Jesus First: Reflecting on Life with JP2

Blessed John Paul II is one of my favorite thinkers. He said quite a few things which I think are worth pondering. I’ve listed some of them below for your prayerful reflection.

Have a blessed Saturday.

Following Christ in Daily Life

“When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.”

“True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement.”

“The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.”

“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.”

The Value of Human Beings and Human Life

“The commandment you shall not kill even in its more positive aspects of respecting, loving, and promoting human life, is binding on every individual human being.” ~Evangelium Vitae-Gospel of Life Pope John Paul II-1995

“While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in it’s final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of ” the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit”.~Evangelium Vitae

“Man’s life comes from God: it is his image and imprint, as sharing in his breath of life. God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: Man cannot do with it as he wills.” ~Evangelium Vitae

‘The Gospel of life must be proclaimed and human life defended in all places and all times.” ~Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics- National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) 1998

The Family and Same-Sex Marriage

“It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this [gay marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church. ”

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”

“The family, as the fundamental and essential educating community, is the privileged means for transmitting the religious and cultural values which help the person to acquire his or her own identity. Founded on love and open to the gift of life, the family contains in itself the very future of society; its most special task is to contribute effectively to a future of peace.”

 

Abortion

“The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.”

“Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the per missive society, which confuses freedom with licence to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace. There are many examples of this mistaken idea of freedom, such as the elimination of human life by legalized or generally accepted abortion.”

“Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were!”

Euthanasia

“Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.” ~Evangelium Vitae, 1995

“Similarly, euthanasia and assisted suicide are never acceptable acts of mercy. They always gravely exploit the suffering and desperate, extinguishing life in the name of the “quality of life” itself.”

~Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics-National Conference of Catholic Bishops(United States)-1998

“Those who advocate euthanasia have capitalized on people’s confusion, ambivalence and even fear about the use of modern life-prolonging technologies. Being able to choose the time and manner of one’s death, without regard to what is chosen is presented as the ultimate freedom.” ~Statement on Euthanasia- National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) 1991

“The sickness of a family member, friend or neighbor is a call to Christians to demonstrate true compassion, that gentle and persevering sharing in another’s pain.” ~Ad Limina Apostolorum to Bishops of the United States-John Paul II –

The Economy

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power … Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.”

“The distinctive mark of the Christian, today more than ever, must be love for the poor, the weak, the suffering.”

“I cannot fail to note once again that the poor constitute the modern challenge, especially for the well-off of our planet, where millions of people live in inhuman conditions and many are literally dying of hunger. It is not possible to announce God the Father to these brothers and sisters without taking on the responsibility of building a more just society in the name of Christ.”

“Hence in every case, a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the economic system… It is not the only means of checking, but it is a particuarly important one and in a sense the key means.”

“Wages must enable the worker and his family to have access to a truly human standard of living in the material, social, cultural and spiritual orders. It is the dignity of the person which constitutes the criterion for judging work, not the other way around.”

“Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.” ~Evangelium Vitae

 

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Will JP2 Become Saint John Paul Next October?

 

I didn’t pay much attention to Pope John Paul II before I converted.

To be honest, I pretty much bought the attitude of the secular media that the Pope was just another politician, pushing his agenda. I did not understand the papacy as a religious institution so much as I thought of it as a political power.

JP2 changed that.

I came into the Church because the Eucharist called me. It was a hunger for Jesus that would not let me rest until I acceded to it. I did not anticipate the radical change that the graces of the sacraments would have on my soul. No one told me that I would experience what amounted to a conversion within a conversion or that the writings of certain Catholic thinkers would change my understanding of what it means to be human.

I found the call of the Eucharist irresistible. But I still struggled with questions of all sorts. Those questions led me to read the Encyclicals to John Paul II which, in turn, led to a reevaluation of the Papacy itself.

What he wrote was not the thinking of a politician. It was the thinking of a shepherd.

When I read that Vatican officials have approved a second miracle granted through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, I didn’t find it surprising. So far as I am concerned, JP2 had already worked a miracle on me back when he was alive.

From CNA:

.- Theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a second miracle granted through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, moving him closer to being declared a saint.

“The proclamation of his sainthood needs only the approval of the commission of cardinals and bishops and the final signature of Pope Francis,” Italian news agency ANSA reported June 18.

Before Blessed John Paul II can be canonized, the Congregation must formally approve the miracle and present it to Pope Francis. Pope Francis would then promulgate and celebrate the canonization.

… ANSA speculates that Pope Francis might canonize him on Oct. 20.

