Friday, July 31, 2009

St. Ignatius of Loyola More Relevant Today than Ever

Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who as I have written this week, has given us the gift of his order The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), his spirituality from the Spiritual Exercises, and his great example of living a life centered on the Trinity, Christ, and the Eucharist. Like St. Francis he abandoned what was his aspirations and attachments and chose rather poverty, chastity, and prayer. His spirituality is more relevant today in 2009 than ever. The distractions from living in a culture that is wrought with an over abundance of materials, information that is false and contrary to Christ's Gospel, and a secular mindset of relativism and atheism, can only be overcome by a life that is contemplative, that is focused daily through the Examen, and strengthened through the knowledge of discerning and by living the sacramental life. The following are two prayers by St. Ignatius which shows us his understanding of surrendering to God totally and showing the gratitude for the gift of one's life:

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it
all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

Above is the painting by Andrea Pozzo, a wonderful fresco in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome. If you ever have the opportunity to do a pilgrimage to the Eternal City visit this wonderful church and you will be astounded by this incredible painting. St. Ignatius is being carried up into heaven and I believe that at the same time he is lifting us up to God. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

Thursday, July 30, 2009

For the Greater Glory of God

St. Ignatius established the principle and foundation of his Spiritual Exercises:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.

From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.

Ignatian spirituality is incarnational; it views the world as a place where Christ walked, talked and embraced people. It views the world, therefore, as a place of grace, a place of being able to give life to others. We are called to find and to pursue how God wants other men and women to be forgiven, to be free, to utilize all their talents and opportunities in ways which build up this world as a place where faith, justice, peace, and love can flourish.

At the same time, Ignatian spirituality is realistic. The world Christ faced was also a world of cruelty, injustice and the abuse of power and authority. Consequently, Ignatian spirituality affirms our human potential but also is dedicated to the ongoing, day-in-day-out struggle between good and evil. The Jesuit norm is: to find where God will best be served and where people will best be helped. (courtesy of St Igantius Catholic Church, Boston, MA)

It is by developing our spiritual life, that we can best serve God, discover and live out our true vocation, evangelize, and live the Gospel.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam - For the Greater Glory of God

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I am the Resurrection and the Life

Martha whom we honor today, is described in the Gospel of Luke as asking Jesus " Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving" Jesus replies "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things" On reflection of this passage I can certainly parallel this to my own life.There are the times that I place the burdens (work, home, family) and the anxiety they bring over my relationship with Jesus. In keeping up with this week's reflection on St. Ignatius and his spirituality, I would like to discuss the significance of Scripture meditation and contemplation in Ignatian Spirituality. In the Spiritual Exercises there is a great deal of time contemplating Christ through way of the scriptures. On the first day of the third week the instructions read: The first Prelude is to bring to memory the narrative; which is here how Christ our Lord sent two Disciples from Bethany to Jerusalem to prepare the Supper, and then He Himself went there with the other Disciples; and how, after having eaten the Paschal Lamb, and having supped, He washed their feet and gave His most Holy Body and Precious
lood to His Disciples, and made them a discourse, after Judas went to sell his Lord.
The second, a composition, seeing the place. It will be here to consider the road from Bethany to Jerusalem, whether broad, whether narrow, whether level, etc.; likewise the place of the Supper, whether large, whether small, whether of one kind or whether of another.
The third, to ask for what I want. It will be here grief, feeling and confusion because for my sins the Lord is going to the Passion.
You can see that in the contemplation of the Scriptures it is imperative to see the persons, hear the words, and observe the actions. Placing oneself in the narrative. I will write here my thoughts over contemplating John's Gospel account of the Raising of Lazarus in Chapter 11

So the sisters sent word to him, saying, "Master, the one you love is ill." When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."Jesus demonstrates that even in a terrible situation, the death of a friend that our life is about giving glory to God the Father.

So the disciples said to him, "Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved."But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, "Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him." Jesus is saying to me that He is glad to help me in my faith journey so I too will believe.

