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The Gospel is Peace, and we are its Peacemakers

16 Jul Tim DeCelle

“Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.” – Jonathan Swift

I have struggled of late to grasp, to strain, to keep what is mysterious and transcendent. I have a bad habit of reading too much. Not too much of just anything, but too much of the dour and polemical pieces that I find too often and easily published online. Such works bring me always crashing back down to earth, back to the cold and brute facts of human ego and violence. I am, unfortunately, thinking of some Christian and Catholic writers.

Peacemakers - Tim DeCelle

Certainly, this is not true of all or even most of those writing about their faith. But a vocal minority has made dominant an oppositional, warfare style of writing. It is all doom and gloom: we are living in perilous times, we must fight the enemy. I am incessantly reminded that we are in a culture war, that we must wage war and win.

   I thought I read something in the Gospels about peacemaking?

If you are reading this, I want to assure you: YOU are not the enemy. Whatever you might read about the battle for values or a clash of cultures, I assure you that you are not the barbarian at the gates of civilization. This kind of language always attempts to draw lines between people, an attempt that falsely divides what should be united.  In fact, the only battle that we should ever speak of is the battle between good and evil, between all of humanity and the forces of darkness. We must resist the temptation to see evil as somehow incarnated in another.

We are in this together. We are made to work together, to live in peace, and to be peacemakers. We are called to transcend the petty bickering and grandstanding about the “valueless” enemy. Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed that all would be made “one.” This is a “one” united in and through Christ.

It is not a political unity. It is not a unity about who holds what ideology. Socialists and libertarians, liberals and conservatives and everyone in between and beyond—all will be made new in Christ, and not through ideology.

We have and will still have differences of opinions, of ideals, and yes, even values. We are not to abandon truth but rather to live in the image of Jesus is to live as a peacemaker. We are not called to fight for culture but for people. We are their defenders. Through this self-gift, the actual lives and souls of people will be transformed and, from it, the whole world.
– Tim DeCelle

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The True Leisure of Divine Worship

4 May

  Perhaps some of you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, “The Labor Movement- The People Who Brought You the Weekend.” The point being that we have the Labor Movement of the late 19th century to thank when we take it easy on Saturday morning, sipping coffee in our pajamas while we watch cartoons, not worrying about what the boss would say. As great as this sounds, it is still tied to labor. The weekend is merely a break from work for the sake of returning to work refreshed. On Sunday, we devote our time to divine worship, which is pure leisure.

weekends and the sabbath - Ian Skemp

   Personal opinions on the labor movement notwithstanding, the bumper sticker has a point. If we adhere to the concept of the modern weekend, then perhaps we can thank the labor movement for the weekly break from work (as well as the shorter hours Monday through Friday). Once a week, we are allowed to rest, thus recharging our batteries for the inevitable return to work on Monday. I am, in fact, exceedingly grateful for that. Labor strains the mind and the body, and rest is much needed. As much as I enjoy a day off, however, I am far more thankful for the leisure of the Lord’s Day, which predates the Labor Movement by several millennia, at least.

   Sunday is not merely day off.  We, as human beings, are made for more than merely “working” and “not working.” We are not utilitarian beings made for practical ends, nor are we pointless creatures who work only to minimize the coldness, brutishness, and nastiness of our short lives. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and thus we are called to a higher plane. But what about the Lord’s Day sets it apart from any other day we don’t clock in? What is true leisure?

   Leisure is not simply laziness or inactivity. Celebrating Mass on Sunday reminds us that human totality extends beyond the world of work. Divine worship is not work, yet it is not idleness, either. Josef Pieper, a philosopher, wrote that leisure “lifts man out of himself, so that he is rapt to the heavens.” The weekend is a necessary interruption of our work, but mundane in and of itself. To freely engage in divine worship is to break on through the confines of the workaday world and all its practical needs, choosing instead to bask in the Good. It is, to put it simply, heavenly.

– Ian Skemp

The Freedom to Follow Christ

4 Apr The Freedom to Follow Christ - Catherine Huss

   I have been to more talks and read more books than I can remember about how non-Catholics (and non-practicing Catholics for that matter) find religion to be restrictive and oppressive, and that not following any religious teaching is freeing. Catholic authors and speakers counter this assertion with a different one: that in reality, following Christ brings you “true freedom.”

The Freedom to Follow Christ - Catherine Huss

The Calling of the Twelve John Mosiman

For most of my life I never understood that assertion. How could having to follow rules, strict rules, that forbid you to engage in fun, enjoyable activities be freeing? How is it “true freedom” when every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation the place I will be and the activity I will partake in is planned out for me? How is it “true freedom” when I am told how my sexual relationships and weekly tithing should look?

Lately, the Lord has revealed to me through small experiences (as He usually does) the ways in which I am truly free by following Him.

