Catholic Brotherhood Then and Now

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From Batman and Robin to Abbot and Costello, dynamic duos have been an essential part of history. Friendships such as Jackie Robinson and Peewee Reese faced against all manner of hatred and bigotry.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Catholic Church has its own share of dynamic duos. We have David and Jonathan, Moses and Jonah, Elijah and Elisha…But the duo whose feast we celebrate today is that of Saints Peter and Paul.

Being a cradle Catholic, I had a soft spot for Saint Peter. I used to joke that Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter not just because he’ll become the foundation of the Church, but also because Peter had a really thick head! Peter was always one to spit out whatever thought came into his mind, even if it didn’t make any sense or if it was the wrong thing to say. Yet, after Jesus’s resurrection, Peter changed. He took on the responsibility as being the head of Christ’s Church, which meant keeping order. One only needs to read about the incident with Ananias and Sapphira to see the difference between how Peter was before Jesus died and after.

In contrast, we have Paul of Tarsus. Paul started out as a young, zealous Pharisee who felt justified in persecuting Christians. After Jesus intervened, though, it became Paul’s mission to spread the Good News to the Gentiles since he had the advantage of being fluent in Greek and was welcomed in most cities in the Mediterranean area.

Bishop Robert Barron said that the Catholic Church needs to have the spirits of both Peter and Paul: “Without the Petrine discipline, the Pauline work would be unfocused and continually in danger of dissolution. Without the Pauline energy, the Petrine work would devolve into cold management and ecclesiastical bureaucracy.”

The spirits of Peter and Paul live on today,  namely with these two popes:

Benedict and Francis have both Peter and Paul in them. Like Peter, Pope Francis has a tendency to speak off-the-cuff. His blunt remarks can be both refreshing and unsettling. And yet, like Paul, Pope Francis is also well-known for how often he reaches out to the poor and marginalized. He has an effect on people no matter where he goes.

Pope Benedict, on the other hand, carries on the Petrine discipline. He may not be in the public eye as often as he used to be, but he’s still praying for the Church. The way we pray in Church will forever be changed because of him. And yet, like Paul, he’s also intelligent and well-educated. Future theology students will probably be studying his works for class.

I’m tired of people pitting these two against each other. In reality, they are brothers in Christ and in what is essentially their shared papacy. I have no doubt that sometime in the future, these two will be canonized together, much in the same way Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were.

On Retreat With Pope Francis

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Tomorrow and Saturday, I will be on retreat and it’ll be a different experience from my usual retreats. For one thing, I’m going as an attendant and not as part of the volunteer staff. The other thing that makes this particular retreat different from the ones in the past is that it’s an Ignatian retreat. While I did an Ignatian Spiritual Exercise during one college retreat, I never had the full Ignatian retreat experience.

In anticipation of my upcoming retreat, I’m reflecting on the 10 questions Pope Francis had to reflect on during his own retreat this week.

 

1. “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)

This will be the question on my mind when I start my retreat. What am I looking for? I want so much out of life, and yet are any of these desires compatible with God’s will? Will the things I want help me further on my road to holiness?

As far as the retreat is concerned, I am looking for a closer relationship with Christ. I also want to know how I can integrate my faith into my daily life, especially when I go into places where people might be hostile towards the Catholic Church. Can I evangelize incognito? If so, how?

 

2. “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

Even though I don’t have anxiety attacks on a daily basis anymore, the attacks can still come when I least expect it. There are things that I am still afraid of that I’m not sure God can fix, in spite of what I already know. When I think of all the things I’m afraid of, though, I offer these fears up and ask God to help me handle my fears.

This quote from Saint Teresa of Avila also comes to mind:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

 

3. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?” (Matthew 5:13)

Whenever millennials say that a person is acting “salty,” they mean that a person is acting upset, jealous, or bitter. This Bible verse, however, refers to how salt makes people thirsty. In modern day terms, “thirsty” means longing for something. It’s usually used when someone wants to be in a relationship.

People who are the salt of the earth help others long for a relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, there are times that even the best of Christians and Catholics can act “salty” instead of being the salt of the earth. In my experience, praying the Litany of Humility helped as a counter to that upset, jealous, or bitter attitude.