When Jesus arrives, Martha who in the above account from Luke is worrisome, has learned her lesson and comes out to greet Jesus while Mary stays behind. I too can learn from Martha what are truly the important things.

In the discourse that follows you can almost detect Jesus seeing just where Martha is in her journey and likewise Martha is cautious in her responses. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.(But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise."Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day. How many times has my faith been lacking asking Jesus "if only you had done this or that"

Jesus then announce what the Truth is "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" My answer is yes Lord I do believe, for in You is my Hope & my Salvation.

In this meditation and contemplation one can go very deep into Scriptures discovering truths about God, man and ourselves , even mystical revelations. St. Ignatius gave us a wonderful gift in learning to pray with the Scriptures. God Bless

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Basic Discernment

To conquer oneself and regulate one’s life without determining oneself through any tendency that is disordered (Spiritual Exercises) As I have grown in my journey to the heart of Christ, I have realized that only in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, is there the grace that is necessary to recognize my sinfulness, to recognize apostolic opportunities, and the ability to read and contemplate Scripture as well as meditate in prayer. In our secular world that we live, work, and play in there are a multitude of voices that can take even a person with good intentions and turn them into one who is working not for the betterment of the Kingdom of God, but rather helping the Evil One accomplish his plan. St. Ignatius realized that it was necessary to carefully discern and test those influences to see if one was "moving towards God." From Father Timothy Gallagher's The Discernment of Spirits we read " The early Christians community knew, too, that it had to discern and test the various influences that affected it. St Paul understood that only through the Spirit could the community differentiate authentic from false prophetic utterances and charismatic phenomena. Even leaders has to pass the test the test of the Spirit, for they could sometimes be false and deceitful workers". " The early Christians were thus exhorted to follow the Spirit, and to be guided by the Spirit" How do we know we are working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit and not being fooled? St. Ignatius established a " Set of Rules" for becoming aware and understanding the "movements" which are caused in the soul. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect". Through a method of discerning you can recognize your failings, make decisions that are bringing you closer to God, develop a deeper prayer life, and work daily towards the perfection we should all strive for. God Bless

Monday, July 27, 2009

St. Ignatius of Loyola Week

On Friday of this week we celebrate the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I thought that I would for each day comment on his life, his spirituality, and what we can learn from this great saint. I am by no means an authority on Ignatian Spirituality, there are many great resources both in writing and on the web. I am strictly speaking from my own experiences and how they have fit nicely into what I have learned so far. From the Jesuits of New Orleans Province, here are some excerpts from their brief biography:
Inigo de Loyola was born in 1491 in Azpeitia in the Basque province of Guipuzcoa in northern Spain. He was the youngest of thirteen children. At the age of sixteen years he was sent to serve as a page to Juan Velazquez, the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. As a member of the Velazquez household, he was frequently at court and developed a taste for all it presented, especially the ladies. He was much addicted to gambling, very contentious, and not above engaging in swordplay on occasion. In fact in a dispute between the Loyolas and another family, Ignatius and his brother plus some relatives ambushed at night some clerics who were members of the other family. Ignatius had to flee the town. When finally brought to justice he claimed clerical immunity using the defense that he had received the tonsure as a boy, and was therefore exempt from civil prosecution. The defense was specious because Ignatius had for years gone about in the dress of a fighting man, wearing a coat of mail and breastplate, and carrying a sword and other sorts of arms - certainly not the garb normally worn by a cleric. The case dragged on for weeks, but the Loyolas were apparently powerful. Probably through the influence of higher-ups, the case against Ignatius was dropped.

Eventually he found himself at the age of 30 in May of 1521 as an officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French, who claimed the territory as their own against Spain. The Spaniards were terribly outnumbered and the commander of the Spanish forces wanted to surrender, but Ignatius convinced him to fight on for the honor of Spain, if not for victory. During the battle a cannon ball struck Ignatius, wounding one leg and breaking the other. Because they admired his courage, the French soldiers carried him back to recuperate at his home, the castle of Loyola, rather than to prison.

