Alan Kurdi, Martyr

Civil war has ravaged Syria for more than 4 years. In that time, almost a quarter million people have been killed (in documented deaths alone), at least 7.6 million civilians have been displaced from their homes and remain in Syria, and nearly 4 million refugees have left their country in search of peace and security. Estimates are that at least half of the refugees are children.

For much of these last four years, the international community has hardly taken notice of the conflict or chaos, to say nothing of working toward consensus on what ought to be done for the growing number of people forced to flee for their lives because of this inaction. Although the U.N. made an appeal for $8.4 billion in aid to address this crisis at the end of 2014, there was not enough political will to fund even half this amount. Read More

The Power of Being Named

Like many Catholics, I have family on my mind nowadays. These are exciting times with the Pope’s recent trip to the U.S. in the run-up to next month’s Synod on the Family. With its focus on family issues—like cohabitation, contraception, same sex marriage, divorce, and annulment—last year’s synod stirred up plenty of emotions and controversy. Francis’ openness to discussion and to hearing a variety of viewpoints has given many hope that the Church might soon change its approach to some of these issues, an approach that some people consider backwards or even bigoted. Indeed, the Pope’s recent streamlining of the annulment process stands as proof that this pontiff is genuinely intent on changing certain aspects of how the church operates. Still, others have been frustrated by the slow pace at which these changes are occurring and by the Pope’s insistence that Church doctrine—on marriage, for example—cannot and will not change. With so much at stake, Vatican experts like John Allen project that next month’s synod will involve no less controversy than the last.

As exciting as all this is, for my wife and me, the excitement about the upcoming synod and the Pope’s time on American soil pales in comparison with the excitement surrounding the anticipated arrival of our first child in November. Over the years, we have had many impassioned conversations about a variety of Church teachings on family matters, but these days our minds are consumed by one thought—very soon we will have a family of our own. Read More

Why Workers and Unions Matter: An Interview with Father Clete Kiley

A few years ago, a video of Father Clete Kiley, a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago, went viral. His passionate, stirring defense of labor unions and economic justice, together with his honesty and moral clarity on the inadequacies of the status quo struck a chord with believers and non-believers alike. And his vision was shaped by Catholic social teaching. It showed the power of faith in action.

This summer, Fr. Kiley, who is the Director for Immigration Policy for UNITE HERE, spoke at the “Erroneous Autonomy: A Conversation on Solidarity & Faith” conference in DC, alongside Cardinal Donald Wuerl and other leaders from the Catholic and labor communities. Millennial editor Robert Christian had the opportunity to interview Fr. Kiley, to follow up on some of the key points he made at the conference and ask him about where millennials fit into the equation. Read More

Before Noon: Life and Death in a Throwaway Culture

7:15 in the morning, leaving in a hurry for work, I recite a prayer before exiting my house because there’s no certainty that I’ll return. I say good morning to neighbors while walking, thinking of my agenda for the day.

Down the road, I see Carlos, sitting on his porch. He’s wearing a yellow swimsuit today. He approaches and greets me, as always, with a smile.

“Good morning,” he says, “I hope you’re well!”

And I respond in kind.

I stop for a second, to look at him, because he seems thoughtful this morning, worried maybe. Alongside him sit his two skinny dogs.

Carlos is a young man, maybe eighteen years old. I can’t tell you his age for sure, but I know that he has no mother and father. He lives with his aunt and three female cousins who also lost their mother and father. Their small familial circle is the poorest in the community. Moreover, they all suffer some degree of mental impairment—Carlos included. He doesn’t know how to read or write. At his age, he cannot find work. He runs errands for the family and occasionally takes odd jobs that might earn him a few cents here and there—money he uses to help feed his cousins. Carlos and his family sit at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. They are the poorest, the most destitute, the most excluded, marginalized, and forgotten. Still, Carlos greets his neighbors with a smile and his cousins with a hug. Read More

Why Bernard Nathanson Inspires Me

“Is there a doctor who you look to as a role model? Someone in whose footsteps you could see yourself following?” I remember my friend asking me this question on a hot, dry night in southern Africa, where we were studying abroad together. I probed the depths of my mind and could come up with precious few names to provide as an answer—indeed the thought had rarely even crossed my mind. I had recently read a semi-autobiographical book by Dr. James Orbinski, who worked for Medcins Sans Frontiers, in some of the most horrific conflicts of the late 20th century. Reading the gripping tales of his life as a doctor in the most difficult settings, I remember the specific feeling that “this is medicine, this is what I want to do!” I offered Dr. Orbinski as my role model. It was an honest answer, but still had the convenience of proximity rather than deep thought or prayer. Yet there was another doctor, creeping in the back of my mind that I considered, but withheld. He was not a role model, it didn’t seem at the time, yet his curious life had gripped me from the first time I heard of its telling. That doctor was Bernard Nathanson. Read More

Catholicism: A Story of Identity

There was a point in my life when I thought I wanted to be a Buddhist. Disillusioned with the strict dogma and old-fashioned views of Catholicism, I began to look elsewhere for my religious fulfillment. I had heard through multiple friends about the benefits of meditation, and once I started to meditate I began to learn more and more about the rich and beautiful Buddhist tradition and the spiritual foundations of meditation. After that, I was hooked. Where Buddhism seemed so hip, cool, worldly, and, I’m ashamed to say, exotic, Catholicism seemed so… conservative. Even downright Republican, and as a card-carrying liberal Democrat, God forbid someone ever assume that about me!

But the deeper I got into Buddhism, the more and more I felt like a fraud, a cultural appropriator who was there more for the novelty and uniqueness than any spiritual or emotional transformation. I mean seriously, the story of disillusioned Westerner turning to Eastern philosophy to fill “The Void” is such a tired cliché that it made me cringe to think I was becoming that person. Read More