Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pope Francis...poised to make history in Cuba!

The Holy Father, Pope Francis will make history in Cuba this weekend when he meets with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It will mark the first time the Bishop of Rome meets with the Orthodox Patriarch, a gesture important not just in resolving the schism between the Western Latin Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church in Russia but the meeting is significant because of its message towards reunification. While Pope Francis has already met with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople this meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch illustrates the suffering and persecution both Latin and Orthodox branches of the Christian faith are experiencing throughout all of Europe with the reawakening of radical Islam. As much as the Pope and the Patriarch's meeting illustrates a new venture towards theological reconciliation it also represents a unique solidarity between Christians as the political face of Europe is shifting.

Unity between the East and West since the Great Western Schism has always been a primary source of concern for contemporary Popes since Saint Pope John XXIII. As Angelo Roncalli he was the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey. Roncalli was so popular in the predominately Islamic country he was affectionately known as the "Turcophile Archbishop," within Turkey's diplomatic community. While serving in this capacity, Archbishop Roncalli forged strong personal, social and political relationships with the Islamic community. At the same time, Roncalli was additionally honored with the title of, "Righteous Gentile," for his great determination in assisting the Jewish communities throughout the Eastern world to migrate into Europe after being disseminated by the atrocities of the Second World War. With certainty, Pope Francis knows the great works accomplished by his predecessors since Saint Pope John XXIII and their contributions towards East-West unity will be part of the anticipated joint declaration expected at the conclusion of the Pope-Patriarch visit to Cuba.

The greatest legacy regarding relations between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Church is the simple fact that such a legacy exists.The results of the Second Vatican Council were accomplished not just in theory but in the implementation of The Orthodox-Catholic Consultation in the United States in 1965 and the establishment of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church by Saint Pope John Paul II & Patriarch Demetrios in 1979. Their joint declaration called for a continued, "aggiornamento," towards reconciliation and a concentrated and real demonstration of unity between, Brother Churches in faith."

Regardless of the outcome of the historic visit, Pope Francis is continuing the intentions of Jesus at the Last Supper that he spoke during His Priestly Discourse, "Father, I pray that they may be one...," John 17:21. In a positive manner, we should recall the meeting between Blessed Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in 1965 when they both lifted the mutual anathemas between the two Churches and prayed the Lord's Prayer together in both Latin and Greek. This type of theological continuity is strong in the papacy of Pope Francis despite the negative commentary on his pontificate by some within the Roman Curia. Ecumenical dialogue between Rome and Constantinople has been strong during the Second Vatican Council, where Orthodox representatives were welcomed as observers. The desire to explore the way towards ecumenical dialogue remains strong, especially in light of the present Islamic threat to all Christianity, especially in the Middle East. The continues ecumenical dialogue between East-West might well have contributed to the demise of Communism in Russia. The importance of this dialogue was indeed an influence that contributed to the undermining of the Communist doctrine, while permitting an openness to Western ideology in Eastern Europe.

The mutual sharing of Western ideologies is perhaps a central concern for both Pope Francis and the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow. Besides the theological implications the Papal-Patriarch visit entails, there is clearly a political concern for the Catholic Church that is still under the Russian President Putin's control. Pope Francis as the universal pastor of the Church is very cognitive of the Church's needs in the former Soviet Union, and dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox Church in Russia might indeed assist Western Rite Catholics throughout the Russian sphere of influence. Perhaps now, in 2016 the Pope's diplomatic expertise is equally as valuable as his theological doctrines as the Church of the 21st century takes a larger role on the international geo-political stage.

Jesus prayed, " That they may be one!" As Pope Francis anticipates his historic meeting with the Eastern Patriarch Kirill of Moscow our prayers should intensify Jesus' prayer as relative to our Church as it navigates through the 21st century with its political, social and theological questions that effect all peoples of all faiths globally.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Ash Wednesday....time to prepare for Easter!

