GeE 109: Wrapping Up Beatitudes And Mercy

See the source imageReading the words of the fifth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, we’ve been given the impetus to realign our thinking and acting. For Christians, faith in God is a given. The matter before us is how we present to a world of unbelievers, skeptics, as well as those in need who are looking for something more meaningful than the experience of being downtrodden by the 1%.

We won’t find modern celebrities leading the way, but, as we’ve read, authentic saints like John Paul II, Thomas Aquinas, and Teresa of Kolkata.

109. The powerful witness of the saints is revealed in their lives, shaped by the Beatitudes and the criterion of the final judgement. Jesus’ words are few and straightforward, yet practical and valid for everyone, for Christianity is meant above all to be put into practice. It can also be an object of study and reflection, but only to help us better live the Gospel in our daily lives.

Praying with Scripture is prescribed:

I recommend rereading these great biblical texts frequently, referring back to them, praying with them, trying to embody them. They will benefit us; they will make us genuinely happy.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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Aparecida 484-485: The Pastoral Ministry of Social Communications

Sections 484 through 490 will address the issues involved with the Pastoral Ministry Of Social Communications.” Let’s begin with two brief paragraphs which include the insight of a recent pope:

484. The technology revolution and globalization processes shape the contemporary world as a vast media culture. This entails an ability to recognize the new languages which can be helpful for a greater global humanization. These new languages constitute a connection point to the changes in society.

This is the positive side of modern communications, of which some Catholics have taken full advantage. We need to do this, according to Pope John Paul II:

485. “Our century is characterized by the mass media or means of social communication, and the first proclamation, catechesis or the further deepening of faith cannot do without these means.”

When they are put at the service of the Gospel, they are capable of increasing almost indefinitely the area in which the Word of God is heard; they enable the Good News to reach millions of people. The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims “from the housetops” (cf. Matthew 10:27; Luke 12:3) the message of which she is the depositary. In them she finds a modern and effective version of the pulpit. Thanks to them she succeeds in speaking to the multitudes.(Evangelium Vitae 45)

Fulton Sheen was the first–some would say patron saint–of modern communications media. I wonder what reaction he would have to the internet. And to his successors.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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GeE 108: Pitfalls In A Consumer Society

See the source imageDo we consume, or are we consumed by our possessions, indulgences, and needs? Unfootnoted advice from Pope Francis:

108. Hedonism and consumerism can prove our downfall, for when we are obsessed with our own pleasure, we end up being all too concerned about ourselves and our rights, and we feel a desperate need for free time to enjoy ourselves. We will find it hard to feel and show any real concern for those in need, unless we are able to cultivate a certain simplicity of life, resisting the feverish demands of a consumer society, which leave us impoverished and unsatisfied, anxious to have it all now.

Too concerned about our own rights: that can be an American thing. It often involves too little focus on our personal responsibilities.

Some correct criticism here, repeated outside of religious circles as well:

Similarly, when we allow ourselves to be caught up in superficial information, instant communication and virtual reality, we can waste precious time and become indifferent to the suffering flesh of our brothers and sisters.

A word of hope, as we begin to conclude this look at Matthew 25:31-46:

Yet even amid this whirlwind of activity, the Gospel continues to resound, offering us the promise of a different life, a healthier and happier life.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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Aparecida 482-483: Formation in Faith and Values

Teaching children and youth to make moral discernments? The bishops think it can be done–that it should be done. I would agree:

482. The Church believes that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God. Consequently it earnestly entreats all those who hold a position of public authority or who are in charge of education to see to it that youth is never deprived of this sacred right.(Gravissimum Educationis 1) 

More damaging than deprivation would be the inability to give good example.

483. In view of the difficulties that we encounter in this regard in various countries, we want to strive for the religious formation of the faithful who attend state-run public schools, seeking likewise to accompany them through other formation initiatives in our parishes and dioceses. At the same time, we are grateful for the dedication of religion teachers in public schools and we encourage them in this task. We urge them to pursue doctrinal and pedagogical training. We are also grateful to those who through prayer and community life strive to be a testimony of faith and consistency in these schools.

We struggle with religious education faith formation here in the US also. I wonder if our establishment–from the bishops to the parents–model too closely on schools when the operative example is the apprenticeship modeled by the Lord in the New Testament.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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More Stars

Concerns written here of the addition of stars to the US flag. History buffs are free to correct me, but I can’t think of circumstances in which people routinely counted the number of white stars on the blue background of my nation’s flag, then finding something different than expected, complained.

Since Independence Day 2008, the US flag has gone the most years ever without an official update. The longest previous period of stasis was between the admittance of Arizona and Alaska (1912-1959). Curious thing about 1959: the US did have a 49-star flag for a brief time. I have a boyhood memory of a miniature. Wish I still had it.

Last month one of my facebook friends was musing about California’s proposed split, which would add two stars, not three to the upper left constellation.

Perhaps more likely than a Left Coast split is the addition of Puerto Rico. For history buffs, it would be the single biggest addition in terms of population and Congressional representation in US history.* Plus it would break the 59-year-plus streak of the same star design. I presume a staggered-row pattern would be adopted, but this circular version, left, is intriguing. Despite what you’ve seen in Revolutionary War enactments, I don’t think the circular design of 13 stars was ever an official act of federal heraldry. But if went with that circle of stars, people would certainly notice a difference.

*Even the admission of Texas and California produced a Congressional delegation of four each in the 1850s. Puerto Rico, if admitted to statehood, would get five representatives in the House, plus two senators. Today, Texas and California combine to send 93 people to Congress.

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GeE 107: Mother Teresa On Mercy

See the source imageAdvice from the motherly saint of the last century, that the way of perfection does not come from avoiding failure, but from the love for others exemplified in action:

107. Those who really wish to give glory to God by their lives, who truly long to grow in holiness, are called to be single-minded and tenacious in their practice of the works of mercy. Saint Teresa of Calcutta clearly realized this: “Yes, I have many human faults and failures… But God bends down and uses us, you and me, to be his love and his compassion in the world; he bears our sins, our troubles and our faults. He depends on us to love the world and to show how much he loves it. If we are too concerned with ourselves, we will have no time left for others”. [Cited (in Spanish translation) in: Cristo en los Pobres, Madrid, 1981, 37-38.]

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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Aparecida 481: Education As Public Good

A brief introduction of the topic “Education As Public Good.”

481. Earlier we referred to Catholic education but as pastors, we cannot ignore the mission of the state in the field of education, assuring particularly the education of children and youth. These schools should not ignore the fact that openness to transcendence is a dimension of human life, and hence the integral formation of persons calls for the inclusion of religious content.

People can think of schools as centers of reason. The disciple’s life is best absorbed through apprenticeship, not learning in a classroom. Some questions … Is the “openness to transcendence” best passed from parents and family, from godparents, in parishes, even in schools, or some combination?

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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