Archive | August, 2013

My Journey from Pro-Choice to Pro-Life

29 Aug

CuomoWhen I returned to the Church in 1984, it wasn’t as though a decade of unchecked sinful habits and behaviors fell by the wayside.

The mighty struggle to replace vice with virtue continues to this day. After all, “denying myself” and “turning the other cheek” don’t come naturally.

I also had to convert on intellectual matters. I was fresh out of law school and something of a constitutional law scholar, having sharpened my legal teeth on Roe v. Wade jurisprudence. That year, New York Governor Mario Cuomo, the poster child of “I’m personally opposed, but” politics, captured my imagination with a stirring keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

So, when I first came back to the Church, I brought my pro-choice ideology with me.

Of course, I was “personally opposed”–so much so that, even then, I would have gladly adopted a child rather than see him or her aborted.

But I wasn’t where I needed to be in terms of fully accepting the Church’s coherent pro-life ethic. It took a year of prayer, study, and conversations with friends before I realized that I needed to repent and do penance for my dissident views.

Recent Popes have emphasized that the current age is characterized not by a “crisis of charity,” but even more by a “crisis of faith.” That’s why Pope Benedict called an entire “Year of Faith.” We never hear about sins against faith, but if indeed we’re living through such a crisis, it stands to reason that sins against faith happen–and happen frequently.

When it comes to sins against charity, we’re usually able to come up with an excuse (e.g., “I was just letting off steam,” “My boss is a jerk,” “He shouldn’t have criticized my work,” “I didn’t think she’d take it personally”). At the end of the day, though, I think we all admit to sinning fairly regularly against charity. We realize that we hurt somebody, and so we try to reconcile as best we can with God and neighbor. Surely there are plenty of sins against charity to go around these days, and we do well to use a “charity scorecard” when examining our consciences.

On the other hand, sins against faith are seemingly “victimless” sins. Not only that, it takes a rare humility today to admit that we’re wrong about anything. And when it comes to religious convictions–true, false, or just plain weird–our society takes a “to each his own” approach.

Thus, in many Catholic circles today, rejection of Church teaching brings into play many fancy concepts, such as diversity, tolerance, plurality, lived experience, and primacy of “conscience.” But no mention of sin.

In its treatment of the First Commandment, the Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes three paragraphs (No. 2087-89) to sins against faith. The catechism says the First Commandment “requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.” I suspect all of us can do a better job of nourishing and protecting our faith.

The Catechism also identifies several sins against faith, including voluntary doubt, incredulity, heresy, apostasy, and schism. None of these sins is a four-letter word, but they may as well be, given the deliberate avoidance of these terms today.

Scripture frequently speaks of the necessity of faith for salvation. Indeed, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith entails the acceptance of all that Our Lord has revealed through his Church, based on His own authority as the Son of God. Mere agreement is not the same as faith, because then we’re putting Christ’s teachings through an approval process, rejecting anything that seems unacceptable to us.

But even acceptance of the person and teachings of Jesus Christ isn’t enough. We need to do what the Lord says (Luke 6:46). We must bear witness to our faith in our daily lives:

“So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33; see Catechism, no. 1816).

When we cultivate doubt or dissent, the result is spiritual blindness. Our choices are no longer guided by objective standards of moral conduct, and the Word of God ceases to be a light for our path.

We cannot be indifferent to the personal dimension of the “crisis of faith” in our midst, perhaps writing off those who seem to be set in their dissident ways. Yet, reaching out to those who struggle with sins against faith is a vitally important task–indeed, a spiritual work of mercy.

I’m very grateful that some people, whose charity was surpassed only by their patience, called me to conversion on the abortion issue.

What Did Jesus Know?

27 Aug

Finding in the TempleThe constant teaching of the Church is that Christ, in His human intellect, from the moment of His conception, knew all things that a created intellect could know.

This question of Jesus’ human knowledge points to the great mystery of the Incarnation, when, “in the fullness of time,” God took on human nature. In doing so, our God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, united Himself in some fashion with every human person. As we consider the mystery of Christ’s being fully human and fully divine, we are filled with wonder and joy. God is truly with us; He has visited His people (cf. Is. 7:14; Mt. 1:23; Lk. 7:16), offering salvation to all the nations.