The celebration of Ash Wednesday is one of the oldest ritual celebrations in the Catholic Church. Not only is it an ancient ritual in the Roman Rite of the Church, (circa 5th century A.D.), the Anglo-Saxons, the Celts and the Jewish Communities of faith used ashes as a sign and symbol of purification and penance in preparation for their most solemn religious celebrations.
In the Latin Rite, the Imposition of Ashes traditionally uses the quote from Genesis 3:19, "Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return!. The traditional Latin,"Memento homo qui pulvis est, et in pulverum revertis..." Today we use a form from the revisions of the Roman Ritual as an alternative, " Repent and believe in the Gospel."

There is no real prescription of the manner in which ashes are distributed. However in most examples of the Catholic Church in Europe ashes were not imposed on the forehead, but rather strewn over the head and shoulders as a sign and symbol of penance. Aelfric of Eynsham describes the, "strewing of ashes," around the year 1000 A.D. However the imposition of ashes on the forehead is most prevelant in the Latin Rite.  On Ash Wednesday, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome participates in this penitential ceremony, with a procession from the Church of Saint Anselm to the Basilica of Sancta Sabina where ashes are strewn over his head, not on the forehead. The Pope then sprinkles ashes on the other participants in the same manner during this Mass.

The reception of ashes is a sacramental in the Catholic Church. It is available for even those that are considered excommunicated. The ceremony can take place in a church or just about anywhere Catholics would like to gather and receive this sacramental sign of penance. Usually one reading from Sacred Scripture is included in the ceremony and the ashes are then distributed to those that wish to receive them.
Sometimes because of peoples inability to get to a church to receive ashes, they are distributed in schools, hospitals, prisons and at times in shopping malls, depending on the pastoral needs of the local community. Just as a point of reference, the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are the charred remains of the palms distributed the previous Palm Sunday. They are burned and the ashes are reserved for use on Ash Wednesday.

In the Old Testament ashes were signs of mourning and grief. When Tamar was raped by her brother, "she sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robes and with her face buried in her hands went away crying." 2 Samuel 13:19  The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying, "O daughter of my people gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes!" Jer. 6:26

Christians continues the use of ashes in the New Testament as a sign of penance. Tertullian, (circa 160-circa225), says that the confession of sins should be accompanied by lying in sackcloth and ashes. Eusebius, the historian (circa 260/265- circa339/340) recounts how an apostate covered himself in ashes and begged forgiveness from Pope Zephyrinus (papacy 199-217) to readmit him to Holy Communion.

By the end of the 10th century the custom of the reception of ashes was common in most of Western Europe, but not yet Rome. The practice was ordered by Pope Urban II at the Council of Benevento (A.D. 1091) to be included in the Church of Rome and it was included in the Roman Ritual as , Feria Quarta Cinerum (Ash Wednesday.)

Ash Wednesday remains for most Christian denominations, especially the Anglican Communion as a poignant  reminder and a powerful symbol of repentance at the start of the Lenten season. For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence ( namely, one full meal and the abstinence from consuming meat.) 

As we once again anticipate the great celebration of Easter, Ash Wednesday is our touchstone that reminds all of us that we are all in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. During our spiritual journey in Lent, we should reflect the Church's call to mercy for all peoples as our personal mantra that leads us to reconciliation with each other with the expectation of a more peaceful and united world.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Understanding why misperceptions happen!

Recently, I spent some time posting to a discussion group for Catholic topics on Face book. Normally, I do not frequent that site other than to see photographs that are posted by family members and friends. Anyhow, I was absolutely shocked by the great diversity of misinformation that is spread in these so called, "Catholic," discussion groups that is considered as true to the teachings of the Catholic Church. One of the biggest topics of discussion surrounded the topic of papal infallibility. Most of the individuals that made comments in the group made erroneous statements regarding the issue of papal infallibility and were offended when a correct interpretation of the subject was delivered. In addition to erroneous commentary regarding dogmatic and doctrinal matters of Catholic Church theology, there is a strong grass roots movement to categorically defame the Holy Father, Pope Francis and his methodology of teaching and governing the Catholic Church. Appalling and definitely not a subject that makes one authoritatively Catholic.

