Sin, Evil, Injustice, and Even Death are No Match for God’s Love

The Easter Triduum, the high point of the liturgical year, is full of lessons on how we might “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

Holy Thursday: To Be Served and To Serve

When I was in second grade, the pastor at our family’s parish invited me to be one of the 12 people to participate in Holy Thursday’s foot washing.

The night was special and important. I remember almost everything. After the homily, I took a seat near the altar, took off my new Easter shoes, and Fr. Greg washed and dried my feet. He smiled warmly, calmly. This didn’t happen at other Masses.

I think of that night and my seven year-old sense of curiosity every Holy Thursday. The foot-washing still catches me off-guard when it starts.

Maybe, by saving it for one time a year, it’s meant to jolt us awake and inspire some child-like wonder. By breaking from the norm, the washing signals: this is crucial. Don’t miss this. There’s a big lesson here.

The practice has its biblical roots in Holy Thursday’s Gospel reading from John 13. It’s the only Last Supper account of the four that does not have the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus takes no bread, takes no cup, says no blessing.

Instead, during the meal, he gets up, and ties a towel around his waist. He washes the feet of his friends.

Feet in First-Century Palestine must have been repulsive – dirty, blistered, cracked. This sort of washing was the work of servants.

This is where and how Jesus, our Lord and King, wants to spend his time. He goes to places that are ugly. He models love through self-giving service.

Holy Thursday’s foot-washing at church reminds us of how Jesus wants to be involved in our lives.

First, Jesus calls us to himself to be washed: to be cared for and nurtured. How difficult it can be to allow ourselves to be served, to admit that we need help.

Second, Jesus sends us out: serve others as I have served you. “Do this in memory of me,” he says during the other three Gospels’ Last Supper accounts. It applies here as well. We are to go to the margins of our societies, leaving our comfortable places frequently, because that is what Jesus did.

What a powerful example Pope Francis set on Holy Thursday a year ago, as he celebrated Mass at a juvenile prison, washing the feet of 12 inmates – young men and women, Catholics and Muslims. We see in that symbolic action and in the words of Jesus an urgent call to let ourselves be served and to serve.

Good Friday: Pardon Your People, Lord

For the past few Good Fridays, my wife and I have participated in the Way of the Cross at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral in East Camden. The event is a bilingual living stations of the cross throughout the parish’s neighborhood. Hundreds of people walk together through the streets, and parishioners act out the Passion story along the way.

Each station includes a series of intercessions that connect the moment in the Passion story to the life of the community. When Jesus meets his mother, we pray for the mothers of Camden, especially those battling addiction. When Simon helps Jesus carry the cross, we pray for the people and agencies throughout the city who serve those who are materially poor. The Passion story has felt more real during this pilgrimage than it ever has in my own reading, life experience, or suburban liturgical participation. Too real, honestly.

As we process from station to station, filling the street and stopping traffic at each intersection, we pray a rosary and sing. One refrain that is repeated over and over again, in Spanish, loosely translates to “Pardon your people, Lord.”

As we pass homes that do not look livable, and children cluster with their noses pressed at second-floor windows…Pardon your people, Lord.

As we walk by abandoned houses that quickly attract all sorts of crime and can threaten an entire block…Pardon your people, Lord.

As we cross sidewalks and grassy places, littered with glass and television sets and everything else…Pardon your people, Lord.

On Good Friday, our suffering as individuals and as communities is bound to the suffering of Christ. But this is not the end of the story. The hope for justice abides, because we are an Easter people.

Holy Saturday: Love is Stronger than Death

“Baruch ata Adonai…” recites my grandmother in Hebrew, as she lights the Passover candles.

Her son, my Jewish father, sits to my left. My Catholic mother is at the other end of the room. About 15 friends and relatives are crammed around my parents’ dining-room table, where I sat every Sunday night for CCD during middle school.

Each year, united with Jews all over the world, we retell the story of how God led Moses and the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. We read aloud through the Haggadah, or “telling,” and eat ritual foods that symbolize different parts of the Exodus. There’s a break for dinner, and then we take the Haggadahs out again for a few more prayers and songs. It’s my favorite family tradition.

Passover usually falls during Holy Week, and a few nights later, at the Easter Vigil, we hear the end of one part of the Passover story, as Moses leads the Israelites out of slavery through the parted Red Sea. A few minutes after that, we’ll hear the story of how Christ rose and showed us that sin, evil, injustice, and even death are no match for God’s love.

The main theme running through both the Passover and Easter narratives is that God hears the suffering of his children and does something about it. We have a God who takes sides with those who are hurting.

