Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Is the Pope Catholic?!"

In the seminary, we were taught not to be conservative or liberal, but to be Catholic. Sage advice, but obvious to most of us seminarians.  But, the political winds have picked up since then (remember, I started when gas was under $1 / gallon!), so many people put us priests in one political box or another even when we are just being Catholic.  This has been happening to Pope Francis since the beginning of his pontificate, and will only intensify over time.  He is neither "liberal" nor "conservative".  He is Catholic.

That is how I would describe the comments below on homosexuality that he made to media on the plane back to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil.  Some people are comparing him to his predecessors on this issue. That is like comparing the writers of the Gospels, or comparing all authors of Sacred Scripture for that matter.  God sent the same message through four different Evangelists...through four different personalities and approaches (theologians calls them "lenses").  In the same way, He has given the same message through Popes Francis, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, et al.  As the article below reveals, Pope Francis is teaching on homosexuality straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This is the same Catechism which Benedict and John Paul II helped write.  His comments are neither liberal nor conservative, they are Catholic.   We praise God for them and for the way they were said.

A Note on the Pope’s Remarks to Journalists en route to Rome

by Fr. Thomas Rosica
Salt and Light Blog
July 29, 2013

In response to many messages and calls earlier today regarding Pope Francis’ meeting with journalists aboard the return flight to Rome from Rio de Janeiro last night, below is a working transcript of the question about Monsignor Ricca and the gay lobby. I have included the question and the full answer of the Pope in English (and the original Italian), as well as the full paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality to which the Pope referred.

The powerful and deeply moving visit of Pope Francis to Brazil last week left a deep and lasting impression upon this country as well as on the continent and the entire world.  We encountered in the Bishop of Rome a shepherd “who knows the odor of his sheep,” a bearer of hope and peace, and an extraordinary pastoral model of tenderness and mercy.  He stressed the necessity of mercy throughout his visit, and reached out to so many people on the peripheries of society.  This was especially evident through his visit to the favela, the hospital and drug rehabilitation centre for young people, the meeting with young prisoners, the concern for the sick, and for young people who are broken.  He also showed how much he stands in solidarity with those living in extreme poverty and struggling for justice and peace.

His comments on the plane, particularly about the divorced and remarried, women, and homosexuals must be read and understood through the lenses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the outreach and concern of the Church for those on the fringes, and the mercy, tenderness and forgiveness of a pastor who walks among his people.

Reporter: I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question.  Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his personal life.  I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question.  How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?

Pope Francis: Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation.  And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him.  We found none of that.  That is the answer.  But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one  looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus?, And then these things are published.  These things are not crimes.  The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime.  But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives.  When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh?  This is a danger.  This is what is important: a theology of sin.  So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ.  And with this sin they made him Pope.  We must think about fact often.

But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing.  That is the first question.  Then you spoke of the gay lobby.  Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby.  I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay.  They say there are some gay people here.  I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good.  They are bad.  If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”

The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter.  There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies.  This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2358    The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"The best tool is for evangelizing the young...another young person" - Pope Francis

Pope's Homily at Closing Mass of World Youth Day at Copacabana Beach
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL, July 28, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Here is the translation of the homily given by Pope Francis at the Closing Mass of the 28th World Youth Day at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

* * *
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Young Friends,
“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.
1. Go. During these days here in Rio, you have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom 10:9).
Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “if you would like to, if you have the time”, but: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.
Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.
In particular, I would like Christ’s command: “Go” to resonate in you young people from the Church in Latin America, engaged in the continental mission promoted by the Bishops. Brazil, Latin America, the whole world needs Christ! Saint Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. A great Apostle of Brazil, Blessed José de Anchieta, set off on the mission when he was only nineteen years old. Do you know what the best tool is for evangelizing the young? Another young person. This is the path to follow!
2. Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, a young man like you, when he was called by God to be a prophet. We have just heard his words: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid ... for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us!
“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.
And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community. I would like to address you, dear priests concelebrating with me at this Eucharist: you have come to accompany your young people, and this is wonderful, to share this experience of faith with them! But it is a stage on the journey. Please continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the Church; never let them feel alone! And at this point I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to theYouth Ministery groups, to the Movements and the new Communities that accompany the young people in their experience of being Church. They are so creative, so audacious. Carry on and do not be afraid!
3. The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.
In our Second Reading today, Saint Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor 9:19). In order to proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself “a slave to all”. Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did.
Three words: Go, do not be afraid, and serve. Follow these three words: Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Amen.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pray for Thomas and Natalie Peters

Please pray for Thomas Peters, a young man from St. Stephen's who was involved in a swimming accident on July 16.  Thomas is very well known in Catholic and pro-life circles as the article below indicates.    Please check out the website dedicated to updates and info here, and pray Thomas, his new bride Natalie, and their families. 

