Announcements

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 disability — including autism — each year, and for their parents, this recognition and resource is no small thing. This is especially true in a society where the numbers of those with disabilities is on the rise. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of individuals with developmental disabilities increased 17.1 percent from 1997 to 2008. This includes a 289.5 percent increase in the prevalence of autism. While the Church has made progress over the years in developing a pastoral response to people with disabilities, it still has a way to go. Dioceses and parishes, faced with the very real burdens of lack of funding and training, are inconsistent in the programming and catechesis offered to people with disabilities. Though Catholic schools may welcome young people with disabilities, they often are strapped for resources to minister properly to them, especially compared to their public school counterparts. Leadership from the U.S. bishops, too, while present, has been uneven. The most comprehensive pastoral statement on persons with disabilities by the U.S. bishops was issued in 1978 and reaffirmed in 1998. (The bishops also released sacramental guidelines in 1995.) We, too, can do more. It is up to Catholics, individually and in parishes, to extend to persons with disabilities the love and mercy of Jesus. Very effective is the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), founded in 1982. It was this group that authored this week’s essay on autism (Page 7) and reminded each of us of what it means to truly welcome those persons with disabilities. In the essay, the authors make an important point about reaching out to those with disabilities when they juxtapose the concepts of “inclusion” and “belonging.” They are saying that how we treat the “other” — the one who is different from us — is not a matter of charity but of justice. Rather than extending our arms to include, as if we are the only arbiters of who matters, we do better to recognize the inherent belonging of all the baptized to the Body of Christ, regardless of ability. It’s a powerful and important distinction that extends to any person we may perceive as being different. Finally, no small matter can be made of the great courage, suffering and hard work that goes into both living with a disability and caring for those with a disability. In every way possible, persons with disabilities and their caretakers should be supported and encouraged by those in the Church. As we commemorate Jesus’ walk to Calvary this Holy Week, we are buoyed by the great grace that comes from his willingness to suffer selflessly for our salvation. Pope Francis last June reminded us of this paradoxical gift of suffering when it comes to those with disabilities. “It is thought that sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment,” he said. “In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis. Yet what an illusion it is when people today shut their eyes in the face of sickness and disability! They fail to understand the real meaning of life, which also has to do with accepting suffering and limitations.” May the rest of the Church continue to more deeply realize the authentic belonging of those with disabilities. Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor 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 night opportunity. By the time the event actually rolled around, the retreat was fairly well attended. However, in discussions with the planning committee, they expressed frustration with the fact that many couples waited until the last minute to register. They were perplexed as to how such an encouraging and affordable event could continually be such a hard sell year after year. The same couples who think nothing of spending more than twice the amount on a nice dinner won’t commit to an event that will provide a lot more fruit for their marriage than what the local restaurant has on the menu. This gathering wasn’t unique. We’ve found this to be true locally in our own state of Michigan as well as across the country and even among the faithful. When it comes to marriage events, especially in the retreat format, it seems that registrants wait until the very last minute or ignore the opportunity altogether. But why? With all the surveys showing marriages still struggling and often ending in divorce, it would seem like couples should be flocking to these conferences. One recent report from the Pew Center found that divorce is on the rise among couples who have been married for long periods of time. Other research shows that the couples who pray together stay together. The Couple Prayer marriage ministry (www.coupleprayer.com) often cites the statistics that among couples who pray together regularly, the divorce rate, which nationally still stands at one out of two