His leg was set but did not heal, so it was necessary to break it again and reset it, all without anesthesia. Ignatius grew worse and was finally told by the doctors that he should prepare for death.

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (29 June) he took an unexpected turn for the better. The leg healed, but when it did the bone protruded below the knee and one leg was shorter than the other. This was unacceptable to Ignatius, who considered it a fate worse than death not to be able to wear the long, tight-fitting boots and hose of the courtier. Therefore he ordered the doctors to saw off the offending knob of bone and lengthen the leg by systematic stretching. Again, all of this was done without anesthesia. Unfortunately, this was not a successful procedure. All his life he walked with a limp because one leg was shorter than the other.

During the long weeks of his recuperation, he was extremely bored and asked for some romance novels to pass the time. Luckily there were none in the castle of Loyola, but there was a copy of the life of Christ and a book on the saints. Desperate, Ignatius began to read them. The more he read, the more he considered the exploits of the saints worth imitating. However, at the same time he continued to have daydreams of fame and glory, along with fantasies of winning the love of a certain noble lady of the court, the identity of whom we never have discovered but who seems to have been of royal blood. He noticed, however, that after reading and thinking of the saints and Christ he was at peace and satisfied. Yet when he finished his long daydreams of his noble lady, he would feel restless and unsatisfied. Not only was this experience the beginning of his conversion, it was also the beginning of spiritual discernment, or discernment of spirits, which is associated with Ignatius and described in his Spiritual Exercises.

The Exercises recognize that not only the intellect but also the emotions and feelings can help us to come to a knowledge of the action of the Spirit in our lives. Eventually, completely converted from his old desires and plans of romance and worldly conquests, and recovered from his wounds enough to travel, he left the castle in March of 1522.

I was, from a child, always fascinated with the human mind. What made people different? What made one man a coward and another brave. I had a wonderful Catholic upbringing but was never exposed to St. Ignatius teachings (I wish I had) I sought the truth in psychology. I was fascinated by Freud, Fromm, Adler, Maslow, Jung, Skinner, and Rodgers. A bevy of psychological theories explained to me theses differences among individuals. I pursued the field in college and post graduate school but after a while I began to believe that although there was much useful information and skills to be had there wasn't any one particular school that explained everything. When my son joined the Jesuits last year I began to step up my reading of St. Ignatius, his Spiritual Exercises, Examen Prayer, I read a marvelous book by Father Robert Spitzer (a Jesuit) titled "The Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life" and even did a two part presentation on it last November at Adult Education at our church. I have posted here about the Examen Prayer see Febuary 10, 2009. Here are some other thoughts...I have made a profound change in my life over the last several months in that I discovered by way of examing my spirtual life that I find much joy in thinking and speaking about my Catholic faith and about Jesus and the good news of the Gospel and not much joy in all the other things in the world today. Last July I began volunteering as an extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and the joy that the Holy Spirit has brought to me has been nothing short of miraculous. I am aware of these things where as previously I would not take notice of what Ignatius calls Consolations. My point is this: you too can discover where you are in your spiritual life and what you derive joy in. You can by doing some simple exercises take grasp of your spiritual life and make conscious movements towards God. You can find greater awareness in your prayers and especially in Scripture reading. St Ignatius believed that gratitude was the starting point in your spiritual life. I had always practiced this but never realized it. I truly give thanks to God for my life and for each and every day that He as given me as a gift. I consider it an honor to be one of His creations and now I use this gratitude to desire to be closer to Him. I will be making a retreat soon and will share what I have learned. I will being posting bits and pieces of this wonderful spirituality. If you haven't been exposed to it or have haven't experienced it in a whiole I hope this will be helpful. God Bless.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Working With What We Have