 

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Why are the Bishops Doing This?

In honor of the Fortnight for Freedom, I am going to limit today’s quick picks on Christian persecution to the United States.

The list below comes from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. None of these examples involves burning down churches or mass murders of Christians. They do, however, show a huge change in the way that religious liberty is viewed by the government from just a few years ago.

I believe that this change has come about primarily through the almost non-stop Christian bashing that takes place in our media, academia and on websites. Christian bashing has become so popular that those who practice it as a profession, such as certain authors, speakers and bloggers, are not only able to continue their practice of Christian bashing without facing objections, they make an excellent living at it.

The rise of professional Christian bashers and the aggressive way that they ply their trade has certainly contributed to a cultural situation in which Christians must constantly be on the defensive. I think it has also fueled the attitudes which have led to the discriminatory practices listed below.

I’ve said a number of times that discrimination is a continuum. People do not move to violent persecution in one step. They work themselves into it by moving along a progression of prejudice and hatred. I believe that America is, as a nation, moving rather rapidly along that progression where Christians are concerned.

From the USCCB:

Current Threats To Religious Liberty

An Overview of Specific Examples

Pope Benedict XVI spoke last year about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened.  He called religious liberty the “most cherished of American freedoms.”  However, unfortunately, our most cherished freedom is under threat.  Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching.  Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. 

  • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. 

  • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.

  • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues. 

  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services.  After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. 

  • Christian students on campus.  In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

  • Forcing religious groups to host same-sex “marriage” or civil union ceremonies.  A New Jersey judge recently found that a Methodist ministry violated state law when the ministry declined to allow two women to hold a “civil union” ceremony on its private property.  Further, a civil rights complaint has been filed against the Catholic Church in Hawaii by a person requesting to use a chapel to hold a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat?  Yes, Pope Benedict XVI recognized just last year that various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S. are particularly concerning.  The threat to religious freedom is larger than any single case or issue and has its roots in secularism in our culture.  The Holy Father has asked for the laity to have courage to counter secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

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Fortnight for Freedom 2013: Meatless Fridays and Prayer for our First Freedom


Today is the first day of Fortnight for Freedom 2013.

The American bishops have asked Catholics to refrain from eating meat on Fridays during the fortnight as a fast for religious freedom.

I would suggest that we also pray the Rosary for the intention of religious freedom on Fridays during the fortnight.

You can sign up for text alerts on religious freedom from the USCCB here.

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Pope Francis Invites Boy with Down Syndrome to Explore the Popemobile


Celestino di Tullo choked up when he saw Pope Francis approach his 17-year-old son, Alberto, during the Pope’s general audience yesterday.

Pope Francis walked up to the boy, who has down syndrome, and embraced him. When Alberto pointed to the Popemobile, the Holy Father invited him up to take a look. Alberto looked it over and took a brief spin in the Pope’s white chair before returning to his family.

 

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Thursday Prayer for Priests

Margaret Rose Realy, who blogs at Morning Rose Prayer Garden, is one of those people who always touches the soft part of your heart.

Her blog is a gift, especially on the days when you need that warm and loving contact with a really good person.

Margaret Rose posts a prayer for priests every Thursday. It’s a wonderful idea, which we should all follow in our own way. Priests need prayer. As things get worse for Christians, we are going to need strong shepherds who will not run away or cow-tow in the face of pressures to deny Christ in one way or another.

We need them. They need us. We all need Jesus.

Here is Margaret Rose’s prayer. You can find other wonderful posts here, at her blog.

Divine Savior Jesus Christ, who has entrusted the whole work of your redemption, the welfare and  salvation of the world, to priests as your representatives, through the  hands of your most holy Mother and for the sanctification of your  priests and candidates for the priesthood, I offer you this present day  wholly and entirely, with all its prayers, works, joys, sacrifices and  sorrows.  Give us truly holy priests who, inflamed with the fire of your divine love, seek nothing but your greater glory and the salvation of  our souls.  And you, Mary, good Mother of priests, protect all priests  in danger of their holy vocation and, with the loving hand of a mother, also lead back to the Good Shepherd those poor priests who have become unfaithful to their exalted vocation and have gone astray.  Amen.

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Pope Francis Calls for Christian Unity During General Audience

“We Catholics should pray together,” Pope Francis said in his Wednesday audience, “but we should also pray together with other Christians.”

This is a message every Christian should take to heart. We don’t have to give up our doctrinal differences to know that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and Life. The most important thing is that we put Him at the center. When we do that, the differences we think are so important fade into the background where they belong.

