Wednesday, June 17, 2015

5 Things the Media Will Not Tell You About Laudato Si'



Today Pope Francis released his second encyclical, Laudato Si'. It is very long, more like a book. Probably most people won't read the whole thing but will get an impression of it from news outlets. Here are five things they will not tell you about it:

1. The encyclical has six references to St. Thomas Aquinas, including this: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end.” no. 80

2. The great Catholic theologian Romano Guardini figures prominently in the section on technology. Guardini heavily influenced Pope Benedict’s theological thought. I wonder if Francis talked to Benedict about this topic.

3. The pope criticizes abortion:
120.     Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”  (quoting Pope Benedict, Caritas in Veritate, no. 28)

4. The pope also upholds the importance of sexual differences:
Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”[1]


5. He also criticizes advocates of population control:
At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health.” Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. no. 50


I hope to post more thoughts about it later. In reading it, a lot of questions came up for me. Undoubtedly this encyclical will stir a lot of debate, since Francis clearly believes in climate change. He also has a lot of faith in international organizations like the UN to bring about change, as well as big government. Personally, I have some reservations about those structures, since there are many reasons to doubt their effectiveness. That's an important question to be discussed.

Also, the pope himself says in the encyclical, “On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.” (no. 61).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Nine: Self-Control

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control." Gal 5:22

This is the ninth and final fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions here in Galatians. He is not speaking of self-control only in the sense of a certain kind of asceticism, though we need that too. For Paul, if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit himself enables us to live holy lives. We need to do our part, definitely, but it is primarily a matter of grace.
And God always gives that grace in abundance if we pray and ask for it. On Sunday when we celebrate Pentecost, pray for the Spirit to come upon you personally just as it happened on the first Pentecost. The timid apostles who were hiding out in the upper room were transformed and spoke about Jesus with boldness. The Holy Spirit will transform us too.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts!

In our congregation, today (Saturday May 23) we celebrate the feast of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Mary was the one most filled with the Holy Spirit. So here is a prayer that brings out that connection.



Mary, Transformer of the Apostles

Mary rejoice for the days you were in the Upper Room
with the Apostles and Disciples of your Son, Jesus.
You were teacher, comforter, and mother to all those
gathered in prayer awaiting the promised Holy Spirit,
the Spirit with the sevenfold gifts,
Love of the Father and of the Son;
Transformer of the Apostles.
Through your intercession and prayer obtain for us
the grace to realize the value of every human person
saved by your Son’s fidelity to the Father
to the point of offering his life on the cross.
May the love of Jesus urge us on for the Gospel.
May we feel in our hearts the needs of the unborn, of children,
of youth, of adults, of the elderly.
Grant that the vastness of Africa, the immensity of Asia,
the promise of America, the hopes of Europe, and Oceania
will attract us to share the message of the Gospel
with every person and in every culture.
May the apostolate of witness, prayer, the press,
films, radio, television, the Internet, social media and all media-technology,
draw many apostles to use these effective means
as ways to announce the Kingdom of God.
Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother,
Queen of the Apostles, our intercessor, pray for us.

Blessed James Alberione, SSP, adapted



 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Eight: Gentleness (Fri.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses for gentleness (prautes) is the same word Matthew uses for the beatitude: Blessed are the meek (or gentle or humble in heart). Jesus spoke of himself in that way, that he is gentle and humble of heart. He invites us to take his yoke on us because he is so gentle he will never "break the bruised reed" (Is 42:3).
Jesus promised he would send us the Spirit. Of course he has already sent the Spirit, but he can do that again and again. As time goes on we can grow in our capacity to receive the Holy Spirit.

Do I turn to Jesus with trust? 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of life, you who came down upon the apostles in a mighty wind and with fire, who filled the house where they were and gave them the gift of tongues to proclaim the wonders of God, come down now upon me as well.
Fill me with yourself and make of me a temple wherein you dwell. Open my lips to proclaim your praise, to ask your guidance, and to declare your love.
Holy Light, divine Fire, eternal Might, enlighten my mind to know you, inflame my heart to love and, strengthen my will to seek and find you. Be fore me the living and life giving Breath of God, the very air I breathe, and the only sky in which my spirit soars. Amen.


Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Seven: Faithfulness (Thur.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . faithfulness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses here (pistis) can be translated as faith or faithfulness. But in the context of Galatians, in which Paul speaks about how faith in Christ justifies us, it can probably be best seen as a trust founded on God's own faithfulness (that's from Matera's commentary.)

This kind of faithfulness leads us to trust that God will always be with us no matter what trials we are going through. This makes me think of an incident from the life of St. Thomas. As a young man he decided he wanted to become a Dominican. At that time the Dominicans were a new order. They were mendicants, which meant that they were traveling preachers who depended on people to help them with food and other necessities.
Thomas was from a noble family in Italy. They wouldn't have minded if he had wanted to become a Benedictine. Since he had studied at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, they thought he could enter there and eventually become the Abbot. But the idea of him going around begging for food horrified them. His mother in particular adamantly opposed Thomas on this.