There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many? As Jesus demonstrated in John's Gospel , the lesson here is to work with what we have. Throughout the history of God's relationship with man He has demonstrated a number of things that we can take in our task of evangelization. First, God chooses us for a task. It is the goal of our vocation to hear His words and discover what that task is. Second, God works with what He has. The point her is two-fold. It is not necessary for us to become ready, pure, better suited for etc. to take what the Holy Spirit has given us and to pour forth the love in our hearts towards others. Likewise it is not necessary for us to expect others to be ready in a spiritual sense for our work to begin. We must work with what we have in the world we live in. We can develop our prayer and contemplative life in this time of cyberspace & emails. We can evangelize in a world that is disinterested in God and salvation. We can live the Gospel in each daily encounter using God's grace to build His kingdom. If you think your not holy enough, smart enough, not pure enough, think again. The time to act on the opportunities that the Holy Spirit brings us is now. Doing so will almost always lead to more doors opening and more opportunities. Work with what you have.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Wisdom of St. James

Any of you who lacks wisdom must ask God, who gives to all generously and without scolding; it will be given. But the prayer must be made with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea by the buffeting of the wind. That sort of person, in two minds, inconsistent in every activity, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Blessed is anyone who perseveres when trials come. Such a person is of proven worth and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him. Never, when you are being put to the test, say, 'God is tempting me'; God cannot be tempted by evil, and he does not put anybody to the test . Everyone is put to the test by being attracted and seduced by that person's own wrong desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin reaches full growth, it gives birth to death. My brothers, do not let class distinction enter into your faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord.Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, well-dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, 'Come this way to the best seats'; then you tell the poor man, 'Stand over there' or 'You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.' In making this distinction among yourselves have you not used a corrupt standard? Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who were poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. You, on the other hand, have dishonored the poor. How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, 'I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,' without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? But someone may say: So you have faith and I have good deeds? Show me this faith of yours without deeds, then! It is by my deeds that I will show you my faith. You believe in the one God-that is creditable enough, but even the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Fool! Would you not like to know that faith without deeds is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? So you can see that his faith was working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did. In this way the scripture was fulfilled: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was considered as making him upright; and he received the name 'friend of God'. 24 You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that someone is justified. There is another example of the same kind: Rahab the prostitute, was she not justified by her deeds because she welcomed the messengers and showed them a different way to leave? As a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


God's creation of the world and all it contains
took place in the instant of his will's expression;
and with that design and perfection foreseen by him.
Yet there remained still uncreated
another work of creation which would surpass what he had already done.
You, Mary, are, as it were, another world,
a world which God foresaw with greater joy,
a world the Angels were more pleased to contemplate,
a world of more benefit to those of good will
that the whole earth and all it contains.

Mary, we may see in God's act of creation and in all created things
an image of your creating.

We read that it pleased God to separate the darkness from the light
when he created the earth.
How much more it pleased him to enlighten you from childhood.
The darkness, the time of your infancy,
was made light by your knowledge of God,
your understanding of God,
and the will to love for God
which day by day led you on
to a love surpassed only by the love of God.

St. Bridget of Sweden

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

She Stooped to Look Into the Tomb

From John's Gospel we read of Mary Magdalene's encounter with the Risen Christ. Jesus had always included women in his ministry even though the culture & society of his times did not. Mary knew the price she had paid to follow Christ, Mary was much the sinner like we all are. Mary is inquisitive as she stares at the empty tomb. She is weeping but as John describes she stooped to look into the tomb. She sees Jesus and mistakes him for the gardener. How many times have we mistaken Him for someone else only to hear his voice and recognize Him? Mary Magdalene speaks to us in a way. We must, in our own individual way, have an encounter with the Risen Christ. There will be those who doubt us, there will be those who think we are unworthy, that we are silly, there will be those who will walk away not able to recognize the transformation in our hearts. It is through our encounter that we recognize that we no longer fear death. Death has no power over us, Christ has conquered death. Our worst fears like Mary Magdalene's fears when she approached the tomb are over. It is time to begin a new life to shed the old one. It is time to put the things of the world outside and put the love of Christ inside our hearts. We are walking the path with the Righteous One, the Lamb of God, who nourishes us, guides us, leads us out of the temptations of the world, gives us grace and forgives us. We step each day closer to living His will as Mary stooped into the tomb.