 

4. “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)

So many misconceptions of who Jesus is. They see the Son of Man, the Word made flesh as just “a nice guy,” or “a spiritual guru,” or “a teacher.” Then there are others who use Jesus to justify their political platforms, whether they be conservative or liberal. One recently bad instance of this is an abortion clinic owner who said that she grew up believing in a Jesus who would just be okay with women who chose to terminate the lives of their children. Jesus represents God’s mercy, but He would not just be “okay” with the death of innocents.

Who do you think Jesus is? If your answer can fit into a neat little box, you’ve got the wrong answer.

 

5. “Then, turning to the woman, he told Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” (Luke 7:44)

One unique thing about the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises is that they provide a way to immerse yourself into scripture, using the power of the imagination. This particular quote comes from the story of the woman with the alabaster jar who showered Jesus’s feet with her tears and kisses, wiped the tears away with her hair, and anointed them with perfume.

Simon, a Pharisee, didn’t see the woman’s loving actions or her quiet penitential attitude. Instead, he saw her as just a prostitute, a sinful woman, and judged her. Jesus compelled Simon to see the sinful woman through the eyes of mercy.

How often do we brush aside people who are trying to make a better life for themselves because we can’t see past our own prejudices? I particularly remember how an acquaintance of mine received a lot of harsh judgment for his struggles with addiction and depression. I’m really glad that he found help, but I ask for God’s mercy for those who label him a lost cause.

Do you see everyone in your life as your fellow brother and sister in Christ?

 

6. “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38, Matthew 15:34)

This is a weird Bible verse to meditate on at first glance. Most Catholics are very familiar with the miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish. So why would we focus on the part when Jesus asks his apostles about how much food was available?

This article from Aleteia gives a wonderful insight to this particular question. In this particular verse, Jesus is calling us to look at what we have and offer it all to Him.

My local parish is currently asking me and my fellow parishioners to consider tithing in the coming months due to financial issues that I won’t go into here. Needless to say, I feel like this Bible verse comes to mind. How much should we give to God, financially and spiritually?

At the very least, 10%. At most? Nothing short of everything.

 

7. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’” (John 8:10)

This verse comes from this Sunday’s Gospel, which recounts the story of the woman caught in adultery. I am constantly fascinated by the details of this Gospel passage. For one thing, according to Bishop Robert Barron, the fact that this takes place in or in front of the temple represents how Jesus is restoring God’s law to its proper use. Then, of course, there’s the matter of what the heck Jesus wrote on the ground. (Where’s Instagram when you need it?!)

But this particular verse goes out to those who are most in need of God’s mercy. This is for those who dwell on the guilt of their sin too much. Don’t be plagued by people who constantly keep a record of wrongs and remind you of your past faults. God’s mercy is waiting for you.

 

8. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (John 20:15)

This question is asked to Mary Magdalene, who is crying because she doesn’t know where Jesus is.

Who is she seeking? Her friend and teacher. The man who cured her of the seven demons that possessed her. The Savior who changed her life forever.

She didn’t know, at that moment, that Jesus was with her. That he conquered death and will ask her to share the news of his resurrection to his Apostles.

It reminds me of Audrey Assad’s “Slow,” which starts out with these lyrics:

You’ve drawn so close that it’s hard to see you
And you speak so softly that it’s hard to hear you

Give the song a listen and see how Mary Magdalene’s experience ties into it.

 

9.“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16)

Dear Protestant brothers and sisters: If you want proof that Peter was always going to be head of the Church, in spite of the fact that he denied Christ three times, read this passage from the Gospel of John.

Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” The same number of times that Peter denied Christ. In this moment, Jesus showed Peter forgiveness and told Peter his mission. Jesus is basically telling Peter “History Has Its Eyes On You.” And like Hamilton, Peter had no control over who lived, who died, and who would tell his story.

This passage compels us to put ourselves in Peter’s shoes. In spite of the times that we deny Christ, do we still love Him?

 

10. “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be?’” (Luke 1:34).