The message of Easter is for us to take sides, too. Whenever we put our faith, hope, and love into action on behalf of the downtrodden, we are living Easter. What a privilege it is to be called to serve the Lord by serving one another.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


Which One Of Jesus’ Disciples Are You? Q&A with BuzzFeed’s Ellie Hall

If you use social media, you’ve probably taken a BuzzFeed quiz. (Or 20.)

If you haven’t participated, the gist is simple: you answer a series of multiple choice questions on a particular topic (choose a color, pick a relaxing activity, etc.) and the popular website BuzzFeed will tell you which Bill Murray character you are, or what you should eat for lunch, or what decade you actually belong in. You share your answer on Facebook.

Recently, I’ve noticed a spike in these quizzes’ popularity among my Catholic Facebook friends. Two in particular have been everywhere: “Which One of Jesus’ Disciples Are You?” and “Which Biblical Heroine Are You?”

Unsurprisingly, the same BuzzFeed reporter, Ellie Hall, is behind both quizzes, bringing a dash of religion into the world of viral web content.

Ellie was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work.

What goes in to writing one of your religion-themed BuzzFeed quizzes? Could you describe the process?

It’s always tricky! I tend to spend at least 2 or 3 days thinking about the possible results and coming up with the questions and answers. I reread Bible and Torah passages that mention the men and women in question and try to get a sense about their personalities and how they’ve been portrayed throughout history.  It sounds silly considering that I’m making a quiz, but I try to be as accurate as possible. For example, in the “Which Biblical Heroine Are You?” quiz, I made sure that the “Pick a Flower” question included all the flowers that have been traditionally associated with each woman. So Esther’s flower was a myrtle, a nod to her birth name, Hadassah. Overall, I just try to be thoughtful and make a smart quiz that I would want to take.

They stand out among the “What Muppet are you?”-style quizzes, and they always go viral among my Catholic Facebook friends. Why do you think they’ve gotten such an energetic response?

I think it’s really fun to put the men and women that we’ve heard stories about in church and Sunday school since we were little into a modern context, which is what I’m trying to do with these quizzes. I also think people are surprised to see a site like BuzzFeed publishing fun religious-themed content! But why not, if we do it the right way? It’s really amazing to see so many people enjoying them.

You’ve also written a few things about Pope Francis, who continues to dominate the media. What about him do you think draws people in?

I think that Pope Francis is very good at demonstrating the qualities that people associate with the best of Catholicism and religion in general. He seems approachable and humble — characteristics that aren’t usually associated with parish priests as opposed to the head of the Church. I think that’s the main reason why people, not just the media, love him.

Speaking of Pope Francis: If he took the “Which one of Jesus’ disciples are you?” quiz, who do you think he’d get, and why?

Ha! I think he’d probably get St. John. He has a very warm and comforting presence and I could easily see him having a lot in common with the “Beloved Disciple.”

If the Vatican brought you in as a media consultant, what advice would you give them?

I think I’d encourage them to branch out a little more on social media and interact more with their followers. Not through the @pontifex account, obviously, but maybe set up a few more Twitter accounts and a Facebook page that shows more behind-the-scenes moments from the Vatican. “Open Doors.” I’d want to call it something like “Open Doors.VA” and have an internet-savvy team that would interact with people and show a different side of the Holy See. Humanize it, a bit. Demystify it. I don’t know, but I’d really like to see more of the spontaneous moments that have made Pope Francis such a media darling.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


Responding to Roe v. Wade, 41 Years On

My wife Genevieve and I have become fast friends with a married couple that lives nearby. A few weeks ago, we were out for drinks, and they told us exciting news: they’re expecting their first child.

It was early on in the pregnancy, and Gen and I were among the first people to find out (after their parents, before some siblings). I’ve never been in the loop so close to the beginning of a pregnancy, and the updates we hear each time we get together are literally awesome.

The miracle of life starts off so tiny and so fast. The child is the size of a poppy seed, then, before you know it, a blueberry, then a grape, then a lime with arms and legs stretching. Our friends have talked about the wonder of this life emerging from nothing. It has blown me away.

This experience has me reflecting on miracles – extraordinary happenings that reveal God’s presence to us. Wendell Berry, a farmer and influential American author, argues that miracles are all around us, and we’d notice them if we just paid attention:

“[The miraculous] is our daily bread,” he writes in The Art of the Commonplace. “Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine – which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”

We are so busy that we often miss the miracles of life all around us. But if we can stop for a moment and notice them, they can change the way we think and act. My friends’ joy and wonder have deepened my reverence for life.

