Sister Jean is Turning 100!

via Loyola University Chicago:

Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt has lived an incredible life as a Catholic sister, educator, and college basketball icon. In advance of her 100th birthday, she reflects on all of this and more in a conversation with Loyola’s president, Dr. Jo Ann Rooney:

via Andy Katz:

Pope Francis on the Amazon Synod and Laudato Si

via La Stampa:

Let’s ideally cross the ocean and think of South America. Why did you convene a Synod on the Amazon in the Vatican in October?

“It is the “child” of the “Laudato si”. Those who have not read it will never understand the Synod on the Amazon. Laudato si’ is not a green encyclical, it is a social encyclical, which is based on a “green” reality, the custody of Creation”.

Is there any significant episode for you?

“A few months ago, seven fishermen told me: ‘In recent months we have collected 6 tons of plastic’. The other day I read about a huge glacier in Iceland that has almost completely melted: they built a memorial for it. With the Siberia’s wildfires, some glaciers in Greenland melted. The people from a country on the Pacific are moving away because in 20 years the island on which they live will no longer be there. But the fact that has shocked me the most is yet another”.

Which one?

“The Overshoot Day: On July 29th, we used up all the regenerative resources of 2019. From July 30 we started to consume more resources than the planet can regenerate in a year. It’s very serious. It’s a global emergency. Ours will be an urgent Synod. But beware: a Synod is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament: it is something else. It was convened by the Church and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit”.

But why focus on the Amazon?

“It is a representative and decisive place. Together with the oceans it contributes decisively to the survival of the planet. Much of the oxygen we breathe comes from there. That’s why deforestation means killing humanity. And then the Amazon involves nine states, so it doesn’t concern a single nation. And I’m thinking of the richness of the Amazonian plant and animal biodiversity: it’s wonderful”….

Your Holiness, what do you fear most for our planet?

“The disappearance of biodiversity. New lethal diseases. A drift and devastation of nature that can lead to the death of humanity”.

Do you see some new awareness on the environment and climate change issue?

“Yes, especially in the movements of young ecologists, such as the one led by Greta Thunberg, “Fridays for future”. I saw a sign from them that struck me: ‘We are the future!’”.

Can our daily conduct – separating waste collection, not wasting water at home – have an impact or is it insufficient to counter this phenomenon?

“It does have an impact, because it is a matter of concrete actions. And then, above all, it creates and spreads the culture of not dirtying creation”.

Stephen Colbert on Suffering: God Does It Too, We’re Really Not Alone

Stephen Colbert discusses suffering, loss, empathy, gratitude, Christianity, and more with Anderson Cooper:

How Having a Child with Down Syndrome Transformed Caterina Scorsone’s Understanding of Love

Millennial editor Robert Christian writes:

On the Motherly podcast, actress Caterina Scorsone of Grey’s Anatomy describes how she came to realize that she was loving everyone, including herself, for “absolutely the wrong reason.”

“I was loving people for their external qualities and not for their essence,” she said. She had believed that she loved her first daughter, Eliza, so much because she was beautiful, clever, and funny — for her qualities.

Then her second daughter, Pippa, was born with Down syndrome. Not knowing much about Down syndrome, Caterina wondered what traits Pippa might or might not have — and then she suddenly realized the error in thinking about love this way. It transformed the way she loved her daughters, her husband, and herself.

It is so easy to slip into thinking that we are only worthy of love if we look a certain way or are the life of the party or because we are able to rapidly fire off witty quips. The businesses that profit from our culture of consumerism want us to feel this way. They need us to feel this way. Their message is clear: you can buy love — all you need is our product that makes you worthy of it…

Yet with real love, there is always something ineffable or incomprehensible. Whether it is romantic, fraternal, parental, or any other form of authentic love — if you can describe precisely why you love a person, you are probably actually describing why you like them or enjoy their presence.

Love extends beyond this. When we love someone, we love who they are at their absolute core — the most unchanging and immaterial part of the person. We encounter this core or essence of a person, as Caterina calls it, when we break through surface-level impressions and assessments. This authentic encounter opens the door to joy, love, and communion.