Going a little deeper, we find that the Church affirms that human nature was “assumed” and not “absorbed” in the Incarnation. Christ is true God and true man, not some hybrid of the two (Catechism, no. 464). In trying to come to grips with this truth, many great minds throughout history have fallen into error by embracing only part of this magnificent reality. Many people today, in rightly affirming Christ’s humanity, have failed to leave room for the complementary truth that Christ is also fully divine. Indeed, “today, because of the rationalism found in so much of contemporary culture, it is above all faith in the divinity of Christ that has become problematic” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter at the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Novo Millennio Ineunte, no. 22).

It within this context that we examine Christ’s human knowledge. It is legitimate to ask how God could at the same time be one like us (cf. Heb. 4:15) and yet know everything. However, the answer to this question must be faithful to the data the Lord has revealed to us through the Church.

We must confess, as the Church has done consistently throughout her history, that Jesus Christ is fully human. This truth is summarized in the Catechism, which in turn quotes Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, no. 22: “The Son of God . . . worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin” (no. 470). Continue reading

The Difference the Eucharist Makes

22 Aug

pope celebrating MassAt Mass, we encounter the mystery of Christ becoming truly present under the appearance of bread and wine. Even though the sacred species look exactly the same after the consecration as they did before the consecration, we know by faith that there’s a world of difference.

Our Lord and Savior is truly present in our midst as our spiritual food. The change could not be more dramatic, nor more imperceptible.

That’s the objective reality of what we call “transubstantiation.” Bread and wine cease to be bread and wine but truly become the Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, even though all the physical properties, such as size, taste, appearance, and composition, remain the same. We cannot see the difference, but we accept this teaching through the vision of faith.

But what does our encounter with this mystery actually do to us? In other words, what about those of us who are standing in line for Holy Communion? Do we look any different as we walk back to the pews? After all, we have the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ inside us. Are we any different fifteen minutes later, in the church parking lot or in the parish hall? Are we any different two or three days later? Does the Eucharist actually change us?

First, we need to understand that all the sacraments are meant to change us. A baby girl right after she is baptized looks exactly the same as she did before, yet now she is a child of God and a member of Christ’s body, the Church.

A young man, once he wipes off all the holy oil, looks exactly the same right after his Ordination, but now he is able to consecrate the Eucharist and to absolve us from our sins.

And we sinners look the same after we walk out of the confessional, but we have had our relationship with the Lord restored and renewed.

In all cases, we look the same on the outside, but at the core of our being we’ve been radically changed.

It’s no different with the Eucharist. As Pope Leo the Great wrote in the fifth century, “the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ has no less an effect than to change us into what we have received.” The eternal Word of God took on flesh so that we might participate in the divine life, that we might truly become what we eat. The transformation of a sinner into a saint is the goal of every Christian life without exception. Therefore, all of us must be committed to leading changed, “Eucharistic” lives.

We use the Latin expression ex opere operato (literally, from the work having been done) to express the guarantee that Christ’s Real Presence and superabundant grace will be available at every validly celebrated Mass. However, just as we benefit from food’s nutrients only to the extent we digest them well, we benefit from the grace of the Eucharist only to the extent we effectively assimilate this spiritual food. We need to be properly disposed if we want to tap into the grace of the sacrament.

Pope John Paul II likened our “Amen” when we receive Communion to our Lady’s fiat at the Annunciation, when she consented to Our Lord’s making His dwelling in her virginal womb (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 55). Our “Amen,” in a real way, gives the Lord permission to come in, change us imperceptibly from within, and orient us toward our true and eternal good. But this “Amen,” this permission, often comes with strings attached on our part, as we don’t necessarily want Him to change everything. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit gently and relentlessly guides us to the truth that we will find everlasting happiness as we fully surrender ourselves to the life-changing power of the most holy Eucharist.

The next time we’re at Mass, let’s consider the amazing reality that it’s not only the bread and wine that are being changed.

The foregoing is adapted from a book I coauthored entitled, Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass, which is available through Emmaus Road Publishing.

Avoiding Scandal

20 Aug

scandalOne of the principal ways we demonstrate our fidelity to Christ is how we talk about the priesthood and contemporary issues facing the Church. Is our speech edifying? Does it bring people closer to the Lord? Are we ambassadors of Christ’s mercy and peace? (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20).