marriages, drops to one out of 1,105. And marriage retreats can be a major catalyst in bringing husbands and wives closer together, especially in helping them learn how to pray. As I continued my conversation that Saturday evening with the event planner, she said she finally discovered at least part of the answer. She was chatting with a married friend of hers who was actually helping her with the retreat and assumed her friend would soon be registering. To her surprise, her friend had no intention of going. And when asked for a reason she replied in a very straightforward manner, “stuff comes up and then we have to deal with it in our relationship.” The organizer was so stunned by the answer she didn’t know what to say. Isn’t that the point of retreats and conferences, marriage-related or otherwise? As crazy as the “stuff comes up” answer is, in a strange way it makes perfect sense. Speaking from personal experience, dealing with “stuff” is tough. It’s tough enough to deal with our own “stuff” on an individual level but even more daunting in a relationship. It took me and my husband years of effort, guidance from the Church and lots of prayer to heal our marriage. When we attended a few retreats, “stuff” indeed came up. Now we’re grateful because it enabled us to understand each other better and to strengthen our faith as well as our relationship. We all have lots of stuff. But unless we learn how to unload the burdens that may be weighing down our marriages, the loads will be too heavy to handle and we’re likely to sink into despair. So, if there’s a good marriage retreat being offered in your diocese, hop on board. Let Jesus and the Faith help you to not just get your head above water but to chart a different course that will lead to smoother sailing with God steering the ship. Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXM Channel 130. 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 the word to mean. Could it mean “strive to be complete” or some such thing? — Michael Peerless , via email Answer : It is true, the Greek word here, τέλειοι (teleioi), speaks more of perfection in the sense of completion. Thus, we are to attain to a state of being complete, full grown or of full age. It also has the sense of “reaching the goal.” So we are not dealing with a merely moral perfection, but a completeness of character that is not merely absent of sin, but is possessed of all the virtues. Clearly this is more than a moral injunction for the moment but something attained by God’s grace in stages and accomplished fully only after a journey with the Lord. St. Paul speaks to this when he says, “And [the Lord] gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ …” (Eph 4:11-13). But we ought not consign the Lord’s words to a sort of flourish or exaggeration and see our perfection as impossible. No, this is our dignity and our future if we persevere to the end. The saints in heaven have attained to this by the Lord’s grace which has been accomplished in them already. To the degree that this seems impossible, it only seems so from the standpoint of human achievement unaided by grace. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord is setting forth a moral vision. He is describing the transformed human person. He is doing more than uttering moralisms or new duties, he is painting a picture of what happens to us when he lives his life in us through his indwelling Holy Spirit. You might say he is describing the normal Christian life, which is to be in a life-changing, transformative relationship with God. It is in this way that we attain, in stages to being perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. Thus being perfect isn’t just something we start doing today. It is something we grow into, until it is complete andis perfected in us. Priest participation Question : The new priest in our parish just stands there at the altar when we sing the acclamations such as the mystery of faith and the Great Amen, Lamb of God etc. The previous pastor sang loudly with us. Should he not participate more fervently in these acclamations? — Name withheld Answer : Actually, his stance is the correct one. The Liturgical directives indicate that the people proclaim the mystery of faith, the Great Amen, the conclusion to the Our Father and the Lamb of God. So, those are acclamations that belong to the congregation, not the priest. The priest is directed to say or sing the Sanctus and the “Lord I am not worthy” with the people. Since there are responses and acclamations that belong to the people, for the priest to say or sing them does harm to the dialogue and shared responsibility that is intended by the Liturgy. The priest should not look bored as the people respond. Rather he should reverently and prayerfully attend to the response of the people. Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. read on

