Pope Francis: Remember God’s Style of Closeness, Compassion, and Tender Love

Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash

via the Vatican:

In the face of cultural, ethnic, political and religious diversity, we can either retreat into a rigid defense of our supposed identity, or become open to encountering others and cultivating together the dream of a fraternal society….

If we put the Gospel at the centre and bear witness to it with fraternal love, we will be able to look to the future with hope, whatever the tempests, great or small, we may experience today. What is the Church called to bring to the lives of all men and women, if not the serene certainty that God is mercy, that he loves us at every moment of our lives and is ever ready to forgive us and lift us up?  Remember God’s style, which is a style of closeness, compassion and tender love. This is God’s style. Let us travel the same path, with the same style. Temptation to discouragement never comes from God, never. It comes from the enemy, and can be fueled by any number of situations: behind the façade of prosperity, or under the guise of religious traditions, many dark areas can lurk. The Church in Hungary has recently had cause to reflect on how the transition from the age of dictatorship to that of recovered freedom has had its contradictions: a decline in morality and a surge in organized crime, the narcotics trade and even organ trafficking, and so many cases of children killed for this purpose. There are social problems: the troubles experienced by families, poverty, the problems faced by young people, all in a context where democracy remains to be solidly established. The Church must not fail to be an advocate of closeness, a source of care and consolation, lest people end up being robbed of the light of hope.


A Christian Understanding of Freedom

Photo by Hanna Zhyhar on Unsplash

Tish Harrison Warren writes:

“My body, my choice,” the rallying cry of the pro-choice movement, has been adopted by those opposing mask and vaccine mandates…

In Vogue, Molly Jong-Fast said that the phrase, when used by conservatives who oppose vaccine mandates, shows that “for Republicans, it’s a case of government regulation for thee but not for me.” Of course, critics would accuse her of the same hypocrisy for being pro-choice but also favoring vaccine mandates.

Certainly, the complexities of abortion and Covid prevention are different. These are not identical issues. But the mutual slogan points to an underlying agreement between these warring factions: They both understand liberty primarily as the absence of restraint.

This is how Americans in general tend to envision freedom. It’s what the philosopher Isaiah Berlin called negative liberty — the autonomy of individuals to do what they want to do. Personal choice is therefore the essential quality of liberty….

The truth is that our personal choices, particularly those that are difficult and cost us something, are often not merely rooted in what we think is right for us, but in what we think is just and good in an absolute sense. For everyone. Personal choice then cannot be our only way of assessing whether something is ethical or just in a society.

Christian ethics call people to ideas of freedom that are not primarily understood as the absence of restraint, but instead as the ability to live well, justly and righteously….

We therefore have obligations to others, even obligations that we do not willingly choose. Our personal preferences and maximal autonomy must be set aside for the sake of loving our neighbor and for the common good.

It’s rarely admitted aloud but asking someone to seek the good of others is often a call to suffering in one degree or another….

e can and should enact legislation like paid family leave, no-cost health care and other measures to support mothers, just as we support economic relief for those affected by Covid prevention. But we cannot deny that even if we seek to lessen the load, we are asking people to bear a burden….

Consumer capitalism is not going to teach us about how to pursue arduous goods, nor is technological progress, nor is either American political party. Theoretically, religious communities are places that train us toward ends other than individual autonomy. They point us to something bigger and higher than ourselves, calling us to love God and our neighbors. However, this is unfortunately not always the case. Many religious communities have lost their ability to articulate an alternative to the sovereignty of personal choice and individual autonomy….

We need a rooted and robust call to love our neighbors, our families and the marginalized, the needy, the weak and the afflicted among us. Individual liberty is not a bad political starting point, but it’s inadequate to orient our lives. We need other stories that teach us how to live justly and wisely in the world, that lend us a vision of positive liberty, that show us what freedom is for.

