Sunday, January 31, 2016

Religious Freedom Shouldn’t Be a “Second or Third Class Concern”

Robert P. George

News coming out of Christian communities in northern Iraq and other parts of the Middle East has seemingly been so bad since last summer’s dramatic advance of the Islamic State group, and the response from Western governments, in the estimation of many observers, so tepid, that Christian leaders in the Middle East and advocates in the West have opined that Western governments just don’t care about persecuted Christians.

Not quite, counters Robert P. George, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"I believe that our government does care about the plight of Christians in the Middle East," George said in an interview Tuesday. "What I’d like to see is religious freedom and the need to come to the aid of persecuted people and prisoners of conscience be elevated to a higher status in the minds of our policy makers."

Other concerns, such as geo-strategic issues, tend to take precedence, he says. George, a three-year member of the commission who was recently elected chairman, plans to work to make sure religious liberty concerns get their proper place at the policy-making table.

George, a Catholic, is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is the author of Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality and In Defense of Natural Law

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan, federal commission created in 1998 through the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). USCIRF uses international standards, such as Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to monitor violations of religious freedom or belief abroad. USCIRF makes recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress to help protect, defend, and advance this liberty.

Aside from the reason that government has an interest in ensuring the basic human right of religious liberty, there is also a practical effect from helping it flourish. As George points out on USCIRF’s website, a growing number of studies indicate that nations that honor this freedom tend to be less violent and more prosperous, less unstable and more democratic.

"Countries that fail to uphold religious freedom are more likely to be plagued by poverty and insecurity, tyranny and terrorism," he says. "Hence, religious freedom belongs prominently at the table with economic and security concerns in the conduct of our foreign policy."

What can you do as chairman that you couldn’t ordinarily do?
As chairman, I’ll be responsible for representing the commission’s position on religious freedom issues and advancing the recommendations that the commission has made and will be making to the State Department and to the president and to the congress, especially when it comes to the formation of policy toward the worst offending regimes—the ones with the worst records on religious freedom.

The commission issues a widely read report each year. Where are you in the process of preparing the next one?
The 2015 report was just issued a little over a month ago. We’re calling attention—and one of my jobs as chairman will be to take the lead in calling attention—to the recommendations and analyses contained in that report.

But the world continues to change, and so we’re already doing the most preliminary work with the next report, and in a few months we’ll get back up into full gear when it comes to assessing the situation of countries around the world for 2016.

Can you give us an overview of the state of religious freedom? Where and who are the worst offenders? Where are things getting worse?

They’re getting worse in most places. The Pew research group, which I’ve always found to be extremely reliable in its reporting on religious freedom, says that about 74% of the world’s population is living under regimes that either themselves violate the religious freedom rights of their citizens or minorities within their jurisdiction, or stand by idly and permit private actors—thugs, mobs, terrorists—to persecute and violate religious freedom rights of some members of the society. And sometimes that’s because governments just don’t want to do anything to protect those victims, and sometimes it’s because they have failed states with governments so weak that they can’t do anything, even if they wanted to, to protect those citizens.

The situation for Christians, especially in the Middle East, is getting worse, not better. We have seen a revival of the ancient, hideous curse of anti-Semitism, even in the developed democratic nations. There’s an increasing frequency of crimes against Jews, Jewish property, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish houses of worship, even in European nations, and not just East European but West European nations.

In some places a kind of aggressive secularism results in a violation of people’s religious rights. Sometimes they’re not on the level of the kinds of horrible violations you see in the Middle East and so forth, but nevertheless they’re things we need to be concerned about: forbidding Muslim girls from wearing their headscarves, as their religion requires, in public schools in places like France; forbidding Jewish or Christian girls from wearing small symbols of their religion as jewelry. These are not on the level of the oppression you see in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia or China or Pakistan or North Korea by any means, and yet, they are a concerning or worrying trend, and they show a basic disrespect for basic religious freedom rights.

Many Christians, both in the US and those suffering persecution in the Middle East, have a feeling that the administration doesn’t care about what’s happening to the Body of Christ in Iraq and Syria, throughout the Levant and the Maghreb. Are these feelings justified?
I believe that our government does care about the plight of Christians in the Middle East. I think much more can be done, especially on the refugee front, and I think that the two parties ought to cooperate to do whatever can be done, and the executive and legislative branches need to do whatever they can do to advance the cause.

What I’d like to see is religious freedom and the need to come to the aid of persecuted people and prisoners of conscience be elevated to a higher status in the minds of our policy makers. I don’t think our policy makers are ill-motivated. I don’t think they support religious oppression. I don’t think they don’t care; I wouldn’t say that. It’s just that with all the things, the considerations they have to bear in mind—and I understand that: geostrategic and military concerns, like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan; economic and trade concerns with China and Vietnam and other places. I get it, that those concerns have to have an important place at the table. But I don’t want religious freedom to be relegated to a second or third class concern. It needs to be right up there on the same level as these other concerns in formation of our foreign policy.