Inspired anew by life in the womb, how can I respond? How we can Catholics respond together? To borrow a model from Catholic Relief Services, we can pray, learn, act and give.

Pray

This coming Wednesday, January 22, is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision, which assured the legality of abortion nationwide. The Church in the United States has designated the 22nd as a “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.” Here in the diocese of Camden, Bishop Sullivan will celebrate a special Respect Life Mass on Wednesday at 12:05 pm at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. You are invited to join us to pray for the end of abortion and for a greater respect for the miracle of life. If you can’t make it that day, I ask that you pause for a moment at 12:05, wherever you are, and offer a short prayer for all children and their families.

Learn

Issues surrounding the protection of human life and dignity are incredibly complex and interwoven. For instance, in Washington, DC, 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion. Also, Washington’s poverty rate is higher than the poverty rate of any state. What factors lead to abortion? Why do some families welcome life with joy, and others reject it with trepidation? What methods of supporting families have effectively reduced abortion rates and poverty rates? There is so much learning to do so that our actions and advocacy are well informed. The USCCB’s website for Pro-Life Activities is a good place to start.

Act

Wednesday’s day of prayer for the protection of unborn children is also a day of action. Thousands of disciples from all over the country, including from the Diocese of Camden, will participate in the March for Life in Washington. The marchers will fill the streets and draw the attention of our elected leaders and news outlets, raising their voices in support of the voiceless. Dozens of buses will head to the March from the diocese. Click here if you’d like to sign up last-minute for a bus.

Give

There are so many good ways to share your treasure with respect life efforts and organizations. I’ve seen one parish with a playpen set up in the back of the sanctuary as a baby supply drop-off point. There are great agencies out there worthy of financial support, like Good Counsel Homes, which welcomes and cares for homeless expectant mothers and their children here in South Jersey. It’s important for Catholics to support pro-life organizations in concrete ways.

Together, uniting our prayer, education, and action, there is so much we can do to lift up and protect the miracle of life in our communities. How might God be calling you to respond?

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries. You can follow their work on facebook here.


Isn’t There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas Is All about?

At the beginning of the wonderful “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Charlie Brown is depressed, and he doesn’t know why. Christmas is right around the corner, but all the festivities just don’t feel right. The preoccupation with presents and decorating for Christmas display contests seem too commercial, and a mailbox empty of Christmas cards doesn’t help his mood.

Charlie turns to Lucy at her psychiatrist’s booth for help, and she suggests directing the school Christmas play for some holiday inspiration.  “You need involvement,” Lucy tells him. Charlie agrees, but runs into frustration again when the gang won’t listen to a word he says.

Exasperated, Charlie wonders, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

I feel like Charlie often this particular Advent season. I scramble to finish up things at work before heading to California for Christmas, I struggle to find just the right gifts for friends and family, I complain about this surprising run of South Jersey snowstorms. In the midst of my running back and forth, there’s a part of me that jump into bed and not move until January.

Just like Charlie Brown, I need help.

Luckily, for Charlie and for me, this is where Linus comes in. In the movie, Linus responds to Charlie’s frustration by turning to Scripture, as he stands in the middle of the auditorium stage and recites from Luke’s nativity story. An angel of the Lord has just appeared to shepherds watching their flocks, and he says to them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

In these tiring days, I can find at least a bit of rest in these words from the author of Luke’s Gospel. Here is someone who knew what Christmas is all about: great joy and the awesome love of God.

First: joy. Luke probably wrote his Gospel after 70 AD, decades after Jesus’ earthly ministry had finished. He wasn’t sitting in the manger, chronicling the life of Jesus from the very first minute. The resurrection had already occurred when Luke sat down to write, and early Christian communities were developing and the Word was spreading. So, from that perspective, why bother going all the way back to Jesus’ birth for a few chapters before jumping 30 years to the start of his ministry? Why not just do like Mark and John and start his Gospel when Jesus was already an adult? Because Luke knew that the birth of Christ was a big deal.

Luke tells us the Christmas story to remind us that from the very start, Jesus Christ was the savior of the world. He didn’t transform from a human to the Son of God on the cross, or through the resurrection, or when he ascended into heaven. There, on that night 2000 years ago, God became an infant, fully divine and fully human. So at Christmas, we celebrate those early moments of the Incarnation, which is the radical belief that our God took on human flesh, suffered and died out of love for us. Much more than a sentimental story, at Christmas we rejoice for the presence of God among us. Luke makes it clear: this is a joy-filled thing to celebrate!

Second: love. Out of the millions of ways God could have come into the world, he chose an infant: a person completely dependent on the loving care of his parents.