For clarity's sake, Pope Francis is the Successor to Saint Peter and is indeed the Head of the Catholic Church worldwide. His pastoral teachings, namely those statements and declarations that are released on a daily basis ARE NOT statements that invoke papal infallibility. The Holy Father's pastoral messages and daily teachings are based on the teachings of the Gospel message, the traditions of the Catholic Church and the need for the contemporary Catholic Church to assume the role of moral and ethical leadership in the 21st century. Pope Francis' teachings are well established in the ancient principles of the Catholic Church's social, moral and ethical teachings that have consistently been held as true throughout the centuries. However, the current Holy Father's perspectives and ideological methodology regarding the manner the Church fulfills her pastoral role in the world remains unique to Pope Francis' personal style and background as a priest, a bishop and cardinal and finally as the Bishop of Rome.

The use of the Internet as a tool to disseminate information globally is perhaps one of the most invaluable assets the Catholic Church has to continue its mission of proclaiming the Gospel and leading all peoples to God. As a tool for global communications, it is invaluable as a resource for the spreading of the true teachings of the Catholic Church and unfortunately it is also a vehicle to spread untruths regarding Catholic Church teachings. What is discussed on the Internet in so called Catholic discussion groups is not necessarily correct Catholic theology. In my brief encounter with Catholic online discussion groups I unfortunately have discovered Catholics that do not believe in the following: the infallibility of the Pope in matters of faith and morals, the perpetual virginity of Mary, a disbelief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species, a rejection of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, a rejection of Mary's Assumption and a misunderstanding of the divinity of Christ. Wow...what a large can of theological worms that has been opened through the Internet.

In addition to the previous points, Internet discussions focus on the disagreement of Catholics with issues concerning, birth control, homosexual unions, annulment procedures, canon law and indifference towards regular participation in the Eucharist and the reception of the Sacrament of Confession. Each individual topic when discussed on the Internet is given information as a response that is not only incorrect, but usually is prefaced with the trusted and true preface, "I believe that...,"
Whenever one encounters that famous statement, it is time to do some theological research and go to the proper sources for information.

With that said, I am in favor of Catholic discussion groups, they foster intellectual thought, properly defined they deepen ones Catholic faith and provide a common place for the discovery of knowledge. However more often than not they are vehicles to spread misinformation regarding the real truths the Church is trying to proclaim in the modern world. As a viable resource, Catholics should always refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the primary place for correct information when asking questions regarding what the Church maintains regarding a particular topic or subject. After that, questions regarding topics of doctrine or dogma should be directed towards the local parish priests. They represent the local bishop, who in turn represents the Holy Father and through their Holy Orders provide the teaching Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Finally, consult individuals that are properly disposed towards teaching Catholic theology. Individuals that hold advanced degrees and are in union with the Church's teachings will not guide Catholics into error or in a direction that is outside of what the Catholic Church teaches.

The Catholic Church's role in the modern world is perhaps the most critically important one that the Church has ever experienced since the Middle Ages and the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. If anyone wants to fully appreciate what the Catholic Church's vision is for the modern world, they should read, Gaudium et Spes, The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, promulgated by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. The document is prophetic in its message for the Church's role in society and I believe truly inspired by the Holy Spirit during the Second Vatican Council.

What I realized most when discussing Catholic topics with others online was the lack of proper catechical guidance that assists Catholics in understanding exactly what we indeed believe as Catholics. Perhaps the demise of the Catholic educational structure is to blame for the inability to properly communicate articles of faith, perhaps it is the inability of priests to devote time towards pastoral education or finally it is the influence of secular humanism seeping into Catholic Church teachings. Whatever the case, Catholic educators need to embrace the proper Church teachings and properly share them with their fellow Catholics. The truth of the Gospel message is being distorted in the age of information by secular philosophies and ideologies, Evangelism sects and other denominations that offer humanistic solutions that contradict Church teachings and compromise the integrity of the teachings of the Bishop of Rome.