July 17, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Thomas Peters, the well-known creator of the blog American Papist, as well as Media Director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), is in critical condition following an accident on Tuesday evening.

CatholicVote.com, where Peters' blog is hosted, broke the news on their Facebook page shortly after noon today.

"The entire team here at CatholicVote asks that you to pray for our dear friend, Thomas Peters," said the update.

"Thomas was involved in an accident yesterday evening and has sustained major injuries. He is awake, responsive, and in stable but critical condition. Family and friends are with him.

"Out of respect for Thomas and his family, we will share additional information as is appropriate.

"Please keep his recovery in your prayers."

UPDATE 2: From Thomas's dad:
Thom can move his arms, docs are discussing the best treatment for his neck injury. Immediate concern is for the considerable water in his lungs. We are astounded at the expressions of prayers and support. Thom & Nat know about it. Please keep them up. Love from us all, EdP.

UPDATE: Thomas' dad, canon lawyer Edward Peters, has posted the following message on Facebook:
Okay, I am sorry, but here’s some news.
Thomas Peters was seriously hurt in a swimming accident Tuesday evening. He fractured his 5th cervical vert. and is at Univ. Maryland Medical Center (Baltimore). Natalie Zmuda Peters is there, and the moms Angela & Becky Z flew out a couple hours ago. He moved an arm on command and is undergoing more tests. He has responded pretty well to the immediate steps taken for him so far. I will stay in touch here. Your prayers and well wishes are deeply appreciated.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Homily - "Be merciful to your neighbor in body and soul"

I visited Seattle, Washington, for the first time last week.  What a beautiful city! Located amid mountains and waterways, it has breath-taking views and scenery. We had perfect weather while I was there. The myth about Seattle is that it rains nine months of the year. It's said that people from there spread that rumor so that others won't move there...! But, it actually rains more in New York City than in Seattle.

It's a long flight to the Pacific Northwest. By the way, that is the most un-churched region in the country, according to studies. So, on the way out there, I had many reading materials on my phone, mainly through Kindle. I burned up my phone and then went to crossword puzzles.  One of the puzzles had a 13-letter word with the clue, "humanitarian".  Once I got some of the letters, I realized it was two words: Good Samaritan.  Kind of a shallow description of the Good Samaritan, but okay. 

Good timing for that answer, too, seeing as how it's today's Gospel! I came across a commentary in the Magnificat from Father Barron about the Good Samaritan. It is rich and meaty! It's like a full entree compared to the side dish of "humanitarian" from the crossword puzzle in describing the Good Samaritan. Father Barron has been described as a genius; he is a brilliant teacher of our faith. Listen to his commentary on today's Gospel:

"The unfortunate man in Jesus' parable who makes his way from Jerusalem to Jericho represents the human race which has fallen from the glory of the heavenly city to the degradation of the city of sin. Waylaid by robbers and left half-dead, he symbolizes all of humanity, robbed of its dignity and rendered incapable of saving itself. A priest and a Levite pass by but do nothing to help the wounded man. This vividly represents the incapacity of law and religious ritual in and of themselves to save us from sin.

Finally, a hated Samaritan, a half-breed, stops and, moved with pity, pours wine and oil into the sufferer's sores. He stands for Jesus, God and man, who applies the balm of the sacraments - the wine of the Eucharist and the oil of baptism, confirmation, and the anointing of the sick - to the wounds of the sin-sick soul. The Samaritan then brings the poor man to an inn and offers to pay for his treatment. The word "redemption" means, literally, to buy back, to pay for. Bearing the burden of our sins on the cross, Jesus paid our debt. He bought us back. 

This great parable of Jesus is so much more than a morality tale.  It is a self-portrait of the Redeemer himself".