 


Pope Francis Encourages Christians to Offer Prophetic Witness to the Beauty of the Gospel

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

via the Vatican:

Let us never forget this: faith cannot be reduced to a sweetener to make life more palatable. Jesus is a sign of contradiction. He came to bring light to the darkness, exposing the darkness for what it is and forcing it to submit to him. For this reason, the darkness always fights against him. Those who accept Christ in their lives will rise; those who reject him remain in the darkness, to their own ruin. Jesus told his disciples that he came to bring not peace but a sword (cf. Mt 10:34): indeed, his word, like a two-edged sword, pierces our life, separating light from darkness and demanding a decision. His word demands of us: “Choose!” Where Jesus is concerned, we cannot remain lukewarm, with a foot in both camps; we cannot. When I accept him, he reveals my contradictions, my idols, my temptations. He becomes my resurrection, the one who always lifts me up when I fall, the one who takes me by the hand and lets me start anew. He always lifts me up….

This has nothing to do with hostility toward the world, but with being “signs of contradiction” within the world. Christians who can demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel by the way they live. Christians who are weavers of dialogue where hostility is growing; models of fraternal life where society is experiencing tension and hostility; bringers of the sweet fragrance of hospitality and solidarity where personal and collective selfishness too often prevails, protectors and guardians of life where the culture of death reigns.


Four Ways to Share Faith With Your Toddler

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Millennial Catholic Jonathan Lewis writes:

Families too can develop a spiritual calendar. Our calendar includes special anniversaries, family saint days, liturgical seasons and baptism anniversaries.

On a daily basis our best family prayer time is at night. Our bedtime routine includes thanking God for what happened during the day and praying for friends, family members and anything else that pops into the mind of a 2-year-old….

Sunday Mass can be a particularly meaningful yet exasperating time to parent a toddler. We have been successful at focusing during Mass by sitting close enough to the front for our daughter to see the action taking place on the altar….

Whenever we practice being kind, patient or saying “I’m sorry,” we are passing on faith to our children. Sometimes a sense of fervor or a limited imagination leads us to think that the only way we share our faith is by spending time in religious buildings or talking about religious things. It’s important to remember that everything that is good, true and beautiful directs the heart toward God….

In his historic study on youth and religion, sociologist Christian Smith notes that when it comes to passing on faith to children, parents tend to “get what you are,” that is, young people are most likely to stay engaged with religious practice if their parents do also.

The most important thing that we can do to pass along our Catholic faith is the same, whether we are parenting toddlers or teenagers: recommit to our own relationship with Jesus Christ and his church.


Pope Francis Calls Out EWTN’s Bad Behavior

Gerard O’Connell reports:

Pope Francis remarked, “There is, for example, a large Catholic television channel that has no hesitation in continually speaking ill of the pope.” He said: “I personally deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the church does not deserve them. They are the work of the devil. I have also said this to some of them.”

While Francis did not name the “large Catholic television channel” in his answer, his remark “I have also said this to some of them” offers a clue as to which station he was referring. America has learned from three different Vatican officials, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak, that the pope touched on this same topic on his flight from Rome to Baghdad on March 5, when he greeted each of the journalists on the flight.

On that occasion, when the pope reached EWTN’s reporter and cameraman, one of them told him they were praying for him. He responded that maybe Mother Angelica, EWTN’s founder, is in heaven praying for him, but that they—referring to the entire network—“should stop speaking badly about me.” He used the Italian word sparlare, which means “to bad mouth,” “to say nasty things” or “to speak ill of.”


Pope Explains How to Be Original and Revolutionary

Photo by Ben Mater on Unsplash

via the Vatican:

Love is our greatest dream in life, but it does not come cheap. Like all great things in life, love is magnificent, but not easy….

we need to have new eyes, eyes that are not taken in by appearances. Dear friends, let us not trivialize love, because love is not simply an emotion or feeling, even though it may start that way. Love is not about having everything now; it is not part of today’s throwaway culture. Love is fidelity, gift and responsibility.

Today, being really original and revolutionary means rebelling against the culture of the ephemeral, going beyond shallow instincts and momentary pleasures, and choosing to love with every fibre of your being, for the rest of your life. We were not put here just to make do, but to make something of our lives….

For our life to be great, we need love and heroism alike.  If we look to the crucified Jesus, we find both boundless love and the courage to give one’s life to the utmost, without half-measures….