How would you characterize the state of religious liberty in our own country?
I can’t speak in my capacity as chairman of the commission or a commissioner because our statute does not authorize us to speak to that, and since I’m speaking to you in precisely that capacity I wouldn’t want to comment, other than to say two things: one, that I think the members of our commission have different views. We’re not of the same mind on all the thorny religious freedom questions we’re facing domestically. Two, I think we would all agree on this, that one of the very best ways we can promote religious freedom abroad is to honor it at home. I don’t think there would be any dissent on that.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saint of Light, Saint of Darkness

There is no path to holiness that does not lead through the cross

Like so many others around the world, I was overjoyed to hear of the recent decision of the Vatican to canonize Mother Teresa, a woman generally recognized, during her lifetime, to be a “living saint.” Mother Teresa first came to my attention through Malcolm Muggeridge’s film and attendant book, Something Beautiful for God. Of course, Muggeridge showed Mother’s work with the dying and the poorest of the poor on the streets of Kolkata, but what moved me the most were the images of the saint’s smile amid so much squalor and suffering. She was a very bright light shining in exceptionally thick darkness.

Mother’s life reveals so many aspects and profiles of holiness, but I would like to focus on three of them. First, she shows something remarkable about love, which is not a sentiment but rather willing the good of the other. I think it is fair to say that Mother Teresa went to extremes in demonstrating love in this proper sense. She renounced practically everything that, in the opinion of the world, makes life pleasant — wealth, material goods, power, comforts, luxuries — in order to be of service to those in need. Further, for decades, she personally reached out to the most vulnerable in one of the worst slums in the world and sent her sisters to some of the most disagreeable places on the planet.

Most of us, I imagine, manage to love to a degree, but few ever express this theological virtue more dramatically and radically than she did. This is not simply admirable, it constitutes a crucial witness to the nature of love. Unlike the other virtues, both natural and theological, love has no limit. Justice, limitlessly expressed, excludes all mercy; too much temperance becomes a fussy Puritanism; exaggerated courage is rashness; unlimited faith is credulity; infinite hope devolves into presumption.

But there can never be too much love; there is never a time when love is inappropriate, for love is what God is, and love constitutes the very life of heaven. Mind you, in heaven there is no need for faith, and hope fades away. But in that supremely holy place, love remains in all of its infinite intensity and radicality. Mother Teresa’s way of life, accordingly, is an icon of the love that will obtain in heaven, when we are drawn utterly into the very life of God.

A second feature of Mother’s holiness is her dedication to prayer. When I visited the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata some years ago, what impressed me most was a life-size statue of Mother Teresa in the very back of the chapel, in the position she customarily assumed when she prayed: legs folded under her, palms facing upward, head bowed. From the very beginning of her community, Mother insisted that her sisters should engage in substantial amounts of prayer every day; and in time, she established a branch of her order dedicated exclusively to contemplative prayer. She understood something that is essential to the Christian spiritual life — namely, that the kind of love she and her sisters endeavored to practice could come only through the grace of God, only as a sheer gift. To get that gift, it was necessary to ask, to ask again, to beg one’s whole life long. Without this explicit connection to God and his purposes, their work, she knew, would turn into mere do-good-ism, and the egos of her sisters would inevitably assert themselves. Saints, those who embody the love that God is, are necessarily beggars.

I remarked above that Mother Teresa struck me as a light in the shadows. How mysterious, therefore, that she herself once said, “If I ever become a saint, I will surely be a saint of darkness.” She was referring to something that only a handful of people knew in her lifetime: that for upwards of 50 years, Mother Teresa experienced the pain of the absence of God.

The living saint often felt abandoned by God or even that God does not exist. Once, a visiting bishop was kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament with Mother and her nuns. A note was passed to him from the saintly foundress, which read, to his infinite surprise, “Where is Jesus?” That she lived through this crucible for decades, even as people routinely saw her as the very paragon of holiness, shows a third dimension of her saintliness. To be a saint is to allow Christ to live his life in you.

Indeed, St. Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me;” and this means the whole Christ. Jesus was a person of service to the poor and needy, and Mother certainly embodied this aspect of his life; Jesus was a person who prayed intently and for long periods of time, and Mother participated in this dimension of his existence. But Jesus was also the crucified Lord, who said, at the limit of his suffering, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” To allow Christ to live his life in you is, therefore, necessarily to experience, to one degree or another, the absence of God, to undergo the agony of the crucifixion in all of its dimensions. St. John of the Cross, the greatest mystical theologian in the Church’s history said, quite simply, that there is no path to holiness that does not lead through the cross. Though it is a high paradox, the 50-year darkness that Mother endured is, therefore, one of the surest indicators of her saintliness.

Saints exist for the Church, for in them we see the very raison d’etre of the Church, and this is why canonizations are always joyful affairs. So let us rejoice in this new saint whose love, prayer and very darkness are light for us.

Bishop Robert Barron 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pause for Prayer

Help me today, Lord, 
 to do no wrong to my neighbor, 
 to do no wrong to my family, 
 to do no wrong to my friends, 
 to do no wrong to my coworkers, 
 to do no wrong to strangers, 
 to do no wrong to anyone, 
 to do no wrong to myself... Amen. 

 Owe no debt to anyone
except the debt that binds us
to love one another...