This is much deeper and more substantial than the Good Samaritan being merely a humanitarian. We all know the instruction of the parable: be like the Samaritan. After hearing Father Barron's commentary, we now know it means to be like Christ...the Redeemer.  It means to not just care for those who are in need of physical healing, but those who need spiritual healing. To be Christ the Redeemer means to bring salvation to people and people to salvation. We're not saying that we are saved; but we have put ourselves in the position of being saved by coming to Christ's wine and oil in the sacraments. We are called to reach out to those who are not in position, and offer them the wine and oil. If they don't come to Church, we bring the Church to them. This is the New Evangelization! Bringing people to Christ and Christ to people...for spiritual healing and salvation.

A friend brought a man to me a couple weeks ago who isn't Catholic but wanted me to pray over him. He has been going to doctors and ministers and anyone else for help with his migraine headaches for years. So, he came to me; I prayed over him and we did Eucharist Adoration, Benediction, and read Scripture. Afterwards, he said he felt physically better, but really focused on the spiritual healing of the Catholic Church.  He asked much about the Eucharist, Confession, and so many of the healing aspects of Catholicism. There are so many! We have the fullness of Christ in the Church, so we have the fullness of his healing.

In today's Gospel, The Lord calls us to be merciful to our neighbor. He calls us to be like Him who is the Redeemer. Let us imitate our Redeemer by being merciful to our neighbor in body and in soul. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Pirate who loves Life, Scripture, and the Church

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Second Baseman on the Gift of Life

Neil Walker lives his faith on and off the diamond.

Trent Beattie   6/10/13
Neil Walker has been able to live out a childhood dream of playing for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates.

After being taken in the first round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft, he diligently worked his way through the minor leagues. He made his major-league debut as a pinch hitter in September of 2009, and he has been the team’s second baseman since 2010.

Walker’s father, Tom, a former major-league pitcher, has been instrumental in his son’s baseball success, teaching him not only proper mechanics, but also a proper philosophy of play. However, had Tom Walker followed through on a plan he had in 1972, his son’s story would never have happened.

Neil Walker spoke about his intriguing family history, love of baseball, and, most importantly, his strong faith with Register correspondent Trent Beattie in time for Father’s Day.

You have a thought-provoking family story that involves Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

Roberto Clemente was known for being an outstanding player with the Pirates, winning 12 Gold Glove Awards, four batting titles and two World Series championships. More importantly, though, he was known for doing a lot of charitable work off the field — particularly in Puerto Rico.
In December of 1972, my father happened to be in Puerto Rico playing winter ball. He was helping Clemente, along with a few other guys, to load a plane full of supplies to aid those affected by the recent Nicaraguan earthquake.

There was some trouble with distribution of supplies from previous flights, so my father wanted to go along with Clemente in order to make sure these supplies actually got to the people they were intended for. However, Clemente told him to stay behind. The plane was already filled beyond capacity, so having more weight wouldn’t have helped. In fact, the plane crashed, resulting in the death of Clemente at age 38.

It’s strange to think about now, but my father was so close to death. One decision was the difference, as far as his living or dying, which, of course, affected my own existence and that of my siblings. It’s not that we would have had vastly different lives, but we wouldn’t even exist at all if our father had gone on that plane.

We tend to take life for granted, but it really is a gift from God. In Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” That was true of Jeremiah, but also of everyone else. None of us gives life to ourselves, so we have to be thankful for all the happenings of divine Providence that make our lives possible.

God’s generosity to us is the foundation of our respect for and protection of every human life, from the moment of conception.

In my case, it’s especially interesting that now — so many years after the plane crash — I’m playing with the Pirates, the same team Clemente played for. He made it possible for me to exist and also to be able to play baseball in Pittsburgh, where he spent his entire professional career.

How has your father influenced your baseball career?

Having played professionally himself, my father knows firsthand what’s necessary to play at this level. There’s a lot of work that goes into it; you can’t just show up and expect things to go well. My father and mother both instilled in me the value of work. I was taught that if I wanted something, I had to work for it. Nothing was going to be handed to me.

Yet, at the same time, there was no pressure on me to play professionally. I think that’s an important thing to point out, because so many parents these days are too demanding on their kids athletically. For too many of them, it’s all about great results — right now. That’s not a healthy mindset to have, especially for young kids who are still learning how to play.

My parents wanted me to do well, but they were also realistic. They didn’t expect more out of me than I could deliver at any given point. They knew that because baseball had enough challenges of its own, they didn’t need to add any to my plate. Instead, they taught me about positive preparation and giving a great effort each day.

If you put all you have into it, you can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and be content with that effort.

