Catholic News & Perspective

The gift of aligning one’s self with Christ’s suffering

The gift of aligning one’s self with Christ’s suffering

A little less than halfway through my pregnancy, a reader wrote me a delightful note saying something to the effect of, “Oh, the joys of being pregnant during Advent!” And she was right. When I was 20 weeks along, with my baby just starting to show and the flutterings of new life just beginning to be made known inside me, I found myself thinking often of the Blessed Mother, trying to align my wonderings with hers and to conform my appreciation of the miracle of life with her. It was a beautiful time and, the reader was absolutely correct, a complete joy. Since then, however, four months have passed, and I am beginning to be able to relate pregnancy with our current liturgical season of Lent. This isn’t to say that the wonderings and the appreciation are gone. Far from it. Every day I am awed by the growing miracle of life that is happening inside my body. It is a blessing and a gift, beyond any I could have ever imagined — even already. But I’m finding that the journey, now so close to being over, is less represented by gentle Advent wonderings and instead is more in tune with the Way of the Cross. I’m breathing a little heavier these days, unable to sing as loudly or as much as I usually like. Walking down the halls at work, sometimes I wish I had a scooter. Everything hurts a little more. Everything is a little harder to accomplish. Everything makes me that much more inclined to take a mid-afternoon nap. Even in trying not to grumble, I find myself doing a little extra whining these days. I feel especially bad about this given the fact that I am, in essence, a Lenten failure this year. My commitment to daily Mass has floundered, with my attendance at less than 50 percent. Since eating is my second job these days, I opted out of sacrificing any type of food this year (whether nourishing or not). My prayer life has been erratic and distracted. (“Hail Mary, full of grace, I should really get that hospital bag packed,” for example.) Enter my husband, for whom I am perpetually grateful. His commitment to Evening Prayer during Lent for the both of us has kept me somewhat focused — or at least somewhat attuned to the fact that, yes, we actually are in the season of Lent. Despite these failures, I suppose this means that there is an even greater opportunity for me to attempt to find holiness during Palm Sunday and Holy Week this year. To be able to align my insignificant aches and pains of this season of life with Jesus’ suffering on the cross is a great gift, one of which should be taken advantage. Our sacrifices are nothing compared to his. Suffering is never easy. It’s never what we would choose. But that’s why it’s so powerful. And it’s why the rewards are so great — be they sanctification, salvation or the miracle of welcoming new life into the world. For that, I’ll take the aches and pains any day. feedback@osv.com read on

The gift of aligning one’s self with Christ’s suffering

The gift of aligning one’s self with Christ’s suffering

A little less than halfway through my pregnancy, a reader wrote me a delightful note saying something to the effect of, “Oh, the joys of being pregnant during Advent!” And she was right. When I was 20 weeks along, with my baby just starting to show an… read on

Opening the Word: The suffering servant

Opening the Word: The suffering servant

Jesus does not die a happy death. Having proclaimed the Passion this week, we know. We know about the sufferings that he enduredupon the cross. We know about the plot, made by a friend, to put him to death. But how often do we consider the loneliness … read on

Editorial: Authentic belonging

Editorial: Authentic belonging

The children’s educational program “Sesame Street” made national headlines in mid-March with its announcement that, beginning in April, new Muppet Julia would represent a young child with autism. For the 1 in 6 children diagnosed with a developmental … read on

Eye on Culture: Stuff comes up

Eye on Culture: Stuff comes up

Last month my husband and I spoke at a marriage enrichment retreat in Ohio. It was a lovely event that offered encouraging talks from several married couples, breakout sessions, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as Mass and a very nice date nig… read on