Love never wrongs the neighbor... - Romans 13

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Merciful like the Father

What is a Jubilee Year?

In the year 1300, Pope Boniface XIII called the very first Jubilee. Drawing from early Christian and Jewish traditions and understandings of Jubilee, the Jubilee was celebrated as a special time of joy and pardon. It is a year that emphasizes the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sacrament vital for the forgiveness of sins. The special graces that we can receive this Jubilee are the same ones the faithful could receive over 700 years ago.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Above and Beyond

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A nun in our area is going "Above and Beyond" at the Hunts Point Market. She's made it her mission to get fresh fruits and vegetables to some people who would otherwise likely go without them. "We are trying to give what we get back, show them God loves them," Sister Elisabeth Anne said. Sister Elisabeth Anne is up before 5 a.m. and on the road once a week to get fresh fruits and vegetables from the Hunts Point Market.

Who loads up her van? A family business called D'Arrigo Brothers Produce. "She just keeps coming and we keep giving, it is a nice relationship," said Michael D'Arrigo, of D'Arrigo Brothers Produce. This is all for free, collected for 85 seniors at the Queen of Peace residence in Middle Village, Queens.

The D'Arrigo Brothers family has been giving her crates of produce for 36 years. "It's hard to come here as a man and there are not that many women here, but she seems to be doing fine. She is all business, gets in here and gets what she needs and we are happy to help her," Michael said. "Always gracious, and we are always happy to help the people she has helped," said Dillon D'Arrigo, of D'Arrigo Brothers Produce. "Anything we can give her, we give her anything she wants," said Gabriela D'Arrigo, of D'Arrigo Brothers Produce.

"We come as beggars and I walked in here all those years ago to this place, did not know anyone, just walking in here and asking strangers for things and I was unorganized, can you imagine how embarrassing that would be?" Sister Elisabeth Anne said. Now she comes with a list.

77-year-old Sister Elisabeth Anne calls herself a beggar. The other nuns say her dedication inspires them all. Sister is at the nursing home day after day, year after year, so what else does she need for the seniors? "That's the main thing the generator, and yes, then there are the lights," Sister Elisabeth Anne said. She would love it if people could give to her $2 million generator fund or help to replace all of the old light bulbs in the senior center.

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 March for Life

47 juniors from Kellenberg Memorial High School were escorted by six moderators to Washington last week.

The group toured the nation’s capital on Thursday evening and visited the Basilica on Friday morning. Marianist Father Thomas Cardone, the school chaplain, celebrated Mass for the students in the Basilica’s Chapel of Our Lady of the Missions.

Kellenberg graduates currently enrolled at Catholic University were also present at the liturgy.


Marianist Monday

"A true Christian cannot live any life but the life of Our Savior Jesus. When we try to imitate Him the divine plan is carried out in our lives. The Blessed Virgin is our Model. She is a very exact copy of her Son Jesus. When we are devoted to Mary we will imitate Jesus."

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Attack on the Family


Back in 2001, the prolific poet and critic Richard Howard reviewed for the Los Angeles Times a minor memoir by a woman who had adopted a disturbed boy—and he began his review of the book by writing, “I must acknowledge an interest, or rather a dismay, in discussing this ‘family memoir,’ for from experience and observation I have come to regard the American Nuclear Family in the last fifty years as the enemy of individual determination, of personal autonomy—in short, as a disease.”

In one sense, Howard was expressing nothing new. From Plato to Schopenhauer, one can find philosophical doubts about the family as the best instrument for the ordering of society. From Sophocles to Henry James, one can discover literary doubts about the psychological effects of family life. In the Israeli kibbutzim, the hippies’ communes, and the religious cults, the twentieth century alone saw many attempts to redefine the family.

Still, the angry tone of Howard’s line, the rage not for something new but against everything old, hinted at a difference. This was not a messianic promise of having found better ways to live. This was an apocalyptic fury that demands a smashing of the existing ways. The metaphor of disease is telling: We don’t propose substitutes for cancerous tumors; we cut them out. Health isn’t found in the presence of alternates to disease; it’s found in the actual absence of disease. And so the apparent unhappiness of the human condition doesn’t need an alternative to family. It just needs to get rid of family.

At the time, I hadn’t encountered anyone writing quite as openly, quite as purely, about the bulldozing impulse as Howard, but it seems to have become something of a staple in the fourteen years since his Los Angeles Times review. In recent weeks, for example, Kathleen McCartney, the president of Smith College, took to the pages of the Boston Globe to declare—on Mother’s Day—that “motherhood is a cultural invention” that needs to be deemphasized: “Mother’s Day is a good day to double down on the work required to reconstruct our conception of motherhood.”

Meanwhile, in a much-reported incident, Adam Swift, a professor of politics at the University of Warwick in England,told an Australian radio audience that parents’ bedtime reading to children is a guilty, fraught activity—since such reading gives the children a pronounced advantage in later life. “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children,” he explained, “but I think they should have that thought occasionally.” And parents should certainly be prevented from sending their children to “elite schools,” since the advantage of such schools creates an inequality for disadvantaged children.

The examples can be multiplied beyond all counting. And the question they all raise is why the family as an institution should be under such attack. Some modern destructive impulse has turned its attention in that direction, which is never a good sign for the survival of the threatened institution.