It’s funny that the last question of the retreat focuses on the beginning of Jesus’s story, at his conception in the Annunciation. It’s also very strange that Good Friday and the feast of the Annunciation are happening on the same day this year. “How can this be?” is indeed the question of the day.

I had my own Annunciation experience recently when an opportunity for a vocations retreat came my way. This time, a particular order sought me out instead of me finding one. During the phone interview, I told the sister that I felt as if I was experiencing what Mary went through in the Annunciation: astonishment, wonder, anticipation. I was also afraid, but I wasn’t anxious, because I knew that God would be with me. It’s no surprise, then, that after that phone interview, I was guaranteed a spot for the vocations retreat.

When God sends an opportunity your way, it may feel surprising at first. But like Mary, it’s good to ask questions. Once they’ve been asked, though, let go of all doubt and let God in.

7 Quick Takes: Pope Francis In Pictures

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Since I talked about Saint John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict yesterday, it’s only fair that I put Pope Francis in the limelight today.

— 1 —

Aleteia shared this wonderful video from Pope Francis’s General Audience a few days ago. One can’t help but recall how Jesus went to visit the daughter of Jairus. I pray that this girl will receive great blessings and healing.

— 2 —

Fellow Pope Francis fangirl Ana Plumlee shared me this article from the BBC about giving the priests from Missionaries of Mercy special license to forgive sins usually reserved to the Holy See. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis said these priests will be “living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon.”

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From The Catholic Rose:

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Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine!

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From Verily Magazine:

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From Catholic News Service:

POPE PLANE CUBA MEXICO

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EWTN shared that on the plane to Cuba, Pope Francis offered a special blessing to Mother Angelica.

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And in keeping up with the usual social media #FlashbackFriday tradition, check out The Catholic Apologist’s hilarious reaction to Pope Francis’s election:

Seven Quick Takes on Marian Devotion: Advent Week 2, Day 5

— 1 —

My friends and I are starting a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots tomorrow. If you wanna join in, I’ll post the novena on this blog!

As many of you, Our Lady of Knots is Pope Francis’s favorite Marian devotion, so this is a perfect way for you to get a good start on this Year of Mercy. Offer this novena for anything that you’re struggling with, especially if you have an addiction or some unresolved issues that stem back from long ago.

— 2 —

One thing I remember from my retreat was that my friend Julie kept saying “Bye Patricia!” It’s a play on the slang “Bye Felicia!” For those who don’t know, “Bye Felicia!” is the millenial way of saying “See ya, suckers! I’m not even bothering to be polite, cuz I gotta go!” My friend’s new catchphrase came from the fact that even though Hurricane Patricia was a Category 5 hurricane that passed through Mexico, there were no fatalities or any major issues that devastated the country. Julie attributes that to Our Lady of Guadalupe. So yeah. Bye Patricia! Mary’s got Mexico covered!

— 3 —

Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship is offering online groups for Marian Consecration. One that’s coming up right now starts on December 31st and ends on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (February 2, 2016). Marian Consecration is the perfect way to start off the new year! Click the link to check it out!

— 4 —

So a couple days ago, I got notified that Fr. Michael Gaitley was going to be on EWTN Live. Fr. Michael Gaitley basically taught me everything I know about Marian Consecration as well as how a devotion to Divine Mercy impacted the life of St. John Paul II. Up until I watched the show, I have never seen Fr. Michael Gaitley’s face. I just heard his voice and read his words. I didn’t Google the guy so I had no idea what he looked like. Imagine my surprise when I finally see a picture of him from a Facebook page and took a good look at his adorable baby face.

NO PRIEST SHOULD LOOK THIS CUTE! I thought.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I had my first priest crush. Even though Fr. Michael Gaitley had a beard when he was on EWTN Live, I still couldn’t get past the fact that he had such a baby face. How old was he when he went into seminary? 15?

Oh well. Holiness is always an attractive quality in a man and now I understand why that French girl who later became a nun had such a crush on him. And I learned once again that people who enter into religious life are full of suprises.

Check out the video here:

And check out all of Fr. Michael Gaitley’s works on Lighthouse Catholic Media.