Saint Mary Magdalene,
woman of many sins, who by conversion
became the beloved of Jesus,
thank you for your witness
that Jesus forgives
through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness
in His glorious presence,
please intercede for me, so that some day
I may share in the same everlasting joy.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oh Bless My Soul

In the Scriptures, wisdom puts all of life in right order. Here the Psalmist celebrates the wisdom with which God has ordered time so that day and night, months and seasons all serve the purpose of life. Time reaches its intended culmination in the gift of everlasting life bestowed through Jesus Christ (courtesy of the Magnificat)

Psalm 104

Bless the LORD, my soul! LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You made the moon to mark the seasons, the sun that knows the hour of its setting.
You bring darkness and night falls, then all the beasts of the forest roam abroad.

Young lions roar for prey; they seek their food from God.

When the sun rises, they steal away and rest in their dens. Man goes forth to their work, to their labor till evening falls.

How varied are your works, Lord! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your richness.
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. May my thoughts be pleasing to God; I will rejoice in the Lord.

I find joy in the Lord, Bless the Lord my soul

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Competitve God

Ever since the 13th & 14th century philosophers and theologians determined that God was in essence "one of us" in the genus of beings. Man has perceived God as a competitor. Not in the sense that the ancient Greek philosophers did. They thought the gods were exactly like us, cunning, shrewd, immoral, involving themselves and interfering with the plans of the average guy. No, the God we have come to know is pitted against humanity. He imposes His will and we resist, we are reluctant to obey and resentful. This has lead to a state in Christianity, in which we have those who believe God arbitrarily selects those who are "saved" and others that no one is worthy enough and by proclaiming our belief alone we can be covered up and pure as white snow. In either case God is perceived as a combatant. Now after centuries of fighting this fight, the game has come down to this; we won't compete with God. We refuse to allow Him to enter the fray. We have taken our ball and gone home. God is no longer relevant in our lives. The truth be known God did become one of us and it is by Jesus Christ that we become holy. It is by centering Christ in our lives, by subjecting all we do through Him that we are able to journey towards salvation. We are not competitors but heirs to God. We must see Jesus as He is true love and by being Christ to others for "He lives in us" we bring His love to the world. No joy from any worldly thing can compare.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Children Are a Detriment to the Selfish Masses

A world that is wrapped up in the pursuit of materials believes that children are a burden. Children are detrimental to the pursuit of bigger and better toys. Children require care, and time, and money and a generation too tightly wound up in itself cannot include children. There are whole nations that are dying a slow but definite death because they love themselves more than they love God and His creations. Heed the warning: without self sacrifice and without children there is no future. The United States is trending that way also.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pope Benedict Falls Fractures Wrist

Pope Benedict slipped and fell at his vacation house fracturing his right wrist.

VATICAN CITY, July 17, 2009 — Pope Benedict XVI, who turned 82 in April, went to the hospital this morning in Aosta, in northern Italy, after slipping and falling during the night and fracturing his wrist, according to Italian press reports.

The reports said that a cast would be placed on his right wrist, but that otherwise the Pope was fine.

The Pope's Press Secretary, Father Federico Lombardi, said in a press release:

"As a consequence of a fall in his own bedroom, during the night, the Holy Father suffred a light fracture to his right wrist.

"The Holy Father during the morning nevertheless celebrated Mass and had breakfast, after which he was accompanied to the hospital in Aosta where he was doagnosed with a light fracture and it was determined to immobilize his wrist." COURTESY ZENIT

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Great Stem-Cell Research Scam

From the New York Post we have this article on how embryonic stem cell research is a complete failure yet the Obama administration insists on funding it and supporting it with a large P.R campaign.