Probably the harshest critics of the Church are former Catholics and those who still consider themselves Catholic but who oppose the Church on any number of issues. Surely it’s very easy to find fault in the Church sometimes. We may be rightly upset or disturbed. When we give verbal expression to these feelings, we may be just “letting off steam,” and everything we say may well be true. But having some of the truth and needing to let off steam do not excuse making statements that will harm the faith of other Catholics whose faith perhaps is weaker, provide an unnecessary stumbling block for nonbelievers, and needlessly and perhaps even unfairly harm the reputations of others (cf. Catechism, no. 2477).

In place of the above, Scripture is very clear. We are told to say “only the things men need to hear, things that will help them” (Eph. 4:29). As St. Paul says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).

Scandal involves inducing others to sin (cf. Catechism, nos. 2284-87). It’s nothing less than spiritual murder. Are our comments regarding the Church being expressed in ways that will actually turn people against the Church? And if giving scandal is like spiritual murder, then taking scandal is akin to spiritual suicide. We must protect our own hearts, that we do not allow our own negative feelings about the real evils we encounter to fester and ultimately to lead us out of the Church.

In the business world, there’s a maxim that may help us take the right approach in this matter. Successful managers are able to “catch their employees doing something right” and in the process provide positive reinforcement for good behavior. In the spiritual realm, we likewise do well to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). There are holy people in the Church. There are many great stories of contemporary Christian heroes, not to mention the lives of saints through the centuries. There is much good going on in the Church on many different fronts, globally, nationally, and right here in Kansas City. We need to acknowledge and publicize this truth.

This does not mean that we ignore the sins of Church members. The Church is at once holy yet always in need of renewal and reform, and charitably correcting a sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. Using an analogy, let us assume that a husband and wife are having marital problems, and the husband wants to do something about it. The first step would be for the husband to honestly acknowledge the nature and extent of the problem. He would try to work things out with his spouse, and no one would criticize him for seeking the help of others–marital counselors, spiritual advisors, friends and confidantes, and above all God Himself–to help remedy the problem.

However, if the husband were to begin to vilify his wife to his children, to neighbors, perhaps even to the press, we can say that regardless of the truth and frustration level behind his statements, he is only hurting the situation. Notice that St. Joseph, when confronted with the apparent infidelity of his wife, determined to “divorce her quietly,” without subjecting her to shame (Mt. 1:19).

As Catholics, we similarly have to distinguish between acknowledging the truth and taking restorative action from mere venting and causing greater division within the Church. Perhaps during this Year of Faith we will trust the Lord, confident that His mercy and justice will ultimately prevail.

What is the Assumption?

15 Aug

AssumptionToday the Church celebrates the great solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s such a significant feast day that the Church considers it a holy day of obligation, on which we are obliged to go to Mass and, to the extent possible, enjoy a day a rest and festivity.

So it’s fair to ask, “What does the Church teach concerning the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary?”

The teaching is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 974:

“The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up [‘assumed’] body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body.” This is a paraphrase of a dogmatic statement issued in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in a document entitled Munificentissimus Deus.

While the dogmatic definition is relatively new, the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption is firmly rooted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. The key scriptural verse is Genesis 3:15, in which the Lord says that He will put enmity between Satan and the “woman,” who is identified as the Mother of the Redeemer. “Enmity” means “total opposition.” This verse foreshadows Mary’s participation in the complete victory of her seed (Jesus) over Satan. According to St. Paul, the consequences of Satan’s influence on the human race are twofold: sin and death (e.g., Romans 5:21; 6:16; 6:23; 8:2; Galatians 6:7-8; Hebrews 2:14-15). Therefore, Mary, who shared in her Son’s victory over Satan, would have to be saved from both sin and the corruption of death. Thus, the Assumption manifests Our Lady’s “total opposition” to the devil.

In addition to Genesis 3:15, there are several other scriptural passages that point to the Assumption of Our Lady. For example, there is Luke 1:28, since her bodily assumption is a natural consequence of her being “full of grace.” Other passages include Revelation 12:1, in which Mary’s coronation implies her bodily assumption, and 1 Corinthians 15:23 and Matthew 27:52-53, which support the possibility of a bodily assumption. And lastly there is Psalm 132:8, which provides: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified.” Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, who physically bore the presence of God in her womb before bearing Christ to the world.