Taking Note: Attentiveness to God

Taking Note: Attentiveness to God

“Take time to heal your inner self through meditation. Give your mind a few moments of ‘nothingness’ each day. Concentrate on your breathing to achieve a state of relaxation and peacefulness.” After a long conference day — speaking and meeting readers and friends and supporters — my temptation was to see what Donald Trump event had everyone buzzin. But the note, flagged “meditation,” left by the room attendant was enough to prod an examination of conscience: What really is the best use of a few minutes of downtime? Recollection or MSNBC? While the note would not offend any “spiritual not religious” sensibilities, it did strike me as refreshingly countercultural. As traffic below whisked by the windows, even at a late hour, all into the night and early morning, the message was about slowing down and tuning out the noise. Slowing down may happen, but what do we do and what do we pour into ourselves as we do so? In his book, “ Contemplative Provocations ” (Ignatius, $17.95), Father Donald Haggerty, a New York archdiocesan priest who has spent extensive time with the Missionaries of Charity, writes about the “need for recollection as a prelude to prayer.” He says that it “contains a certain dilemma besides the difficulty of attaining it. It implies that a mental concentration is necessary if one is to pray. And so the demand to corral our wandering thoughts, to tie them down and keep them from breaching the enclosure of prayer. If we succeed in this effort, it is thought, we can presumably dwell on ‘spiritual things.’” The challenge, as always, is about love. “Attentiveness to God is desirable in prayer,” Father Haggerty writes. “But the attention we are to cultivate comes from love, not a mental discipline directed simply at thoughts. What we should seek is a recollection that surrenders us to someone entirely beyond our thought, a beloved who will never stop to rest for long within a particular thought.” In other words, it’s not about nothing, and it’s not about us, either, and our initiative or strategy. It’s about what God wants to do with the time we give. It’s about trusting God with our whole lives. It’s about letting him show us what he wants that to look like. Our challenge is the loving surrender to him to do with us as he wills. That “spiritual not religious” trend may just be an indictment of what we’re doing with our free time. How much of it is in adoration? How much of it is in self-giving? Do we convey joy, even while “off duty”? How “ All In ,” as Pat Gohn writes in the title of her recent book on faith are we, really? When Mother Angelica — whose eventual beatification Mass I’m looking forward to —died around this time last year, the Mass program for the Mass in Hanceville, Alabama, included, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). Is that happening? Is that what we’re giving ourselves over to? With every business trip and carpool — whatever it is we’re doing? Are we careful about what we pour into ourselves? Do we treat ourselves — one another — as the tabernacles he’s asked us to be? And do we take everything as a reminder that that’s who we are about — all in, all his? Are we beholding his glory wherever we are? With or without the rare explicit invitation, we must strive for a posture of being that is something more contemplative. Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95). read on

Pastoral Answers: Impossible perfection

Pastoral Answers: Impossible perfection

Question : Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It seems to me that, knowing man’s fallibility and knowing the impossibility of man being perfect, that perhaps Jesus was not saying “perfect” as we understand … read on

Letters to the Editor for March 26-April 1, 2017

Letters to the Editor for March 26-April 1, 2017

Boy Scouts’ transgender policy raises concern Re: “Boy Scouts to admit transgender youth” (Feb. 26-March 4). I read with great interest this particular article, as my family has been active in Boy Scouts for over 10 years (I have three boys ages 17, 1… read on

This Lent, share love

This Lent, share love

“That look on your face! The look on his!” A colleague stopped by my office at the end of a long day. He stopped, looked down and saw a photo he hadn’t seen before of me with Pope Benedict XVI. It was from October 2012 and was at the opening Mass for the Year of Faith. It also happened to be the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. I had gotten a call a week or so before asking if I’d go to Rome and accept a message from the pope on behalf of all the women of the world. I write a little about this in a chapter for a book coming out this spring called “When Women Pray.” Pope Benedict was reissuing a statement that Blessed Paul VI had offered to all the women of the world at the closing of the council. The message reads, in part: “At this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.” And it concludes with: “Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or nonbelieving, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.” I often think: What a different world we’d live in if people even knew this is what the Catholic Church thinks about women — and if we lived this. Impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel. But then, the same is true of Christianity itself. Living the Beatitudes, living the love we profess to believe in, would change things. The anger. The despair. The indifference. It would all look so different. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia makes this point in his new book, “Strangers in a Strange Land” (Henry Holt, $26). “There are no unhappy saints, and joy and hope are constant themes in the work of Pope Francis,” he writes. “Like St. Paul, he sees the source of Christian joy in the act of preaching the Gospel, in a passion for living the Good News and actively sharing the passion for living the Good News and actively sharing the person of Jesus Christ with others.” He adds, about Pope Francis: “This is why he has such urgent words for tepid Christians. This is why he can never seem so impatient with believers who let their hearts grow numb. If we don’t share the faith, we lose it.” It seems so simple, and yet we all know how hard it can be. That day with Pope Benedict, I was overjoyed. Not because I was meeting the pope, as much an honor as that was. It was the look of love on his face. The message he handed me that day was overflowing with love, and so were his eyes. I could see the message. He was the message. Love was the message. It was just a window into the beauty of the gaze of God the Father. Do we look at others with that gaze? Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . We all know “They will know we are Christians by our love.” So many people today do not know love, because they do not see it from us. Maybe this Lent, we could start smiling. Looking up from our phones and looking into people’s eyes. Those closest to us and those we would have otherwise overlooked. We’re made in the image and likeness of God. What if your gaze upon someone today is the only time they’ve seen that love? What if it’s the only time they could see if might be possible that they were loved into existence? We get busy. We get burdened. I know. But we can recover the joy that is the life we claim to lead. Love this Lent. Is there any doubt that’s what is needed? Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “ How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95). read on

