Human Dignity 2016

The Institute for Church Life of the University of Notre Dame recently hosted a lecture and conference on human dignity: “The End of Human Dignity? Recovering the Intellectual Appeal of Human Dignity for the Theological and Philosophical Imagination.” The event featured Cardinal Onaiyekan, Cyril O’Regan, Leon Kass, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and David Walsh, and numerous other prominent philosophers and theologians. Here are some of the highlights from those live-tweeting:


5 Ways Gratitude Can Change American Politics

This post by Bill McCormick, SJ  is also featured on The Jesuit Post.

Donald Trump. Income inequality. Government shutdowns. School shootings. The refugee crisis. Immigration reform. Declining wages. Health care costs. Campaign finance. Congressional leadership. Donald Trump. Outsourcing. Culture wars. Lobbyists. Ferguson. Homelessness. Failing schools. Crony capitalism. Voter apathy. Media bias. Racial Inequality. Did I mention Donald Trump?     

What’s your reaction to this list?

I know mine: gratitude. Read More


Stephen Colbert on Gratitude, Loss, and His Faith

via GQ:

[Stephen Colbert] used to have a note taped to his computer that read, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.”

It’s hard to imagine any comedian meditating every day on so sincere a message. It’s even harder when you know his life story, which bears mentioning here—that he is the youngest of eleven kids and that his father and two of his brothers, Peter and Paul, the two closest to him in age, were killed in a plane crash when he was 10. His elder siblings were all off to school or on with their lives by then, and so it was just him and his mother at home together for years….

He was completely traumatized, of course. And one way of contending with the cruel indifference of the universe is to be indifferent in return. But he was also raised in a deeply Catholic intellectual family (his father had been a dean of Yale Medical School and St. Louis University and the Medical College of South Carolina). And so his rebellion against the world was curiously self-driven and thoughtful. He refused to do anything his teachers required of him, but would come home every day and shut himself in his room and read books. “I had so many books taken away from me,” he said. “I read a book a day. Spent all of my allowance on books. Every birthday, confirmation, Christmas—books, please, stacks of books.” Read More


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Averting genocide in the Central African Republic by Philippe Bolopion: “U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon believes that a force of 6,000 to 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers could help bring the Central African Republic back from the brink. With the right equipment and leadership, they would protect civilians from the ill-equipped Seleka and anti-balaka and allow the tens of thousands in unsanitary camps around churches or hiding deep in the bush to return to their villages and rebuild their lives.”

Healing Communities by America: “When Jesus healed a person with mental illness, he not only took away their infirmity but also restored them to the community. We too, as people of faith, can engage in this healing ministry, breaking down barriers and welcoming all as children of God.”

Who was Pierre Favre? by Fr. James Martin, SJ: “Favre was said by St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, to be the man best suited to direct others in the Spiritual Exercises.  But, surprisingly, Favre’s story is not nearly as well known as those of his two famous college roommates, Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier.”

Where Is the Love? by Nicholas Kristof, NY Times: “A Princeton University psychology professor, Susan Fiske, has found that when research subjects hooked up to neuro-imaging machines look at photos of the poor and homeless, their brains often react as if they are seeing things, not people. Her analysis suggests that Americans sometimes react to poverty not with sympathy but with revulsion.”

On Thanksgiving, understanding what gratitude requires by E.J. Dionne: “A genuine sense of gratitude is rooted in the realization that when I think about all that I am, all that I have and all that I might have achieved, I cannot claim to have done any of this by myself. None of us is really ‘self-made.’ We must all acknowledge the importance of the help, advice, comfort and loyalty that came from others.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

CCHD: Putting the Gospel into Practice by John Gehring: “At a time when 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty and extreme income inequality is growing, a contribution to C.C.H.D. is a powerful way to affirm Catholic identity and empower those struggling to lift themselves out of difficult situations.”

“Getting” Pope Francis, or Not by Michael Sean Winters: “Here, too, we see the greatest point of continuity between Pope Francis and his two immediate predecessors, both of whom, in different ways, were rooted in the Communio school of theology we associate with the Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. The Christian proclamation is first and foremost about God and His accomplishments and only consequently about us and our obligations, moral and otherwise.”

