That We May Be One: Wounds of a Thousand Years Begin to Heal

Is a thousand years long enough to say you’re sorry?

Maybe, but for a long time, “sorry” wasn’t in the vocabulary of either side of what is known as the “Great Schism.” The Great Schism split the Church, East from West, around the year 1050. The Church has paid dearly for this split down through the past millennia, with the fall of Constantinople being part of the price.

From then to now, the thaw has been slow and touchy. Pope John Paul II paved the way by making the first moves toward reconciliation. Today, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I announced that he will attend the inauguration of Pope Francis.

Mark Shea made the poignant observation that Pope Francis, who only has one lung, is the pope under whom the Church will once again begin to breath with both lungs. None of this is to say that what we are looking at is a re-uniting of the two rites. But it is of incredible importance in a world in which Christians of every communion are increasingly subjected to hostility, outright discrimination and violent persecution that we come together in our mutual self defense.

The Patriarch of Constantinople surely understands this far better than I do.

We must begin to stand together.

I view this wonderful news as an indication that our leaders know this and are beginning to move toward doing it.

God bless both these men.

Deacon Greg Kendra has the story. Also, This article from AsiaNews.com gives details:

For the first time since the Great Schism, ecumenical patriarch to attend pope’s inaugural Mass
The metropolitans of Argentina and Italy will accompany Bartholomew. Moscow Patriarchate hopes in closer cooperation with Rome but excludes for now a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event occurs since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054, an important sign for Christian unity.

The ecumenical patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas, metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as well as Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina, and Gennadios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy.

Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue.

Under Benedict XVI, the dialogue picked up in earnest after a lull. In trying to promote it, the pope suggested ways to express the primacy of Peter’s successor that could be acceptable to the Orthodox, finding his inspiration from the undivided Church of the first millennium. (Read the rest at: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/For-the-first-time-since-the-Great-Schism,-ecumenical-patriarch-to-attend-pope’s-inaugural-Mass-27408.html)

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The Year of Two Living Popes and One Unchanging Faith

Does anybody remember that this is the Year of Faith?

It’s certainly been a historic year so far.

Our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus, handed the Church forward to his successor, Pope Francis. The Year of Faith has become the Year of Two Living Popes. 

It is one faith; one holy and apostolic Catholic faith. For those who will stop to think about it, that is a miracle in itself. Benjamin Disraeli, when asked what proof he could offer of God’s existence, replied, “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”  To that I would add that if anyone doubts the divinity of Jesus Christ, I would offer them the Catholic Church and its 2,000 year history of faithful teaching.

The Catholic Church has persisted through the fall and rise of more than one empire. It has survived the venality of some of its own popes. It has come through plagues, famines and times of great wealth. And it has, through all of it, kept the teachings of the Gospels intact and unblemished.

I don’t think there has been an day or an hour in all this great swath of history that the Church has not been under concerted and powerful pressure to re-write the Gospels to suit the passing moral fashions of the time. I think the reason for this is simple: The devil is real. There is a malicious personality out there who wants to destroy us through our own predilections to immorality.

We are not so much engaged in a war as we are the objects of a war. This malicious personality wars against us by aligning itself with our own fallen natures. It attempts to subvert us in our path to our ultimate calling as sons and daughters of the living God. We are the object of war making based in a hatred that is outside time.

But this evil, which seems so powerful and omnipresent to us who are in the soup of this life, is almost nothing in the halls of eternity. It is a vanquished foe whose only hold on us was broken at the cross. All we have to do is turn our faces away from the darkness and walk into the light.

The Catholic Church is the light, shining in the darkness of this world. Despite the undeniable fallenness of the people who govern it, the Church itself does not falter when it comes to providing the sacraments and teaching the teachings that show us the way to heaven.

This Year of Faith and two living popes — one reigning and one emeritus — is historic. But it is also part of the flow of the Church through history. Pope Benedict handed the Church forward and the Cardinals chose Pope Francis to take it up.

People who unwittingly are the mouthpieces for the devil yammer about how the Church must “change” its core teachings about life, love, sexuality and the common good or be found guilty of being “out of step with the world.”

Let’s think for a moment what they are demanding. What does it mean to be “in step” with the world?