Misperceptions regarding the Church's teachings happen when misinformation is allowed to perpetuate itself. In the age if the Internet, Catholic educators, clergy and faithful believers need now more than ever to properly discern their faith not just through discussion groups, but through participation in the Church's sacramental life, the Mass and prayer with Mary as the model of faith.
Pastors of Catholic parishes need to recognize they have a competitor for their parishioners on the Internet, and the competition does not always play by the rules. Parishes, form Catholic reading groups, discussion groups in the parish and some classes on modern Catholic social teachings. An hour in the parish education center will provide a lifetime of apologetics that builds up the Body of Christ properly, with correct theological instruction in faith and love. Misperceptions indeed happen, but we have the resources to correct them and even eliminate them at their inception if we just make our Catholic parishes into turbines of the faith, generating the power of the Holy Spirit to properly guide Catholics for generations to come through our pastoral example.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Saint Blase...Patron of Ear, Nose and Throat Maladies!

Every single year after the Christmas holidays in late January or early February, the school nurse, Mrs. Gorman decided to administer hearing tests at Saint Gabriel school in Gray's Ferry. Every year, that test provoked fear and trepidation in my heart and ears. Science tests, math tests, history tests and just about any other tests really didn't concern me as much as the dreaded hearing test. No, I didn't have any phobia regarding my auditory capabilities. The reality was very simple, every winter I had a perpetual ear, nose and throat infection that began with the first snowflake and gusts of winter winds and ended with my return to Avalon on Memorial Day! I was the proverbial poster boy for ear, nose and throat infections and a favorite customer of penicillin dispensaries. Despite these facts, Mrs. Gorman persistently wired me up with those old fashioned headsets, that World War II radar operators used to wear and asked me to identify what ear the dog whistle sounds were coming from. Of course, I couldn't hear those sounds, only the local dogs could hear those sharp sounds. Most likely every canine in Saint Gabriel Parish was hiding under cars, steps and doggie beds as the McNichol kid was tested for auditory proficiency. I always failed, because the school nurse could not understand the fact that my head was stuffy until the spring thaw. Then came the note that went home to my parents that said I failed the hearing test and they should take me to a ear, nose and throat specialist. Again, every year we ventured to the Police and Fireman's Medical Center, they wired me up, placed me in the isolation booth and administered the same series of highly pitched canine calling sounds until I properly identified which ear was tuned into the test. Thank God I knew the difference between my right and left hands or I might still at 55 years old be stuck in the Saturn 5 ear testing program. When I was tested with my parents present I could hear and of course passed the hearing tests. It was no real revelation of a heavenly was because the combination of penicillin, antibiotics and the passing of the days got me into early spring and those dastardly difficult hearing afflictions were clearing. Frankly,I was better at the prognostication of spring's arrival than the groundhog!
Those visits to the Police and Fireman's Medical Center were always stressful for both my mother and father. After all, every year they thought I was going to be fitted for a pair of hearing aids. After testing in about sixth grade my father visited Mrs. Gorman for a, "one on one, " conversation with her. I don't think my father had been back to Saint Gabriel's School since he graduated from there and it was the first and only time he visited the school on my behalf. His visit with the school nurse was brief, and polite. "Don't ever touch him again!" was his message. After that, Mrs. Gorman, never touched me again! Which finally brings me to Saint Blaise.
Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr is the patron Saint for those with ailments of the throat. Legend tells us that he healed a young boy that had a fish bone caught in his throat! The boy's mother implored Saint Blaise to intervene and heal her young son. Blasie prayed over the boy and the fishbone popped out of the boy's throat and he was saved.
Each year in grade school we were taken to Saint Gabriel Church to have our throats blessed on the Feast of Saint Blaise. Usually, I was in the end stages of my annual ear, nose and throat infections, so the intercession of Saint Blaise assisted the antibiotics and penicillin in healing my maladies of winter. In retrospect, the intercession of Saint Blasie not only protected me from maladies of the throat,but as I like to think, school nurses as well ! The power of the Saints is indeed powerful and their intercession is always strong. On this day, I fondly remember as well my father's strong intercession in keeping Mrs. Gorman away from me after his singular visit to rectify my aural difficulties. Of course, my father is gone and presumably with Saint Blaise and most assuredly Mrs. Gorman as well. However, I cannot resist a prayer with a smile each February 3rd when I get my throat blessed and recollect the great and powerful intercession of this Bishop/Martyr saint that protected me from maladies of the throat but also from the overzealous school nurse as well. Saint Blaise protect us from all diseases and maladies of the throat, however they might manifest themselves! Amen!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Knowledge is Power