The Christian Intellectual by R.R. Reno: “Love and freedom. There’s nothing uniquely Christian about these qualities in an intellectual. Socrates had both. But grace perfects nature and helps us overcome our weaknesses. The Christian intellectual may not be welcome today as a Christian, but it’s as a Christian that he can be salt and light.”

TJP Sits Down with Coach John Beilein by Dennis Baker, SJ: “I do the Examen all the time during the season.  That helps me put things into perspective—how grateful I should be for the life I’ve been blessed with.  Sometimes I write my Examen down with my iPad.  I have pages and pages and pages during the season.  So I think it’s just the overall appreciation of understanding your purpose in life, understanding God’s will for you.”

The Triumph of C.S. Lewis By Fr. Robert Barron: “He was not someone to whom religious conviction came naturally or effortlessly; he had to work his way to it, in the face of often harsh opposition, both interior and exterior. This very personal struggle gives him credibility with the millions today who want to believe but who find ideological secularism and militant atheism enormously challenging.”

When Children Are Traded by Nicholas Kristof: “A first step to address this issue would be to make adoption agencies responsible for children they bring to America, including finding new homes when adoptions fail. If we have rules about recycling bottles, we should prevent children from being abandoned and recycled. The larger point is a more basic failing in America: inadequate child services. Kids don’t get the protection they need from predators, nor the nutrition they need, nor the books and reading programs they need for mental nutrition. The threat to the food stamp program, whose beneficiaries are 45 percent children, is emblematic of this broader problem. Children don’t have votes and are voiceless, so America’s most vulnerable become its most neglected.”

The GOP’s Cruel Crusade Against Food Stamps by Norm Ornstein: “I would love for all sides to find common ground here: Provide the kind of job training that will enable people to find work and move out of poverty while helping them with the basics of food, shelter, health care, and transportation. But to cut, slash, and burn that aid mindlessly without regard for the human cost is stupid, cruel, and reprehensible.”

Father Albert Foley: How one priest took on the KKK by Kristen Hannum: “Everything changed for Foley in 1943, when, as a young Jesuit, he was assigned to teach the class ‘Migration, Immigration, and Race’ at Spring Hill College in Mobile. His research—which included interviewing local black Catholics and wide-ranging reading—opened his eyes: Segregation was sinful. He looked to the church fathers and social justice teachings to better understand his new realization and to discern what should be done.”

The Habit of Gratitude and Hopefulness by Christopher C. Roberts: “We are praying that a good community of peers will be in place when they become teens. And we are trying, gently for now, to prepare our girls for being different from the surrounding culture in sometimes uncomfortable ways. I hope for the moment that we’re laying in the spiritual and psychological resources to see us through whatever’s coming.”

Now and Then I Feel It’s Working by J. Peter Nixon: “There is always a temptation as a parent to think that your children are clay that you are called to shape. The truth is that we are merely stewards of something precious that ultimately belongs to God. If he can call a prodigal like me back to him, he can certainly do the same for my children if he so chooses. In the end, faith is his gift to give, not mine.”

How Children Succeed: You Should Read This by Jason King: “We need grit to be able to confront sin—personal, social, and original sin—and keep going.  We need grit, but we also do not develop it by ourselves.  We need a community that is safe enough for us to develop trust and confidence in our decisions and actions.  We also need a community that fosters vulnerability, one not closed off to adversity, not closed off to others.  We need the Church to help us become disciples who perpetually pickup our crosses and follow Christ.”

The pope is forcing us to redefine ugliness by Benjamin W. Corn: “Because our aesthetic standards are arbitrary, our definitions of beauty have shifted slightly, over time, to encompass, for example, anorexic-appearing fashion models with little resemblance to the shapeliness of Botticelli’s Goddess of Beauty. There is one vital point in that dynamic: the arbitrary—including our ideas of what is beautiful, ugly, visually acceptable, or socially stigmatizing—can change. And each of us can contribute to that change.”