Letters to the editor for April 9-15, 2017

Letters to the editor for April 9-15, 2017

Gender confusion Re: “How to talk to your kids about gender issues” (In Focus, March 12-28). Man and woman are created by God to honor and praise him. How does “transgender” fit into that equation? How can altering one’s sex make one pleasing to God? God knows each and every one of us by our name. By changing one’s body and name, does that make it right in the eyes of God? — Craig Galik Duquesne , Pennsylvania Re: “Mother Frances Cabrini: An immigrant who shows us the way” (Faith, April 2-8). Having attended Catholic schools in the Bronx, New York, in the late 1940s, and later Hastings and New Rochelle (St. Jerome’s, St. Clare’s and Iona), I remember the stories — and the love and respect for Mother Cabrini. We were all descendants of immigrants, from Ireland, Italy, Germany and more — later from throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. Society worked to integrate people from Puerto Rico and African-Americans from the South. Now we are locked in a dilemma. How do we continue to welcome new people while preserving the core values that have allowed us to be the most welcoming and the most generous nation in the history of the world? It is too easy to castigate those of us who worry about open Southern borders and unrestricted immigration from the war-torn Middle East. Some of our schools are simply unable to cope with the influx of young people who speak no English and disregard our customs and conventions. Our family has sponsored immigrants, and we contribute to supportive charities. However, we find it too easy for many to imply that we need open doors to unrestricted immigration. The reality of a militant strain of Islam, the problems we see in Europe and the reality of terrorism must be dealt with — although I hear little about these from the pope and other Church leaders. We seem to forget about the idea of formulating policies which would create safety and peace in other parts of the world, thereby allowing people to stay in their native homelands. We need “safe zones” overseas and we need a rational military policy that deals with the cause of dislocation. We need balance. Thomas J. Fields Jr. , Springfield, Virginia Porn addiction Re: “Pornography: a growing public health crisis” ; (News Analysis, March 19-25). The articles about porn addiction have been good in that they show how destructive this disease is. But each article stops before giving any solution. But there is a solution. I am a Catholic priest, and I was addicted to sex from age 12 to 42. I was in despair for years because I could not find a priest who understood sex addiction or had any solution. Finally, I went to treatment for drug addiction and besides offering Alcoholics Anonymous I was introduced to Sexaholics Anonymous. I found hope at last. The program started in the 1980s. At this time I have 25 years of sexual sobriety. I am happy and free. Please let your readers know where they can find hope. — Name and location withheld Re: “Priest hits the street fishing for souls” (Faith, March 19-25). When I read of St. Joseph, Missouri, I recognized the birthplace of Pony Express and Walter Cronkite. Now, I can remember and pray for resident Father Lawrence Carney: visible contemplative-in-action Christ figure, fisherman of souls, bearer of Mary to the masses. And doesn’t he do as Pope Francis asks of his priests to “wear your shoes down” while exercising a reminder of Archbishop José Gomez that we are called to holiness — to heaven — and to bring as many people as possible along with us. Continued courage to you, Father Carney. — Bretta Ribbing , Manchester, Missouri Top-Viewed Articles The most popular stories on OSV.com this week included: 1. Charismatic renewal movement turns 50 (News Analysis, March 26-April 1) 2. Priest hits the street fishing for souls (Faith, March 19-25) 3. Health care debate draws Catholic voices (News Analysis, April 2-8) 4. Mid-Lent joy (Faith, March 26-April 1) 5. Young people are leaving the faith. Here’;s why (In Focus, Aug. … read on

Attentiveness to God

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

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, 14 and 12). I was saddened to not read somewhere in the article the mention of a Christian-based alternative to Boy Scouts, called Trail Life. The structure is very similar to Boy Scouts, with the biggest difference being an emphasis on family and faith. I have moved my youngest son to this organization and couldn’t be more pleased with it. And while the new policy of the Boy Scouts includes an exemption for religiously affiliated troops, boys in Scouting often attend weeklong gatherings with other troops (National Leadership Training, Philmont, National Jamboree) where non-religiously affiliated troops are in attendance as well. I’ve heard stories about what has happened at these kind of events for Girl Scouts, and it’s disturbing. — Paula Baxter , via email Foreign relations Re: “U.S. in the Holy Land” (God Lives, March 5-11). Msgr. Owen F. Campion points to the historical complexities involved with the possible relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. In his recent visit to America, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a demilitarized Palestinian state together with Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Until such time, it seemed premature that the Vatican state, as a diplomatic entity, would extend recognition to a “sovereign” Palestinian state which, in fact, does not exist. — Robert Bonsignore , Brooklyn, New York Politics Re: “Commanders in chief” (God Lives, Jan. 22-28) Msgr. Owen F. Campion’s narrative of U.S. presidents who were friendly to the Catholic faith was generally enlightening. As I was reading each president’s role in their relationship to the Catholic Church, I felt heartened until I got to President Barack Obama. I can’t understand how easily Msgr. Campion forgot about the Catholic organizations, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, being forced by the Obama administration to have a role in providing contraceptives to their employees. Didn’t the Obama administration refuse to defend the Defense of Marriage Act? Didn’t it provide $500 million a year to Planned Parenthood, which does thousands of abortions every year? Didn’t it support same-sex marriages? The lame reason that the poor got health insurance under Obama doesn’t cut it. Even before Obama became president, the poor had already been receiving Medicaid. It was those in the middle class that got covered by Obamacare, and they are now suffering by the skyrocketing premiums. — Reynaldo O. Yana , Saipan Supreme Court Re: “Trump pick Gorsuch seen as likely pro-life vote” (News Analysis, Feb. 19-25). I do not think it to be a big deal if Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to be the first Protestant U.S. Supreme Court justice since 2010, when John Paul Stevens had retired. Throughout the history of the Supreme Court, most justices, regardless of their Catholic, Protestant and Jewish affiliations, have shown themselves to be independent, unpredictable and often in disagreement with their own religion’s demands. — John Clubine , Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada War in Syria Re: “May the peace of Christ be known to them soon” (Openers, Dec. 25). Thank you for reminding us of the many hardships of the people of Aleppo, Syria. Students in my theology classes pray every day for an end to this war, which causes so much pain to the people there, as well as Christians around the world who struggle to practice their faith. — Edna Tull , Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania Top-Viewed Articles The most popular stories on OSV.com this week included: 1. Lent around the world (In Focus, March 6, 2011) 2. Church strives to apply abuse lessons globally (News Analysis, March 19-25) 3. Young people are leaving the faith. Here’s why (In Focus, Aug. 28, 2016) 4. From persecutor to Christian: The conversion … read on

