pope leaves popemobile to bless disabled man before Inaugural Mass

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Pope’s Inaugural Homily Calls the World to the Vocation of Protector

Pope Francis was inaugurated today with a simple mass the reflected what we have already begun to realize is his way of doing things.

As many as 200,000 people attended the mass. Meanwhile, millions of others watched around the globe, including an enthusiastic crowd who watched on giant tv screens in the Plaza di Mayo in Buenos Aires.

“I want to ask you a favor. I want to ask you to walk together and to take care of one another. And don’t forget that this bishop who is very far away loves you very much. Pray for me.” the Holy Father told them in a phone call that was transmitted over loud speakers to the crowd.

During his homily today, Pope Francis spoke about Joseph, drawing a touching parallel between Joseph’s role as protector of the Mary and the child Jesus and his own role as Pope. It also extends this role to all of us, as well.

Here are a few excerpts:

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; …

 … It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.

It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.

In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.

The full text of his homily, from Vatican radio, is below.

Read it and rejoice! Habemus paper — Francisco!

(Vatican Radio) Homily of the Holy Father at the Inauguration of his Papal Ministry 19 March 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1)

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

Sources for this post are here, here.

Habemus Papem. We have a pope!

This video captures my feelings perfectly.

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