Vocation

Saints for Married Couples

Matrimony is a sacrament in the service of communion. As explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, matrimony (along with holy orders) is ” directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so” (No. 1534). The Sacrament of Matrimony builds up the People of God, and it is in service of that mission that the sacrament contributes to the salvation of the married persons themselves.

The Church has become even more observant of and reverent toward the extraordinary witness of married persons for their holiness in recent decades. When Pope Francis canonized Louis and Zélie Martin together in 2015, the Church heralded the gift of these two disciples as worthy of universal veneration precisely as spouses to one another. Not only were they and their family held up for reverence, but so was their marital bond.

In the holiness of married persons, we can find the beauty of Christ — the beauty that saves the world. This is the beauty of lives given over in the service of communion: through enduring suffering, bestowing life and enacting charity. When we revere and follow the witness of married saints, they show us not just the beauty and meaning of marriage, but indeed the beauty and meaning to which marriage is ordered: the gift of communion in Christ.

We will look to four married couples to perceive something of their holiness and appreciate how they fulfilled their vocations in the service of communion. The first couple is the one mentioned above — Louis and Zélie — who were canonized together. The other three are couples where one spouse has been publicly revered for their holiness (St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Blessed Franz Jägerstätter and Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur) and who thereby shines light on their respective spouses and the union shared between them. For each couple, we will review Scripture verses — ones commonly used in wedding liturgies — to which these particular spouses distinctly bear witness.


Read the rest at Our Sunday Visitor



Catholic School Administrators and Faculty: A Resource

Catholic School Administrators and Faculty: A Resource

(Check out this resource for Catholic school administrators and faculty)

By clearly articulating “what matters most,” we can more clearly see where we are, where we hope to be, and how we get from one to the other. As Catholic high school administrators and faculty, reading this book together will help you to find space and inspiration to talk about the most important things about your school and your students.

Breaking News: Teens and Their Parents Have Meaningful Conversations

Breaking News: Teens and Their Parents Have Meaningful Conversations

“I really feel that I am always moving from one event to another constantly. I fail to be in the moment and appreciate where I am. I am caught up in the moment and I don’t make true connections with people. When I am rushing I start to interpret people’s actions and how they should show their love. You said ‘deep listening does not just happen’ and to make time for deep listening I need to become practiced in taking time and practice giving time. I may be a busy person but the reason why I am not making deep connections with other people is because I am not giving them my time.”

– Allison, HS Junior

Long After the Prodigal Son's Return

Long After the Prodigal Son's Return

We love stories of a tragic fall and sudden return. When the homecoming occurs, the story is complete. It is, after all, the story of the Prodigal Son: the beloved younger child who went to the distant country and then came home again. That is the whole story, or, so it seems.

Priests: Formed as Men of Communion

Priests: Formed as Men of Communion

The formation of priests has received significant attention in recent months. This attention is due in no small part to issues surrounding the most recent revelations of abuse in the Church, though the work of continually reforming priestly formation is not solely a response to this crisis.

Love Is Always Conditional

We want to say that love is unconditional. It seems right. It is equal parts comforting and challenging. It is comforting because if I am loved, then there is nothing I can do to lose that. It is challenging because in order to love, I have to will to be untroubled by obstacles. We do not want to say love is conditional because we fear submitting love to the twisted logic of relationship terrorism: if you do not meet my demands, I deprive you of what is good for you, or vice versa. We think of conditions as qualifications and we do not want to attach qualifications to love. So we say love is unconditional. But that is wrong. Love is always conditional.

Read more at Church Life Journal

The Real Work of the Synod of Bishops

The Real Work of the Synod of Bishops

We must, must, must commit ourselves personally, as disciples within our parishes, schools, and homes, to heed the mission of the Gospel and present its beauty to our young people in word and deed. We must become the witnesses who show them God’s love and testify to that love with our lives.

A Better Response to Fr. Jim Martin

A Better Response to Fr. Jim Martin

…I’m still not completely happy with how I’m saying what I’m saying here, but at least I’ve taken some more time to think about than I did in my initial, somewhat impulsive, totally Twitterish intervention. If Fr. Martin reads this or any others who responded critically to my initial intervention, I really do hope he and you will receive a sense of my respect along with my words, because I definitely do intend that.

