Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday - Concern

Holy Father reminds us that Lent is an opportunity to reflect on the heart of Christian life - Charity.  We reflect on charity both as an individual and as a community.  Our journey to charity is a journey of prayer, sharing, silence, and fasting.

Today Holy Father reflects, in part, on v. 24 of the Letter to the Hebrews - "Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24).  The focus is concern for others, reciprocity, and personal holiness.  My post today will focus on his discussion of concern for others. 

The Greek verb, katanoien, is used in these writings.  Its deep meaning is to scrutinize, be attentive, to observe carefully, and take stock of something. 

We are reminded in Lk: 6:41 to observe the plank in our own eye before looking at the splinter in the eye of our brother. 

In Heb 3:1 we are told to turn our minds to Jesus.  Then to concern for others, and not to be indifferent to the needs of others.

Gen. 4:9 tells us to be guardians of our brothers and sisters.

God's greatest commandment of loving one another demands we acknowledge our responsibility towards others.  As we see others as our brothers and sisters, we experience solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion.  In populorum Progressia, 66, Paul VI states, "Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations."

Concern entails desiring what is good for others, physical, moral, and spiritual.  Contemporary culture seems to have lost it sense of good and evil.  In Ps 119:68 we read You are generous and act generously, teach me your will.  We are guided to reaffirm our generosity, to act generously.  It affairs that good exists.

Concern for others means being aware of the needs of others.  But often we fail because of our attachment to material possessions, or a sense of self-sufficiency, or perhaps, we put our self-interest above all.  But by nurturing our capacity for showing mercy towards others, we humble ourselves.  Our own experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy.

Our call to show concern for others also applies to their spiritual well-being.  We are commanded to not be silent before evil.  We must recover our capacity to not remain silent before the evil we see in an individual, a community, or in those who govern us.  Spiritual well-being demands that we reject adapting to the prevailing mentality of society if evil is its direction.  We are told to warn our brothers and sisters against actions that are contrary to the truth and do not follow the path of goodness.

We do this, not in a spirit of accusation, but rather be moved by love and mercy, a desire for the genuine good of others. (Gal 6:1) Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted.

In the closing of Benedict XVI's message on Ash Wednesday, he says - Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Knew it Would Be hard but . . .

I knew it would get progressively harder to be a faithful Catholic, not to say that it would be too hard to remain Catholic, but, to keep up the strength to stay on my feet.  Between the "entertainment" industry and what passes for government these days in our country, it's amazing we Catholics don't get knocked out for the count.  Oh, but wait!  This is the era of tolerance and respect.  We all have a right to live our lives openly and freely without criticism or mockery or violence done upon us.  Uhuh. 

That is, unless you are Catholic.  How embarrassing for Mr. Obama that his little assault of religious freedom backfired.  Nothing like an irreligious President to united Catholics in a way that no Catholic leader in recent memory has been able to.  We may fight amongst ourselves but you were not invited to the fight and except for your lackeys, we, as a united group along with our religious brethren, are turning against you. 

And Nicki, Nicki . . . you may have found the front seat howlers at the Grammy's reassuring but have you read or listened to the news since Sunday?  I predict you are going to have a career crisis very soon.  A little personal reflection might be helpful to you eventually.  In fact, to the industry at large - are you paying attention?  Buying records and going to movies is optional.

Yeah, I knew it would be hard to continue being a faithful Catholic, but, you know what?  I'm up for the fight.  Bring it on.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Origianally reading in the National Catholic Register

Secularism's Toll on Catholic Americans

Father Robert Barron on HHS mandate: 'I would hope that American Catholics would argue against the Obama administration move, not only because they are Catholics, but also because they are Americans.'

Some years ago, Holy Cross Father James Burtchaell published a seminal book entitled The Dying of the Light. The central thesis of this study was that hundreds of universities that began under religious auspices and for religious purposes —the University of Chicago, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, to name just some of the most prominent —have undergone so thorough an erosion of their original identities that now they are utterly secular in orientation.