— 5 —

If you want to know why I have major issues with the song “Mary Did You Know,” check out Fr. Robert Mcteigue, SJ’s article on Aleteia.

Catholic Sistas shared this picture from Catholic Fortress. I consider it a good retaliation for the song as well.

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A Protestant friend of mine, however, still doesn’t understand the nuances behind the term “full of grace.” Thankfully, Dave Armstrong has something to say about that.

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I learned that yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. I remember praying the Litany of Loreto as part of my Marian Consecration and that Mother Teresa was initially a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Loreto before going on to begin the Missionaries of Charity. Feel free to pray the litany with me:

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ have mercy.
V. Lord have mercy. Christ hear us.
R. Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us. 
Holy Mother of God, pray for us. 
Holy Virgin of Virgins, [etc.]
Mother of Christ,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good Counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace,

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may we be freed from present sorrow, and rejoice in eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The versicle and prayer after the litany may be varied by season. Thus, during Advent (from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Eve):

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. O God, who hast willed that by the message of an Angel, thy Word should receive flesh from the womb of the Virgin Mary: grant unto thy suppliants, that we who believe that she is truly the Mother of God, may be assisted by her intercession before Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

From Christmas to Candlemass (the Feast of the Presentation), that is through February 1:

V. Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity.
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. R. Amen.

From Candlemass to Easter (through Holy Week), AND from the day after Pentecost (or from Trinity Sunday, if Pentecost is celebrated with octave) to the beginning of Advent:

V. “Pray for us” and prayer “Grant unto thy servants,” as above:

During Eastertide (from Easter day through Pentecost, and throughout the octave of Pentecost if it is celebrated):

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord is truely risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast vouchsafed to make glad the whole world, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life, through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

 

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And for lulz, I’m gonna leave you with this meme I created:

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Don’t stop, Holy Pop! Jesus turn that mercy up!

Tonight shine the light, shine light of Christ!

Tik tok! Advent’s clock counting down to the day that He comes back

Oh-whoa-oh-oh! Oh-whoa-oh-oh!

 

Another picture from Andrea Marie Lopez, shared by The Catholic Memes on their Facebook page:

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There’s also this funny video from Brandon Vogt. Equally hilarious:

The Joy of the Lord and Pope Francis's Strength

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If there’s one thing that I noticed from Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, it’s not the fact that he managed to make a politician cry (although my parents tell me that Congressman Bohner does that a lot) or what people wish he could’ve said. It’s that in spite of the hip issues (seriously Pope Francis, see a doctor about that please!) and the constant travelling and all of the events he attended, Pope Francis was able to do everything with joy. Well, most of the time.

When he was around politicians, there was always a serious air around Pope Francis. I know that he did keep a good face, but the looks he had whenever he was around the “officials” of our country and the world couldn’t compare to his joy whenever he was around children, grandparents, and the millions of people who were all gathered around every street corner in New York, Philadelphia, and DC to see him.

The joy that Pope Francis had affected everyone who was watching. People who didn’t see themselves as Catholic were seeing the beauty of the Church and the most cynical of journalists were singing Pope Francis’s phrases. I usually don’t watch CNN or Fox News, but even my usual skepticism towards those networks faded. The joy these journalists felt was real. And it wasn’t just feel good lip service for the sake of ratings. Reporters like Maria Shriver are being moved by his words. And how often do cable news networks show an entire Mass? I honestly can’t remember.

I didn’t expect Pope Francis to gaslight Congress or the UN about what’s going on in the world. Nor did I expect him to condemn the politicians. I was surprised to see news anchors such as Matt Lauer and Mo Rocca at the Masses in New York, but Bishop Robert Barron did work with NBC and Mo Rocca was present in Catholic events before. (Little known fact: He wrote the Wishbone episode that told the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.) What I got from seeing the diversity of people at the events is that Pope Francis has an effect on everyone.

Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were suddenly trending in Google and Twitter because Pope Francis mentioned them in his speech to the White House. Any hashtags relating to where the Pope was and what he was doing were trending on Twitter and Facebook. CNN had a hashtag #PopeIn3words. And most of those tweets in that hashtag show a genuine love for the bishop of Rome.