The answer has to do in part with the sheer destructiveness of modern times. The family is a premodern arrangement of human life, and the modern turn subjects all premodern things to deconstruction: philosophy, theology, and history; monarchy, nobility, and the Church; culture, art, and society. It just took us this long to dig down to the family. Richard Howard is a late, miniature Voltaire, and the president of Smith College is a tardy, shrunken Jacobin.

Even more, however, these recent attacks on the family take their shape from the absence of any alternative. If one impulse in modern times was the destruction of the past, another was the creation of the future. And it’s that second impulse that seems to have failed. Since the fall of Soviet communism, radicalism has had no horizon, no goal or plan for a new society, and all of its passion has been directed in anger at the present.

Something must be making us unhappy. Something must be making us suffer. Something needs to be destroyed. And thatsomething now seems to be the family.

We needn’t construct an intellectual defense of the family here, not because the family is indefensible but because it comes to us as the longest-lasting and most-successful social arrangement in history—the most-successful arrangement, that is, for the preservation of children’s lives and the preservation of social knowledge. And the key lies in that notion of preservation. The family is not an immediate good; it’s a mediating good—good for something. Even the New Testament criticizes families when they are taken as goods in themselves, substituting for the goods of faith.

All tools are meaningless without a use. The lack of horizon, the lack of future goals and a sense of human purpose, has sent radicalism into a tizzy of annihilation, seeking ever deeper, ever more wildly, for the unidentified something that makes us unhappy. Everything old must go, and the family is one of the few surviving old things still around to be attacked.

At the same time, the lack of cultural goals and human horizons leaves us with no easy way to answer the attack. There’s no alternative being proposed, nothing that can be measured against the success of the family and found wanting. It’s bad enough, when radicalism tears down a house and tries to plant another in its place. It’s worse, when radicalism simply tears down the house while reassuring us that we don’t need shelter.

The imperfections of family life are real—as philosophers from Plato to Schopenhauer, artists from Sophocles to Henry James understood—but we have generally rejected all the proposed alternatives because we can see that they will not work as the mediating tools we need. The new attack on families preempts that defense. We don’t need families, it reassures us, and we can weaken or even abolish them without cost or argument over what will replace them.

Count me as one less than reassured.

Joseph Bottum is a bestselling essayist in the Black Hills of South Dakota and author of An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pope Francis Preaches on the Power of Prayer: “Prayer Makes Miracles”

Image result for francis power of prayer
A compelling excerpt from a Papa Francisco homily:

Francis described an event that happened in the Shrine of Luján, in Buenos Aires, where there was a family with a nine-year-old daughter who was very ill. “After weeks of treatment”, the Pope recalled, “she did not manage to escape that illness, it had worsened and the doctors, at around six o’clock in the evening” said that she had only a few hours left to live. So “the father, a humble man, a labourer, immediately left the hospital and went to the shrine of Our Lady in Luján”, 50 kilometres away. When “he arrived around 10 o’clock in the evening, everything was closed, and he grabbed hold of the gate and prayed to Our Lady and struggled in prayer”. This, Pope Francis continued, “is a fact that really happened, at the time when I was there. And he remained like this until five in the morning”.

That man “prayed, he wept for his daughter, struggled with God for his daughter through the intercession of Our Lady. Then he returned. He arrived at the hospital at about seven or eight, and went to find his wife. She was crying and the man thought that the girl had died, but the wife said: ‘I don’t understand, I don’t understand…. The doctors came and said that they don’t understand what happened’. And the little girl went home”.

Essentially, the Pope observed, with “that faith, that prayer before God, convinced that he is capable of all, because he is the Lord”, the father in Buenos Aires recalled the woman from the biblical text. The one who not only obtained “the miracle of having a son a year later and then, the Bible says, she had many others”, but she also succeeded with the miracle of “awakening the tepid spirit of that priest”. When Hannah “explains to that priest — who had completely lost all spirituality, all piety — why she was weeping, he who had called her ‘drunk’, says to her: ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him’. He released from under the ashes the little priestly flame that was in the embers”.

Here then is the final lesson. “Prayer makes miracles”, Francis said. It even makes them for those “Christians, whether they lay faithful, or priests, bishops who have lost devotion”.

Additionally, he explained, “the prayers of the faithful change the Church: it is not we, the Popes, the bishops, priests, nuns who bring the Church forward, it is the saints! And the saints are these people”, like the woman in the Bible passage: “Saints are those who have the courage to believe that God is the Lord and that he can do all”. The Pope then prayed that the Father “give us the grace to trust in prayer, to pray with courage and also to awaken piety, when we have lost it, and to go forward with the People of God to the encounter with him”.

Friday, January 22, 2016

“State of Abortion”: Abortion Numbers Down, but Planned Parenthood Numbers Up

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Both the number of abortions and the rate of abortion is dropping, according to figures released in the third annual “State of Abortion in America” report issued by the National Right to Life Committee.

The number of abortions, which had peaked at about 1.6 million in 1989, is now down to 1 million, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics quoted in the report, which was issued Jan. 14.