When it comes to understanding Pope Francis' proclamations and teachings it is also most important to know from where his teachings originate. As previously written, his notions contained in Laudato Si are a reiteration of the teachings that were given by each pope since Pope John XXIII on the responsibility Catholics have regarding respect for our common home, planet earth. The Second Vatican Council throughout its proclamations reaffirmed the responsibilities all Catholics and all peoples have towards the preservation and restoration of the place we call planet Earth.The phrase from Ecclesiastes 1:9,and all peoples share in responsible stewardship for planet Earth.  The phrase from Ecclesiastes 1:9, אֵין כָּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ best communicates the sentiments that are indeed common to our contemporary understandings of our sacred relationship with Creation and our responsibility towards appropriate and positive stewardship. The methodology with which the Church needs to implement such an emerging eco-awareness is not an embracing of the political ideology of socialism, but rather a development of a new economics that unites all peoples with God and promoted the positive affects of successful capitalism, genetically modified so to speak with a social conscience that challenges the polarities of poverty and extreme wealth to recreate a society that balances economic, social and political resources in order to eradicate poverty, hunger suffering and war. Such a society, based on the concept of open communications, solidarity between all nations and the universal tolerance towards religious freedom is the ultimate goal the Catholic Church should be reaching towards and using its unique global presence to accomplish. Previously, I had written that Pope Francis is moving the Catholic Church towards a modified form of socialism. I do believe this is partially correct, however more correctly his actions and teachings might more correctly be instigated with the desire to more effectively implement Catholic social teachings, which are often difficult to tangibly put into practice. The inclusion of new members to the College of Cardinals that hail from developing 3rd and even 4th world countries is indeed admirable. However, such a practice might actually dilute the College of Cardinals in such a manner that it alienates members from politically and economically affluent countries that are capable of developing this new progressive Catholic social order when a sede vacante next occurs and the Sacred College while globally represented is divided more widely because of socioeconomic realities and not the theologically sound Catholic social teachings held so venerable by Pope Francis. In reality, the incumbent Holy Father needs to mediate between the extreme polarities of global poverty and successful capitalism and forge a new schema of cooperation in order to raise up the poor and disengaged, while accepting the positive aspects of economic capitalism and extracting from it the foundation for a new geo-theological and economic order that offers the world individual ethnic identities while fostering a communion of purpose rooted in the theological principles common to multiple faiths, cultures and international realities. Pope Francis is indeed raising the awareness, however the act of co-mingling geopolitics while compromising Catholic theological principles creates an awkward situation for some Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In all of his apostolic exhortations, Pope Francis needs to definitively reaffirm Catholic social and moral teachings that focus on Christ as the center and cultivate an acceptable form of geopolitics to incorporate the participation of all faiths and cultures without diluting or making objective Catholic teachings subject to individualism and personal interpretations. The Pope needs to use the knowledge of the collective traditions and teachings of the Church as the instrument of power while at the same time reaffirming to the world that there is really nothing new under the sun.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pope Francis...moving the Church towards socialism is the wrong direction!