Temper tantrums

Temper tantrums

A few years ago, I was traveling to Florida for a speaking engagement. If anyone has ever visited Orlando, you know how busy that area is — starting with the Orlando airport. The scene that unfolded before me as I attempted to get off the tram and head toward baggage claim is similar to what we’ve been seeing in the sometimes unruly and violent protests that have occurred since the election. A woman was traveling with her son, who looked to be between 2-3 years old. When the tram stopped and everyone began to exit, the little boy became unglued. Apparently he thought he was already at Disney World and the tram was a fantastic ride that had just ended, and he didn’t understand why. He would not take “no” for an answer. The tram was packed with other parents trying to collect their toddlers (along with their numerous carry-ons and strollers). There were plenty of other folks like me also doing their best to get to their destinations. However, the mom made it almost impossible for several of us to go on our merry way. Her son refused to move beyond the platform just outside the doors of the tram. He immediately dropped to the floor and began screaming as toddlers often do when they don’t get their way. Instead of quickly scooping him up and moving along, the mom thought it would be best to try and reason with her toddler, despite that her attempt to negotiate was putting others literally in harm’s way. Several travelers, myself included, practically tripped over the little boy and his mom as we tried to exit the train. I managed eventually to make it around the two of them, and as I hurried off I could still hear the boy making quite a ruckus and drowning out his mother. Sound familiar? Just take a look at some of the protests and counterprotests that have been happening around the nation. A recent case in point is the agitator who decided to do his best to disrupt a peaceful, mid-February Students for Life rally on the University of Michigan campus by acting much like that toddler in Orlando. As speakers began their presentations from the podium, the student burst into a loud scream until he lost his breath. He apparently just couldn’t handle what he was hearing. This happened repeatedly and, again, much like the little boy who didn’t get his way, when the presenters tried to reason with him he became even more agitated and screamed more loudly than before. Unlike the mother of the screaming child, however, the presenters quickly realized they weren’t going to get anywhere with this student. They ignored him and went ahead with their event, and when the bully realized he no longer had an audience he stopped screaming and disappeared into the crowd. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . In order for concerned Catholic Christians trying to do our best to embrace — and share — the truth of our faith in an increasingly hostile environment, we need to be like the other Orlando travelers on the train that day. We have to ignore the temper tantrums and keep our eyes focused on Christ so we can get where we need to be spiritually. We have to keep teaching and preaching the truth in love, but we also have to remember that sometimes there are those who are not ready to listen. Life is definitely a journey, but today too many see it as a gravy train — a free ride that never ends. We pray for them. We are always willing and ready to answer questions, to extend a helping hand reminding them of God’s mercy. But we can’t allow those who are still like little children, absolutely refusing to take “no” for an answer, to stop us in our tracks and cause us to stumble. Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXM Channel 130. 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