Mother Teresa said that “Peace begins with a smile.” While many Catholics were hoping for someone who would call the sinners out on their actions and plead them to repent, Pope Francis approached softly and was still able to make a difference. Even though America has gone back to its usual spin of moral relativism and political speculations, I still have hope that those who were impacted by Pope Francis’s visit will start to see a change in their own lives. Even if it’s something as small as just praying for him.

Not Just Good, but Beautiful: A Book Review

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In light of Pope Francis’s recent visit to the US, I am gonna look into Not Just Good, but Beautiful, a compilation of interfaith talks from Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium. This book gives perspectives on marriage from Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu perspectives.

Since the Humanum Colloquium was organized by Pope Francis, there are more Catholic perspectives, but the beauty of this book was that while the theme of of the colloquium was to show the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman, each Catholic had a unique way of showing how marriage is beautiful. Pope Francis begins the colloquium with the word “complementarity” which a word that gets echoed in the subsequent essays. To Pope Francis, “complimentarity is the root of marriage and family.” In this day and age where love and marriage seemed to lack concrete definitions aside from feelings, Pope Francis says “Family is an anthropological fact-a socially and culturally related fact.” Pope Francis’s love for the family was easily seen in his visit to the US and I pray that people will look further into it and realize the truth, beauty, and goodness that the family has to offer.

Gerhard Cardinal Muller looks at marriage from a theological perspective and sees that the differences between man and woman as “an essential element to understanding the human being and our journey toward God.” Sister M. Prudence Allen looks at “complementarity” from a philosophical perspective. Jean Laffitte’s perspective looks into marriage as a sacrament and how marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with His Church. Ignacio Ibarzabal looks at marriage from a millenial perspective.

BC_NotJustGoodbutBeautiful_1The perspectives from other faiths were equally beautiful. I love how Jonathan Sacks looks at marriage from a historical and anthropological perspective, tying science and history into his Jewish faith. Penecostal director Jacqueline C. Rivers also looks at marriage using a lot of history and the perspectives from African-American culture as well as the Pentecostal beliefs. Kala Acharya, a Hindu, looks at marriage combining history, philosophy and the beliefs of Hinduism. Johann Christoph Arnold, an Anabaptist, looks into his personal life and shows how marriage can have its ups and downs when playing out in the real world. Henry B. Eyring, a Mormon, does something similar with his essay. Wael Farouq (Muslim) and Nissho Takeuchi (Buddhist) look at the languages of their faiths for insight on how their faiths see love and marriage. Reverent Nicholas Thomas Wright looks at marriage from a strictly Biblical perspective while Rick Warren gives a good practical “how to” perspective. Tsui-Ying Sheng’s essay is one of my favorites because it looks at yin and yang beyond the coolness of the symbol and actually applies the philosophy of the symbol to her life. Russell D. Moore, a Baptist, also ties in the theologies from the Baptist denomination into how things are today.

Complementarity is the overall theme in this book. Many people look at marriage and family and think that it’s just about feelings. But from observing my married friends, I realized that you don’t have to have everything in common with your spouse. The best relationships I know (fictional and in reality) involve two people who aren’t exactly alike but still work together perfectly because they balance each other’s needs. Men and women are always going to be different, no matter how many times people on tumblr and the media say otherwise. But it’s not a bad thing.

I highly recommend this book for people who want to understand marriage on a deeper level.

Visit the Patheos Book Club on Not Just Good, But Beautiful here.

Pope Francis Drops the Mic to Congress

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Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

You have no idea just how much Pope Francis just pwned you with that speech. I’m sorry if I sound like a word that starts with B and rhymes with witch, but I hope you guys were actually listening and not just waiting to applaud.

I expected Pope Francis to mention Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, but the fact that Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were also major parts of the speech is also awesome. Although Thomas Merton wasn’t born in America, he did contribute a sense of spirituality to American culture. But I’ll look more into these four in another post. Right now, Pope Francis has the stage.

Without further ado, Top 10 Moments in Which Pope Francis Pwned Congress. (In chronological order.)

1. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity…  If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.  Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. 