Drama: I have found that when I try my best to be kind to others, smile at people, don’t pick fights, give people the benefit of the doubt, and don’t talk about people in a derogatory manner, my life has become drama-free.

Peace and Patience: Stub a toe? Get cut off on the freeway? Get lost in an unfamiliar place? Order a plane ticket for the wrong day? By realizing and accepting God is in control, and that He allows everything to happen, I have peace and patience with a situation and am free from freaking out.

God’s Will: I can’t even tell you how many hours and days, weeks and months I have spent worrying, stressing and being anxious about events in my life. Whether it is getting a job, being accepted into a certain school/program, having food to eat and a roof over my head, it is incredibly freeing to know that ultimately it is all in God’s hands, and His Will will be done. It’s not entirely up to me. I do the best I can with what I am given, and He does the rest.

Just because I have decided to follow Christ and His teachings (which we all have the freedom to choose to do), doesn’t mean these freedoms will magically come. I still gossip, swear in frustrating situations and stress about jobs. But by following Christ, I am given the tools to work toward a drama-free, peaceful life according to God’s Will.

– Catherine Huss

Freedom Through Confession

3 Apr

Freedom Through Confession - Colleen Pesci

  The winter lies heavy on our backs. The morning sun rising long after we have started our days only to be blocked by the low grey sky, turning our strides into a trudge through soiled slush, with our minds solely concentrated on leaving one destination and arriving at another. I walk, clouded, up the large stone steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, positioned on bustling 5th Ave. Commuters hustle by me, heads down, scarves wrapped, looking for the shelter of their offices and the warmth of their cubicles. The stone of the church mimicking the condition of my heart: heavy and cold.

I head straight back to the confessionals feeling once again like a small fifth grader, heart pounding, palms sweating, mind racing, anxious to divulge my secrets and sins. As I kneel behind the screen I feel safe, tucked away in this small corner of the church, me and the priest, divided by a screen, identities unknown. In the opening prayer I am hit with a familiar voice, one that I have heard many times, yet one that sits in my memory as speaking to a crowd, to an audience. Here, however, there is a personable tone, it is Cardinal Archbishop Dolan.

After my initial shock of recognition and at the end of my sharing, he pauses with a sigh as he digests what I have given him, and he responds with these words:

“Remember, my dear friend, the story of St. Andrew. We, as Christians, focus on his yes to the Lord, his surrender and trust, his movement towards Christ. But with every movement towards something there is a leaving behind, with every ‘yes’ there lies countless ‘no’s.’ Fulton Sheen is buried feet away from us, under this very altar. He wrote once of a scene at the confessional. A line of people waiting to enter, backs arched with heavy burdens, yet as they leave, they walk with a freedom past piles and piles of people’s pain, sin, and sorrow that have been laid down, released from their possession. Leave here, and leave it behind. Leave it behind at the door. For all is forgiven.”

I walked out of the Cathedral, down the concrete steps, past the booming stone walls, and once again into the sharp winter wind, my heart no longer clouded by grayness. With the morning sun, I watched the streets become alive with steady steps, hands grasped around the steaming cups of morning coffee and I recognize the Promise. In our human weakness, there is redemption. My every choice and encounter not only is an opportunity for my yes but also my no. I stand in front of these encounters, not with a heart of fear but of Promise, because when shackled to my weakness there sits waiting for me, tucked away in a drafty church,  an opportunity to release my burdens and walk away, free.

-Colleen Pesci

Making Sandwiches for the Smallest and Most Forgotten

15 Feb Christ of the Breadlines

  Recently, I have been going to help out on the food line, making sandwiches, handing them out, and chatting with people who are hungry. I am a little surprised at myself, since usually I stick with my books and my pints. I guess something made me realize it had to be done. One cannot be Christian if one does not serve others in some way, especially the poor. Dorothy Day pointed out the connection between being a true believer and serving. She explained that “those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.” How can we see Christ in the poor, if we are not with the poor? So, in September, I started going to serve for a couple hours a week.

ing Sandwiches for the Smallest and Most Forgotten - Terence Sweeney

Christ of the Breadlines Fritz Eichenber

  I don’t do much: put some sandwiches in bags, give them to people. I sit down with old ladies on the ground and talk about the weather and the places we have lived (an apartment on Grand Ave; a cardboard tent by the highway). At the end of my time there, I head back to my school work and leave them to move along. As our conversation ends, I look at the person and realize that I have no idea what they do or what their life is like.

  So, have I seen Christ in the poor? I have shaken a few cracked hands, heard anger and laughter, seen weariness, and smelled people for whom a shower is a luxury. That is what I think of as I stand in a steaming shower. Jesus didn’t have this, not because it was 30 AD, but because he was dirt poor. If Jesus walked into our homes we would probably grimace because he, like the homeless lady I was speaking with, smelled bad.

