Millennial Catholics Mobilize against Trump’s Refugee Ban

Teresa Donnellan at America reports:

“All are welcome in this place,” a crowd of people sang in Lafayette Square outside of the White House this afternoon. More that 550 people gathered to attend a Mass organized by young Catholics and celebrated by Father Quinn Conners in Washington, D.C., to express their solidarity with refugees and immigrants.

The event was a result of grass-roots organization and social media promotion. After President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, Emily Conron and her friend Christopher Hale decided to coordinate a Mass to show a Catholic response to this form of religious discrimination.

“As Catholics we understand what religious persecution is,” said Ms. Conron. “It’s part of our history. We’ve seen it in so many Catholic communities in so many countries, and we’re not willing to let history repeat itself. So we felt it was important for specifically Catholics to come together and show solidarity. And what better way to do that than in the Mass?”

At Crux, Inés San Martín writes:

“It was clear that people were aching for a way to gather and reflect and discern a path forward during these troubling times, and we were so happy that they were willing to jump into the boat with us and make this happen!” Conron said.

“Jesus was a refugee – and He was with us as we sang Be Not Afraid in front of the White House, doing our small part to show that people of faith will not be silent in the face of injustice,” she said.

Christopher Hale, from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, was also among the organizers. He told Crux that after Sunday’s Mass, they were expecting some 1,000 people from “this organic group” to contact Speaker Paul Ryan, “the most powerful Catholic in the government.”


A Letter to My Younger Disillusioned Self, In a Time of Similar Upheaval

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The world you inhabit has suddenly become dark. You are seeing things you had, until this point, only read about in books. The brand of Christianity that you adhered to–that you wanted to lay it on the line for–has started to unravel under the weight of injustice. You will begin to shed layer after layer of piety.

In what becomes an act of bravado, you start to go to coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of looking for a “Bible believing church” in your new city. When folks back home ask if you checked out their cousin’s fellowship, you smarmily reply that it is in the suburbs, a land of white privilege that doesn’t warrant your time or effort. When you do visit an urban church that seems promising (on a Sunday night–practically subversive), they happen to sing a chorus from your youth and you abruptly depart.

A family in the neighborhood where you are serving as a year-long volunteer dies in a fire that could have been prevented. Except that not everyone perished. The infant son is pushed up and out and over the iron bars on the windows that hemmed in the rest of the family as flames enveloped the house. Hesurvives. The poverty that led them to use the gas oven for heat persists all around. The stench of burnt vinyl siding lingers in the air for a few days afterward. You walk by the stoop daily and see a growing pile of fruit and candles, offerings for the deceased to take to the other side of life.

Soon, you will stop going to church altogether. No God you want to know would be alright with what you have seen in a few short months. The effects of addiction. The crippling poverty. The nightly sounds of battery and pop of gun shots. The alarm and confusion turns to anger and then to cynicism. A couple of teens from your after school program get picked up in a “sweep,” a common practice of rounding up young black men who “fit the description” of petty thieves and drug dealers. They remind you that it doesn’t pay to play by the rules because they will be targeted anyway, simply for the color of their skin and where they live.

By the time Mo gets shot, you are drinking your way through cynicism a few nights a week. You’ve stopped answering phone calls from some friends and family. You feel that you are too busy doing important work. Your only spare time is spent with the other full-time volunteers in your program. They are the only ones who “get it.” All the pain. All the brokenness. They’ve had the same conversations you’ve had with the dope-sick prostitutes on the avenue as you open the community center in the early morning. A friendly hello. A wave to the pimp nearby as you lock up late at night. This is normal now. Even welcome. No one back home would understand, so why try to explain or even describe it? Read More


The Catholic Catalogue: Living a Catholic Life in the 21st Century

I received my copy of The Catholic Catalogue by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating on Fat Tuesday. Earlier in the day I googled “shrove” to see why it is sometimes referred to as Shrove Tuesday. I didn’t realize that I would have the field guide to such questions in my hands a few hours later. The book, which is immensely practical, interesting, and helpful, defines many of the terms that surround Catholic holidays, rituals, and customs. It provides an overview of the cultural practices of the Catholic faith, drawing on our rich tradition and practices from around the world.catholic-catalogue-melissa-musick-anna-keating-r

The book will appeal to Catholics of all stripes, but particularly to millennials and others who are interested in integrating their faith into their daily lives and adopting customs drawn from the Catholic tradition, but were not raised in a Catholic culture and missed out on many of these practices or have lived apart from this culture for a long time.

I found the book particularly valuable for my own family, as my wife and I look to create enduring traditions for our family and inculcate the values we hold dear to our children through our daily lives. My wife, Sarah, is a convert to Catholicism and I was raised in a climate where few feast days were celebrated or discussions of scapulars took place. Just a few months prior to this, we were trying to figure out how to get or make an Advent wreath and how people typically use them. Can we light the candle(s) each night? Is there a prayer many people say? The Catholic Catalogue is perfect for addressing precisely these questions.