2. (In reference to the Syrian refugees) We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.  To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.  We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.  Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” 

3.   The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.  The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

4.  I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

5.  Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?  Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.  In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

6.  It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme.  How essential the family has been to the building of this country!  And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement!  Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.  Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.  I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

7.  In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young.  For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair.  Their problems are our problems.  (This one is one I particularly relate to.)

8. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future.  Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

9.  A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

10. God bless America! (Or as my friend Ana said “What he really means is “Kiss my ass.”)

 

Laudato Si, Chapter 2, Part 1: Biblical Evidence and Strange Gods

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Chapter 2 of Laudato Si starts out as sort of an “in-house memo,” He knows that there are those who don’t believe in or just barely tolerate (using the original definition of the word here) religion. In spite of what many, many people believe, science, religion, and yes, the environment are all connected to each other. It’s a relationship as old as faith and reason. (And yes, they actually work together.) He hopes that the encyclical will show how having faith provides the desire to make the world a better place. In other words, faith that inspires doing good works. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

Part 2 of Laudato Si is a long dive into Scriptural evidence that supports Pope Francis’s thesis, to put things into college paper terms. He starts with the first creation account from the Book of Genesis. It follows the theme of last chapter about how being Pro Earth is part of being Pro Life, only in this case, he praises the dignity of every human being. In Paragraph 66, he looks into the relationships between humanity, God, and the Earth, all of which have been broken by sin. By choosing to be like gods, humanity desired “to ‘have dominion’ over the earth…” Today, the nature of sin takes the form of wars, “the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.” It stems back from making what Elizabeth Scalia calls “The Idol of I.” We keep making ourselves into gods.

The idea that God created man to have “dominion” over the earth has led to people becoming destructively dominant towards nature. In Paragraph 67, Pope Francis says that the quote from Genesis 1:28 has been misinterpreted. The earth doesn’t belong to us alone, but to God and to future generations.

The relationship between humanity and nature also applies in terms of our relationships with animals. I don’t think the Pope is going to be supporting PETA anytime soon, but he shows Biblical evidence against animal cruelty. The respect for other creatures also extends to having respect for our fellow man as well, using the story of Cain and Abel and Noah to show how disharmony between man will reflect in the disharmony in nature. (Sort of Macbethian in that sense.) He emphasizes the importance of renewal periods, such as resting on the sabbath day, having a sabbatical year, and the celebration fo the Jubilee year. The fruits of the laborers were shared with everyone, especially the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the foreigners.

Paragraphs 72-75 look into the importance of having a good relationship with God, once again, citing the Bible as evidence. Without a relationship with God, we end up making anything and everything else our idol. If it sounds like I’m shamelessly plugging Strange Gods alongside reading Laudato Si, you’re probably right.

Standout Quotes

From Paragraph 65 (Emphases mine)

The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). This shows us the immense dignity of each person, “who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons.” 

Saint John Paul II stated that the special love of the Creator for each human being “confers upon him or her an infinite dignity”. Those who are committed to defending human dignity can find in the Christian faith the deepest reasons for this commitment. How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles!

The Creator can say to each one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jer 1:5). We were conceived in the heart of God, and for this reason “each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary”.

Paragraph 67

Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving.

Paragraph 69

Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: “by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory”,41 and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Ps 104:31).

Paragraph 70

Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth.

Paragraphs 72-75

72

The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Ps 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Ps 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him.

73.

The writings of the prophets invite us to find renewed strength in times of trial by contemplating the all-powerful God who created the universe. Yet God’s infinite power does not lead us to flee his fatherly tenderness, because in him affection and strength are joined. Indeed, all sound spirituality entails both welcoming divine love and adoration, confident in the Lord because of his infinite power. In the Bible, the God who liberates and saves is the same God who created the universe, and these two divine ways of acting are intimately and inseparably connected: “Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you… You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders” (Jer 32:17, 21). “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless” (Is 40:28b-29).

74.
The experience of the Babylonian captivity provoked a spiritual crisis which led to deeper faith in God. Now his creative omnipotence was given pride of place in order to exhort the people to regain their hope in the midst of their wretched predicament. Centuries later, in another age of trial and persecution, when the Roman Empire was seeking to impose absolute dominion, the faithful would once again find consolation and hope in a growing trust in the all-powerful God: “Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways!” (Rev 15:3). The God who created the universe out of nothing can also intervene in this world and overcome every form of evil. Injustice is not invincible.