Saint Bonaventure

Saint Bonaventure was born about the year 1218 in Bagnoregio, Latium. He studied philosophy and theology in Paris and having earned the title Master, he taught the fellow members of the Order of Friars Minor with great success. He was elected minister general of the order, a position he filled with prudence and wisdom. He received the name of Bonaventure in consequence of an exclamation of St. Francis of Assisi, when, in response to the pleading of the child's mother, the saint prayed for John's recovery from a dangerous illness, and, foreseeing the future greatness of the little John, cried out "O Buona ventura"-O good fortune! After being made cardinal-bishop of Albano, he died at the Council of Lyons in 1274. He is one of the 33 recognized as a "Doctor of the Church"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Kateri was born in 1656 near the town of Auriesville, New York, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. She was baptized by Jesuit missionary Father Jaques de Lambertville on Easter of 1676 at the age of twenty. She devoted her life to prayer, penetentail practices and the care of the sick and aged in Caughnawaga near Montreal (where her relics are now enshrined) She incurred the hostility of her tribe because of her faith. She was devouted to the Eucharist, and to Jesus Crucified, and was called the "Lily of the Mowhawks." She died in 1680 and was beatified June 22, 1980 - the first native American to be declared "Blessed"

Father Barron: Encyclical Connects "Life Ethics" With "Social Ethics"

SKOKIE, Illinois, JULY 8, 2009 ( I've just finished a first reading of Benedict XVI's new encyclical "Caritas in Veritate." It is a dense and complex text, deeply in continuity with the mainstream of the Catholic social teaching tradition, but also fresh, filled with new ideas and proposals.

Let me highlight just a few of the major themes. Very much in line with his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI insists on the tight connection between love and truth. In a telling phrase, the Pope says that love without truth devolves into sentimentality, and truth without love becomes cold and calculating. The coming together of the two, which is the structuring logic of the Church's social teaching, is grounded in the God who is, simultaneously, Agape (love) and Logos (reason).

A real innovation of this letter is the connection that Benedict XVI makes between "social ethics" and "life ethics." He argues that Pope Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio" -- whose 40th anniversary "Caritas in Veritate" celebrates -- is best read in tandem with that Pope's controversial encyclical "Humanae Vitae." The radical openness to life, which Paul VI defended in "Humanae Vitae," should be the inspiration for the Church's social doctrine, which is intended to foster the full flourishing of communal life at all levels. Benedict XVI makes this point even clearer when he comments that societies that de-emphasize life, even to the point of fostering artificial contraception and abortion, suffer quite practical economic hardships.

Another "novum" in this remarkable text is the Pope's insistence that, alongside of the contractual logic of the marketplace (one gives in order to receive), and the legal logic of the political realm (one gives because one is obliged to give), there must be the logic of sheer gratuity (one gives simply because it is good to do so). Without this third element, both the economic and political devolve into something less than fully human.

As many have already commented, Benedict XVI places special emphasis on the obligation to care for the environment. In fact, nowhere else in Catholic social teaching is there such an extended discussion of this issue. He makes the helpful clarification that, as believers in creation, we must avoid both an idolization of nature and an exploitation of it. As created, the world is not divine, but it is a kind of sacrament of God; hence it shouldn't be seen as absolute, but it should be cared for in a spirit of stewardship.

What might prove most controversial in the encyclical is Benedict XVI's call for a kind of world government, a truly international political entity with the requisite power to preside over world political and economic affairs. In saying so, he echoes Pope John XXIII's praise of the United Nations in "Pacem in Terris." One might be forgiven for suspecting that this proposal, given political realities on the ground, might be a bit utopian.

A final note concerning style. I must say that much of "Caritas in Veritate" didn't "sound" like Benedict XVI. Joseph Ratzinger is a very gracious writer, and his style is marked by a deep Scriptural and patristic sensibility. I must say I found this literary and theological élan missing in large sections of this letter.

Nonetheless, there is much to learn from this wonderful text -- a worthy addition to the impressive collection of papal letters that constitute the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

* * *

Father Barron is the Francis Cardinal George Chair of Faith and Culture at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.