The abortion rate for all women of child-bearing age is now down to 210 abortions per 1,000 live births.Pro-life supporters recite the rosary with Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., during a prayer service in late August 2015 outside of a Planned Parenthood facility in Grand Chute, Wis. The abortion facility announced in early October that it was suspending abortion services for six months. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)

The number of abortions performed at Planned Parenthood clinics, though, is up 250 percent in the same time period, according to Carol Tobias, NRLC president. The rate, Tobias added, has remained “relatively steady the last three years,” although the numbers have dropped for other services Planned Parenthood provides at its clinics.

Tobias characterized Planned Parenthood’s revenues as “steady abortion income and a cool half-billion in income from state and federal governments.”

One of NRLC’s priorities is government defunding of Planned Parenthood. President Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have eliminated Planned Parenthood’s eligibility to receive federal grants.

“This is the first time now that the Congress has actually approved legislation to defund Planned Parenthood,” said Douglas Johnson, NRLC’s legislative director. “The procedural pathway has been set. The only thing lacking now is a pro-life president.”

Johnson said the current Congress is “a pro-life Congress.” He cited 10 House roll-call votes and four Senate roll-call votes, all of which had garnered a majority of pro-life votes. He added none of the Senate votes met the threshold to override a presidential veto of the defunding measure.

That would apply to a scheduled Jan. 26 vote in the House to override Obama’s veto. “That veto is going to be sustained,” Johnson predicted.
A group of Capitol Hill lawmakers addresses crowds of supporters during the March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington Jan. 22, 2015. Tens of thousands took part in the annual event, which marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)
A group of Capitol Hill lawmakers addresses crowds of supporters during the March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington Jan. 22, 2015. Tens of thousands took part in the annual event, which marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff)
The “State of Abortion” report noted that for 2012, the last year for which statistics are available, “more than one in five … abortions performed at eight weeks gestation or earlier were listed as ‘medical’ abortions by the CDC.” “Medical,” the report added, “is code for chemical,” frequently “morning-after” drugs.

In the 36 states that report the marital status of women undergoing abortions, “married women accounted for just 14.7 percent of abortions,” the report said, “with 85.3 percent of aborting women being unmarried.”
Demonstrators hold signs during a May 14, 2015 pro-life protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)
Demonstrators hold signs during a May 14, 2015 pro-life protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)
One exception to the 2012 statistical overview is the number of women dying from a legal abortion, the last year for which statistics are available is 2011. That year, two women died, compared to 10 in 2010. Since the 1973 Supreme Court decisions permitting abortion virtually on demand, 424 women have died in abortions, according to “The State of Abortion.”

The biggest toll, though, Tobias said, is the number of babies aborted, which she put at 58 million since the joint Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton rulings. In addition to the unborn children, Tobias cited “the lasting impact the abortion had on the mothers of these children.”

Even with lower rates, about 1 million abortions are still performed annually in the United States, Tobias said. That reflects a 4.2 percent drop from year-before levels.

“We know ultimately we will be successful,” she said. “The immutable truth: Killing unborn children is wrong.”

— By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Marianist schools at 2016 March for Life

Today at 6:00 AM, around fifty Kellenberg Memorial juniors accompanied by Father Tom, Mr. and Mrs. Finn, Mr. and Mrs. Harnisch and Brother Michael boarded a coach bus ready for the five hour ride to the nation’s capital. The occasion: The 2016 Annual March for Life.

Arriving in D.C., the group will take some time to tour some of D.C.’s landmarks and survey the streets where they would be marching tomorrow. The juniors will also have the opportunity to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in which the horrors of the holocaust are truly depicted. The museum offers students the unique opportunity to put themselves in the place of a holocaust victim, in order to fully understand the suffering endured by these men, women, and children.

Tomorrow, the day of the actual march, Chaminade High School will travel to DC to participate in the March.

We will be surrounded by people carrying signs and shouting chants, making their voices heard. The march brings people of all different backgrounds from all over the country for a singular purpose: to defend life.

After completing the March, the Marianists students will visit St. Joseph’s church for a short prayer service and an opportunity to speak with Bishop Murphy, who meets with participants on the march and blesses them as they fought to keep all life sacred!

March For Life 2013 from Kellenberg Memorial Video Produc on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Prayerful Pause

help me know the silence,
your deep silence,
as a gift...

Help me come into your silence
and wait there in the quiet
for your peace...

Help me find within your silence
no void, no lack, no absence
- but the fullness of your presence...

Help me trust that in your silence
I'll find you and we'll meet,
the beloved and the Lover,
where every sound is hushed,
where love's the only Word...

In your silence, Lord, I am
who I'm truly made to be,
in the silence of your presence,
where I'm fully known and loved...

Help me know you in your silence
that I might come to see
who in your love I am
and who I'm called to be...


-A Concord Pastor Comments

Monday, January 18, 2016

I Have a Dream

I Have a Dream!

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Image result for martin luther king day 2016
Today we take a national holiday to recall a man who demanded from his country the riches of freedom and the security of justice. Freedom is an easy thing to celebrate, but we talk about freedom so often that it can become trivialized. So today it is good to take a moment and reflect upon the freedom and justice that Martin Luther King Jr. pursued and to consider his contribution with more than a superficial glance.