75.
A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality.

Laudato Si, Chapter 1, Part 2: Pro-Earth = Pro-Life

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Being Pro-Life to me means going beyond saving the unborn babies. It also means having compassion for criminals (which means no death penalty), making sure that single mothers find work, education, supplies, and babysitters so that they can take care of their children, and caring for the terminally ill (no euthanasia). In Laudato Si, Pope Francis, in this encyclical, takes the idea of being pro-life and puts it on a global scale.

Part 5 of Chapter 1 talks about the quality of life, or lack thereof as the case may be. He acknowledges that there is a connection between the quality of life in terms of the environment and quality of life in terms of how well people are living. Unfortunately, not many people who have the power to influence the quality of life are choosing to do so outside of keeping up appearances.

Paragraph 50 particularly stands out here to the liberals who are dancing on tables about the Pope apparently agreeing with the party line. (Emphasis mine)

Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”. To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor”. Still, attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life.

Overpopulation Myth Believers, consider yourselves hosed.

Part 6 of Chapter 1 looks into the lack of response and effort people have taken in trying to make the environment better. In his opinion, people in power see the environment as part of their agenda and wars could eventually break out over lack of resources under the guise of being for the greater good. There are positive examples of good change in the world. It’s not much, but it’s a start.  However, Pope Francis warns against sitting on our laurels.

Standout quotes

Paragraph 53

Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.

Paragraph 54

There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.

Paragraph 59:

Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

Part 7 is entitled “A Variety of Opinions,” which looks into the differing POVs on the issue of the environment and asks for genuine dialogue in order to find solutions.

Standout quote:

Paragraph 60:

At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited.

 

Laudato Si, Chapter 1, Part 1: The Throwaway Culture

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The first part of Chapter 1 of Laudato Si talks about the everyday pollution we deal with as well as the more unhealthy stuff that can be found everywhere. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” (Paragraph 21)

Pope Francis links this to what he calls a throwaway culture. starting with something as simple as throwing away paper instead of recycling it. This entire chapter then goes into detail about how the throwaway culture extends beyond merely not recycling paper. “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” (Paragraph 23) However, this chapter shows that at the moment, people aren’t treating the Earth like it should be treated.

Most of this chapter feels like something out of a college-level environmental class, with Pope Francis explaining the environmental damage that is going on in our world. He also says that climate change especially affects those who live in poor areas. The problem, according to him, is that those with the resources to change things would rather mask the problem and conceal symptoms. He suggests investing that money towards things that can consume less energy and constructing and renovating in ways that increase energy efficiency.

There’s an entire section in this chapter that focuses on the issue of water. Paragraph 28 explains why having fresh drinking water is an important issue and points out that many areas are especially affected by lack of access to safe drinking water. Paragraph 29  explains the dangers of not having safe drinking water. Paragraph 30 admonishes making water a commodity.

Part 3 of Chapter 1 is entitled “Loss of Biodiversity.” He spends about eleven paragraphs explaining how human activity affects various ecosystems. He also stresses the importance of protecting ecosystems such as the rainforest. (Cue Captain Planet theme. And yes, I did grow up watching that show.) Two paragraphs focus on ocean environments. Again, this entire section feels very much like a textbook. Too bad nobody likes to study.

It’s no surprise, then, that I like Part 4 of this chapter the most because it finally brings in the human factor. He points out how artificial things are. It brings to mind, at least for me, the contrast between the ostentatious and meticulously maintained estate of Rosings and Mr. Darcy’s wild and vast estate of Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  He also looks into the social impact the environment has. Paragraph 47 particularly stabs at my heart because it looks into the pros and cons of being a world immersed in technology.

I’ll look into the second half of Chapter 1 tomorrow. For now, I’m going to share some parts of Chapter 1 that particularly stood out for me.

Standout quotes

Paragraph 30

Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.

From Paragraph 34:

We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

From Paragraph 42

Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.

From Paragraph 43

Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.