Archive | April, 2013

It’s your job!

23 Apr

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Recently, driving to or from some place or other, I was tuned in to Channel 129 on Sirius Radio – the Catholic channel.

The program was “Seize the Day,” hosted by Gus Lloyd, a Catholic layman from Tampa, Fla.

In the program, reference was made to the growing persecution of the Catholic Church, and of other Christians, in China and the Middle East.

If you are attuned to contemporary politics and secular nuances in our own country, you may also recognize the “polite and reasonable” efforts to force the Catholic Church into a little box of irrelevance.

The real message to the Church? Your spiritual convictions and the Gospel of Jesus Christ have no place outside the four walls of your churches.

Andrew Greeley, a priest-sociologist, years ago spoke of the “white collar” persecution of Catholics. In my experience, it took the form of certain condescension, with poorly camouflaged smirks, toward Catholics who actually lived their faith openly. I recall a time when I felt this pressure in a state job in Louisiana.

There is a big difference between prophets and doomsayers. That preacher who claimed the end of the world on such and such a date was a doomsayer, not a prophet – we are all still here.

However, two voices warn of this persecution of the Church, and its interior spiritual erosion.

In a 1969-70 series of radio addresses Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, offered the following insights:

  • The Church will become small and will have to start over more or less from the beginning. (One of his last acts as Pope was to call the Church into the Year of Faith, an effort to regenerate in Catholics the fervor and direction of the Apostolic Church.)
  • But when the time of trial has passed, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.
  • Cardinal Ratzinger saw that the Church was facing very hard times. “The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on tremendous upheavals.”
  • “But” he said, “I am equally certain about what will remain: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

Enter Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Just four days before his election as Pope Francis, he spoke to the assembled cardinals. The cardinal spoke of the urgent need for a reform of the laity to become “missionary disciples in communion” – as the united Body of Christ.

Here are some of his observations:

  • The Church’s fundamental illness is “ecclesiastical narcissism.”
  • The inward looking Church develops a “spiritual worldliness, living in itself, of itself, for itself.”
  • He said that “the Church must get out of herself and go to those on the outskirts of existence.”
  • He said, “We priests tend to clericalize the laity” and the evidence is clear as “many … ask us on their knees to clericalize them because it is more comfortable” to be in parish ecclesiastical ministries than to live the prophetic life of a witness to the Lord in the modern world.

If we had embraced the real spirit of Vatican Council II, we would be far better off today. The role of the laity is to go into the everyday messiness of the world with courage and competence.

The Church must form and inspire them for this mission. They must focus outward from the sanctuary and the parish structures. If they do not, who will bring the Gospel into the marketplace?

“… (The) laity become powerful heralds of the faith to be hoped for if they join unhesitating profession of faith to the life of faith. This evangelization, that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life, acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.

“Therefore, even when occupied by temporal affairs, the laity can, and must, do valuable work for the evangelization of the world” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, No. 35).

 

 

 

 

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Praise the Lord anyway!

12 Apr

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For though the fig tree blossom not

              nor fruit be on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive fail

              and the terraces produce no

              nourishment, 

Though the flocks disappear

              from the fold

              and there be no herd in the stalls,

Yet will I rejoice in the Lord

              and exult in my saving God.

God, my Lord, is my strength;

              he makes my feet as swift

              as those of hinds

              and enables me to go upon the heights.

                                           (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

This Scripture verse is wonderfully, verbally illustrated in a book, “Hinds Feet in High Places.” Hannah Hurnard, the author, writes about Much-Afraid. Much-Afraid is full of fears and is all but emotionally crippled.

 It’s a story about you and me.

Much-Afraid’s journey, moving from the darkness of fear to the heights of peace and joy, gives us a great truth: Life’s difficulties are both challenges and opportunities.

The troubles, fears and pain we suffer need not be weights crushing us down. Rather, they can be stepping  stones over which we walk, even boulders over which we must laboriously climb.

But the climb to the “heights” is possible. God gives us “hinds’ feet,” his grace through his Word and Sacraments. Each of us can say with perfect faith and confidence, “God, my Lord, is my strength.”

Our Catholic faith reminds us constantly that God is to be glorified at all times, even in the midst of turmoil, persecution and suffering. Peter and other Apostles were arrested and beaten. They left the ordeal “full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name” (See Acts 5:17-32).

In the Office or Readings, we find another example of the Church encouraging us to praise God in the midst of affliction. As we pray Psalm 44, we acknowledge all the good things God has done for us – and then we complain about the problems we face: “Arise, O Lord, why do you sleep? Arise, do not reject us forever!”  And the Church, at the end of the psalm, has us pray: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen!”

There is a saying among the faithful. “In the midst of trouble, praise the Lord anyway!”

That says it in a nutshell – but please, if you have not already done so, read “Hinds Feet in High Places.”

Or maybe read it again.