The Assumption is also witnessed by sacred Tradition. For example, St. Gregory of Tours (d. 593) wrote: “The Lord commanded the holy body [of Mary] to be borne on a cloud to Paradise where, reunited to its soul and exalting with the elect, it enjoys the everlasting bliss of eternity.” The doctrine was also explicitly taught by Church Fathers such as St. Germain of Constantinople, St. Andrew of Crete, and St. John Damascene.

There is a maxim that provides “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (“the law of praying is the law of believing”). This maxim summarizes the truth that the liturgical life of the People of God plays an important role in preserving and celebrating the Faith of the Church. Already in the sixth century there were liturgical feasts dedicated to Mary’s Assumption. And indeed, from the 13th century on, the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption was taught with near unanimity in both the west and east. And the Rosary, which includes the mystery of the Assumption, has been an important part of Catholic piety since the early 13th century.

In defining the Assumption as a revealed dogma, Pope Pius XII did not infallibly answer all the questions that relate to the “where, when, and how” of the Assumption. For example, we do not know how old Mary was and whom she was with at the time. Also, the Holy Father did not attempt to resolve the controversy as to whether she was in Ephesus or Jerusalem, as there was no mention of where she was at the time of her Assumption. In addition, Pope Pius XII’s definition said nothing about Mary’s mediation, her queenship, or other privileges.

And significantly, Pope Pius XII left open the question of whether Mary “died.” Note that the definition intentionally uses the ambiguous phraseology, “having completed the course of her earthly life.” Some maintain that she did not die, because her Immaculate Conception freed her from the effects of original sin, including death. The more probable opinion, endorsed by Blessed John Paul II, is that the Blessed Virgin Mary did die, so that she could be fully conformed to her crucified Son. Thus she freely accepted death in order to more fully associate herself with her Son’s redemption (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, no. 58). It is important to note in this regard that if Mary did die before being assumed into heaven, it did not involve the bodily corruption that usually accompanies death as a consequence of original sin.

The foregoing, in modified form, was originally published by Catholics United for the Faith.

Conflict Resolution

14 Aug

conflict resolution1Today’s Gospel, from Matthew 18, gives us the blueprint for peaceably resolving our differences with others. Jesus teaches us to first reach out privately to the person who has sinned against us. If that doesn’t work, we seek out the assistance of one or two others. Then, if necessary, we entrust the matter to the judgment of the Church.

Yet when we’re aggrieved by someone in our society, we tend to insist upon our legal rights. We demand satisfaction in one form or another.

The approach of the Church, having the mind of Christ, is much different. The goal is salvation–and not simply that, but “communion” with one another in Christ. The person is more important than the wrong he or she committed.

Yet as Christians, when someone hurts us, how often do we start talking down the other person to others and perhaps even via social media like Facebook and Twitter? And if we’re influential enough, we’ll even call a press conference to disseminate our side of the story through whatever media outlet is available to us.

That’s surely not what Our Lord is teaching in Matthew 18. I think that the best rule of thumb for dealing with conflicts is to limit our communications about people who have wronged us as much as possible, and when we do talk about them, we only involve those persons who can be part of the solution. In other words, we must be respectful of the person with whom we have the conflict, and we must always to seek to bring about healing, not further strife and enmity.

We should be aware that when we vent our frustrations to a third person, we could easily fall prey to the sin of detraction. This sin involves disclosing–without a legitimate reason for doing so–another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them (cf. Catechism, no. 2477). Detraction is an offense against the truth–not because what we’re saying is untruthful (if it were, then the sin would be defamation, not detraction), but because we’re using the truth to injure rather than to heal.

Rather than settle for division with our neighbor, let’s seek “communion” and unity at every turn. For at the conclusion of today’s Gospel we hear that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Deacon Companions

7 Aug

Pope Sixtus and companionsI’ve often wondered about the saints who go down in Church history as “companions.” For example, today the Church celebrates the feast of Pope St. Sixtus II and companions, who were martyred in 258 A.D. during the persecution of Emperor Valerian.