“In step” with the world, as they define it, means that people are only human when those who have the power to do so define them to be human. It means that vast numbers of people may be killed at any time, for no reason at all.

Being “in step” with the world means that women and children are commodities to be bought and sold, raped and worked. It means that reducing women and children to objects and then using their rape, torture and murder as entertainment is a “right” that transcends any claims to their human dignity. Being “in step” with the world means that women’s bodies can be harvested for their eggs that are then sold online. It means that women’s wombs can be rented as surrogates.

Being “in step” with the world means “designing” babies that we will find good enough for our celestial selves to raise. It means discarding tens of other babies in this process to get the one perfect one we want.

Being “in step” with the world means destroying marriage, doing away with family as a unit that creates, nurtures and supports young human beings. It means that multinational corporations can pillage and destroy without restraint.

I could go on, but the point is that being “in step” with the world is being “in step” with decay, death and destruction. Being “in step” with the world is the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.

The Catholic Church is not called to make the world comfortable in its sins. it is called to lead the world to redemption from its sins. 

The world may and does excoriate the Church for “being out of step” with its many killing machines. It may and does excoriate Catholics for following their Church. It may and does try to force us out of public life and silence our witness.

But the world will not prevail.

Jesus said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This is the Year of Faith. It is also the year of two living popes.

But this year is, as all years are, the year of the One and only Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

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Pope Francis: When One Does Not Profess Christ, One Professes the Worldliness of the Devil

Pope Francis’ first homily was a call for the Church and all Christians to focus on the cross.
 
My favorite quotes from it are:
 
  • We can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. 
  •  
  • When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.
  •  
  • When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
  •  
  • I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.
  •  
  • My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified.
 
The full text of the homily, from the Vatican website is below. I put the quotes I took from it in bold. 

In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

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Holy Father Demonstrates Humility and Simplicity on His First Day in Office

Habemus Papem!

 

We have a pope, and our new pope has his own way of doing things. Twenty-four hours after he stood on the balcony and gave us his first blessing as our Holy Father, Pope Francis is already exhibiting an independent streak.

He dressed more simply, refused a Papal limousine, asked for our prayers and (get ready for this) went back to the Vatican hotel where he had been staying before his election to collect his own luggage and pay his bill.

I don’t see these changes as a departure from the papacy as it has been, but as a return of the papacy as a pastoral office that speaks to the world in the name of Christ the Lord that it always has been. Rather than behaving in a manner befitting what the press has termed “Christ’s CEO,” Pope Francis has shown us a Holy Father who has come to serve the Lord, and us in His name.

I think it would be a mistake for anyone to take this gentleness and simplicity as weakness. Pope Francis’ actions demonstrate an unruffled confidence in the Christ of the Gospels that comes from the kind of faith that survives anything the world can throw at it. He is humble, but I predict that we will see that it is the humility of an inner strength born of great faith and holiness.

I’ve excerpted an Associated Press article detailing the Holy Father’s first day in office. You can find the entire article with all the details here.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis put his humility on display during his first day as pontiff Thursday, stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bill himself in a decidedly different style of papacy …

… He kept the simple iron pectoral cross of his days as bishop and eschewed the red cape … choosing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy.

… “He believes the church has to go to the streets, to express this closeness of the church and this accompaniment with those who are suffering.” Francis’ authorized biographer,

…Sergio Rubin, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

… Rubin recalled how the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would celebrate Masses with homeless people and prostitutes in Buenos Aires.

… Francis began his first day as pope making an early morning visit in a simple Vatican car to a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary and prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

He also told cardinals he would call on retired Pope Benedict XVI, but the Vatican said the visit wouldn’t take place for a few days.

… Francis, the first Jesuit pope and first non-European since the Middle Ages, decided to call himself Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor.

The new pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires’ slums, immediately charmed the crowd in St. Peter’s, which roared when his name was announced and roared again when he emerged on the loggia of the basilica with a simple and familiar: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”

By Thursday morning, members of his flock were similarly charmed when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he routinely stays during visits to Rome and where he stayed before the start of the conclave.

“He wanted to come here because he wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house,” said The Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, who is staying at the residence. “He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one.”

He then paid the bill.