We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christians. That makes it all the more important for Christians to support and stand by one another.

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Pew Research: Media Coverage Biased 5 to 1 in Favor of Gay Marriage

It’s official. A new Pew Research study indicates that media coverage of the gay marriage debate is strongly biased in favor of gay marriage.

That’s in case you were wondering.

Was anybody wondering?

Personally, I think this falls into the “new study indicates that nuts roll downhill” kind of news. The study is based on coverage of the period a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the issue of gay marriage. It turns out that news coverage, including that from Fox News, was 5 to 1 in favor of gay marriage.

Of course, the study is somewhat misrepresentative of the actual media bias in favor of gay marriage, since the media typically tries to paint a gloss of balance on their social-issue propaganda when they’re reporting big stories like Supreme Court hearings. I think day to day reporting is probably much worse.

Also, when you consider the total sell job that we get from outlets such as HBO — which also hard-sells euthanasia, abortion and polygamy, among other other things — it begins to look like 5 to 1 is actually a low number.

The people of this country, indeed, the people of the world, are being pushed, propagandized and often bullied into accepting destructive social changes. Gay marriage is one of those changes. At the same time, there is an almost equal attack on faith, particularly Christian faith.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Pew Reports Media Bias on Marriage Debate (1913)

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighed DOMA and Proposition 8, news stories favored same-sex ‘marriage’ 5-1.

 06/17/2013 Comment

WASHINGTON — The Pew Research Center released a report on June 17 that confirmed overwhelming media bias in favor of same-sex “marriage.”

Researchers evaluated news and opinion coverage of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court and related stories dealing with two landmark marriage cases and found that all mainstream media outlets favored “marriage equality,” including Fox News.

Pew reported that stories “with more statements supporting same-sex marriage outweighed those with more statements opposing it by a margin of roughly 5-to-1.”

This skewed treatment, researchers concluded, conveyed “a strong sense of momentum towards legalizing same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Now, as the nation awaits the high court’s rulings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, which are expected by the end of June, the unbalanced news coverage will likely prompt intense scrutiny and debate on the media’s role in affecting the outcome of those cases.

Some constitutional scholars have predicted that the justices, mindful of the ongoing debate over Roe v. Wade, would be cautious about legalizing a social practice that lacked broad public support.

But if news stories indeed conveyed a sense of “momentum,” the high court’s deliberations might accommodate that shift.

“I have to think the justices — and especially the chief — are very cognizant of the shifting public opinion,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The Hill in mid-May, during the period that Pew researchers charted the flow of coverage favoring one side of the issue.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pew-reports-media-bias-on-marriage-debate?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-06-18%2002:11:01#ixzz2Was206vD

 

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Sexual Morality is for Homosexuals … and Everyone Else


Patheos blogger Eve Tushnet wrote an excellent article about being gay and Catholic a while back. I think it provides food for thought for all of us since the truths she discusses apply equally to every person, gay or straight. Here is what she had to say:

The biggest reason I don’t just de-pope myself is that I fell in love with the Catholic Church. Very few people just “believe in God” in an abstract way; we convert, or stay Christian, within a particular church and tradition. I didn’t switch from atheistic post-Judaism to “belief in God,” but to Catholicism: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, Michelangelo and Wilde, St. Francis and Dorothy Day. I loved the Church’s beauty and sensual glamour. I loved her insistence that seemingly irreconcilable needs could both be met in God’s overwhelming love: justice and mercy, reason and mystery, a savior who is fully God and also fully human. I even loved her tabloid, gutter-punching side, the way Catholics tend to mix ourselves up in politics and art and pop culture. (I love that side a little less now, but it’s necessary.)

I didn’t expect to understand every element of the faith. It is a lot bigger than I am. I’m sure there are psychological reasons for my desire to find a God and a Church I could trust entirely: I don’t think I have a particularly steady moral compass, for example. I’m better at falling in love than finding my way, more attuned to eros than to ethics. Faith is no escape from the need for personal moral judgment; the Church is meant to form your conscience, not supersede it. There are many things which, if the Catholic Church commanded them, I think would have prevented me from becoming Catholic. (More on this below.) But I do think it was okay to enter the Church without being able to justify all of her teachings on my own.