LSU Professor Comments on Caritas in Veritate

LSU Professor Dr. James Stoner has taught at LSU since 1988 and has chaired the Department of Political Science since 2007. From ZENIT ( He writes this commentary on the Pope's new Encyclical:

James Stoner: Encyclical Forces Catholics Out of the Bunker

"Caritas in Veritate" Presents a Challenge to Everyone

By James Stoner

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, JULY 10, 2009 ( Faithful Catholics in America today often seem tempted by cultural hostility to withdraw into our own circle of faith and family, asking of law and government only that we be left alone.

To this tendency, Pope Benedict's new encyclical on the social teaching of the Church, "Caritas in Veritate," is a thorough rebuke, for it is a call to engage the world—not only through evangelization, but through economic, social, and political thought and action; through commitment to the cause of integral human development and social progress.

One can see why liberal commentators quickly seized on the encyclical as friendly to their agenda. The Pope is critical of contemporary market society, with its "scandalous speculation," its emphasis on short-term profit, its ambivalent record in combating poverty, and its disregard of the cultural fabric of societies it would modernize; moreover, he calls for extensive global reform and even "for a reform of the United that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth."

One doubts liberals will cheer so loudly when they read more carefully, because he also insists that the culture of life needs to be recovered, that atheism and relativism are threats to genuine human development, that "a metaphysical understanding of the relations between persons" is essential, that cultural and religious syncretism is dangerous, and that freedom is not autonomous license but formation under the natural moral law.

And he warns against "a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature," which must be countered by the principle of subsidiarity.

On the one hand, the failure to think and act boldly for world-wide justice indicates a dearth of charity, while on the other, charity needs to be anchored in universal truth -- as the title of the encyclical makes plain.

Vast in its sweep of topics -- the Pope comments not only on major institutions of governance and finance but on the environment, on migration, on international aid, even on tourism -- there is much that will bear further study and ought genuinely to provoke fresh thought.

I found suggestive his notion that the categories of most 20th century Catholic reflection on social justice have been altered, as many economic and social institutions in contemporary global civilization cannot be identified as clearly public or private; to debate state versus market solutions to social problems is thus to miss the question.

The Pope's attention to the centrality of "the astonishing experience of gift" or "gratuitousness," while not completely unknown in social science, might prove fertile in the development of paradigms of social and economic life that transcend the pinched model of economic man as rational maximizer, without falling into the trap of totalitarian socialism.

His discussion of technology, as simultaneously a testimony to the power of the human spirit and the characteristic engine of soulless materialism, is lucid; recovering respect for nature as God's gift is an imperative not only for planetary survival, but for self-knowledge.

Papal encyclicals studiously avoid being partisan documents -- that's one reason why they are sometimes hard to read -- but citizens who heed the Pope's call to enter the fray of political "praxis" in the search for justice and the common good will rarely be able to escape the pull of partisanship.

By giving each side a picture of its own strengths and failings and by urging sustained dialogue over global policy, the Pope deepens his project of reconciling faithful Christians and the children of Enlightenment. His term "praxis," an ancient Greek word for "action," "deed," or even "business," known to modern intellectuals chiefly through its use by Marxists, is, after all, in its plural form, the title of the New Testament's fifth book.

* * *

James Stoner is a professor of political science at Louisiana State University. He is the author, most recently, of "Common Law Liberty: Rethinking American Constitutionalism" (University Press of Kansas).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Being Ordinary

