All posts tagged: Pope Francis

What is the Community of Sant’Egidio?

1. What is Sant’Egidio? What is its charism? I often think that the Sant’Egidio Community is best understood through its founding, precisely because its founding was not really a founding. Nobody decided to create an organization, a rule, a structure. No, in Rome in 1968, at a time of great social ferment, a group of Catholic high school students began to gather together as friends in order to pray and to seek out and befriend the poorest of the poor. They did this regularly, grew in their ranks, and today you have a community of friends numbering tens of thousands and spanning nations and continents. This community has borne remarkable fruit, including friendship with the elderly and advocacy for the poor around the world, opposition to the death penalty, the combatting of AIDS in Africa, the mediation of numerous peace agreements in Africa and Latin America, and numerous other projects and causes. These “works,” though, all grow out of the community’s basic charisms of prayer, communicating the gospel, and friendship with the poor. Friendship comes …

The Cure for a Throwaway Culture

Fr. Julián Carrón, leader of the Communion and Liberation movement, has a familiar refrain when asked about the Holy Father, “If you don’t think Pope Francis is the cure, you don’t grasp the disease.” The disease, already well-advanced in the developed West, is the “throwaway culture.” Francis describes those of us who have it as slaves to mentality “in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are unproductive.” The inherent, irreducible value of inefficient human beings who are a net burden is ignored or even actively rejected by a throwaway culture which finds such value inconvenient. Francis obviously has direct killing as a primary concern here, but is also worried about the structural violence present in how we order ourselves. Francis insists that a commandment like Thou Shalt Not Kill applies very clearly to our “economy of exclusion.” In the Pope’s view, this economy “kills.” And the kind of exclusion with which Francis …

Stewards Not Ravagers

If we consider the etymological roots of the word “ecology,” we can see in its Greek root the word oikos (meaning “household”). The word “ecology” itself thus already indicates to us a deep sense of radical relationality between human beings and the world, human beings, and one another. This means that care for the earth and care for persons (particularly the most fragile among us) are intimately bound, that environmental ecology and human ecology stand or fall together. We are one household, marked by an intricate web of relationships. When these relationships are conceived competitively rather than cooperatively, when nature or human beings are treated merely as instruments, both human dignity and the dignity of the created order are compromised. As Archbishop Wilton Gregory noted in a 2016 address, the divinely ordained task for human beings to be stewards of creation must begin with “the lofty dignity of the human person.” He noted that the created order was a good in itself because the act of creation bestowed “upon all of nature [is] an undeniable …

Agrarian Insights on Ecological Conversion: Living Laudato Si’

Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ posed a tremendous challenge for the Church and the entire world. Although the encyclical letter was seen widely as an intervention on climate change negotiations, it in fact offered much more – including a radical critique of our entire societal status quo. In particular, Francis challenges the “dominant technocratic paradigm,” outlining its various damaging cultural and spiritual effects while also offering suggestions toward cultivating an alternative lifestyle: “A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal ” (Laudato Si’, §202).  The encyclical’s reception has been varied. Recent research indicates that the Pope’s teachings about global warming contributed to greater public engagement with the issue.[1] Still some, including American Catholics, continue to deny the full extent of our ecological problem. Others find themselves frustrated with institutional inaction or paralyzed by the immensity of the issue. The climate-change crisis, and our apparent inability to face it, is deeply distressing to the Church, since the roots of the problem …

Learning to Behold

Our efforts to keep up with such a fast-paced world can result in a real poverty of presence – presence to one another, presence to ourselves, and presence to God. We are tempted to live in an idealistic future, in the days of our past, or in the world of technology that promises to make us happier than the here and now. Our memories, hopes, and dreams are not balanced by a sobering awareness of our present state. A poverty of presence manifests itself in our homes, in our social circles, in our spiritual life, etc., and it can hinder the way in which we bear witness to Christ in our everyday lives. Scripture gives us a simple instruction to help us be present: to behold (e.g. John 1:29, 19:26-27; Luke 1:38; Matthew 28:20; Revelation 21:5). Learning to behold another in our midst teaches us to slow down, to listen, to be with, to really hold another’s joys and sorrows as our own. Pope Francis reflects: “Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the …