  Bartolomé de las Casas once wrote that “God has a special memory for the smallest and most forgotten.” We will be judged by whether we too have remembered and helped those forgotten people on the streets, in hospitals, on death row. It is a scary to think that I have forgotten so many people who just need a helping hand or a sandwich. Jesus never forgot them; because, He was one of them. And I believe, that the Catholic Church, so full of sinners like me, does not forget either (although her memory can be a bit foggy). The Church remembers through Her many charitable organizations and in Her commitment to a society in which the smallest and most forgotten are taken care of.

  I have not learned anything ground breaking by handing out sandwiches. I suppose in a way I have just become more of Christian by spending a little time with Christ in the poor. I have realized how poor I am in my own grumpy heart. And I think I can see that an essential way to rediscover Jesus and his poor Church is by being with the poor, the elderly, and the unwanted. Just as Jesus did and as He calls us all to.

-Terence Sweeney

In the Light of Reality

16 Jan

Editors Note: We are happy to have a contributor from the Bellarmine Forum, a staunch defender of orthodoxy, the sanctity of marriage, and the centrality of the liturgy. In a world that forgets that fidelity to the Church is essential in all things, the Bellarmine Forum reminds its readers of the importance of obedience to the eternal verities of the Church. Mr. John Dejak is the president of the Bellarmine forum and a frequent contributor to their blog: http://bellarmineforum.org/.

The Bellarmine Forum

For all of the iPhones, iPads, and modern comforts and conveniences, we all still seem to want the basics. We want something real. A good hot cup of coffee brewed on a frosty Minnesota winter morning is one of the great gifts of our Creator (couple it with bacon and eggs, and you have heaven on earth!); so too is a conversation with friends before a roaring fire that begins early in the evening and lasts deep into the early hours of morning, feeling like only a few minutes have passed. Listening to Mozart or seeing the stars of the clear night sky create in us a pensiveness and an awe that oftentimes can only be expressed by the simple words of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

I suspect that people throughout all of history have experienced these things and have had similar reactions. These are the simple things of life and—though I have only mentioned a few—they are the good things. In their simplicity, lies their profundity—for that is where the really real may be found: comfort, friendship, goodness, beauty, and truth. These are desires that we all share and they point to the fact that there may be something to this notion of a “common humanity.” We can identify these common and simple desires of human persons with another simple term: happiness.

Happiness has been a preoccupation of human persons since creation. Life seems to be a constant battle for that goal. And as Genesis says that we were made from the earth, so too is life a gritty and dirty business. Along with the simple joys just mentioned, there are profound sorrows and sufferings that rack us to the depths of our soul—addictions, neglect, poverty, sickness, abuse, death. But in the midst of these sufferings and tragedies, stands tall the God who knows suffering; whose light dispels the darkness; and who built an edifice—the Church–to bring a suffering humanity comfort, friendship, goodness, beauty, and truth. An edifice that may be old and beaten—even deplorable—on the outside, but within is the longed-for happiness of every human heart. This is nothing less than the answer to the poetry and mystery of human life. Perhaps the mystery was best put by Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited:

[A] small red flame—a beaten copper lamp of deplorable design, relit before the beaten copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been built but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it lit this morning, burning anew among the old stones.

This is the flame which shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

-John Dejak

Mr. Dejak is a man of many talents: a classicist, attorney, teacher, and veteran of the US Army. Currently, he is Dean and Latin Teacher at St. Agnes in St Paul. He is a happy husband and the proud father of seven children.

Red Kettles: Giving Throughout the Year

19 Dec

It’s that time of year again. Bells are ringing and large, red kettles fill up with loose change outside of major retail store entrances across the country. The Salvation Army probably has the greatest foothold on our Christmas alms giving habits simply by being omnipresent during our shopping duties.

There is an irony in this tradition. During the holidays, we are more than willing to empty our pocket change into the hands of someone wearing a red vest. Yet, we rarely do so during the rest of the year when panhandlers or veterans experiencing homelessness ask us for spare change at red lights. So what is it about the red vest and kettle that suddenly allows us to let our guard down and give more openly and charitably?

I would argue our generosity (or the lack of) is built on trust. Having the name “Salvation Army” attached to the act of panhandling seems to make all the difference. We trust them with our money and feel confident that we know where it is going. Yet, I wonder if people know that some of the bell-ringers are themselves the homeless men and women whom our giving is meant to benefit. Would we still give our loose change to the very same person if they approached us at a red light, not with a red kettle and vest, but with a cardboard sign and outstretched hand? Usually we do not. Why? What if they buy booze with the money? Or drugs? This line of thinking gives us an easy out.