Clearly the “companions” are the “supporting actors and actresses” in the drama of Church history, supporting saintly protagonists in bearing witness to their Savior. These humble servants remained faithful to the end, and their blood became the seed for the Church in their respective eras.

But who are today’s companions? Well, Valerian issued a decree to the effect that all bishops, priests, and deacons were to be summarily put to death because of their opposition to the pagan worship of the empire. Pope Sixtus was executed on August 6, 258. His “companions” in martyrdom were six of his seven deacons (cf. Acts 6:1-6). Their names were Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus, and Agapitus.

Who was the seventh deacon? Did he flee from the persecutors? Did he go into hiding? Hardly. It was none other than St. Lawrence, perhaps the most beloved deacon in the history of the Church, who was martyred a few days later, on August 10. The universal Church celebrates his feast on Saturday. While Lawrence was a distinguished servant (diakonos) of the Lord and the “right hand man” of his beloved Pope, I suspect he also took great delight in simply being known as a “companion” of his brother deacons.

“Good” Catholics Can Make a Difference

5 Aug

Card. Dolan“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.”

This quote, attributed to the 18th-century British philosopher Edmund Burke, is often used as a rallying cry when it comes to attacks against the Catholic Church, especially in today’s challenging political context. Perhaps we can fine-tune the quote this way for our purposes: “All that is necessary for anti-Catholicism to succeed is that good Catholics do nothing.”

This quote appropriately exhorts all of us to fight against the vices of laziness and cowardice and do our part in standing up for the Church. However, there is another implied exhortation embedded in this quote: We can’t take for granted that any of us, let alone the majority of Catholics, are “good.” While we might disagree as to what precisely constitutes a “good” Catholic, we can say that ordinarily a “good” Catholic would not sit by idly while the Church is attacked. And even if he or she did so temporarily, that person should easily be stirred to action when confronted with the reality of anti-Catholicism. But, given the inroads anti-Catholicism has made in our culture with relatively little resistance, it’s fair to ask, are the “good” Catholics doing nothing, or are many Catholics not as “good” as we’re called to be? At the end of the day, what is a “good” Catholic?

A theology professor once asked his class, “What’s the biggest problem in the Church today, ignorance or apathy?” One student flippantly responded, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

The student’s answer, upon further examination, is very close to the mark. Ignorance refers to a defect in the virtue of faith, and apathy refers to a defect in the virtue of charity. With the virtue of hope, these three theological virtues are the necessary building blocks of a thriving Catholic life and culture. I suggest that we need to renew this foundation, in ourselves and collectively as the Church, as the necessary prerequisite for effectively addressing anti-Catholic forces in society.

We are in the midst of a “Year of Faith.” Back in 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his Credo of the People of God at the conclusion of the last “year of faith.” The Holy Father recognized the crisis of faith in the Church, and he issued his Credo to articulate orthodox Catholic teaching to counteract the rise of ignorance and confusion regarding our faith.

Decades later, while we see some promising signs of renewal, we have also witnessed the devastating effects of the “crisis of faith” that has ravaged two, going on three, generations of Catholics in our midst.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “‘ignorance of God’ is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations” (no. 2087), and it further describes several sins against the faith, including heresy, which are routinely ignored today. We are all too familiar with widespread rejection of key Church teachings, from the papacy and Real Presence to the hot button morality issues that challenge men and women to turn away from deviant, immoral behaviors.

We can never lose sight of the fact that our faith is not merely a moral code or abstract body of teachings, but rather a dynamic relationship with the living God. Even so, our faith in the person of Jesus Christ necessarily implies a content of faith. For example, when Our Lord sent out His apostles to make disciples of all nations, He told them to teach all men and women “to observe all that He has commanded” (Mt. 28:20). Similarly, Our Lord also said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Lk. 6:46). Our Lord denies knowing those who claim to be His followers yet do not accept and put into practice His teachings, communicated through His Church (see also Mt. 7:21-24; Lk. 10:16).

Organizations that are serious about their principles will not tolerate views within their own ranks that undermine their efforts. Imagine the NAACP allowing members to push for “separate but equal” facilities, or Planned Parenthood allowing its representatives to publicize the harmful effects of abortion on women and to admit that it’s a form of homicide. It’s not going to happen.