The freedom and justice King sought were not vague and abstract, not a freedom to act without constraint nor a justice that is merely an absence of injustice; they are oriented toward something specific: brotherhood. In his I Have a Dream speech he “finds himself an exile in his own land,” and declared that “now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

King desired a brotherhood that is deeper than that envisioned by postmodern philosophers or secular humanists; he desired a Christian brotherhood. After all, as he noted in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, he was “in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers,” as well as being a preacher himself. And so he seeks a fraternity that is founded upon mercy and truth. Regarding the truth about human dignity he said in his most famous speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Regarding mercy and forgiveness, King hoped that “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

The brotherhood that King sought is not only Christian, but ultimately perfected in a particular eschatological vision. It is expressly a brotherhood of eternity, present in some way now but consummated when “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Am 5:24). This fraternity will be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ when—King cites the Prophet Isaiah—“every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” (Is. 40:4-5). King, by working for unity here on Earth, anticipates the unity in Heaven that only Christ can bring about. It is an ambitious dream. But it is a dream worth dreaming; and we ought to desire nothing less.

There is a (possibly apocryphal) story that Thomas Jefferson, when penning the Declaration of Independence, originally began with the phrase “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and property.” It would have been faithful to Locke, that political philosopher who exercised so much influence over the founding fathers. But writing “property” instead of “the pursuit of happiness” would have been small-minded. Thankfully the much greater, and much more authentically American, “pursuit of happiness” is what we inherit.

Yet how often do we pursue a shrunken happiness in property, or power, or affirmation, rather than the greatness of authentic freedom? How often do we fail to dream of a fraternity of humankind brought about when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together”?

It sometimes seems that today’s dreamers, today’s heirs to King and his legacy, don’t dare to dream with his audacity. Some dream of purely political gains and social movements, not the happiness of a brotherhood wrought by God. Merely political and social changes are necessary but not the end; they are only worth fighting for because, if they are true and just and merciful, they prepare the way for the Lord. When we dream of His coming, when we prepare His way in our own lives, in our relationships with others, and in our political engagements, only then do we hasten the day when our nation will be united, as King desired, “into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

Br. Hyacinth Grubb, O.P.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Europe’s Ghosts of Faith


American travelers to Europe might arrive thinking they are visiting a continent where religion – or at least Christianity – is all but extinct, having succumbed to massive secularism. Particularly if those travelers arrive anywhere near Easter, though, they would quickly be surprised if not shocked to see just how strong the underlying Christian framework remains.

I recently spent a pleasant time in Norway, which, like other Scandinavian lands, is not noted for strong religious sentiments or behavior. Yes, people are usually baptized and confirmed, although in decreasing numbers, but regular church attendance is very low indeed by U.S. standards. Yet the country has a full roster of strictly religious holidays, amazingly so for Americans who are used to a rigid separation between religion and public life. American public schools and state universities must tread a thin line at times like Good Friday, when they know, realistically, that virtually no Christian students will attend classes. Rather than admit that fact openly, though, secular institutions try to maintain a façade of staying open, while effectively granting students and teachers the right to be absent.

How different matters are in Europe, and how overt the religious affirmations! Norwegian holidays officially include Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Day and Easter Monday, but in practice, the consolidated “Easter holidays” stretch for over ten days, and are strictly observed. The day before the Palm Sunday weekend, train stations and airports were overwhelmed with city dwellers fleeing to holiday homes, and this year, many businesses are closed from March 27 through April 7. As one of my generous hosts put it, he would be happy to undertake a chore for me “when Norway reopens.” Later in the year, Norway celebrates one holiday for Ascension, two days for Whit or Pentecost, and two for Christmas. And as at Easter, all these holidays are subject to a pattern of unofficial expansion that can spread over several days.

Nor is Norway’s calendar unusual in its religious orientation. Catholic countries are famous for their proliferation of saints’ days and religious-based public holidays, when work shuts down entirely. Apart from the Christmas and Easter season, Italians observe All Saints, as well as the Marian holidays of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. Yet even the holiday calendar of Protestant Denmark includes three weekdays around Easter, three for Christmas, and two for Pentecost, as well as Ascension and Common Prayer Day (Store Bededag). Depending on where you are in religiously mixed Germany, you will run into a wide variety of feasts and festivals, either generically Christian or specifically Catholic.

This is not to say that the vast majority of Europeans mark these holidays by religious activities of any kind, or even that they could give any informed account of what Easter actually means. It does however suggest the residual strength of Christian faith across much of the continent. One of the best sociologists of European religion is Grace Davie, who stresses that falling levels of observance and church attendance cannot simply be equated with pure secularism, suggesting instead that people are “believing without belonging.” Presently, strict secularism is very advanced among cultural and political elites, but has not yet made enormous inroads among ordinary people.