The book covers everything from holy oils and incense to how to find a parish to Easter eggs, crafts, and legends to baptism to the funeral liturgy. The book is accessible without surrendering depth, giving the reader an authentic understanding of these practices that is easy to comprehend.

One of the best themes found throughout the book is the communal nature of the faith. This is at the very heart of Catholicism. These customs and practices are so important because they foster communion with God and one another in our daily lives. They reorient our lives away from the individualism of modern life and make us aware that we are persons, made by God and finding meaning in community.

The book is full of recommendations for coming together to live the faith. Whether this is among family or friends, it provides advice for people of all ages to live a richer, fuller Catholic life in greater communion with others.


Christopher Hale on EWTN: When Voting, Say “No to Exclusion”

Millennial co-founder Christopher Hale recently appeared on EWTN (starting at 6:40 into the video) to discuss millennials and voting. He discussed the differences between millennials and Baby Boomers in the voting booth, in addition to describing his own approach to voting: promoting an inclusive society and saying “no to exclusion.” Check out the video below:


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Hard questions we’re not asking Pope Francis by John Allen: “To date, the only concrete diplomatic success to which Francis can point is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cling to power by opposing Western strikes. The pope had his reasons, including fear for Syria’s Christians in the aftermath of regime change. Yet assuming that Assad reasserts control, the question is whether Francis will use the Church’s resources to promote greater respect for human rights and democracy. If not, his major political accomplishment could go down as propping up a thug.”

The Changing U.S. Labor Force by Anna Sutherland: “Whatever the cause of unions’ decline, however, the future of work in America may be one of low wages and erratic schedules (both of which are hard on families) unless policy-makers find some other way to bolster the power of labor.”

The Neo-Conservative Imagination: An Interview with Patrick Deneen, Part III by Artur Rosman: “I don’t want to paint a picture of utopian bliss in Germany—of course, that’s far from the case—but we ought to look at specific practices in countries such as Germany to begin to think about how better to avoid some of our wrenching instability and how we might better conceive an economy to support family and community.”

Selfie esteem: Body image in a digital age by Meghan Murphy-Gill: “The Catholic Church has a counterpoint to this seemingly superficial approach to image: Humans are the imago Dei, created in the image of God. This alone is the source of a person’s value, not how well she applies eyeshadow or whether her selfies show a glowing girl with a great smile.”

Synod on the Family, Part I by Michael Sean Winters: “The Francis effect is only possible because people are truly hungry for the Gospel and a more humane civilization. No civilization can long remain healthy if its families are not healthy, and the remedy must be found, first and foremost, by placing the bonds of family and society – and the bond of faith, that binds us to Jesus Christ – in their true, liberating promise and pointing out that the autonomy the modern world promises is actually a grim form of self-chosen slavery.”

Everyday saints by Kira Dault: “Those who have come before us—not just the great men and women with their huge footprints, but the mothers and fathers, the children, the friends lost to us—mark the course. In their examples they leave breadcrumbs to follow, clues for how to become the kind of people we want to be.”

The Message of Mercy by Walter Kasper: “So, canon law is not against the Gospel, but the Gospel is against a legalistic understanding of canon law. Canon law should be interpreted and applied in the light of mercy because mercy opens our eyes to the concrete situation of the other.”

Monument Seeks to End Silence on Killings of the Disabled by the Nazis by Melissa Eddy: “The first to be singled out for systematic murder by the Nazis were the mentally ill and intellectually disabled. By the end of World War II, an estimated 300,000 of them had been gassed or starved, their fates hidden by phony death certificates and then largely overlooked among the many atrocities that were to be perpetrated in Nazi Germany in the years to follow. Now, they are among the last to have their suffering publicly acknowledged. On Tuesday, the victims of the direct medical killings by the Nazis were given their own memorial in the heart of Berlin.”

An unspoken truth about teens who flee the Catholic church by Jennifer Mertens: “Young people must be valued as active, respected and fully engaged members of our faith communities. Teens long to be taken seriously, to be heard, considered and included. As adults, we do not possess or control the living revelation of Christ. We journey together with our youth.”

Encounters with a drinking culture in college by Carlos Mesquita: “I asked some of my friends why they drank to excess, and while some just said they enjoyed it, many responded that they were drinking to forget something or to relieve stress. They described trying to avoid or escape some part of themselves.”

The Greatest Threat to Our Liberty Is Local Governments Run Amok by Franklin Foer: “Only a strong federal government can curb the autocratic tendencies burbling across the country. Libertarians worry about the threat of local tyrants, too, but only abstractly. In practice, they remain so fixated on the perils of Washington that they rigidly insist on devolving power down to states, cities, and towns—the very places where their nightmares are springing to life.”

The Catholic casino conundrum by Mathew Schmalz: “The message was simple: You can gamble, but take it easy. Do so temperately — within appropriate limits….But given Pope Francis’ strong stand on our obligations to those in need, it is difficult to see how to justify gambling of any kind, since the money that we might so cavalierly wager does not belong to us alone.”


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.