Celebrating Easter, Part 6: The Redemption of Farming

Organic-biodynamic farming, though it possesses many practical benefits—such as raw milk, fresh vegetables, fresh meats and eggs—has always been for me a kind of sacred activity. This sacredness resides in one undeniable fact: the Blood of Christ saturated the earth on Golgotha. This is not some minor, locally interesting detail. Rather, it is a supernatural event of the highest importance for the entire planet, and, indeed, for the cosmos. He makes all things new. When I work the land, I am mindful that this soil has been redeemed along with all of Creation by Christ’s Blood. This is not some piece of abstract doctrine for me, but a scientific truth. However, this is a truth I must not fully understand: if I did, I’m afraid I’d be too awestruck to do anything. Nevertheless, his Blood saturated the soil and its power still enlivens it. My job, as I see it, is simply to help the vegetables and forage crops I plant find access to that power. This care implies tending: planning, planting, weeding, composting. In …

Our Lady, Doer of Knots

At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I spent six months living in Argentina as volunteers at a hospice house. The hospice was run by a religious community with whom we were connected, and welcomed terminally ill men and women, particularly from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Over the course of our time at the hospice we had the privilege of walking with more than 30 guests during their final weeks and days of life, caring for their bodily and spiritual needs, and on occasion accompanying them over the final threshold into eternal life. One guest in particular made a lasting impression on us. Elena was a real firecracker; like all the hospice guests her disease was terminal, but unlike many other guests she still had an intense zest for life and lived for a number of months in the house. My husband bonded with her over their shared appreciation of a meal that was brought to the table “bien calentito” (piping hot), and we spent many an afternoon swapping stories, telling jokes, and working …

Reflections on Latino Ministry

“Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice.” As an apprentice in the Echo program, I have spent the better part of the past two years working in ministry with Hispanic people, most of whom are immigrants from Southern Mexico. Over the course of my apprenticeship, I have tried many times to put pen to paper with regard to my experience, willing myself to compose a piece of writing that could capture the challenges, joys, necessities, and singularity of Latino ministry. Until now, these earlier attempts were always met with some measure of self-resistance. The doubts would arise early on: how can I, an educated, white female, claim to say anything of merit about ministry with the Hispanic community? How could my reflections not just be an appropriation of another culture—the use of someone else’s story to further my own name? Is it okay to reflect theologically on experiences of life that don’t belong to me? At the end of the …

The Cruciform Shape of the Family

Embarking on the journey of marriage and family life is filled with many joyful moments but also with moments of suffering. This suffering is inherently relational, meaning that by entering into commitments such as marriage and parenthood, we open ourselves up to the possibility of being wounded by such commitment. For example, think of the newlyweds who ache with overwhelming love for one another, a mother who labors to meet her child, the infertile couple who longs to conceive, the parents who suffer with and for a sick child, or the elderly man who sits at his dying wife’s bedside after a lifetime shared together. As we can see, suffering takes a unique, relational shape in the context of marriage and family life. This shape reflects Christ’s suffering in the sense that he entered into relationship with mankind, therefore opening himself up to such relational wounds—wounds of love. When we gaze upon Christ crucified, we see not only the horrific suffering of his Passion but also a sign of hope in his Resurrection. However, it …

A Chair and a Half

Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he who in his great mercy gave us a new birth; a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; a birth to an imperishable inheritance, incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you who are guarded with God’s power through faith; a birth to salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days. As any good preacher does, I paid my due diligence and researched the history of 1 Peter for this occasion. It was clear to me that this reading for today was the blessing prefacing a longer teaching; but when was it written and to whom? That’s when I came across this explanation from a commentary: “[We] suggest [an authorship] . . . after the death of Peter and Paul, perhaps A.D. 70–90. The author would be a disciple of Peter in Rome, representing a Petrine group that served as a bridge between Palestinian origins of Christianity …