“People say that he never in these 20 years asked for a (Vatican) car,” he said. “Even when he went for the conclave with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main road, he picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple for a future pope.”

Francis displayed that same sense of simplicity and humility immediately after his election, shunning the special sedan … so he could ride on the bus with other cardinals, and refusing even an elevated platform from which he would greet them, according to U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

… “I think we’re going to see a call to Gospel simplicity,” said U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

… Francis’ election elated Latin America, home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics … On Wednesday, drivers honked their horns in the streets of Buenos Aires and television announcers screamed with elation at the news.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said the cardinals clearly chose Francis because he was simply “the best person to lead the church.”

Reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto, Karl Ritter and photographer Luca Bruno in Rome contributed. (Read the rest here.)

___

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Pope Francis: Doing it His Way

Deacon Greg Kendra posted a wonderful article by John Thavis about Pope Francis this morning.

Our new Holy Father is his own man and he’s doing things his way. It turns out that his way is one of simplicity and humility that truly befits one who wears the shoes of the fisherman.

Our pope is the son of an immigrant railway worker who evidently suffered illness early in his life serious enough to require the removal of a lung. He comes from a third world country and has seen his share of human suffering.

Experiences like that change people. They can make them bitter, avaricious and mean. But when the light of this kind of experience shines through the prism of the Gospels and you get humility, love and an understanding that the trappings of this world are dust and ashes.

I’m going to pick up the entire article from Deacon Greg because it is so beautiful and inspiring to me that I want to share it with you in total.

From John Thavis:

One of the first things a new pope hears is, “Holy Father, it’s always done this way.”

In his first 24 hours in office, Pope Francis has already given indications that he may not be intimidated by those words, as he creates his own style of being pope.

That was clear from the moment he put on his papal robes, donning the simple white cassock but declining to wear the ermine-trimmed red cape known as the mozzetta, which was left hanging on the wardrobe in the Room of Tears.

To Vatican officials who offered him an elaborate gold pectoral cross to wear around the neck, he said he’d prefer to keep his very simple cross that he’s worn as a bishop. He accepted the congratulations of cardinals not seated on a traditional throne-like chair, but standing up and greeting them one by one.

After his blessing last night to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square and to the world, Vatican aides told the pope a limousine was waiting to take him to his temporary quarters in the Vatican’s residence building. The new pope said he’d rather take the bus back with the cardinals – and he did.

This morning, the pope’s first act was to leave the Vatican for an impromptu visit to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in central Rome. No doubt someone told him: “But Holy Father, we need time to plan these visits very carefully.” He wisely didn’t listen. Yes, his presence snarled traffic and caused a major stir, but the Romans loved it.

Instead of taking the main car in the papal fleet, a Mercedes with the “SCV 1” license plate, he rode in a more modest sedan.

On the way inside the basilica, he stopped to wave to high school students across the street. After praying before a popular icon of Mary, he told confessors at the church to “be merciful, the souls of the faithful need your mercy.”

 

 

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Pope Francis’ First Message with English Translation: Ask the Lord to Bless the Bishop

I watched it this evening on a tiny insert on my laptop. I got misty-eyed then. Now, I can’t stop smiling.

What a beautiful, humble man to ask for our prayers. God bless him.

Here, if you haven’t seen it, or just want to see it again, is the first part of the Holy Father’s first message as pope.

Enjoy.

YouTube Preview Image

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Pope Francis I: Takes the Bus, Supports the Poor, A Stalwart Battler for Life, Traditional Marriage and Evangelization

 

Our new Holy Father chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace when he was Cardinal Bergoglio. He also cooked his own meals and took a bus to work instead of using his chauffeured limousine. 

This son of a railway worker has four brothers and sisters. He wanted to be a chemist and has a degree in chemistry. But God intervened in this plan and he entered the Society of Jesus instead. He is an intellectual who studied theology in Germany and who defended the poor in Argentina’s economic crises of a few years ago.

During the military junta in Argentina, Father Bergoglio worked in the position he had then as head of a seminary to oppose the so-called “liberation theology” and insist on what an article for the National Catholic Reporter called a more traditional reading of Ignatian spirituality, mandating that Jesuits continue to staff parishes and act as chaplains rather than moving into ‘base communities’ and political activism.