Letters to the Editor for March 12-18, 2017

Letters to the Editor for March 12-18, 2017

First and foremost, we are members of the Body of Christ Re: “Onward Christian Stranger” (Book Review, Feb. 19-25). Your review of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s book, “Strangers in a Strange Land” (Henry Holt, $26), brings up important points. We are resident aliens in this world. Our true citizenship is in heaven. The Church, when it is healthy and strong, has always aroused enmity and opposition from the world. Only when it is weak is it accepted and celebrated by those who despise its head. What is surprising is our surprise at this. Somehow we expect the unbelieving world to bow to our moral authority and to give us seats of honor at their feasts. Jesus allowed his disciples no such illusion. Before his passion he told them plainly, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. … But because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (Jn 15:18-19). Unlike most Christians in history, we have not yet had to resist to the point of shedding our blood (see Heb 12:4). That may change. Opposition and persecution will serve us well if we allow them to sever attachments that compromise our loyalty to Christ. Then we will find in him more than the world can ever give. — Margret Meyer, Jacksonville, Florida Answering the ‘dubia’ Re: “Seeing the many rich facets” (Essay, Feb. 19-25). Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl’s essay mentions the word “confusion” in regards to Amoris Laetitia but does not address the crux of that problem. According to Cardinal Wuerl, in the document the pope and bishops “present the Church’s teaching on marriage in a way that it is inviting, compelling and faithful to the truth and, at the same time, able to engage people who live in a marriage that does not reflect perfectly and entirely the Church’s teaching.” These are people who “remarried,” whose first marriage is valid and who are not living as “brother and sister” in the second “marriage.” Cardinal Wuerl and the pope suggest it is merciful to allow certain individuals to receive absolution and reception of Communion. The confusion arises because this does not follow Church teaching. The clergy should accompany these individuals and help them form a proper conscience in accord with Christ’s teachings and to remedy their marital situations in a way consistent with those teachings. The pope and the bishops must answer the dubia presented by Cardinals Burke, Caffarra, Brandmuller and Meisner. — M.P. Smyth , Finksburg, Maryland Border wall Re: “Catholics respond to border wall, travel ban” (News Analysis, Feb. 12-18). Clearly the ban is unconstitutional and inhumane, if not immoral. It should be rejected by the Supreme Court. The border wall is a completely different situation. The picture accompanying the story depicts a “newly built section of the wall” in 2016 — during the Barack Obama administration. Where were the bishops then? Where were the media? It is regularly, widely, reported that during the eight years of the Obama administration this country deported some 2.9 million undocumented immigrants, a good many of them convicted felons. What happened to the families of those deported? In the last paragraph about the wall, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez said, “We will continue to engage the new administration, as well as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost 40 years.” Where were the bishops and the media — where was the outrage — about the wall and the 2.9 million deportations for the past eight years? — Lawrence Berg , San Gabriel, California Catholic education Re: “8 ways parents can get the most out of their Catholic school investment” (In Focus, Jan. 29-Feb. 4). When reading the In Focus, we couldn’t help but wonder what the percentage of Catholic school graduates (who are Catholic) practice their Catholic faith. We would consider this to be more important than the percentage of those who go on to four-year colleges. — Ralph and Jeanne Morris , via … read on