Laudato Si 231: A “Culture of Care”

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Pope Francis calls upon prominent church leaders to reinforce the notion of a far-reaching love.

First, Pope Benedict XVI is cited again to urge a more far-reaching love, one that extends into the larger spheres of human interaction:

231. Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also “macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones”.[Caritas in Veritate 2]

Another pope advocated a “civilization of love.” That wasn’t just the 60’s talking:

That is why the Church set before the world the ideal of a “civilization of love”.[Paul VI, Message for the 1977 World Day of Peace: AAS 68 (1976), 709]

And the social justice compendium:

Social love is the key to authentic development: “In order to make society more human, more worthy of the human person, love in social life – political, economic and cultural – must be given renewed value, becoming the constant and highest norm for all activity”.[Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 582]

We’ve spoken of human relationships, but Pope Francis draws us back to the topic of the environment:

In this framework, along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society. When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as such, matures and sanctifies us.

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The Innocence Mission

The_Innocence_Mission_-_GlowSo often I find I’m late to the party on good new music. There’s little to be found on commercial radio. But not none. Sometimes I listen to a series of songs on YouTube and find myself noticing that right-hand column and I find something notable.

About two years ago, that was how I found some songs by The Innocence Mission. There used to be a full band, a video or two, and even a Letterman appearance. These days, multi-instrumentalists Karen and Don Peris seem satisfied to write and record at their leisure and stick close to the family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There’s a whole raft of albums going back about twenty-plus years. Possibly my favorite is Glow, released in 1995.

More recent releases have a stripped down approach and more acoustic sounds. I’ve noticed a reed organ on some songs–reminds me of my dad’s that used to be in the basement and now inhabits a house back in Iowa.

I find I have to concentrate on Ms Peris’ lyrics. Or read along as the music plays. My wife doesn’t see the point if a singer’s not crystal clear in presentation. I usually agree, but it’s a forgivable indulgence to enjoy music that rather fits the “innocence” of the association.

Interesting the genesis of this band: they met during a Catholic high school production of Godspell; they jammed Zeppelin tunes in the garage, then found themselves on a fairly big record label while still in their twenties, and then parted ways. I suppose to live life as they wished.

Hugely recommended.

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Laudato Si 230: Advice from the Little Flower

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Advice from the young doctor:

230. Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness. In the end, a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms.

Contonuing on yesterday’s thought about online interaction, how often do bloggers (for example) offer those “simple daily gestures” to break the culture around us? When do we consider it?

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Looking At Misericordia: Missionary and Pastoral Spirit

Christ the King Almada

Pope Francis addressed the Curia last month just before Christmas. It wasn’t the barnburner of 2014, but a reflection on the word “misericordia,” or mercy. The Holy Father also suggested that his listeners could add to this for some kind of personal completion.

When I reviewed it, I felt it a valuable resource for my parish ministry. Over the next few weeks, every few days, I’ll offer a series of posts here. Maybe you see something that suits your ministry, or the responsibility of relationships, even in the family, or something else you might be called to examine during this Jubilee. If so, feel free to comment.

1. Missionary and pastoral spirit: missionary spirit is what makes the Curia evidently fertile and fruitful; it is proof of the effectiveness, efficiency and authenticity of our activity. Faith is a gift, yet the measure of our faith is also seen by the extent to which we communicate it. All baptized persons are missionaries of the Good News, above all by their lives, their work and their witness of joy and conviction. A sound pastoral spirit is an indispensable virtue for the priest in particular. It is shown in his daily effort to follow the Good Shepherd who cares for the flock and gives his life to save the lives of others. It is the yardstick for our curial and priestly work. Without these two wings we could never take flight, or even enjoy the happiness of the “faithful servant” (Mt 25:14-30).

This is clearly not for the Roman bureaucracy only. A missionary spirit is also what makes a parish fruitful. Likewise, the baptismal life of the ordinary believer. What exactly is a missionary spirit? My interpretation would be a person who looks outward. This happens on a few levels.

First, that a baptized believer isn’t concerned as much about her or his own comfort, but looks outside the self. A missionary spirit may be in evidence by acts as simple as holding a door, ceding a place in line, or serving food to a friend first before taking one’s own.

A parish might be thinking about how to give away a tithe of ten percent, more or less, regardless of the perception of constraints as they might appear on the budget ledger. And more, the food purchased is hand-delivered to a location. And people work to assist the unloading, storage, prep, cooking, and serving of the food to the needy. Just one example.

Interesting that Pope Francis speaks of two wings of the church leader: reaching beyond one’s flock as well as caring for one’s own. As a family man, I consider this. Do I keep a balance between professional life and home? Does one leave me “too tired” to do the other? How many good believers get bogged down in work, leaving no energy for spouse and children? Or how many people are focused within the four walls of the home and have nothing to give the stranger, the hungry, the imprisoned, the refugee?

Finally, Pope Francis mentioned “daily effort.” Some might zero in on that adjective, and think of something to do every day. Others might note that a true missionary spirit results in a person who makes a true effort, a commitment of physical exertion and presence as well as a sacrifice of personal time.


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Laudato Si 229: Mutual Need and Shared Responsibility

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

229. We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment.

How often does this play out on the internet, a certain caricature of personal interchange? While online exchanges are easy and accessible, they can also be quite superficial, and they work against the sharing of responsibility and commitment–not to mention virtue.

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Laudato Si 228: Civic and Political Love

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Here we begin a five-section examination on the theme of “Civic and Political Love.” Let’s read:

228. Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion. Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and that this makes us brothers and sisters. Fraternal love can only be gratuitous; it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us. That is why it is possible to love our enemies. This same gratuitousness inspires us to love and accept the wind, the sun and the clouds, even though we cannot control them. In this sense, we can speak of a “universal fraternity”.

Love of others is rooted in a common family orientation with other people who are all claimed by the Father as his children. So it is like family: we cannot choose whom we will love.

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Authority And Right, But Also Responsibility

New commenter Tony Phillips mentioned this:

Paul VI had absolutely no right or authority to make massive changes to the liturgy.

On the second point, wrong. Clearly, he had the authority and almost every Catholic bishop endorsed the full program of liturgical reform begun with Vatican II. The specifics were entrusted to others, but Pope Paul signed off on it all. As well as mostly every bishop in the world. And change came. That sounds like a de facto authority to me.

No right. 

It is a feature of Westerners, especially Americans I thought, to speak in terms of rights. I’m sometimes suspicious of this. Not because I don’t believe in rights and advocate for them. I think they have a neglected companion in our–rather many–cultures: responsibility.

It may be more accurate to suggest that the Bishop of Rome and other bishops have serious responsibilities where the people of God are concerned. They have responsibilities for the good of the whole Church. That includes changes in the liturgy for the greatest discernible good.

Lacking the right or authority to change the liturgy: this is something more attributed to people in connection with the Bible. The canon of Scripture was mostly set East and West by the 3rd-4th century. At Trent, that was codified for Roman Catholics, but mostly in response to the Reformation dropping diasporan sources of Jewish Scripture.

I don’t think the liturgy qualifies as a canon on this level. The earthly incarnation of liturgy is derived from the Bible. It is not quite on the level of adding things to the Old and New Testament.

I know that a small minority of Catholics were embittered by liturgical reform and they remain so. But having disagreements with lawful changes that were massively accepted by Catholics worldwide isn’t helped by suggesting people had no power or moral standing to change the liturgy.

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