A particularly interesting feature of Burtchaell’s book was his analysis of the slow, subtle process by which the change from fervently religious to blandly secular took place: slight changes, little adjustments, tiny concessions barely noticed at the time, but all of them conducing finally toward the inevitable secularization. The Dying of the Light was meant to be a sobering lesson and a wake-up call to many Catholic universities today, which find themselves on a similar path to compromise.

I won’t follow that part of Burtchaell’s argument now (perhaps another time), but I bring up his book because it sheds a good deal of light on an analogous situation today. Decades ago, priests, religious brothers and religious sisters were colorfully visible features of Catholic hospitals, serving as nurses, chaplains, business officers and chief administrators. With the decline in vocations, this obviously religious leadership largely disappeared, but Catholic values, for the most part, still animated these institutions.

What has begun to concern a number of observers is that, as today’s medical personnel, staffers and administrators at Catholic hospitals have accommodated themselves more and more to secularist assumptions, even those values are in danger of disappearing. And what exacerbates the situation is that the leaders of many Catholic health-care facilities feel obligated not to overstress their religious distinctiveness, precisely because they are so reliant upon government funding.

In short, the slow but steady creep toward secularization of Catholic health-care has already been, for some time, a reality. But now the process has been given a massive push by the Obama administration’s recent mandate that all health-care agencies and institutions must pay for insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and certain kinds of abortifacient drugs —all of which are repugnant to Catholic teaching.

Here is what is particularly worrisome: The state seems no longer satisfied with a slow but steady evolution toward secularity; it is aggressively forcing Catholic hospitals off the stage, for it is creating for them an impossible situation. If they cave in and provide insurance for these verboten procedures, they have effectively de-Catholicized themselves; and if they refuse to provide such insurance, they will be met with fines of millions of dollars, which they cannot possibly pay. In either case, they are forced out of business as Catholic.

And this seems, sadly, to be precisely what the Obama administration wants. At the University of Notre Dame, on the occasion of his receiving (controversially enough) an honorary degree of laws, President Obama publicly and vociferously pledged that he would provide for a “conscience clause” for those who wanted, for religious reasons, to opt out of a policy they find objectionable. But with this recent mandate, he has utterly gone back on his word.

The secularist state recognizes that its principle enemy is the Church Catholic. Accordingly, it wants Catholicism off the public stage and relegated to a private realm where it cannot interfere with secularism’s totalitarian agenda. I realize that in using that particular term, I’m dropping a rhetorical bomb, but I am not doing so casually.

There is a modality of secular liberalism that is not aggressive toward religion, but rather recognizes that religion makes an indispensable contribution to civil society. This more tolerant liberalism allows, not only for freedom of worship, but also for real freedom of religion, which is to say, the expression of religious values in the public square and the free play of religious ideas in the public conversation.

Most of our Founding Fathers advocated just this type of liberalism. But there is another modality of secularism —sadly on display in the current administration —that is actively aggressive toward religion, precisely because it sees religion as its primary rival in the public arena. Appreciating certain moral convictions as disvalues —think here especially of Catholic teachings concerning sexuality —it seeks to eliminate religion or at the very least to privatize and hence marginalize it. In doing so, it indeed reveals itself as totalitarian, for it allows no room in the public space for anything but itself.

The reason that the Bill of Rights —the first 10 amendments to the Constitution —is so important is that it holds off the tendency, inherent in any government, toward totalitarianism, even if that means the totalitarianism of the majority.

The very first amendment, of course, guarantees the free exercise of religion in our country. Our founders obviously feared that even a democratic system, predicated upon a repudiation of tyranny, could become so tyrannical itself that it would seek to intrude upon the sacred realm of the religious conscience. As Jefferson, Toqueville, Lincoln and many others have seen, our democracy is especially healthy when it disallows a concentration of power —political, economic or cultural —in any one place.

I would hope that American Catholics would argue against the Obama administration move, not only because they are Catholics, but also because they are Americans.