Quote of the Day

Pope Francis: “Prayer frees us from the burden of worldliness, and teaches us to live joyfully, to distance ourselves from what is superficial, in an exercise of true freedom.  Prayer draws us out of our self-centredness, from being reclusive in an empty religious experience; it leads us to place ourselves, with docility, in the hands of God in order to fulfil his will and to realize his plan of salvation.  And prayer teaches us to adore. To learn to adore in silence.”


Mercy for the Outcast: The Story God Wants Told

Mere moments on Twitter are enough to alert us that our culture is plagued with demons.  We live in a culture that responds to polarized politics and social values with contempt and hateful accusations that serve only to drive us further from one another, rather than seeking common ground.  Even voices claiming to speak for our good God are raised in accusation and derision.  Amongst so many voices and so much anger, through all the noise, how do we hear a God who whispers?  Why doesn’t God speak more loudly, to be heard above the hate, or better still – to silence it forever?

There is divine precedent for keeping things hidden.  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus repeatedly instructs his followers, those whom he heals, and even the demons he exorcizes to conceal his identity.  Commentators call this motif the “Messianic Secret,” positing many theories about why Jesus wants to stay hidden.  It may be to prevent people from following Jesus for the wrong reasons or to subvert existing Messianic expectations.  In the midst of a Gospel full of Jesus’s commands to keep quiet, there is one man whom Jesus commissions to preach.  It isn’t Peter or another one of the Apostles.  He isn’t even a Jew.  The man Jesus enlists to tell his story is a foreigner known as the Gerasene demoniac.

In Mark 5, we meet Jesus and the disciples just after he has calmed the storm.  Across the sea, they find themselves in the region of the Gerasenes.  There, Jesus speaks with a tormented man, a man filled with demons.  He has no one and is utterly forgotten, living among the tombs. Following their conversation, Jesus casts the demons out of the man into a herd of pigs.  Driven mad by this legion of demons, the pigs throw themselves into the sea.  Seeing the demoniac healed at the cost of 2,000 pigs, the Gerasenes beg Jesus to leave the region.  Whatever healing Jesus might offer them, it is not worth the cost of their livelihood.

Now free, the man intends to follow Jesus back across the sea.  Instead, Jesus asks him to stay, giving him the incredible command: “Go home to your own people and tell them what the Lord, in his mercy, has done for you,” (Mk 5:19).  In a Gospel known for Jesus’ requests to hide his identity, Jesus commissions this man to preach.  Among so many stories of healing, we have to ask ourselves: why is this the story God wants told?

The other stories in this chapter are stories in which faith heals.  The bleeding woman reaches out to touch Jesus and is healed.  “Your faith has saved you,” Jesus tells her (Mark 5:34).  He continues on his way to heal Jairus’ daughter, telling the crowd, “Do not be afraid; just have faith,” (Mark 5:36).  When the little girl rises, Jesus gives strict orders that no one should know.  The healing of the Gerasene demoniac is unlike these stories. The demoniac is not healed by faith, but by God’s mercy.  The Greek is eleison, the same mercy we ask of Jesus in the Mass. The outcast lives as one among the dead, with no one to speak for him or bring him to Jesus.  He is trapped inside of himself, across the sea, the outcast of the foreigners.

This is the story God wants told.  Not the story of the great faith of his followers, but the story of his mercy, of mercy so great that it crosses the sea to rescue us from ourselves.  God’s heart is one moved by the outcast, the one who lives among the dead.  As we pray in the Liturgy of the Hours, “You will not leave my soul among the dead, not let your beloved know decay,” (Psalm 16:10).  God’s heart is with the outcast of the foreigners, and this is what moves Jesus to be with him.

Mark vividly describes the violence this man committed against himself and the ways in which he resisted the attempts of the community to help him.  They, in turn, abandon him for dead.  Even once he is made whole again, his community does not see him as worth the cost; the pigs are worth more than his life restored.  When we count the cost of love, we are the Gerasenes, lamenting the loss of their herd – no doubt a devastating economic blow.  They push Jesus away for fear of what it will cost them.  They cling so tightly to security that they cannot receive Jesus’ healing and mercy.