Images of Fatherhood to Nourish the Catholic Imagination

We need better images. It has become increasingly obvious that we are starved for trustworthy and reliable images of manhood in our present age. The unreliability of the current popular images of “man” are likely related to the deteriorating image of “fatherhood” in the modern world.

The men felled by sexual misconduct allegations over the last nine months have offered an image of manhood that consists of using others to satiate their own appetites. Perhaps these prominent men show the inevitable outcome of unchecked power, of misdirected authority, of self-indulgent customs that fuel the cults of personality. But this behavior exists in private places, too, and indeed a widespread remediation is necessary to cure our young men of the tendencies that might lead to such actions.

Using others makes everyone a slave of their own appetites. What is missing is the power to fulfill responsibilities, to create life and secure wellbeing for others, and to trade away selfish desires for another’s good.

Read more at Our Sunday Visitor.

Resetting the Synod

Antagonisms are what we most frequently and efficiently pass on to young people. We teach them to do what we do and to become what we model. Ideals and hopes are diverted this way or that, to this side or that side, so it seems as if the only imperative is to establish oneself, one’s faction, in opposition to others. We are so deft at these maneuvers that we almost cannot help ourselves; we do it instinctively, somewhat naturally. Surprisingly yet predictably, this same old formational screenplay is playing itself out during the preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “young people, the faith and vocational discernment.”

Ironically, antagonism and its animating spirit, the hermeneutics of suspicion, are what young people tend to despise most of all. Yet, these things are precisely what we in the Church are preparing them to assume through what we do and what we model. When the final document from the Vatican’s pre-synod meeting of 300 young people was released at the end of March, the accusatory tweets and disparaging commentaries followed in breathless pursuit.

Why Would Young People Want to Remain Catholic?

There are not a lot of reasons for optimism, but there is every reason for hope. Optimism is either the result of a calculation of the available evidence that warrants the assumption of a positive conclusion, or it is naïve wishing. Hope, though, is personal. More to the point, hope is founded on fidelity to the promises of Christ—we believe that he is who he has shown himself to be and we trust that what he says is true. The one who slayed death is more than capable of guiding us through the perils of the digital world, fatherless societies, biblical illiteracy, violence and abuse, and every kind of exploitation that our young people endure or perpetuate. Our part is to trust Christ and to give ourselves over to the mission of evangelization, sacrificing our comfort, shyness, anxiety, and concern for our own status along the way. That’s hope in action.

Moreover, the whole synodal process is entrusted to Mary, the Blessed Mother. She remains Our Lady of Hope because she gives everything to her Son, who redeems us. As the preparatory document for the synod offers in its closing section: “In her eyes every young person can rediscover the beauty of discernment; in her hear every young person can experience the tenderness of intimacy and the courage of witness and mission.”

‘Outcasts’: A film for our time

At its best, art puts us in contact with what is true, good, and beautiful in a new and creative way. Art can reveal what was hidden, remind us of what we have forgotten, and usher us towards what we might otherwise avoid.

 

Art can also, easily, do the opposite of all these things: it can numb us, distract us, saturate us, and move us away from what is true, good, and beautiful.

 

Perhaps no form of art is as regularly immersive as filmmaking, and thus as potentially powerful either for good or ill. Film surrounds us with both images and sound, with movement and development, with the appearance of what is real and the invitation for reconsidering reality. Therefore, when one person describes a certain film as “a kind of moving icon” and another says it is “a sermon for our age,” it is hard not to take notice. But this is precisely what Outcasts from Grassroots Film is: it is a startling, challenging, necessary, and inspiring look into the light of Christ shining—vibrantly shining—right in the midst of the darkest parts of the world in which we live.

 

Outcasts portrays the Franciscans Friars of the Renewal who live and work among the poor of New York, England, Ireland, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are a branch of the Capuchins founded in the Marian year of 1987. These friars seek out situations of desperation, violence, and great suffering in order to slowly and diligently build peace and the conditions for the possibility of redemption. Outcasts shows them doing nothing less than letting the light shine in the darkness.

