Pope Francis’ American Chess Game

Pope Francis greets people after celebrating Mass at St. Anne's Parish within VaticanPope Francis has the heart of a Franciscan, the head of a Jesuit, and the body of a Little Brother of Jesus. American Catholics have been wondering when the Francis Effect would begin to impact the American chess board – specifically the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That happened over the weekend.

In “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen since the turn of the millennium,” Francis appointed the moderate to progressive archbishop of Spokane, Blase Cupich, to the third most powerful diocese in the U.S.: Chicago.

At the same time, Francis ecclesiastically exiled the infamous “I won’t serve communion to John Kerry” Cardinal Raymond Burke by not promoting him and giving him a commission in outer darkness (otherwise known as the ceremonial head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta).

“[Pope Francis’]simple lifestyle coupled with his compassionate outreach to people is contrasted to his stern admonitions to priests and bishops chastising their sense of privilege and calling these shepherds to “smell like sheep”, indicating his desire for the hierarchy to engage closely with the people. His pastoral style appears contradictory because it is full of demonstrable compassion with almost militaristic acts of cleaning out the Vatican Bank and stabilizing the dysfunctional Curia, removing prelates who disagree with him. Of particular note is the news release of his actions on Cardinal Burke and the appointment of Abp. Blase Cupich to the Chicago See.” –from American Catholic Council newsletter (Sept. 22, 2014)

Read more about Cardinal Raymond Burke here.
Read more about Archbishop Blase Cupich here.

Lynn White Jr.: On Primitive Franciscans

Lynn-White-JrThis quote is from the famous 1967 Lynn White essay “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” Today I came across a version of that essay that includes a section on St. Francis and Franciscan theology that is often edited out of reprints.

“Since the roots of our [ecological] trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. We must rethink and refeel our nature and destiny. The profoundly religious, but heretical, sense of the primitive Franciscans for the spiritual autonomy of all parts of nature may point a direction.”–Lynn White, Jr.

 

President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters

florencedeaconIn Rome on May 4, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr. Florence Deacon, addressed 800 leaders of women religious throughout the world.

“Serious misunderstandings” exist between Vatican officials and Catholic sisters, said the head of the U.S. sisters’ group that was ordered to place itself under the review of bishops.

Deacon’s 20-minute address was LCWR’s most public statement to date of their relations with the Vatican. Women religious around the world are watching closely how the process between the Vatican and LCWR moves forward.

“It’s had a huge impact in Australia,” Mercy Sr. Catherine Ryan from Australia told the National Catholic Reporter. “We watch it very carefully because the LCWR … has huge significance for our lives,” said Ryan. “I don’t see that the religious women in Australia are any different than the religious women in America.”

Here’s an excerpt from Sr. Deacon’s address:

“What this assessment shows is that there is serious misunderstanding between officials of the Vatican and women religious, and the need for prayer, discernment, and deep listening.

We determined that we would do this negotiation outside of the glare of the media and we turned down thousands of requests. We could have been on every news program on every major channel in every part of the world if we would have said yes. Continue reading “President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters”

Honoring Santo Toribio, the “Holy Coyote”

by Robert Lentz

At Mass this morning at St. Camillus, Friar Erick Lopez preached a wonderful homily about St. Toribio Romo, known as the “Holy Coyote” or Santo Pollero for how he helps migrants cross the border between Mexico and the U.S. (He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.) We were even more blessed at Mass to have a new icon in the church. It’s a stunning painting by Brother Robert Lentz of none other than St. Toribio Romo. (Take note of the army surplus store canteen for bringing water to those crossing the desert and the saint also has muddy shoes.) I trust the U.S. Catholic bishops are praying mightily to St. Toribio for help passing comprehensive immigration reform and a seven-year path to citizenship. Here’s the gist of the popular stories still told about Santo Toribio:

Located about two hours from Guadalajara and near the town of Jalostotitlan, the village (of Santa Ana) consists of a few houses, fertile land for planting, and the temple where the martyr is venerated.Saturday is the most popular visiting day of the faithfulIn the makeshift parking lot (by the temple) one sees autos with United States licenses, but with Mexican owners. In one of them Otilio (Othello) has traveled here, a brown-skinned young man wearing cowboy boots and a Texan hat. He comes from Nevada in order to see the saint, who just little more than a year ago, helped him cross the border. “A friend and I left Jalostotitlan with the intention of working in the United States, but when we were close to the border, we were assaulted and beaten up. They (the robbers) took all our money, and we were disheartened. We didn’t have any money left to pay the “pollero;” not even enough to pay for our passage back home. Suddenly, an auto stopped beside us, and a priest invited us to get in. We told him about what had happened to us, and he told us not to worry. He would help us cross the border. And he did. As we were getting out of his car, he gave us some money and told us to look for work in a nearby factory. We would get hired there.” Continue reading “Honoring Santo Toribio, the “Holy Coyote””

Franciscans on Moral Discernment in an Election Season

In the middle of this crazy election season, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful leadership of the Franciscans in how to approach difficult decisions.

The Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate is presenting short pieces to help introduce particularly Franciscan and Catholic approaches to the decision-making process. Here’s an excerpt from their first installment. I urge you to read the whole article:

In the election sphere today, there is often an attempt to link our Catholic faith squarely with one political party. Although most religious leaders assert that our faith is not adequately represented or served by the platform of any particular political group, some, overtly or tacitly, strain to demonstrate how one party is the only morally acceptable choice. Such effort is wasted. The world is a morally complex and ambiguous place, especially when it comes to political decisions.

Taking a wider view as Catholics inspired by the Franciscan path of following Jesus, how can we approach the elections? Is there a political party or candidate for whom it would be morally unacceptable to vote? Does our faith compel us to pull a particular lever in the ballot box? If not, is it all just relativism?

The problem is not the clarity of our moral foundations; these are clear. The challenge comes from the complexity of our globalized world, the pluralistic society that is our nation, and the limitations of our fallen, yet still blessed, human condition. While our faith tradition offers us principles by which to live in a complex world, they don’t translate into a litmus test for choosing between candidates. Rather, our faith invites us to engage in moral reasoning—weighing the pressing issues of our day in the light of our tradition. While this is a process that often yields no categorical answers, it does provide us a method of discernment to guide us through troubling ambiguity as we make our decisions.

Our Franciscan tradition offers us a framework of five interconnected parameters that can guide our discernment: care for creation, consistent ethic of life, preferential option for the poor, peacemaking and the common good. …

Read the rest of “Franciscans are not ‘party animals'” (Part 1).

Richard Rohr: ‘Imagining the Second Half of Life’

“The task of the first half of life is to create a proper container for one’s life and to answer the first essential questions: “What makes me significant?”, “How can I support myself?”, and “Who will go with me?” As Mary Oliver puts it, “. . . what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (“The Summer Day”). The container is not an end in itself, but exists for the sake of your deeper and fullest life, which you largely do not know about yourself! Far too many people just keep doing repair work on the container itself and never “throw their nets into the deep” (John 21:6) to bring in the huge catch that awaits them.

Problematically, the first task invests so much of our blood, sweat, eggs and sperm, tears and years that we often cannot imagine there is a second task, or that anything more could be expected of us. “The old wineskins are good enough” (Luke 5:39), we say, even though according to Jesus they often cannot hold the new wine. According to Jesus, if we do not get some new wineskins, “the wine and the wineskins will both be lost” (Luke 5:37).”–Richard Rohr, ofm

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (pp. 1-2)

Richard Rohr: ‘Letting Go’

We had an excellent sermon preached at Sojourners last month by Sarabeth Goodwin from the Episcopal Church St. Stephen and the Incarnation. She framed her reflections with stories of sorting through boxes and boxes of paper in her study, trying to decide what to keep and what to let go. It made me realize what a contest with the personal ego this process is! On the flip side, for me, when I’m anguishing about holding on to notes I took at a lecture in 1981, then it is a clear signal of an opportunity to embrace change and release the private ego. Here’s Richard Rohr on a similar topic:

“Once Jesus’ great and good news became a reward-punishment system that only checked into place in the next world instead of a transformational system in this world, Christianity in effect moved away from a religion of letting go and became a religion of holding on. Religion’s very purpose for many people was to protect the status quo of empire, power, war, money, and the private ego. So in many ways, we have not been a force for liberation, peacemaking, or change in the world. One thing for sure is that healthy religion is always telling us to change instead of giving us ammunition to try to change others. Authentic Christianity is a religion of constantly letting go of the false self so the True Self in God can stand revealed—now.”–Richard Rohr, OFM

Adapted from The Art of Letting Go

Richard Rohr: ‘It All Comes Down to Confidence and Gratitude’

Richard Rohr reminds me that no matter how hard I fight with my brothers and sisters (of late, it’s been the U.S. Catholic bishops) that it should never be in such a way that I wouldn’t sit down to dinner with them when Jesus issues the invitation.

