All posts tagged: Pope Francis

Liturgy, Kerygma, and the Personal Relationship with Christ

The Compendium on the New Evangelization, issued by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, gives new meaning to the term “weighty tome,” coming in at nearly 3.5 pounds and 1,126 pages! It traces the topic back to Pope Pius XII, who in 1947 lamented that Rome itself had become a missionary territory. The book shows a clear paper trail from Pius XII to the present day. Pope St. John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council, which in the second paragraph of its first approved document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, connects liturgy and evangelization: While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord . . . at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations. . . . (SC §2) The Council went on to say in Apostolicam Actuosotatem: On all Christians therefore is laid the preeminent responsibility of working to make the divine …

“Laudato Si’,” Personal Conversion, and Missionary Joy

Faced with an increasingly dechristianized West in his own time, the famous German Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, frequently warned against a “missionary defeatism” in the Church.[1] Today, at least in the United States, political polarization has undermined any common arena of discourse that may have once existed. Loud rhetoric (not even eloquent sophistry!) has replaced reasoned argument. Washington remains gridlocked, if not perpetually, meaning that even common-sense, compromise legislation cannot be approved. Any new sense of global solidarity brought on by an age of social media is shadowed by a reminder of just how challenging a real, embodied solidarity actually is. At the same time, findings in the social sciences have bordered on determinism, showing more and more just how formative systems—like the one described—are for the human person, calling into question human responsibility and agency to actually transcend, let alone shape, these societies and cultures. The chorus of a 1971 hit by the English band Ten Years After captures the sentiment of many: “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what …

Speaking to the Heart

“I want a mess. I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools, or structures. We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel. It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away. Go and look for them in the nooks and crannies of the streets.” —Pope Francis, World Youth Day Address (2013) Pope Francis wants a mess. He urges us to get out of our parishes and take the Gospel to the streets. While this call to evangelization has rung out from the Church throughout the centuries, it cuts especially to the heart now. This is because “more Americans today than in the past are not remaining in the …

“A Good Catholic Meddles in Politics”

A few times a week, my friend Chris and I email each other news articles about this unbelievable election cycle. Chris works for a media company and likes that he gets to cover such an important story, but he’s also ready to focus on something, anything, else. He’ll often include an update on the countdown to November 8 in his emails. “Just 93 days left.” “Only 70 to go.” I appreciate these updates because I am equally ready for this thing to be over. My compulsive reading about the election is like rubbernecking at a pileup on the highway. But I am not here to complain. Instead, I want to suggest that, as Georgetown University’s John Carr likes to say, the Catholic Church’s most counter-cultural teaching is that politics is a good thing. Yes, despite our extreme polarization and our presidential candidates and the incivility in our current discourse, politics is a good thing and worth a holy effort to save. Where does the Church get such an unpopular idea? In its best form, politics …

Answering Questions that Matter: Authority as Accompaniment

The value of human life has become a concern that increasingly pervades multiple aspects of society—both on a communal and personal level. I am provoked to ask this question every day when I look at the faces of my students at the high school in which I teach. Who are they? What gives their life value? Who am I in relation to them and what am I proposing to them about the meaning of life and the nature of reality? These questions have become even more urgent in light of the surmounting tension between law enforcement officials and people living in predominately Black urban cities. I am struck by those who feel compelled to proclaim the value of the lives of Black people. The fact that there are countless people who feel that this statement needs to be made implies that we have lost clarity and direction when facing our humanity and the source of our value. What is it, indeed, that makes life matter in the first place? The homilies and speeches given by …

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Today, the Catholic Church joins with the Orthodox Church in praising God the Creator and praying for the care of creation.  One year ago, Pope Francis instituted the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” to be celebrated, henceforth, on September 1.  In addition to its primary focus on creation, it was an ecumenical gesture toward the Orthodox Church which has celebrated “The Day of Prayer for Creation” since 1989 when Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios instituted it. September 1 is the feast of the Indiction, or first day of the ecclesiastical year for the Orthodox.  The Orthodox offer “prayers and supplication . . . for all creation” on this day to praise and thank God and to turn sinful humanity back to its proper relationship, not only with God, but with creation. Patriarch Dimitrios wrote that we were “created in order to refer creation back to the Creator, in order that the world may be saved from decay and death.”  His successor Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has been called the Green Patriarch because of …

Can Catholic women ‘lean in’?

Do the Church’s family policies adequately support family life? A few considerations. When I attended my five-year law school reunion, the first since we’d graduated, my classmates—many of them miserable in high-stress, unglamorous legal jobs—were astounded by what they perceived as my good fortune. “You get to travel, appear on television, speak at high schools and colleges?” they marveled. I was asked more than once, “How do I get a job like YOURS?” Yes, on the surface, my first fresh-out-of-law-school position was a pretty sweet one. The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin had asked me to direct the Respect Life Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago, meaning I was responsible for issues like abortion and assisted suicide. In the early 1990s, it also meant I was often called upon to defend the Church’s teaching at a time when the Supreme Court had recently handed down the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision and when state legislatures were subsequently considering varying degrees of proposals that would, in light of Casey, allow for some modest protections for women and …

“Amoris Laetitia”: An Invaluable Opportunity for Teachers of the Faith

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19) On April 8, 2016, the Vatican published the English-language version of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”): On Love in the Family. In the time period leading up to the much-anticipated release of Amoris Laetitia—effectively spanning the [Extraordinary] Synod of Bishops on the Family of October 2014 and the [Ordinary] Synod of Bishops on the Family of October 2015—all categories of the faithful, comprising the clergy and laity alike, offered speculation concerning what the document would entail. This is not to mention that news outlets, mainstream or otherwise, were quick to extend manifestations of pseudo-expertise addressing sentimental perceptions of what Pope Francis would say, or perhaps would not say, in terms of what the Catholic Church professes regarding God, marriage, and family life. Ultimately, in over 250 sprawling pages, Amoris Laetitia revealed that which various realms of the Church should have expected to receive from Pope Francis in the end: his defense, promotion, and embrace of God’s age-old plan for …

A Gesture in Common: The Joy of the Gospel in Undergraduate Education

These are challenging days for those doing the work of undergraduate education, and perhaps especially so for those who mean to pursue that work in light of the Gospel. In the midst of economic challenges, we must ask again what the real purpose of a college education is. How should we think about the classical project of the liberal arts? What about ongoing challenges in making education available to students who are economically and culturally disadvantaged? For those in a religious context, another set of equally important questions must be asked. What are the crucial markers of mission and identity? What should be the composition of the “core” of courses required for graduation? On Catholic campuses, it’s asked whether a certain percentage of the faculty must be Catholic or how sacramental life can be fostered on campus. These are not questions that can be simply ignored. The publication of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, does, however, present new possibilities. What if we were to reframe the questions in light of the concerns the …

Diagnosing violence: A response to Christine Horner

Dear Ms. Horner, Under normal circumstances, I would have found it easy to resist the impulse to comment on your recent brief and public letter to Pope Francis in The Huffington Post  in which you “implore” him “to call for an end to the religious ritual” that has been a part of the Catholic Mass for centuries—that of repeating the words of the Centurion to Christ “Lord I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…”—an expression you declare to be “one of the most destructive phrases in human history.” I don’t usually take the time to comment on the conversation taking place in the blogosphere.  But I found I had to make an exception in this case. My hesitancy to enter the fray was overcome by the new escalation of violence that has taken our country—indeed the entire world—by surprise over the last several weeks. Even with the increasingly commonplace reality of terrorist attacks and rising homicide rates, the vicious attack abroad in Nice and the tragic events at home in Baton Rouge, …