Pope Francis’ Small Request

Pope Francis’ recent encyclical outlined profound challenges that humanity must face if we value human dignity, the common good, and our relationship with God and one another. But it also contained a lot of short, insightful bits of wisdom from the Holy Father. Among these, one of my favorites is when Pope Francis asks that believers return to the “beautiful and meaningful custom” of stopping to give thanks to God before and after meals. He explains:

That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need. (227)

To approach each meal as the pope describes is to reject the myth of the autonomous individual who is able to provide all that he needs for himself. To thank God and experience true gratitude reminds us of our dependence on God and others. It humbles us. And it reminds us that we have responsibilities to others, generating that sense of solidarity that the pope describes.

We benefit from this prayer by living in reality, rather than being deluded by myths surrounding our own power and control. We benefit by responding to this gratitude in our personal lives—in our treatment of others and the way we consume food and other goods. And finally, we benefit by receiving a constant reminder that we are called to support measures that ensure that everyone in our society has access to the basic needs that we no longer take for granted. Short prayers can be one of the little things that transform our lives and the world around us.

“You Should Have Had an Abortion” vs. Every Life Matters

“You should have had an abortion.” These are the words KJ Harmon’s mom, Tasha, heard when an ultrasound technician informed her that her not-yet-born son’s kidney was full of cysts. This is the ultimate expression of the throwaway culture, where the imperfect are supposed to be discarded as worthless. It is part of a long history of dehumanization, bigotry toward those with disabilities, and eugenics-based reasoning by those who often consider themselves enlightened humanitarians. Read More

Millennial Catholics and the Church

Timothy O’Malley, the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, has an outstanding article at Patheos on millennial Catholics and the Church. He writes:

“They eschew a form of clericalism in which ordination bestows every human gift possible; yet, they love priests, seeing them as signs of an alternative way of happiness in the world, of radical self-gift. They are frustrated and even angered by approaches to catechesis that did not treat them as thinking Catholics. They are tired of tepid preaching, bad liturgical music, and churches that are modeled off of the latest shopping mall. They read John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis — at the very same time. They are philosophers, scientists, engineers, lawyers, and those who give themselves over to full ecclesial ministry as priest or lay person. They get married and have families, offering their particular talents in the context of parishes throughout the United States. They have encountered a Catholicism that is not reducible to party politics but offers an integral vision of human life.

Yet the problem in today’s Church is a reticence to invite these very millennials into positions of leadership. National ministry organizations, as well as the USCCB, continue to bemoan the absence of millennials in the Church only to pass over the remarkable millennials already in the Church….Parishes often see these millennial Catholics as passive recipients for the reception of sacramental grace, rather than active disciples, who could be catalysts for parish life — preachers and teachers for the present generation.”

I highly recommend reading the full article, which is very thoughtful and nuanced and can be found here.

A Discussion on Pope Francis and Capitalism

Millennial co-founder Christopher Hale appeared on Huffpost Live to discuss Pope Francis’ recent speeches in South America. He argued that we should listen to Pope Francis’ message on all issues and respond to the challenges the pope has described (and so should members of Congress). Jack Jenkins provided some insightful analysis of the Pope’s words, while Kurt Shaw provided some interesting thoughts and context from Latin America. As a counterpoint, Robert Sirico engaged in a kind of “triple dissent”—offering a tepid defense of cafeteria Catholicism, warning of the “danger” of Pope Francis’ decision to speak before the US Congress, and essentially arguing that Pope Francis does not understand global capitalism because of his Latin American roots. As his strained comments show, in the wake of the Pope’s most important speech, it is a particularly tough time to be Catholic and a free market fundamentalist.

Check out the video here.

Twenty Years Later: Honoring the Victims and Survivors of Srebrenica

US Ambassador to United Nations Samantha Power spoke at the UN commemoration of the genocide in Srebrenica. You can watch the full video below. Her concluding remarks highlight the lessons that should be drawn from Srebrenica:

In closing, let me simply appeal to all gathered here that the resolve induced by the horror of Srebrenica be extended not only to commemorating the past, but to do far more to prevent genocide and mass atrocities in the present. When those indicted for genocide — today — are able to travel freely, when some would find greater fault with an international court than with those alleged to have perpetrated horrific mass atrocities, when Member States of the United Nations would provide money and weapons to regimes that would gas their own citizens, the sense of impunity that Ratko Mladić felt will reign elsewhere, and we will fail those who need us in the present.

We must never forget the genocide in Srebrenica. We must always honor its victims, its survivors.

But we must never forget also that our words will ring hollow if in the here and now we don’t believe the unbelievable, if we don’t end the culture of impunity that exists in so many places around the world, and if we don’t strengthen our resolve to protect those who count on us all.

Check out the full video:

Why the NBA’s Officiating Crisis Matters

All’s well that ends well. At least, that is how the NBA is hoping basketball fans feel after the Golden State Warriors, the best (and most entertaining) team in the league, triumphed over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in this year’s Finals. And with this week’s draft, many NBA fans will be looking to the future rather than to the past season or postseason, as hope springs eternal—just as did for the Warriors when Stephen Curry slipped to them just over six years ago.

But all is not well in the Association. The NBA is facing an officiating crisis. It threatens the integrity of the sport and the legitimacy of the league. Read More