Pope Francis is presenting the universal Church with a dilemma from which it might never really recover, especially from a credibility standpoint. While all Catholics agree on the need to feed the hungry, provide for the poor and in general promote the general prosperity of all peoples, the message coming from Pope Francis is alienating many Catholics, especially American Catholics. The root of the Pope's inability to effectively communicate the Church's humanitarian mission is directly associated with his extraction from a country that has been a socialist failure both politically and economically. Argentina under socialist policies did not really thrive economically and still harbors some of the largest sections of poverty in the southern hemisphere. The Holy Father, a life long resident of this system of government, and in some regards an advocate for socialism in action is taking the same message of potential Catholic disaster to all of the places he visits and reflects the same sentiments in his apostolic writings as well. Laudado Si, the papal teaching on the role Catholics should play in the preservation of the environment fails to integrate the long held teachings of the Catholic Church that both economic revival and development work in communion with a respect for the environment as a reflection of God's Creation and man's responsibility to maintain, preserve and develop the same environment. Most recently, Catholics have started criticizing the precepts of Laudato Si, not especially based on its intrinsic message, but because it minimizes and indirectly criticizes the positive effects that economic capitalism has in the role of offsetting the state of economic poverty. This type of backhanded criticism strikes a chord that is not quite harmonious with the typical American Catholic, especially since the American Catholic Church is one of the most generous group of Catholics that support the Holy See. The emerging dualism within the words and actions of the incumbent Holy Father practically suggests there is a disconnect between traditional Catholic theology and how it integrates effectively in a global economy and global culture that supports and often comes at odds with the teachings of the Bishop of Rome. Pope Francis' remarks often make light of established Catholic practices that are established and rooted in moral and ethical teachings and are often diminished with papal commentary such as,"...who am I to judge!" This previous example refers to the Pope's commentary on same sex relationships after the landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court. While it is true, not one of us has the proper disposition to judge the internal character of what motivates an individual's lifestyle or actions, the Bishop of Rome should not be so cavalier in his attitudes when commenting to the press on the subjective and objective nature of the sin of homosexuality. Please understand, my filial devotion and respect for the Holy Father is paramount to my personal exercise of my faith, and I would in effect, "take a bullet to save the life of the Holy Father," there are more geopolitical and theological issues at stake besides my obedience to the person of the Pope. The Church at the current time it seems is walking a very fine line between theological and political matters. While the Church by its very nature is indeed called to be part of this dynamic interaction between global politics and spiritual matters. What Catholics do not need is more confusion regarding their role in the world as both Catholics and good global stewards either politically or socially. The Holy Father's ongoing campaign to highlight the needs of the poor and those that are impoverished is indeed calling attention to the many problems of consumerism that causes global poverty; it is also offensive to many faithful Catholics that while not poor and impoverished are suffering from other manifestations of poverty, such as poverty of the spirit, poverty of hope or most evident a growing sense of isolation between economic classes that is proving to be a point of despair for many Catholics especially those in the United States where this condition is nurtured and thriving.
In most of the articles I publish, my direction is towards understanding the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes is indeed prophetic in its understandings of the problematic state of the world in the late 20th century, and indeed is inspired in the understanding of how the Church needs to interact in the 21st century in order to take a prominent role as the, Light of Christ, leading all peoples towards the final eschatological reality of life in Christ. Pope Francis was not a Council Father at Vatican II. Since his pontificate initiated he has with much credit raised topics of concern over globalization, consumerism, ecology and the plight of global poverty to a new level of understanding for the world to firstly react, then understand and potentially solve the perils that come with the emergence of globalism and the demise of the Church's isolation in some parts of the world. However, the methodology with which the Holy Father conducts his activities towards raising apparent  awareness of these issues frankly have an underlying sense of liberation theology, tempered with the appearance of Argentine socialism in order to obscure the direction in which the Church's political and social teachings are headed. Contemporary Catholics, globally want a Pope that not only represents the long held teachings of the Catholic Church but one that embraces tradition as well. As early as Saint Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, the Church's responsibility in preserving the world as a reflection of God's Creation was apparent in papal teachings. All of the subsequent popes, (with the exception of John Paul I) have elaborated the critical importance the Church and its members play in our responsibility to preserve our common earthly home. Blessed Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio, article 34 outlined clearly the role Catholics have in sustaining Creation through all aspects of our lives:

Organized programs designed to increase productivity should have but one aim: to serve human nature. They should reduce inequities, eliminate discrimination, free men from the bonds of servitude, and thus give them the capacity, in the sphere of temporal realities, to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments. When we speak of development, we should mean social progress as well as economic growth.