The current liturgical season for the Church is ordinary time. If you think about it there is an enormous good to being ordinary. Our secular society places so much emphasis on being extraordinary that there is a syndrome known as "15 minutes of fame". The truth of the matter is this: there is nothing easy about being ordinary. That is to say to live your life as Christ wants you to; dying oneself, being a servant to others, to make your life not about you. Try it some time. The Blessed Mother is the example of a person who lived the life we want to emulate. She was obedient to God's will from the very point that she was asked. In ordinary time we are not anticipating the birth of Christ as we do in Advent. We are not celebrating the Savior entering the world as in Christmastime, we are not in deep prayer, penance and spiritual reflection as in Lent, or suffering with Jesus on His walk to Calvary. We are not singing Alleluia as we witness the Risen Christ. We are rather enjoying the ordinary things of life; like that walk in the park, shopping with friends, having an ice cream, going to the ballgame, etc.. At the same time applying our spiritual lessons to the way we deal with all the ordinary things that happen to us all but call us to be courageous, patient, and to endure. Those ordinary things are hardships of life such as death, illness, financial troubles, broken relationships. They require that we be united with Christ who truly is extraordinary, that we may be strengthened with His grace and throughout out our pain, give witness to God's love and give glory to Him.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Pope's Wednesday Audience July 8, 2009

Centered in Christ

The Christian does not need to leave his center in Christ in order to mediate him to the world, to understand his relation to the world, to build a bridge between revelation and nature, philosophy and theology. . . . This is what the saints are fully aware of. They never at any moment leave their center in Christ. . . . When they philosophize, they do so as Christians, which means as believers, as theologians. Father Hans Urs von Balthasar
My greatest sense of frustration in my faith journey is that often I leave Christ and venture in the world without Him. I really am not very good as a solo act. I disappoint the people I love on routine basis. I don't take action when I should and I speak when I should be silent. I let the things of the world influence me and I fall to the temptations I should avoid. I cry out as the psalmist; "Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me, for you are my rock, my stronghold. For your name's sake lead me and guide me" "Release me from the snares they have hidden for you are my refuge, Lord. Into your hands I commend my spirit. It is you who will redeem me Lord." Psalm 31 Everyday I feel like Peter sinking into the water. I haven't truly placed into my heart what my head knows. If it were not for My Lord I would surely drown. I will remain steadfast in my love and devotion for Christ. If I suffer, I suffer with Him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some Brief Thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI's "Caritas in Veritae"

I confess I am only a little over 1/4 way through the Pope's new Encyclical "Caritas in Veritae", here area number of lines from it that show the brilliance of our Pontiff.
The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), opening up the path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties.

Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity.

Technology, viewed in itself, is ambivalent. If on the one hand, some today would be inclined to entrust the entire process of development to technology, on the other hand we are witnessing an upsurge of ideologies that deny in toto the very value of development, viewing it as radically anti-human and merely a source of degradation.

A vocation is a call that requires a free and responsible answer. Integral human development presupposes the responsible freedom of the individual and of peoples: no structure can guarantee this development over and above human responsibility. The “types of messianism which give promises but create illusions” always build their case on a denial of the transcendent dimension of development, in the conviction that it lies entirely at their disposal. This false security becomes a weakness, because it involves reducing man to subservience, to a mere means for development, while the humility of those who accept a vocation is transformed into true autonomy, because it sets them free.

As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is.

We recognize, therefore, that the Church had good reason to be concerned about the capacity of a purely technological society to set realistic goals and to make good use of the instruments at its disposal. Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty

Yet it should be stressed that progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs above all to be true and integral. The mere fact of emerging from economic backwardness, though positive in itself, does not resolve the complex issues of human advancement, neither for the countries that are spearheading such progress, nor for those that are already economically developed, nor even for those that are still poor, which can suffer not just through old forms of exploitation, but also from the negative consequences of a growth that is marked by irregularities and imbalances.

I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world's economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life”

One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples. It is an aspect which has acquired increasing prominence in recent times, obliging us to broaden our concept of poverty and underdevelopment to include questions connected with the acceptance of life, especially in cases where it is impeded in a variety of ways.
Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good

God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to “be more”. Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved.

Charity does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires, promotes, and animates it from within. Knowledge is never purely the work of the intellect. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, but if it aspires to be wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be “seasoned” with the “salt” of charity. Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile.
I love Pope Benedict XVI. He is truly the voice of Christ in the world, a world devoid of the true message of hope and salvation. Pray for him.