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Archive for the ‘Living Catholic lives’ Category

We’re not told in today’s first reading how the lame beggar felt the next morning, when he woke up and realised that he no longer had a job. Perhaps he’d learned skills before he was lame that he could now turn to? We can trust that, filled with the Spirit as they were, John and Peter gave the lame man what he needed.

I think, though, that those of us who are not saints need to be careful about the charity we give and the charities we support. It’s far too easy to make judgements about what people need, and insist that they take it. The best aid stories I’ve heard have involved the Western aid agencies setting aside their preconception and working with the communities they try to help to find out what the communities perceive their needs to be.

My beloved and I won $78 dollars on the Lotto last week, which led us to talk about what we’d do with the current big prize (which is several million). We agreed we’d like to see it used effectively at a local community level – some in our family, some in New Zealand, and some overseas. We’d like to have more money to give to one of the causes we care passionately about – such as freedom for slaves, education for girls and women, access to clean water and to safe housing, protection from violence. But we wouldn’t want to just hand over money without being sure that the actions were grassroots actions – local initiatives arising from local needs supported by local effort and structured in a way that local people can become independent of external help.

To me, that’s love in action. Helping people to rise up and walk.

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36e7vzLast week, we had a combox discussion about what in the Church needs reform. David Schutz, in a thoughtful post on the reform of the Curia, reminds us that reform can’t stop in one place, and that – in Church history – those in most need of reform have usually been those most resistant.

Read the whole post for gems like this:

Don’t think that the Curia can reformed without the whole Church being reformed; and don’t think that the Church can be reformed without YOU (and me) being reformed.

…and this:

…it isn’t a “liberal vs conservative” thing, it is an “inward vs outward” thing. The Counter-Reformation was, of necessity, “inward”. But the time for “inward” is gone, and the time for “outward” – Evangelisation – is here. Yet a characterisation of both the old fashioned dyed-in-the-wool liberals and new Rad Trads is that they both share the view of an “inward looking”, aka, “self-referential” Church.

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pope1n-5-web

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter!

What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons…

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.

This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell – to the abyss of separation from God – this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.

Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?

Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).

[Unscripted remarks] Dear brothers and sisters who have come from all over the world to this Square, the heart of Christianity and to all of you joining us via the media, I repeat my wishes for a happy Easter! Bring to your families and your nations the message of joy, of hope, and of peace that every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed. May the Risen Lord, who defeated sin and death, sustain us all especially the weakest and those most in need. Thank you for your presence and the witness of your faith. A thought and special thanks for the gift of these beautiful flowers that come from the Netherlands. I affectionately repeat to all of you: May the Risen Christ guide all of you and all of humanity on the paths of justice, love, and peace!

[Pope Francis then imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.]

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Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia says:

Lombardi said today that Francis has now moved to a suite in the Domus, leaving the simple room which he was assigned by lot along with the other cardinal-electors prior to the Conclave. The suite had been prepared for the new Pope in anticipation of renovations others might’ve sought to the Palace apartment; the study in Francis’ new quarters is shown above.

As the pontiff determined where he’d live, the Vatican previously stated that Francis wanted his living arrangements to be marked by “simplicity and sharing.” Beyond his Masses in the house chapel, the Pope is said to have been taking his meals in common with the Domus’ residents and guests…

Beyond seeking a humbler set-up – not to mention a home-base that’s less isolating and, perhaps, easier to sneak out of as he sees fit – Francis’ decision to remain at S. Marta underscores a unique reality of the new papacy: unlike his predecessors since time immemorial, the pontiff has no personal household of aides and domestics who’ve come with him to the Vatican. As the household traditionally shares the Palace residence with the Pope, the lack of a “family” of his own means that Francis would’ve been occupying the old apartment by himself.

Rocco has some more details and some good pictures of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.  He reports that the Pope will still use the office suite in the Papal Apartments of the Apostolic Palace for meetings and other work.