Yet, we have to admit that our Catholic faith has not been adequately taught and embraced in recent decades, such that outright dissent is simply considered an alternative opinion. The deposit of apostolic faith is one of the central bonds of unity that unites Catholics (cf. Catechism, no. 815), but today many people see the Church as a vague cultural reality, not demanding more than loyalty to Notre Dame football and wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s why staunch adversaries of the Church such as Nancy Pelosi or Kathleen Sebelius can get away with holding themselves out as Catholics in good standing. If we’re not serious about what we believe, how can we expect the “world”—which is the sworn enemy of the Gospel anyway—to treat our beliefs with respect?

In response, we must pray for the grace to live this passage from the Catechism: “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it” (no. 1816).

Meanwhile, the virtue of hope is all about putting our trust in the Lord and His promises, especially when the going gets tough. In the midst of attacks from without and scandals from within, many Catholics might be tempted to despair. They may well conclude that the Church is going to hell in a hand basket, and they wring their hands of any responsibility for setting things aright. Or, in the midst of their despair, they may conclude that the project of Christianity is no match for the relentless secularism of our culture. The best that we can hope for is to get in a good kick to the shins here or a minor victory there, but the war is lost. Clearly such a mindset betrays a lack of trust in the living God.

As significant of a problem as despair is, the alternate failure of hope—presumption—can be just as deadly. Presumption denies the need to seek God’s grace—either because we think we can save ourselves or because God will give us His grace no matter how we conduct our lives. We commonly see this latter mindset in funerals today, which often seem to be “mini-canonizations.”

An objective observer could easily conclude that it really doesn’t matter how one lives, because everyone seems to end up in a “better place.” Many poorly formed Catholics embrace just such an implicit universalism. There are probably many reasons why people think that way, including the natural desire that our loved ones make it to heaven. Yet, when we give in to such presumption, then we are not really serious about the claims our faith makes on us. And if we’re not willing to go to the mat for our faith, if we’re not willing to admit the practical reality and consequences of mortal sin, then we’re not going to get worked up about HHS mandates. A mushy, uncommitted Catholicism is no match for the anti-Catholic forces that have been unleashed against the Church.

The Catechism identifies two of the principal sins against charity as being indifference and lukewarmness (no. 2094). These sins reveal a lack a passion and zeal in our commitment to God and neighbor. How we respond to attacks against the ones we love can vary greatly, but a failure to respond at all is unacceptable. When we encounter a bully we need to have sufficient self-esteem to defend ourselves the best we can. And what husband would not go ballistic if someone attempted to harm his wife or children? That’s why it’s so scandalous when some Church leaders have failed to show sufficient outrage when their spiritual children have been abused.

In today’s culture, many people want Christ without His Church. They want “spirituality” without the demands and perceived corruption of “organized religion.” (Some might respond that the Catholic Church is not all that organized!) Clearly the work of the new evangelization is to help men and women rediscover the intimate, saving connection between Christ the King and His Kingdom, the Church. We must rekindle love for the Church among her members—manifested not as a spineless tolerance, but as a Christ-centered desire for the good of all.

Christ Himself teaches us about this intimate connection. When Saul of Tarsus encountered Our Lord on the road to Damascus, He said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4). Christ had already ascended to the Father at that time. Saul had never even met Our Lord. Rather, he was persecuting His followers. Yet Our Lord took this very personally. Indeed, Christ from the earliest days identified Himself with His Church, His beloved bride. Attack the Church, and you attack Christ Himself.

Do we experience attacks against the Church as attacks against Our Lord? If more of us did, anti-Catholicism would meet the decisive, unified resistance that has been lacking in our time.

The Catechism says that in every age “saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history” (Catechism, no. 828). Everyday saints like you and me are called to be the difference-makers. For Catholicism to succeed, we need “good” Catholics to live with God’s grace the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, thus radiating the light of Christ in an otherwise dark, hostile world.

This article originally appeared, in modified form, in the April 2007 edition of Catalyst, the publication of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Pope’s Intentions for August

1 Aug

Pope with childrenFollowing are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Francis for the month of August, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Parents and Teachers. That parents and teachers may help the new generation to grow in upright conscience and life.
  • The Church in Africa. That the local Church in Africa, faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, may promote peace and justice.

    How appropriate it is that we especially remember the educators of our children as the new school year begins later this month!