One of my favorite theology professors once told our class that if he were the Son of God, this is not how he would’ve arrived. Instead, he would wear a sash that said “Son of God,” ride on a float in the Rose Parade, and zap people he didn’t like.

God could’ve done something grand like this, but he didn’t. Instead, God comes to us in incredible humility, with the innocence of an infant in a manger. The gentleness, meekness, and simplicity of the scene show us how God operates. God’s power is not of the sash-wearing variety, but the kind of power that exists in the loving gaze of a mother upon her newborn son. It is the transforming power of love.

Even though Christmas is fast approaching, it’s not too late to plow a path through the busyness and the fatigue to make some room for the joy and love of God.  Taking just a bit of time each day in silent reflection on these two themes from Luke’s nativity story can begin change our hearts and chase the worries off for a while. And then we might just be a bit closer to really knowing what Christmas is all about.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries. You can follow their work on facebook here.


Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace Message: We Are One Human Family

Another day, another fantastic message from Pope Francis.

January 1 is the World Day of Peace, and each year, the Pope releases a (relatively) short document on a particular peace-related theme.

For 2014, Pope Francis focuses on the idea of one human family in a message called “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace.”

He reflects on how commitment to the intimate, familial relationship that connects all people is essential for peace to grow.

Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.

Our sister and brotherhood comes from the teachings of Jesus, who tells his followers, “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters” (cf. Mt 23:8-9).

Pope Francis writes, “The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood. We are not speaking of a generic fatherhood, indistinct and historically ineffectual, but rather of the specific and extraordinarily concrete personal love of God for each man and woman (cf. Mt 6:25-30).”

This is a radical tenet of Christianity. While we build barriers between us, separating our family, our community, our religion, our country from others, the belief that humanity shares one father makes us all a literal family.

If we truly believe this, then it has profound implications for how we live as individuals and as communities. Pope Francis writes:

In Christ, the other is welcomed and loved as a son or daughter of God, as a brother or sister, not as a stranger, much less as a rival or even an enemy. In God’s family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father, and, because they are grafted to Christ, sons and daughters in the Son, there are no “disposable lives”. All men and women enjoy an equal and inviolable dignity. All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all. This is the reason why no one can remain indifferent before the lot of our brothers and sisters.

We seem to value some lives less than others in our societies. It’s tempting to ignore the marginalization of those who are poor, the unborn, immigrants, and the homeless, for example, because solutions are difficult. But what if a biological relative was poor or homeless? What kind of urgent care would we show then? This type of self-giving love, reaching out to all, is what Christian faith demands of us.

Pope Francis describes the roll that nations and governments have to work for solidarity, social justice, and true charity among themselves, resisting war in favor of “dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”

But he also calls individual Christians to practice simple living, a form of fraternity “that must be at the basis of all others.” He writes:

Finally, there is yet another form of promoting fraternity[…]It is the detachment of those who choose to live a sober and essential lifestyle, of those who, by sharing their own wealth, thus manage to experience fraternal communion with others. This is fundamental for following Jesus Christ and being truly Christian. It is not only the case of consecrated persons who profess the vow of poverty, but also of the many families and responsible citizens who firmly believe that it is their fraternal relationship with their neighbors which constitutes their most precious good.

This Advent and Christmas seasons, we have the chance to renew our commitment to our human family. Here are some practical ways to invest in our fraternal relationship with our neighbors, “our most precious good”:

  • Instead of exchanging gifts with someone this Christmas, agree to donate the funds instead to an organization helping people to lift themselves out of poverty. Consider supporting CRS’ relief and rebuilding work in the Philippines.
  • Spend some time learning about the challenges so many of our sisters and brothers face. Get a couple people together and stream the documentary “A Place at the Table” on Netflix, which explores the crisis of hunger in the US. Discuss it afterward.
  • Find an agency near you that (1) depends on volunteers to help it run, and (2) provides you with the opportunity to get to know people who are marginalized. Soup kitchens and nursing home activities departments are two good places to start.
  • Lobby your elected leaders to fight hunger by participating in Catholic advocacy efforts online.
  • Remember the example of another Francis, St. Francis of Assis, by praying the prayer named for him. A friend of mine once wondered how your life would be different if you prayed this every day for a whole month. Why not try it?
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

There are over a billion Catholics on Earth. Imagine how the world might change if we all just did something small to respond to Pope Francis’ message. There’s no reason not to try.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium: Work for Justice at Heart of Discipleship

The Internet is buzzing today with the release of Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). It is a wide-ranging letter that covers scores of elements of discipleship. You (and I) really should read the whole thing.

Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, who did read the whole thing, is pumped up: “I’ve never read a papal document that was so exciting, surprising, provocative, invigorating and hopeful.”

You can read his insightful analysis on his Facebook page.

evangelii gaudium

There are so many themes that demand our reflection and response, but here on this Life & Justice blog, I’d like to point out a few passages that show how, for Pope Francis, a concern for the poor and vulnerable is an essential element of spreading the Gospel. As disciples, our commitment to protecting life at all stages and working to change systemic injustices is not marginal or optional. He writes in paragraph 201 (emphasis mine here and throughout):

No one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas. This is an excuse commonly heard in academic, business or professional, and even ecclesial circles. While it is quite true that the essential vocation and mission of the lay faithful is to strive that earthly realities and all human activity may be transformed by the Gospel, none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice: “Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbour, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone”.

Starting in paragraph 52, Pope Francis lays out challenges to evangelization and discipleship today. The headings he uses are, “No to an economy of exclusion,” “No to the new idolatry of money,” “No to a financial system which rules rather than serves,” and “No to the inequality which spawns violence.”

Pope Francis writes on the violence of income inequality, and rejects libertarian economics:

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.

Here, Pope Francis is not writing about individual or communal acts of charity, as important as they are. Instead, he is emphasizing the Catholic teaching that governments are responsible for helping to correct social structures that perpetuate injustice:

The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

Pope Francis criticizes “trickle-down theories” of economics that assume that the unregulated economy will bring about greater justice in the world. Instead of people serving as cogs in an economy that will naturally take care of everyone, Pope Francis writes we must regulate our economies to assure they promote the good of all.

Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you [political leaders] to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

Pope Francis also targets social libertarianism. The “me-first” individualism that enables laissez-faire economics also leads to a marginalization of the unborn. He writes in paragraph 213:

Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.

Catholicism’s assertion that every single human being is the beautiful creation of God leads the Church to a consistent life ethic you just can’t find in any political party today. Pope Francis draws a clear connection between the protection of the poor and the protection of the unborn:

Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.

Why, for Pope Francis, is working for a more just society such an important part of faith? Because for him, faith draws us out from “narrowness and self-absorption” (paragraph 8), into an encounter with Christ found in our sisters and brothers.

In paragraph 183, he writes:

An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses.

In our own journeys of discipleship, may our love for this magnificent planet and our human family grow ever stronger, and may God give us the grace to make the world closer to how He wants it to be.


Live Questions Launches

I’m excited to be part of a group of millennial Catholics that launched the website Live Questions this week. It’s an online space for an ever-widening community attempting to follow the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice: “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

A bit about us: We are a community inspired by one belief — The love of God is at work. We try to live this belief by exploring questions of vocation, community, solidarity, and beauty:

Vocation: Who is God calling me to be? How does God’s love affect important decisions related to relationships, career, money, leisure time, and more?

Community: What does strong community require? How can we promote the common good in the church and the world? How can we encourage both participation and accountability?

Solidarity: How can we cultivate kinship across boundaries of religion, ethnicity, and class? In what ways can we live the belief that all people are part of one human family?

Beauty: What is beautiful? How does beauty inspire and rejuvenate us? What can we learn about God and ourselves by encountering and creating works of visual art, film, music, poetry and prose?

Most of the curators of LQ participated in Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA) in Philadelphia, a two-year leadership development and faith formation program rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. CLA itself is part of the Jesuit Collaborative, whose mission is to share Ignatian spirituality.

After the group concluded in 2012, some members continued to meet in each other’s homes for the purpose of sharing a meal, discussing books, music, or movies that engaged us, and praying.

Along the way, a few like-minded friends dropped in. Because of our prior experience in CLA and our continued fellowship, we were also able to use each other as trusted sounding boards for career, family, and life choices.

The idea of the “four questions” was an attempt to provide structure and coherence for these gatherings. We were clearly more than a book club. We also had something special and distinct from the many “young adult” groups some of us had experienced. We may not have had an official name, but we are a very intentional, albeit small, Catholic community.

We think there is a real thirst for people to connect with something bigger than themselves, to be part of a community, to be authentic and engaged, to see where we fit in a loving God’s world. Our group gathers monthly for prayer, discussion, and meal-based fellowship focused on those four questions. We commit to asking these questions in our personal and professional lives every day. We participate in worship and service in our own parish and wider communities.

Live Questions, which launched this week, grew from our desire to share this experience with others. Check us out at Live Questions, like us on Facebook, or shoot us a note: livequestions2013@gmail.com. We’d love you to join the conversation.