He is unwavering in his support of traditional Catholic teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception. At the same time, he has dealt compassionately with victims of HIV-AIDS, going so far as to visit a hospice and kiss and wash the feet of AIDS patients. In September 2012, he accused priests who refuse to baptize children born out of wedlock of a form of “rigorous and hypocritical neo-clericalism.”

Here are a few comments Pope Francis I has made:

  • Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord.” 
  • … if the Church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old. 
  • On the Unjust Distribution of Goods The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many.
  • On baptizing children born out of wedlock In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl, who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!
  • On Evangelization Jesus teaches us another way. Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit. 
  • On Abortion We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. The responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors and health professionals. 
  • On the death penalty We aren’t in agreement with the death penalty.
  • On gay marriage Let us not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.

For sources, check here, here, here and here.

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Habemus Papem! Pope Francis I: Who is He?

These are gleanings from various web sites.

Pope Francis I, who was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was born December 17, 1936. He is the 267 pope of the Roman Catholic Church in a line that goes all the way back to the Apostle Peter. He is the first pope from either Argentina or the Americas. 

Reports vary as to whether he chose his name in honor of the Society of Jesus Francis Xavier or Francis of Assisi. He was promoted Cardinal in 2001, and before his election, served the archdiocese of Buenos Aires. He is one of five children. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1959. He was a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits.)

Based on what I’ve read, he has a history of supporting Catholic moral teachings in matters concerning the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage.

This article from CNA/EWTN News has more details:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A respected Italian journal said Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, a 76-year-old Jesuit, was the cardinal with the second-highest number of votes on each of the four ballots in the 2005 conclave.

The journal, Limes, said its report was based on information that came from the diary of an anonymous cardinal who, while acknowledging he was violating his oath of secrecy, felt the results of the conclave votes should be part of the historic record. 

The journal said it confirmed the diary’s count with other cardinals.

Cardinal Bergoglio, who has also been mentioned as a possible contender in the current conclave, has had a growing reputation as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership serving in a region with the largest number of the world’s Catholics.

Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people. 

He rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as “Father Jorge.”

He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world’s bishops.

The cardinal has also written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages.

In 2010, when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, Cardinal Bergoglio encouraged clergy across the country to tell Catholics to protest against the legislation because, if enacted, it could “seriously injure the family,” he said.

He also said adoption by same-sex couples would result in “depriving (children) of the human growth that God wanted them given by a father and a mother.” 

In 2006, he criticized an Argentine proposal to legalize abortion under certain circumstances as part of a wide-ranging legal reform. He accused the government of lacking respect for the values held by the majority of Argentines and of trying to convince the Catholic Church “to waver in our defense of the dignity of the person.” 

His role often forces him to speak publicly about the economic, social and political problems facing his country. His homilies and speeches are filled with references to the fact that all people are brothers and sisters and that the church and the country need to do what they can to make sure that everyone feels welcome, respected and cared for. 

While not overtly political, Cardinal Bergoglio has not tried to hide the political and social impact of the Gospel message, particularly in a country still recovering from a serious economic crisis. (Read the rest here.) 

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Colorado Legislature Passes Civil Unions Bill

Colorado’s legislature has passed a civil unions bills. All that’s necessary for the bill to become is for the governor — who as already said he would do so — to sign it.

The bill passed without religious liberty protections that would protect religious organizations from such as adoption agencies from being forced to violate their beliefs.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver issued the following statement concerning passage of this bill.

STATEMENT: Archbishop of Denver responds to civil unions bill

Regrettably, the Colorado Legislature has approved a civil unions bill today which harms families, civil liberties, and the natural rights of all Colorado’s children.

Senate Bill 11 is the beginning of an effort to redefine the family in Colorado and to undermine the right of all children to have a mother and a father. Civil unions are not about equality, tolerance or fairness. They create an alternate reality in which all institutions can be self-defined.  Make no mistake: Civil unions are the first step to redefining marriage and to radically redefining the concept of civil rights. Civil rights are about protecting individuals and institutions from tyranny or oppression, not providing legal endorsement to all conceivable social arrangements and constructs.