But Thomas had other ideas. He wanted to follow the poor Christ, without a position of power (in those days abbots sometimes had a good deal of power and influence). So when he entered the Dominicans and they sent him on a journey to Paris, his family intervened. His brothers went after him and took him against his will back to the family castle in Aquino.
There they kept him under a sort of house arrest. They thought he wouldn't last too long and would eventually give in. But no, he resisted all their pressure to make him change his mind. Finally, after about a year, they realized he wasn't going to follow their plans. Instead, Thomas was faithful to the plans that he believed God had for him. That was faithfulness in action.


Is there some area in my life where I can be more faithful to what God is asking of me right now?

Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Gift of Courage (public domain):

Come, O Holy Spirit of Courage, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage in the trials of life, that I may never be overcome and separated from you, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.












Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Six Goodness (Wed.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." Gal 5:22


 In high school I had a teacher who was a mentor for me. She would often say, "Be good." Even though it sounds so simple, it sums up the essence of the Christian life. By being good we can act  with goodness toward others. The way we act reveals what is in our hearts. And it's also true that by good acts, we become better persons. 
St. Paul often encouraged his Christians to be good: "I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness..." (Rom 15:14).
The Holy Spirit is the source of our goodness, for the Spirit is Love. When we open ourselves more fully to the Spirit, we can expect to be filled with an abundance of grace and spiritual gifts.

How can I show goodness to others today?



Prayer for Holiness of Life
 By St. Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

And here is the traditional Come, Holy Ghost:

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Five Kindness (Tuesday)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . kindness." (Gal 5:22)

Some years ago when I was dealing with a difficult situation that had lasted a while, I was praying in our chapel one day. A sister who was visiting from Italy -- who knew nothing of the difficulty -- came up to me and expressed genuine appreciation for some of my good qualities. When people do that I tend to disregard it, but in this case it was such perfect timing and so completely affirming that I thought it had to be the Holy Spirit who inspired her. It wasn't flattery but I felt almost like she had a window into my soul. And she didn't say any negative things like I may have feared, but instead she spoke of the good she saw in me. And that makes it easier to live out of those good things. It took me completely by surprise but it was a wonderful act of kindness. To this day whenever I think of that, I still recall how good I felt.

Kindness can make such a big difference to another person, and it often costs us so little. To look at someone and see their good points instead of their flaws is an act of kindness. And only kind people will do that. We reveal who we ourselves are by the way we treat others.

How can I show greater kindness to others today?


 Prayer to the Holy Spirit by St John Paul II

Come, Holy Spirit.  Come.  Enter deep into the hearts of those who belong to you.  May each be given the manifestation of you for the common good.  So that God may be all in all.
Lord, give me a spirit of faith and knowledge.  Give me a spirit of kindness and generosity.  Give me a spirit of love and unity.  The fruit of the spirit is love, patience, and generosity.  It is peace.


 When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. -- Abraham Joshua Heschel



The Veni Creator Spiritus 




Sunday, May 17, 2015

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Four: Patience (Monday)


"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience" (Gal 5:22)

The patience that St Paul refers to here is more like forbearance.
In relation to God, it's the way that God never tires of us, always has patience, and tries to draw us to conversion.
For us, this kind of patience helps us to control our anger, especially in situations when it threatens to overwhelm us. Just about all of us, at one time or another, have gotten angry to the point it was hard to control our thoughts and words. When that happens we usually say something we later regret.

Patience helps us to control ourselves at those moments. It helps us to see things from another's point of view. If we can do that, even if we don't agree with the person, we can at least understand where he or she may be coming from.

The New Testament has two words for patience. One is hupomonē, which refers more to bearing a burden patiently. It's more like long-suffering, holding up under trials. But here in Galatians Paul uses the word makrothumia. It's a compound word and the two parts give us the meaning: makros or "long" and thumia or "passion" or "temper." So it has more of the sense of being long-tempered, able to take a lot of stress without losing one's temper. If we can practice this, we can become more like God who is so patient with us. That's why it's a fruit of the Spirit, since it depends more on grace than our own efforts.

How can I be more patient today in the events of my life and with the people I am with?

This prayer is directed to St. Paul:


For Patience

Glorious Saint Paul, from a persecutor of Christianity you became an ardent apostle and evangelizer. Throughout your life you even suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, and shipwreck; you endured persecutions of every kind for the sake of the Gospel. Your sole desire was to make the Savior Jesus Christ known to the farthest bounds of the world, and to that end you shed your blood to the last drop.
Obtain for me the grace to accept the hardships of ill health and the daily struggles of this present life as opportunities to grow in love for Jesus Christ and share in his sufferings. May the unexpected difficulties that come my way help me to be a more patient, compassionate, and loving person who seeks to assist others in their needs. And, amid the pressures and demands of everyday life, grant me enduring strength to be a faithful and fervent follower of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Blessed James Alberione 

"Have patience with all things but first with yourself." --St Francis de Sales

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.












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