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mothersuzanneaubertIn Mass each week, we are praying for the canonisation of Mother Aubert of the Sisters of Compassion.

Suzanne Aubert grew up in a French provincial family. Lyon’s missionary spirit brought her to live with Maori girls in war-anxious 1860s Auckland. She nursed Maori and Pakeha in Hawke’s Bay as the settler population swelled in the 1870s. In the 1880s and 1890s, up the Whanganui at Hiruharama/Jerusalem, she broke in a hill farm, published a Maori text, manufactured medicines, set up the only New Zealand home-grown Catholic congregation, and gathered babies and children through the family-fracturing years of economic depression. The turn of the century sent her windswept skirts through the streets of the capital. There she would be a constant sign of warm caring and tolerance until she died in 1926. [From the Sisters of Compassion website]

For a fuller history of her life, see the link above, or follow the dates in the Sisters’ timeline of Mother Aubert’s life. The Te Ara encyclopaedia also has an excellent article, which gives a good account of her conflicts with government policy, bishops, and others as she worked to provide practical help to those most in need. For example, her order started the nation’s first child care centre, took in foundlings without demanding to know their parentage, and helped anyone who needed help whether or not they were Catholic.

sisters of compassionIn The Story of Suzanne Aubert, Jessie Munro says:

Despite the wealth of spiritual writings, practicality always remained a keynote.  Mother Melchior, a later Mother General, recorded in an interview her first impressions of Mother Mary Joseph when she first met her soon after her return from Rome:

I thought she meant business straightaway.  There was no nonsense about her.  She didn’t say she’d be very pleased to have me or anything like that.  I was coming solely to a life of dedication and Mother made no bones about it.  But [she] was very simple and very lovable and very friendly when one got to know her.

In fact, this combination of attributes appears whenever people described her.  Adjectives of strength and purpose: strong, courageous, thorough, dedicated, stubborn, single-minded, strong-willed, independent, combine with these: warm, affectionate, energetic, thoughtful, caring, simple, loving.

motheraubertMother Mary Joseph died on 1 October 1926 at the age of ninety-one.  Thousands lined the streets for her funeral.  Government offices were closed and even sittings of the Supreme Court were postponed by the Chief Justice.  A Jewish Rabbi and a Moderator of the Presbyterian Church joined the Catholic clergy and the Maori people in the funeral procession.  A workman, on seeing the huge crowds, is reported to have asked: “What religion is this woman being buried?”  A quick reply came: “That’s a question she would never have asked you or me!”

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db_26-Cross_of_the_Holy_Week2Two of our grandchildren came with us to the Passion Day Mass yesterday. We’d been talking over the weekend about peer pressure, fair weather friends, and the dangers of posting anything in a digital format that you wouldn’t want to have to show your grandmother.

I found myself using the long double-Gospel of the Mass as an object lesson. See? One weekend you’re king for the day, and everyone cheers. The crowd are out in the streets laying down palms for your donkey to walk on. Five days later, the same people are in the same streets baying for your blood. Who, then, are your friends?

The New York Times had an article recently about the power of family stories to build resilience. The article talks about the research of a couple of Americans, who were interested in the observation that children who knew more about their families coped better in a crisis:

They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Duke talks about three different themes in family narrative – the ascending theme (we came from nothing and built an empire), the descending theme (we used to have everything, and we lost it all), and the oscillating theme.

‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Fascinating stuff. As those who’ve followed this blog for a while know, I’ve suggested (slightly tongue in cheek, but my recent readings around AI (artificial intelligence) just reinforce the opinion) that we should be called Homo Narrans – that our identifying characteristic as an animal is our ability to make sense of our environment by making a story out of it, and to then pass that story on to others. My master’s research methodology was based on the power of narrative to build cohesiveness into groups. Surely much of the strength of Christianity to endure and survive lies in the power of the Christian narrative. Passion Sunday’s epic readings take us from triumph through hope to agony and despair. We can’t not know that the resurrection follows. For us, even the descending narratives of the daily readings of this Holy Week – taking us step by step closer to the betrayal, the denial, and the cross – are coloured by the ultimate in plot switches of Easter morning.