At the time of my baptism the church’s teaching on homosexuality was one of the ones I understood the least. I thoroughly embarrassed myself in a conversation with one of my relatives, who tried to figure out why I was joining this repressive religion. I tried to explain something about how God could give infertile heterosexual couples a baby if He wanted to, and my relative, unsurprisingly, asked why He couldn’t give a gay couple a baby. The true answer was that I didn’t understand the teaching, but had agreed to accept it as the cost of being Catholic. To receive the Eucharist I had to sign on the dotted line (they make you say, “I believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches” when they bring you into the fold), and I longed intensely for the Eucharist, so I figured, everybody has to sacrifice something. God doesn’t promise that He’ll only ask you for the sacrifices you agree with and understand.

At the moment I do think I understand the Church’s teaching better than I did then—but check back with me in a few years. Right now, the Biblical witness seems pretty clear. Both opposite-sex and same-sex love are used, in the Bible, as images of God’s love. The opposite-sex love is found in marriage—sexually exclusive marriage, an image which recurs not only in the Song of Songs but in the prophets and in the New Testament—and the same-sex love is friendship. Both of these forms of love are considered real and beautiful; neither is better than the other. But they’re not interchangeable. (Read the rest here.)

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Sued by Government for Refusing to Provide Flowers for Gay Wedding, Elderly Florist Files Countersuit

 

Arlene’s Flower and Gifts.  Is it the only place to buy flower in Washington? 

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general, probably thought he was picking an easy fight when he took on 68 year old Barronelle Stutzman. After all, she not only had gray hair, she was a small business owner with very few resources to defend herself against the government.

It probably looked like an easy way to earn kudos from the my-way-or-the-highway crowd that seems to be running parts of our government these days. Ms Stutzman, who has a history of employing self-identified homosexuals, as well as serving them, evidently draws the line when it comes to providing flowers for gay weddings.

I think I see where she’s coming from. Selling flowers to gay customers or employing gay people are both well within Christian behavior. In fact, treating gay people like people is pretty much a requirement of following Jesus. Providing flowers for a gay wedding, on the other hand, would have put Ms Stutzman in the position of actively participating in something that just about all traditional Christians regard as sinful. It is a violation of what Jesus intended for marriage to be, and, many people believe, will do great harm to the already damaged institution of marriage.

To use an analogy, if someone who was getting ready to rob bank came into your store and wanted to buy a carton of milk for their lunch, selling them the milk would not make you part of their bank robbing. However, if they asked you to sell them a bag for the money, and they told you it would be used in a bank robbery, you would be part of the crime.

I am not equating bank robbery with gay marriage. They are entirely different. I just used that as an illustration.

The point here is that to compel someone to participate in an action that they regard as sinful is a violation of their human dignity and their right as human beings and American citizens to decide these things for themselves. Even if bank robbery was legal, if a store owner still believes that theft is a sin, they should have the right to refuse to sell the erstwhile robber the bag for the loot.

Ms Stutzman’s problems began on March 1, when Robert Ingersoll, who had known Ms Stutzman for 10 years, asked her to sell him flowers for his “wedding” to Curt Freed. Here’s Ms Stutzman’s description of what happened:

“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman said. “He thanked me and said he respected my opinion. We talked and gave each other a hug and he left.” She said it was the only wedding she had declined in 37 years.

Attorney General Ferguson must not have too many serious crimes to deal with up there in Washington State because he immediately saddled up his white horse and rode out to hammer down on Ms Stutzman. He is using a consumer protection act to seek a $2,000 fine against Ms Stutzman, along with a permanent injunction which would force her to either sell flowers for gay weddings or to stop selling flowers for wedding ceremonies altogether. I do not know what jurisdiction passed the act the AG is using.

The only legitimate reason I can see for the chief law enforcement officer in Washington state to take such an extreme interest in this incident is that Ms Stutzman’s shop, Arlene’s Flower and Gifts, must be the only place in Washington state where those poor people who live there can buy flowers. That’s kind of sad, when you think about it.

However, Ms Stutzman hasn’t rolled over. She has filed a countersuit through the Alliance Defending Freedom. Her lawsuit is based on federal constitutional protections of religious freedom and protections in the Washington State Constitution.

According to American’s Defending Freedom:

ADF explains that the state’s lawsuit “is attempting to force Stutzman to act contrary to her religious convictions in violation of her constitutional freedoms.”

“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions,” said ADF senior legal counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs.”

He added, “It is this very freedom that gives America its cherished diversity and protects citizens from state-mandated conformity.”

In additional to federal constitutional protections, the Washington State Constitution also protects “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief, and worship,” as stated in Article 1, Section 11.

Stutzman has set up a fund for her defense. Donations can be sent to:

Key Bank
1275 Lee Blvd
Richland, WA 99352
509-392-4638
Attn: Lindsey

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