Whenever challenges or setbacks occurred, my father would remind me not to dwell on them and to look ahead. He wanted me to remember that tomorrow is a new day, so he would like to say, “The sun will rise tomorrow.”

Have you always taken the Catholic faith seriously?

I was fortunate to come from a good family. We had rules and standards to live by, regardless of what others were doing. I went to a Catholic grade school that was fairly sheltered, but then attended a public high school. That was a big change for me because of how some of my former friends were acting. It was a time when I could have gone the party route, but instead took the healthier road.

Was that similar to what you experienced as an 18-year-old minor leaguer in 2004?

It was, but in high school it was very straightforward because of the fact I was living with my parents. They made it clear what was expected of me and what wasn’t. When you’re away from home for the first time, there can be the thrill of independence, but also the void of loneliness. It’s easy to get swept away with what almost everyone else is doing, even if you know deep down that it’s not the right thing to do.

It can be even more of a problem when, as a professional athlete, you have lots of money.
Transition times are when you experience firsthand why the Church is so necessary. Then you see the value in the sacraments more distinctly than usual, because you’re in a position of need rather than one of comfort or self-sufficiency.

What is a cherished facet of the Catholic Church for you?

One of the things I appreciate most is the Church’s writing, assembling and safeguarding of the Scriptures. We take it for granted that we have a Bible, but we need to remember that it came to us from God through his Church. The Holy Spirit used human instruments to bring us the written word of God.

To start with the writing of the Scriptures, it’s good to remember that every writer of a New Testament book was Catholic. From Mathew to John, they all were members of the one Church that Jesus Christ founded, which was the only church around in the first century A.D.

Moving on to the assembling of which books to include, it’s good to remember that there’s no inspired table of contents page tossed down from the sky by God. The choice of which books to include in the canon was determined by the one Church Jesus Christ founded.

Concerning the safeguarding of the Scriptures, it’s good to remember that monks in the early Church painstakingly copied every page of the Bible by hand. They didn’t have printing presses, so they had a lot of careful work to do in order to maintain and protect the written word of God.

Without the prayer and work of the Catholic Church, we wouldn’t have the Bible today. It’s something Catholics and non-Catholics should think about more often. This reality is explained further in a book called Where We Got the Bible by Henry Graham and also in a booklet called Scripture Alone? by Joel S. Peters.

Do you have a patron saint?

My middle name is Martin, taken after St. Martin of Tours, one of the first non-martyrs to be honored as a saint. He was a convert to Christianity and became a monk. Even after he reluctantly became a bishop, he still lived a monastic lifestyle. It reminds you somewhat of Pope Francis: a simple man with a deep faith.

Do you think people pay too little attention to saints and too much attention to professional athletes?

As a kid, I would look up to MLB players, thinking what they did was very special. It seemed like so much fun to me that I wanted to be a part of it one day. I never gave up that goal, and it has been fun playing professionally. Yet at the same time, I’ve learned along the way that some of my ideas about pro ball were inaccurate.

Regardless of how good a player is, he’s always a human being. That’s why I often wonder what young people see in me as being special. I try to play baseball at a high level, but there are countless other people who try to do their jobs very well, too. People don’t pay nearly as much attention to them, though.

I do see the fame as a plus, however. It’s something that can be used to brighten someone’s day. You can sign a ball with a Scripture verse on it or you can visit kids in the hospital. As long as you’re using fame for the good of others and the glory of God, it’s a great thing.

So you wouldn’t mind having any future sons play in the majors?

No, I wouldn’t mind at all. It would be neat to carry on the family tradition, in a sense. I could help my own sons as my father helped me.

Playing professionally isn’t the most important thing, though. Sports at any level can be a great way for fathers and sons to interact. As a kid, you learn so much on a practical, hands-on level, and you know the love and acceptance that comes from physical interaction.

Sports are a sacramental thing, not in the sense of being one of the seven official sacraments of the Church, but in the more general sense of physical matter being used to point to a greater reality. A father and son throwing a ball back and forth is not just about an object changing places by flying through the air. It has a much deeper meaning. It testifies to the father’s love for his son, which is expressed far more clearly than mere words would.

My wife, Nicole, and I are looking forward to raising kids of our own, so I want to be able to guide them like my father guided me. It will be wonderful to pass along the gift of life that has been passed along so freely to me.

With one different decision in 1972, I wouldn’t even be here, so I have an acute awareness of how important and fragile life is. I want to remember that when raising my own kids.