 

A 37-year-old woman in Bradford, England, who is addicted to heroin and caught in a cycle of prostitution, says that it “seems like I’m going in a circle that I can’t get out of.” All she hopes for is “to be safe; to be warm.” She is overcome with loneliness, with a deep sense of loss that includes her estrangement from her daughter. Every day is more of the same and every night is filled with everything she wants to leave behind, and yet each sunrise and sunset brings about the same story, over and over again. The friars go to England for her.

 

In 2012, a fire ripped through a massively overcrowded prison in Comayagua, Honduras, killing 359 inmates. The inferno consumed those whose wide-spread violence across Honduras had been jammed into the close quarters of horrendous conditions within cement walls. Inside those walls, violent language and violent urges, mixed with violent actions and violent customs created a living hell in which communion was impossible and survival was an urgent daily concern. The fire was just one more horrific destruction of humanity within a place where peace was impossible. And because peace was impossible, the friars rushed to this place to bring what only Christ could bring: life out of death. They went to help start a new life in the ashes of ruined lives, and to introduce a new way of being in a place where the only rhythm to daily existence was violence. As one friar simply confesses: “I’m there because Christ wants be to be there.”

 

Even without the concrete walls and mandatory sentences, communities can be undone when the conditions of hatred become systemic, passing from parents to children, and perpetuated by warring factions unbreakably bent toward destroying each other. Moyross, Ireland, is one such failed community, from which the only news that ever makes its way to the rest of the country was only ever the news of more murders, more arsons, more degradations, more hatred. But Moyross is not the first city possessed of demons who turn neighbors into adversaries. The Tuscan city of Arezzo was every bit as hopeless—if not even worse—during the 13th Century. Arezzo is the city to which Saint Francis sent his brother Sylvester to drive the demons out, while Francis prayed for its liberation. As modern day brothers of that most humble saint, the friars entered the city of Moyross to teach their children, to live among the neighbors, and to introduce a new way in the midst of the old, habitual ways of enmity and suspicion. They willed to suffer in the midst of a suffering city so as to plant a seed of joy where nothing good ever grows. In response to Francis’s instruction to them—passed down over the centuries—they invited Moyross into 40 days of penance, dedicated to a simple prayer: “Free us O Lord from hatred, from addiction, from abuse. Free us, O Lord.”

 

Outcasts continually draws into the frame of our vision what is otherwise hidden, forgotten, or avoided. We see the darkness of addiction, of exploitation, of violence and neglect. We see how the chains that bind one generation become the very chains that bind the next one—we see how suffering absorbed becomes suffering inflicted on others. We see the cycles of desperation in which no other way is ever made possible, in which nothing but more of the same and much worse is all that one can ever see. We see what it looks like when we abandon each other and fail to love.

 

And in that very same frame—as difficult as it is to gaze upon—we see something else: the will to love; the commitment to suffer with, to suffer for, and to wait in hope with those who have none. We see works of mercy that heal weary bodies and enkindle darkened spirits. We see the light of Christ, given in the spirit of Saint Francis, in the love of joyful men in gray habits.

 

Outcasts is a piece of art at its best. It helps us to discover the truth, beauty, and goodness that would be invisible to us otherwise. Through this film, we see the rays of that eternal act of love that took flesh and dwelt among us—among us as we are, not as we wish to be. Outcasts is an icon, it is a sermon.

 

The one thing that Outcasts does not do is tell us, exactly, who the “outcasts” are. The outcasts may be those “cast out” of civil society, who slip out of view, who bear the weight of becoming un-useful, disgraceful, addicted, alone. The outcasts may certainly be the friars, who leave behind all wealth and possession in imitation of Saint Francis, who read the Gospel and believed it, plain and simple. Or, the outcasts may be those of us who find ourselves hiding within our own comforts and blindnesses and failures to love. Maybe we are all outcasts, in different ways. But what is common to us all is the paradoxical way in which we become more human together, in the way that Christ is fully human, in the way that Francis craved that fullness, and in the way that these friars offer a witness in the modern age. On their behalf, Outcasts says this:

 

Run toward poverty.

Run toward suffering.

Run toward loneliness.

“Rise and do not be afraid” (Matt 17:7).  

 

For more on Outcasts, visit: www.outcaststhemovie.com/Outcasts was screened on April 3, 2017 under the auspices of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.