Davie argues that the Christian presence still remains potent through social memory, as reflected for instance in public holidays. This is all the more potent in cities and small towns that still retain the Christian imprint on every street, every Heiligegeiststrasse (Holy Spirit Street) and Paternoster Row, and in which the whole urban plan is still shaped by parish boundaries. Across Europe, neither God nor the church is easy to miss. You know when you have arrived in Catholic Bavaria or Austria when people start greeting you with Grüss Gott (Greet God, or originally “God guard you”), rather than the coldly secular Guten Tag, which sounds so foreign andGerman. The ghosts of faith walk everywhere.

No observer would claim that Western European countries in particular are aflame with piety and public devotion, and actual church participation might be weak. Rather, we see a great deal of cultural Christian faith, which exists steadily, but which does not normally flame into public view. As Grace Davie remarks, Europe’s cultural Christians are “content to let both churches and churchgoers enact a memory on their behalf,” secure in the knowledge that Christianity is there if and when they need it. The churches represent accumulated capital that can be drawn on as needed.

In this comfortable and non-demanding sense, most do still define themselves, however vestigially, as Christians. The question for Europe’s churches is whether they can find ways of mobilizing this popular sentiment into more overt forms of faith.

Philip Jenkins is a Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Stop and play

Imagine if each of us took a couple minutes every day
to do something like this,
something free, enjoyable, playful and whimsical...

I'm not sure if the world would be a better place
but I'm quite sure my life would be a better world
for me and those around me...

Friday, January 15, 2016

5 Signs of a Modern-Day Pharisee

"[Jesus] came to put a harlot above a Pharisee, a penitent robber above a high priest, and a prodigal son above his exemplary brother. To all the phonies and fakers who would say that they could not join the Church because his Church was not holy enough, he would ask, “How holy must the Church be before you will enter into it?”
—Fulton J. Sheen

I find it frustrating when people speak about the Pharisees as if they were just a historical example of what not to do.

Something outside of us.

In fact most often when people speak of Pharisees, they are really speaking pharisaically: “Thank goodness I am not like those people!”

Yet, it is obvious that Jesus did not just consider these men to be examples of what not to do. For one thing he is often hanging around them. He goes to their houses. He eats their food. He spends time with them, answers their questions.

Jesus loved the Pharisees.

I don’t think he would speak so harshly to them if he did not love them. It’s almost like Jesus is crying out in frustration, “You’re almost there! Just follow me a little bit closer!”

St. Paul was a Pharisee, which is evidence that misdirected zealousness and scrupulosity can be redirected into an astounding zeal for evangelization and holiness.

This is why I think it is important for faithful Christians to pay attention to the Pharisees and Jesus’ critique of their behavior. If we are going to Church, know our faith and put God first, then we are all in danger of behaving like Pharisees. In fact, we can be fairly certain that we will act like them at one time or another.

If we seek to recognize when our behavior is similar to theirs, in the negative, we can strive to become a person who observes the Christian faith with the intensity and balance that Paul exemplified and Jesus encouraged.

With that in mind, here are five signs of a modern-day Pharisee based on Scripture:

1. A Leaven of Unrest

Jesus tells us to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mk 8:15).

It is interesting to consider the role of leaven or fermentation in the making of bread. It starts small but it infects the entire loaf. In fact, one of the definitions of the word ferment is to “incite or stir up (trouble or disorder).”

When we behave like the Pharisees, we stir up trouble among the faithful. Often, our intentions are good. But our actions cause great unrest, an unhealthy and unholy “leavening” of the greater faithful. We can discern whether unrest is unhealthy by analyzing its fruits.

If the fruit of a person’s “leaven” is often fear, anger and unrest, rather than peace, love, joy and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit, then one must beware. The Lord is not at work where the fruits of the Spirit are not present. He is particularly not at work where the fruit of a person’s actions is fear: “There is no fear in love” (Jn 4:18). When our behavior is a holy leavening, it pushes others to desire holiness, to draw closer to God and to act in charity.

Jesus, help my actions and words lead others to holiness and to an experience of God and the fruits of the Spirit.

2. Surveillance Experts

There is one Gospel passage that makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. Jesus is walking through a field with his disciples on the Sabbath, and the disciples are picking wheat because they are hungry. The Pharisees (who must have been hiding in the fields!) pop up and immediately challenge Jesus because his disciples are breaking the Sabbath (Mk 2:23–24).

The lengths to which the Pharisees went to find something wrong with Jesus and his followers were truly absurd. Some variation of the phrase “they were watching him” can be found over and over in the Gospels. While Jesus is busy healing, performing miracles and preaching the kingdom of God, the Pharisees’ eyes were always on him, not in order to learn from him but to find something he was doing wrong.

There is rarely a comment on the Internet that is not basically, “Yes but …” We love to plow right through all the good things and narrow right in on the one part that didn’t seem quite right. We become Pharisees when we are always focused outward with an eye toward criticism. Nothing is ever good enough for a Pharisee. And nothing merits rejoicing, unless it is the downfall of others.

Jesus, help me to focus on you, not like the Pharisees but like a child who wants nothing more than to imitate his or her Father. Help me see the dignity of others as you see them, and to treat others with respect and great love.

3. Thank God I’m Not Like (Insert Label Here)

We all remember the Pharisee in Scripture who stood up and prayed by saying, “I thank you God that I am not like so-and-so!” (Lk 18:11).