And yet, this is the community to whom Jesus sends this man.  He wants to leave them behind, but Jesus asks him to stay, as if to say, These people that reject you, they are your community.  It is to them you must speak about the great mercy of God.  This man’s healing is not for him alone, but for his community, the ones who have cast him out.

We are not to regard our faith primarily as a path towards our own edification or liberation.  This liberation is offered in service of a greater call.  We cannot turn our backs on the outcast, nor on those who cast them out.  When we do either, we demonize where there are no demons, only ones like us—ones in need of healing.  Our pain is not only ours to harbor; we must offer it to Jesus who asks us not to sit in it or lash out in anger, but to channel it into love.  We are to tell others what God in his mercy has done for us, to share it even with those who have turned their backs on us and thought us unworthy.

If we hope to imitate Jesus, we need to listen to the story he wants told.  Mercy crosses oceans to rescue the outcast of the foreigners.  Mercy asks the outcast to evangelize the hateful.  There is no one so “other” that we are not called to love them.

God, in his mercy, saves. He rescues. He crosses the sea and braves the storm. This is where God’s heart is—with the foreigners. This is who God chooses as custodian of his message.  This is why we are invited to the margins—because this is where God’s heart is.  And this is who God asks to speak to us, because the face of mercy is the face of those whom we have demonized.  Mercy is for the wounded and for those who wound.  Each of them is in each of us.  Mercy lifts the veil to show us the truth: in God there can be no other.  There is only us.

How do we hear God in the midst of all the anger and noise of our culture?  The only way we can, as St. Teresa of Avila tells us: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”  God has spoken, and his voice is mercy.  He asks us to speak it, too.

Samantha Stephenson is a wife and mother, lover of books and coffee, and editor of

Pope Francis: “We Hear Speeches That Resemble Those of Hitler in 1934”

via La Stampa:

Your Holiness, you hope that “Europe might once again be the dream of the Founding Fathers.” What are your expectations?

“Europe cannot and must not break apart. It is a historical, cultural as well as a geographical unity. The dream of the Founding Fathers had substance because it was an implementation of this unity. Now, we must not lose this heritage”….

Identities: how important are they? Can an excessive defense of identities lead to a risk of isolation? How do we respond to identities that generate extremism?

“Let me give you the example of ecumenical dialogue: I can’t do ecumenism if I don’t start from my being Catholic, and the other who does ecumenism with me must do so as a Protestant, an Orthodox… Our own identity is not negotiable, it integrates itself. The problem with exaggerations is that we isolate our own identity instead of open ourselves. Identity is a wealth – cultural, national, historical, artistic – and each country has its own, but it must be integrated with dialogue. This is crucial: starting from our own identity we must open to dialogue in order to receive something greater from the identity of others. Never forget that “the whole is greater than the parts.” Globalization, unity, should not be conceived as a sphere, but as a polyhedron: each people retains its identity in unity with others”.

What are the dangers of sovereignist ideologies?

“Sovereignism reveals an attitude toward isolation. I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934. “Us first, We…We…”: these are frightening thoughts. Sovereignism means being closed. A country should be sovereign but not closed. Sovereignty must be defended, but relations with other countries, with the European community must also be protected and promoted. Sovereignism is an exaggeration that always ends badly: it leads to war”….

What is the right path to take when it comes to migrants?

“First of all, never neglect the most important right of all: the right to life. Immigrants come here above all to escape from war or hunger, from the Middle East and Africa. On war, we must commit ourselves and fight for peace. Hunger mainly affects Africa. The African continent is the victim of a cruel curse: in the collective imagination, it seems that this continent should be exploited. Instead, part of the solution is to invest there to help solve their problems and thus stop the migration flows”….

On what common values should the EU be relaunched? Does Europe still need Christianity? And in this context, what role do the Orthodox play?

“The starting, and restarting, point is human values, values of the human person. Together with Christian values: Europe has human and Christian roots, history tells us that. And when I say this, I don’t separate Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. The Orthodox have a very precious role for Europe. We all share the same founding values”.