“When we start making the Eucharistic meal something to define membership instead of to proclaim grace and gift, we always get in trouble; that’s been the temptation of every denomination that has the Eucharist. Too often we use Eucharist to separate who’s in from who’s out, who’s worthy from who’s unworthy, instead of to declare that all of us are radically unworthy, and that worthiness is not even the issue. If worthiness is the issue, who can stand before God? Are those who receive actually saying they are “worthy”? I hope not. It is an ego statement to begin with.

The issue is not worthiness; the issue is trust and surrender or, as Thérèse of Lisieux said, “It all comes down to confidence and gratitude.” I think that explains the joyous character with which we so often celebrate the Eucharist. We are pulled into immense gratitude and joy for such constant and unearned grace. It doesn’t get any better than this! All we can do at Eucharist is kneel in gratitude and then stand in confidence. (Actually, St. Augustine said that the proper Christian posture for prayer was standing, because we no longer had to grovel before such a God or fear any God that is like Jesus.)”–Richard Rohr, ofm

Adapted from Eucharist as Touchstone

Feast of St. Benedict the African

Benedict the Moro, also known as Benedict the Black or Benedict the African, was born near Messina, Italy in 1526. He was the son of Christopher and Diana Manasseri, Africans who were taken to Italy as slaves and later became Christians. Benedict worked as a field hand until he reached the age of 18, when he was given his freedom. For the next 10 years, he earned his living as a day laborer, sharing his meager wages with the poor and devoting much of his leisure time to the care of the sick.

Although his race and his parents’ servitude made Benedict the object of frequent ridicule, he bore each humiliation with great dignity.  One day, the gentleness of Benedict’s replies to his tormentors attracted the attention of Jerome Lanzi, a young man who had withdrawn from the world to imitate the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  “You make fun of him now,” Jerome Lanzi said of those who were jeering at Benedict, “but I can tell you that ere long you will hear great things about him”.

Shortly after that incident, Benedict disposed of his few possessions and joined Jerome’s small group of hermits.  The solitaires, who originally lived in the hills near Messina, later moved to a new location outside Palermo. After Jerome died, Benedict reluctantly became the group’s superior, and the community prospered under his leadership. When Pope Pius IV directed all independent groups of hermits to become affiliated with established religious orders, Benedict entered the Order of the Friars Minor of the Observance. As a Franciscan lay brother, he worked for a number of years as a cook at the Friary of St. Mary of Jesus in Palermo, and it is said that food multiplied miraculously in his hands. Domestic duties, which gave Benedict many opportunities to perform small acts of charity, were well suited to his quiet personality.  In 1578, however, he was appointed guardian of the Palermo Friary. The illiterate lay brother did not welcome this recognition, but he was obliged, under obedience, to accept his new responsibilities and soon proved to be an ideal superior.

His reputation for sanctity spread throughout the country, and wherever he went, large groups of lay people and members of the clergy met him, kissed his hand, and obtained pieces of his habit. To avoid such attention, Benedict traveled at night whenever he could. When daytime journeys were unavoidable, he covered his face with his hood(ie). Benedict later became vicar of the convent and master of novices.  His ability to expound Sacred Scriptures impressed both priests and novices, and his intuitive understanding of complex theological questions astonished religious scholars. Benedict was said to have the power to read the mind of others, and because of his extraordinary compassion, people from every part of Italy sought his counsel. Benedict never abandoned the austere practices acquired during the days as a hermit.  Although he ate sparingly, he often said that it was proper, as a gesture of gratitude, to partake of foods given as alms. Toward the end of his life Benedict asked to be relieved of all his offices and was permitted to return to his work in the kitchen. He resumed his duties as cook, but his days were punctuated by audiences with poor men and women seeking alms, distinguished people seeking advice and prayers, and the sick who sought cures for their illness. At the age of 63, Benedict contracted a severe illness. He died at Palermo, at the very hour he had predicted, on April 4, 1589.–Adapted from information at St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church