Every one of us is a gift and we can make our own lives a gift. Other people await you: your communities, the poor… Dream of a beauty that goes beyond appearances, beyond cosmetic impressions, beyond the fads of the moment. Dream fearlessly of creating a family, having children and raising them well, spending your life in sharing everything with another person. Don’t be ashamed of your faults and flaws, for there is someone out there ready to accept and love them, someone who will love you just as you are. This is what love means: loving someone as he or she is, and this is beautiful….

Each of us is unique. We were put in this world to be loved for who we are, and to love others in our own unique and special way….

Pessimism makes us sick with bitterness, it ages us from within; your youth will quickly grow old. Today, there are so many disruptive forces, so many people ready to blame everyone and everything, spreaders of negativity, professional complainers. Pay no attention to them, no, for pessimism and complaining are not Christian. The Lord detests glumness and victimhood. We were not made to be downcast, but to look up to heaven, to others, to society.


The Vision and Mission of the Black Catholic Messenger: An Interview with Nate Tinner-Williams

Nate Tinner-Williams is a co-founder and editor of the Black Catholic Messenger. Millennial editor Robert Christian interviewed him on the publication, its mission, and the work they are doing.

Why did you start the Black Catholic Messenger? What motivated you and your fellow co-founders? 

I — and the team (initially, Alessandra Harris, Preslaysa Williams, and a small group of collaborators) — started BCM to fill a void in Catholic media that has existed mostly unaddressed for the past century. Despite the strong presence of the Black Press in the story of the Black experience in the US (especially in the 20th century), Black Catholic publications—that is, journalism by and for African American Catholics—have been almost non-existent during that period and since. We decided to change that.

What is the guiding vision for the publication, or what are the principles that animate it?

Our guiding vision is that of Daniel Rudd, our patron. He sought, in the late 19th century, to give the Catholic Church a hearing in the minds of African Americans via a Black Catholic newspaper. His aim was to present Catholic teaching exactly as it is: hope for a sin-sick world. He felt authentic Catholic witness could be a salve for the ills facing African Americans in his day, and we feel the same now. In that sense, we are an orthodox Catholic outlet. At the same time, Rudd recognized that he needed to address racism and anti-life witness head-on, as best he knew how, flaws and all. That’s us too. In that sense, we are a Black publication in the justice tradition of social thought, informed heavily by Catholic Social Teaching as well as the Black Freedom and Black Radical Movements.

Could you talk about your background and how it led you to this work? 

I am a journalist by training, as well as an amateur theologian. I started doing journalism in high school and kept it up through most of college (where I switched from studying journalism to studying theology). I was also a Protestant until 2019. That year, I was in a weird place spiritually as well as in my career, and it ended up that I converted to Catholicism by way of Eastern Christianity. I also dug into Black Catholic history, wherein I discovered Rudd and began to think of what might be missing in Catholic media. Soon enough, I realized that I had to put up or shut up. So shortly after converting to what was a brand-new expression of Christianity for me, I returned to an old line of work as an amateur journalist, helping to start BCM. Whether I’m a professional now, I don’t know, but I love what I’m doing and hope it will be a lifelong endeavor.

Who are some of the publications’ key contributors? 

I think everyone who has contributed is key. Alessandra has put out a number of powerful op-eds, including a recent one on her son’s experience of discrimination during a Catholic Mass. Stephen Staten, a close friend of mine, beautifully related his experience as a celibate gay Catholic in a piece put out in June. Gunnar Gundersen has done wonders with his incisive takes on history, philosophy, and race relations. Harlan McCarthy consistently gets the absolute best interviews. I could go on and on. Dr. Ansel Augustine in New Orleans, Efran Menny in Houston, Jenario Morgan in South Bend, etc. We also have a few non-Black contributors who have contributed as well, including D. Brendan Johnson, Jeffrey Wald, and Will F. Peterson.

What are some of the articles you are most proud of having at the site?

I’m pretty sure we were the first to report on Amanda Gorman being Catholic, so I will probably cherish that story forever. Stephen’s story on the Sacred Heart and LGBT Catholics was also a stunner. Gunnar Gundersen did a few responses to Bishop Robert Barron that were also really powerful. I also really love the poems we’ve published, from Jenario; Fr Joseph Brown, SJ; John S. Taylor; Melissa Menny; Nancy Saro; and Louis Jones. (More coming on that front, too!)