It is not enough to increase the general fund of wealth and then distribute it more fairly. It is not enough to develop technology so that the earth may become a more suitable living place for human beings. The mistakes of those who led the way should help those now on the road to development to avoid certain dangers. The reign of technology—technocracy, as it is called—can cause as much harm to the world of tomorrow as liberalism did to the world of yesteryear. Economics and technology are meaningless if they do not benefit man, for it is he they are to serve. Man is truly human only if he is the master of his own actions and the judge of their worth, only if he is the architect of his own progress. He must act according to his God-given nature, freely accepting its potentials and its claims upon him.
Saint Pope John Paul II in his address for the World Day of Peace in 1990 challenged Catholics to embark on a new awareness of ecology:
IN OUR DAY, there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts and continued injustices among peoples and nations, but also by a lack of DUE RESPECT FOR NATURE, by the plundering of natural resources and by an progressive decline in the quality of life. The sense of precariousness and insecurity that such a situation engenders is a seedbed for collective selfishness, disregard for others and dishonesty.
Faced with the widespread destruction of the environment, people everywhere are coming to understand that we cannot continue to use the goods of the earth as we have in the past. The public in general as well as political leaders are concerned abut this problem, and experts from a wide range of disciplines are studying its causes. Moreover, a new ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programmes and initiatives.
Even Pope Benedict XVI considered the preservation of the planet as a critical component in the struggle against relativism. Benedict often spoke about ecology in relationship to the Church and the Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist:
"The eucharistic form of life can thus help foster a real change in the way we approach history and the world. The liturgy itself teaches us this, when, during the presentation of the gifts, the priest raises to God a prayer of blessing and petition over the bread and wine, 'fruit of the earth,' 'fruit of the vine,' and 'work of human hands.' With these words, the rite not only includes in our offering to God all human efforts and activity, but also leads us to see the world as God's creation, which brings forth everything we need for our sustenance. The world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit. Rather, it is part of God's good plan, in which all of us are called to be sons and daughters in the one Son of God, Jesus Christ (cf.Eph 1:4-12)." — Sacramentum Caritatis (par. 92), 2007.
However, the matter of concern for the environment was not presented as something that is intended as a subject that places Catholics against other Catholics as a pseudo-subset within the Church. Pope Francis' pastoral approach towards the environment and the understanding of global poverty often places Catholic communities at an oppositional stance towards Francis' admonitions. The Holy Father is indeed on the right path towards spreading this message of global eradication of poverty and the need to embrace environmental stewardship, but the rhetoric needs to be appropriately redirected towards other critical needs of the global Catholic Church. Catholics do not want to embrace a theological ideology of sublime socialism as a prerequisite for effective membership in the Church, they want a Church that distinctively proclaims the Gospel through the hierarchy of which the Pope is the head to lead them to spiritual, emotional and temporal satisfaction without being condemned for being born into an age of excessive consumerism and effective capitalism. If Pope Francis sees both of these factors are derogatory factors that exclusively affect the pursuit of the spiritual life, he will effectively alienate and then isolate the same faithful members of the Church he had hoped to effectively reach with his pastoral message.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Next year.....we meet in Jerusalem!

I have been anxiously watching all of the events in the Middle East and how it effects the Christian community living there. As a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem the turmoil is especially distressing. Watching the cradle of Christianity fall prey to the tragic persecution of my fellow Christians indicates the need not only for financial support but a conscious show of solidarity with our endangered brothers and sisters in Christ. What I propose is a solidarity field trip to Jerusalem, for prayer, reflection and to stand firm with those that are persecuted for our Catholic faith. I have spoken to multiple groups and they too are in agreement that something needs to be done to assist those persecuted and too keep the Holy Land as a place of prayer and  pilgrimage a zone of safety for all religious denominations. My suggestion is to organize a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, set perhaps for January so we can show support and solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in this most dangerous land of many ancient faiths. If you think that this is something in which you would like to participate, please send me an email at  Already I have engaged the support of some of my college and graduate school classmates, some priests and some bishops that would make the pilgrimage, provided there is a sufficient group of pilgrims. A  percentage of the proceeds of the trip would be donated to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem to assist in their continued works in the Holy Land. If your local parish priest would like to include your parish in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem we can mount an exceptional number of people in the tour to spiritually and personally highlight this severe elimination of religious freedoms in the Holy Land. Spread the we might save the missionary activity to freely proclaim THE WORD!