Our Christian narrative is an oscillating narrative. I find it hard to believe that a descending narrative – one in which the leader died, betrayed by a close friend and deserted by all but one of his other friends – would have had any survival value for the nascent group. Did they pull themselves together enough to come up with a lie that would keep the crowds coming? Improbable, I would have thought. And the improbable is vastly less likely than the impossible. In this case, the impossible (the resurrection) simply means something happened that we don’t understand. The improbable means that people behaved in a way that is outside of human nature.

We belong to something bigger than ourselves, and – no matter what happens – we’ll survive; we’ll stick together as a family.

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479699_10200882652894910_1998537882_nMy beloved is a born teacher. In every job he’s ever had, he has made knowledge-transfer a pivotal part of his job performance. He brings his skills into his family life, as a father, as a grandfather, as a husband. At times, his insistence that mistakes and trials are learning opportunities can be a little trying. Note to husbands: If your wife is leaping on one foot around the floor, holding the broken toe she has just sustained from the fall of a heavy wooden bedhead, it is not a good time to lean your head in the window and say: “What have you learned from this experience?”

He’s right, though. (He usually is, God bless him.)  “What have you learned from this experience?” It’s the logical and productive way to look at what happens to us, good and bad.

In a post reacting to widespread debate about Pope Francis’ style, David Schütz invites us to ponder “What can we learn from this experience?”

There was a time when ceremonial grandeur attracted people to the Church. There some societies in which it still does. Unfortunately, our western society is no longer such. While the grandeur of the Church remains very attractive to some of us, there are a lot of others for whom (rightly or wrongly – and I would definitely say wrongly) this grandeur interpreted as a display of wealth in the face of the overwhelming poverty of many in the world. In a word, it spells “hypocrisy”. To many it has become an impenetrable barrier to hearing the message of the Gospel.

Now I know that many of us have suffered the horrors of banality in the last 50 years or so in the Church – where the beautiful has been ditched for the common, and the lowest-common-denominator at that. So I am not talking about that. But we are mistaken if we think that the only kind of beauty that can be put up against such banal ugliness is grandeur. There is beauty in simplicity too. Or, to put it otherwise, simplicity can be as beautiful as grandeur. And attractive.

So, I think Pope Francis has judged that – in order that the Church’s message be heard – a new kind of beauty needs to shine forth from the Church at the highest level: the beauty of simplicity. This is not a criticism of his predecessor, or of those of us who happen to find grandeur attractive.

Also take a look at Darwin Catholic’s post ‘There is not just one way to be Pope’:

It seems to me that John Paul II’s dense intellectualism combined with his oversize and highly charismatic personality was arguably exactly what the Church needed at the time of his pontificate — as we emerged from a time in which it seemed like the roof was coming down and everything was up for grabs. Benedict’s liturgical focus was another thing that the Church desperately needed at the time that he was chosen — and I think that his ability to write deeply yet clearly was also a huge need. If John Paul II’s struggle to incorporate Catholic teaching and a moderl philosophical understanding of the human person were something very much needed in our modern era, I at the same time suspect that Benedict’s books (both his books about the life of Christ and the many books he wrote prior to his pontificate) may actually be read more often by ordinary Catholics in the coming decades than anything that John Paul II wrote.

Similarly, I think that Francis’ intentional simplicity is something that we need to see in our pope at times. This is not to say that Benedict and John Paul were not simple. They were, though in different ways. But while not every saint needs (or should) be simple in the sort of over-the-top way that our pope’s namesake St. Francis of Assisi was, St. Francis nonetheless remains a good saint to have. That it is good that we have St. Francis as an example does not mean that every other saint is the less for not being St. Francis.

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