Yet, it was Christ who lived among these same poor. He never judged those living on the margins of society for any improper ways and deeds. As Dorothy Day once said, “The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”

Something greater is asked of us, whether we are Catholics or not. Keep dropping spare change into the red kettle. But don’t ignore the fact that that outside of the Advent season, those same folks will be begging for our loose change at red lights. Give generously. Don’t let these folks remain nameless. Christ exists in all people; we must start acting as if this were true.

Red Kettle Donations

 

-Kevin Bailey

Being a Woman is a Big Deal

4 Dec

Being a Woman is a Big Deal

Being a woman is a big deal. This is apparent from the number of studies, articles, reading groups, and advocacy organizations that have sprung into existence simply from the conversation of what it means to be a woman. Perusing the Web, one can find blogs ranging from the “Good Women Project” to the wildly popular “Pioneer Woman” to a Wiki page describing how to be a lady. These, and many more, all put forth a bit of their own picture on what a woman is or ought to be, yet none of us can quite seem to pin down the answer we’re looking for.

I recently read an article on the blog, goodwomenproject.com. The article, titled, “There are 2 types of women, and I am neither.” The author, Elena Pellizzaris, describes the two categories into which woman are so often divided–the independent, career-oriented woman, and the wife and homemaker woman–and then describes her own life, which clearly spites both categories. As I read it, I was startled. How often, I wondered, do I assess myself and the women around me to fit into those two narrow categories? How often do I make value judgments on a woman’s life based on my conceptions of which is better or worse, on what she should or shouldn’t be doing, wearing, feeling, or desiring? It comes as no surprise, then, that what it means to be a woman is a hard question to answer if we expect it to fit into one of these tidy categories. It seems as though there should be something more to it than what we choose to or must do with our days.

In Blessed John Paul II’s “Letter to Women,” the Pope extended an enthusiastic expression of gratitude not just to wives, nor just to career-oriented women, nuns, or single women, but to all women. He writes, “Thank you, to every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman!” Our value as women is not based on whether we have the “best” occupation, but it instead comes from the simple and beautiful fact that we are women. What John Paul II calls the “the genius of women” isn’t only expressed by the women who are at the top of their careers or appear to be ‘supermoms,’ but is expressed by all women “who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives” (Letter to Women).

Being a woman means something bigger than just our careers, our roles, our clothing, or our drinks of choice. It is more even than the sum of all of these. Being a woman means following the unique path set by God before each of us; for it is only through this that we can find the answers about ourselves that we’re looking for.

-Abby Saffert

 

Between Life and Death: Choose Life, Choose Love

26 Nov
Hell Hieronymus Bosch

Hell Hieronymus Bosch

At the beginning of Dante’s Inferno, most readers are struck by an odd claim: the building of hell was an expression of God’s “primal love.” Hell, the place of eternal punishment, unquenchable fire, demons, and all the rest; Love built that! People do not like to talk about hell very much these days. It seems to be a nasty vestige of an old world, left behind with ruler-swinging nuns, and talk about sin. At The Heart of the Matter, we try to present the ‘Amen’ of the Church, the joy of the Good News. But for Dante, Hell was part of the Good News of Christ.

How can this be so? In 2nd Corinthians, Paul makes clear that Jesus Christ is not “yes and no, but in him it is always yes.” Yes to God the Father and yes to each person. The Kingdom of God is open to every person. But people do not always respond “yes.” So often we say no–no to God and no to our brothers and sisters.

Where does hell fit into this? God made us for love and joy in Him and with each other. Love yearns for the other to say yes but it lets the other say no. No one is forced to enter hell; people choose it. In Deuteronomy, God says to us, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing:therefore choose life.” We are made for living and for blessing. We are made for the Kingdom. However, Love does not compel; rather, Love offers a choice.

This still seems almost unfair. If a person offers us love and we say “no thanks,” that doesn’t mean hell for us. Why is saying “no” to God’s love so different? Because God is Love, is Joy, is Goodness. Every time we meet love, joy, and goodness we are finding traces of God. Our joy is found entirely in God. Our lives flow out of His goodness and we can only find our fulfillment by flowing back into God’s goodness. To reject God, is to reject the source and summit of all our hopes.

How do we choose life and blessing? To chose God by having faith in His Love. What does this mean? In John’s 1st letter, he writes, “He who loves his brother or sister, is in the light.” What is the light? God and His Kingdom.  John writes again, “He who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness.” To truly love God is to love Love and therefore to love each person we meet. Hell is not just isolation from God but from everyone; a darkness in which we no longer see or care for each other.

God gives us a choice. Because, God loves us, God gives us freedom. Through God’s grace we are called to fulfill our freedom, to become the image of Jesus’ total ‘yes.’ A ‘yes’ to God that encompasses each person we meet in our life. In the end, we are offered blessing, joy, fulfillment, and life. Choose life, choose love, choose God.

– Terence Sweeney