In Central African Republic, thousands turn to bishop for protection by Barb Fraze, CNS: “More than 35,000 people are living on the 40-acre diocesan compound in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, seeking protection from rebels who are targeting Christians, said the local bishop.”


Gratitude for the Sacred Work of our Daily Lives

Yesterday’s celebration of Labor Day got me thinking about workers and the many jobs they work, both menial and skilled, white and blue collar, so many of which are essential to the functioning of our society. Some of us receive accolades for the work we do, while others get waves from young children enamored by our vehicles or some other eye-catching aspect of our jobs. But many of us work dutifully, regardless of praise or recognition. We work as part of our daily lives. As I reflect upon work and workers, my mind turns to numerous quotes by St. Josemaria Escriva, patron saint of ordinary life and the founder of Opus Dei, which translates as “Work of God.”

“Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary work and you will have sanctified it.”

“Any job, no matter how hidden, no matter how insignificant, when offered to the Lord, is charged with the strength of God’s life!”

“In God’s service there are no unimportant posts: all are of great importance. The importance of the post depends on the spiritual level reached by the person filling it.”

“Work with cheerfulness, with peace, with presence of God. In this way you will also do your task with common sense. You will carry it through to the end. Though tiredness is beating you down, you will finish it off well; and your works will be pleasing to God.”

“Before God, no occupation is in itself great or small. Everything gains the value of the Love with which it is done.”

“Let us work. Let us work a lot and work well, without forgetting that prayer is our best weapon. That is why I will never tire of repeating that we have to be contemplative souls in the middle of the world, who try to convert their work into prayer.”

“Sanctifying one’s work is no fantastic dream, but the mission of every Christian — yours and mine.”

“Work is part and parcel of man’s life on earth. It involves effort, weariness, exhaustion: signs of the suffering and struggle which accompany human existence and which point to the reality of sin and the need for redemption. But in itself work is not a penalty or a curse or a punishment: those who speak of it that way have not understood sacred Scripture properly.

It is time for us Christians to shout from the rooftops that work is a gift from God and that it makes no sense to classify men differently, according to their occupation, as if some jobs were nobler than others. Work, all work, bears witness to the dignity of man, to his dominion over creation. It is an opportunity to develop one’s personality. It is a bond of union with others, the way to support one’s family, a means of aiding in the improvement of the society in which we live and in the progress of all humanity.

For a Christian these horizons extend and grow wider. For work is a participation in the creative work of God. When he created man and blessed him, he said: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.” And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies.”

“Work is born of love; it is a manifestation of love and is directed toward love. We see the hand of God, not only in the wonders of nature, but also in our experience of work and effort. Work thus becomes prayer and thanksgiving, because we know we are placed on earth by God, that we are loved by him and made heirs to his promises. We have been rightly told, “In eating, in drinking, in all that you do, do everything for God’s glory.”

“And so, as the motto of your work, I can give you this one: If you want to be useful, serve. For, in the first place, in order to do things properly, you must know how to do them. I cannot see the integrity of a person who does not strive to attain professional skills and to carry out properly the task entrusted to his care. It’s not enough to want to do good; we must know how to do it. And, if our desire is real, it will show itself in the effort we make to use the right methods, finishing things well, achieving human perfection.”

Let us sanctify our work in prayer, making it holy. And let us thank each other for the work we do, as all of our work is sacred. We’re never too old to wave and smile or wish someone a blessed day.


Thoughts On Gratitude

Fr. Jim Martin of America offers his reflections on gratitude and savoring in a clip worth watching:

MSW also has a column where he reflects on gratitude.  One of the best parts is his reflection on our acquisitive culture and how it can lead us away from gratitude and authentic happiness:

Ours is an acquisitive culture. Indeed, acquisitiveness may be its most dominant feature. We are endlessly instructed via television advertising, newspaper advertising, through conversations with friends, that if we only go to this new fancy restaurant, or drive this particular new car, or purchase this hair care product or laundry detergent, or secure that corner office, or indulge this particular appetite, or don this new jacket, then we shall be happy. This deepest desire of the human heart, the desire to love and be loved, to be happy, has been cheapened into a desire to be loved and happy on account of something for purchase, something extraneous.