The Church recognizes and affirms the dignity of every human person—but she does not see all relationships as equal. Marriage is a unique social relationship between a man and a woman which exists for the good of children and as the foundation of all human communities. Marriage has been uniquely protected in law for millennia in order to preserve and promote the foundations of all social stability.

Senate Bill 11 is particularly troubling because the religious liberty of all Coloradans has been discarded under the guise of equality. The ability for religious-based institutions to provide foster care and adoption services for Colorado’s children is now dangerously imperiled. Faced with the reasonable request for religious liberty and conscience accommodations, state Sen. Pat Steadman offered the following: “So, what to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate? I’ll tell you what I’d say. Get thee to a nunnery and live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from the people you can’t see as equal to yourself.”  These comments are woefully antagonistic to Catholics, to Christians and to all people of faith and good will.

Marriage is a stabilizing institution at the foundation of civil society. Religious liberty is a civil rights issue. Today both have been grievously harmed. Today our state and federal Constitutions have been dealt a troubling blow.

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver

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Book Review: Our Place in the Order of Creation

To join in the conversation about The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, or to find a link to buy a copy, go here. 


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We are the clay. God is the potter.

We are the created. God is the creator.

Our dominion over this Earth is ours by designation, not because we made it or because we can keep it. We have dominion over the Earth because God assigned it to us as a trust.  It is the same with our lives. We did not earn them. We do not merit through our own actions either life or love. We are here because God breathed the breathe of life into us and we became living souls. When that days comes that our souls are required of us, these bodies we inhabit will die and return to the dust from which they came. 

We exist as a thought in the mind of the God Who made us.

That is our place in the order of creation. We are free because God made us free. We have life because God gave us life. We are able to choose and decide and act out of our will because God gave us minds and hearts and the freedom to use them as we wish. 

But this world, this sinful fallen world with all its prevarications and cruelties can not be saved by our actions. There is nothing we can do to redeem humanity from its own willful sinfulness. Nothing we can offer that will turn back the tide of original sin that blights each of us and the whole of creation. 

What this means is that we can not play God. When we try, we fail. When we try continuously, we become weary with a Sisyphean weariness that leaves us defeated and bitter if we do not face the reality of who we are in the order of creation. 

Christians, in particular, are easy prey to the peculiar hubris of trying to save the world from itself. In my work as an elected official, I encounter people on a daily basis who profess Christ but behave as if He doesn’t exist. They battle for what they think is His cause with an angry fanaticism. But they do not have the faith to trust Him with the outcome. The less they trust, the angrier they become.

They work and worry and experience each defeat as a personal failure, until they are ready to fall over from emotional, physical and moral exhaustion. They take on the whole problem themselves. They forget that their might is nothing against the evil of a fallen world, and, more importantly, they forget that it is not, never was, never will be, up to them. 

All any of us has to do is our part. In the final analysis, all any of us has to do is what God tells us to do. In my experience, God doesn’t share His plans in detail. He just tells you what you are to do. Then, He tells someone else what they are to do. But He doesn’t tell either of you about the other. You part is to do what God wants and let Him unfold the plan.

Which He will. 

In His time and in His way, He will bring all the disparate parts of His plan together. You are a thread in the fabric He is weaving, nothing more. You may have to wait a long time to see it. You may not see it in this life. But the whole pattern will come together and when it does, it will be glorious beyond anything you could have thought of. It is not your job to see the whole of it. Your job is to trust and obey. 

You are free to enjoy the wonderful life He has given you, safe in the knowledge that He makes all things work to the good and whether or not you can see it doesn’t change that. 

As Tyler Wigg-Stevenson put it in the title of his book, The World is Not Ours to Save.

The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good is basically a meditation on Micah 4. Micah 4 is a prophecy of Christ and the conversion of the Gentiles, as well as the coming Kingdom of God. It contains the beautiful verses They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson has obviously thought a great deal about these prophecies. He shares his interpretation of their meaning and applies them to the work of every person who feels called to engage in the social justice battlefield on the side of the Gospels. 

The World is Not Ours to Save is a wise book with excellent advice for those who are worn slick from trying to do God’s job of saving the world rather than focusing on simply doing their part. I recommend it. 

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