This Pharisee genuinely believed that proper prayer involved taking credit for everything one did right. This is the danger in being close to right; we begin to take credit for it. We look at others who are doing much worse things, and assume we escaped that path because something about us makes us better.

We think, My sins may be bad, but thank God they are not as bad as that person’s sins! Thank God I’m not like that loosey-goosey liberal, uptight rad trad, heretic progressive, zany charismatic, stick-in-the-mud ultra-conservative or ignorant cafeteria Catholic.

Or you may even be reading this and thinking, Thank God I am not a Pharisee!

The problem with this way of thinking, and it is evident in the behavior of the saints, is that true holiness focuses on what needs improvement in oneself. And if the saints could find a lot of things in need of improvement, then that is probably the same attitude we should have!

Jesus, help me thank you for all the graces you have given me in my life. Help me to be a source of light for others and to be open to what others have to teach me.

4. Unhealthy Relationship with Authority

It is interesting to note that Jesus tells the people to submit to the authority of the Pharisees. He tells them to “Do everything they tell you” even though he warns that their example is not to be followed (Mt 23:3). When I first thought about this, I was astounded. Here is the Son of God,submitting to the authority of the Pharisees, because their earthly authority represented his Father’s authority.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, were incensed when they saw Jesus acting with authority. Jesus demonstrated his power by showing which practices were dispensable and which were essential to the meaning of the law. In response to Jesus’ show of his divine authority, the Pharisees plot his death. Jesus recognizes legitimate authority, but the Pharisees, while they are aware of an aspect of it, are blind to the source of authority itself.

As sinful human beings, we have an ambiguous relationship with authority from the start. It is hard for us to recognize the authority of God, let alone that of his mediators on earth. It’s true that healthy rebellion and questioning can be a good thing. But we abuse this truth when we disobey because we think we know better than God or when criticism of others becomes an obsession that leads us to a lifestyle of disobedience.

Jesus, help me develop the virtue of obedience in my heart so that I may recognize your authority here on earth and become more gentle, docile and full of charity.

5. Unmerciful Exactness

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, while the Pharisee pats himself on the back, the tax collector begs God for mercy. This is an interesting dynamic. The Pharisee believes he is well and does not see himself in need of mercy. But the tax collector knows he is sick and in need of God.

This inner dynamic in oneself often extends to others. If we see ourselves as in little need of mercy, we do not give mercy to others. If we know that we need copious amounts of God’s mercy, then we extend that mercy to others. Why is this? Because when we know we are in need of mercy, we reach out to God and he scoops us up in his arms. When we have experienced this absolute and unconditional love of the Father, we hesitate less in giving that same love to others. We know it, we’ve experienced it, and we are overflowing with it.

Everyone’s heart grows cold sometimes like that of the Pharisee. We all have difficulty feeling compassion for certain people. When this happens, it helps to ask the Lord to help us see our own sin more clearly, not so that we can become lost in guilt, but so that we can see our own need to accept God’s mercy and extend it to others.

Jesus, welcome me into your merciful heart. I want to be a beacon of mercy and love for others; help me to become more like you.

Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Amazing Grace: Check Out This Ice Skating Nun

Well, here’s something you don’t see everyday:

An ice skating nun is taking the world by storm after her amazing display of skill in Slovakia went viral on the internet.

The nun in question was videoed with several of her sisters in the capital

Bratislava dressed in their full habits skating gracefully at a public rink.

But she stood out among the rest after showing off techniques more suited to the Winter Olympics including a 12-spin pirouette.

It was later revealed the figure skating nun – Maria Pavla Hudacekova or Sister Maria of Ursulines of the Roman Union, was a former junior champion skater in her youth.

The video was taken by a teenager watching his young sister perform on the ice – until he noticed the astonishing sight unfolding before him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What Pope Francis is asking us to pray for

Pope Francis wants 2016 to be a year of dialogue, openness, and peace. That's why, this month, his first universal prayer intention of the year is "that sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bing Crosby & David Bowie - Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy 1977

It seems only right to remember David Bowie with a classic performance tied to the season that just ended. Below, his iconic duet with Bing Crosby from 1977.

The backstory is worth retelling:

The track was recorded on September 11, 1977 for Crosby’s then-upcoming television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. The pair exchanged scripted dialogue about what they each do for their family Christmases, before singing “Little Drummer Boy” with a new counterpoint with original lyrics written for the special, “Peace on Earth”.

Bowie’s appearance has been described as a “surreal” event, undertaken at a time that he was “actively trying to normalise his career”. He has since recalled that he only appeared on the show because “I just knew my mother liked him”.Buz Kohan was not sure that Crosby knew who Bowie was, but Ian Fraser claimed, “I’m pretty sure he did. Bing was no idiot. If he didn’t, his kids sure did.”

According to co-writer Ian Fraser, Bowie balked at singing “Little Drummer Boy”: “I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?”, Fraser recalls Bowie telling him. Fraser, along with songwriter David Bowie, Larry Grossman and the special’s scriptwriter, Buz Kohan, then wrote “Peace on Earth” as a counterpoint to “Little Drummer Boy”. Crosby performed “Little Drummer Boy”, while Bowie sang the new tune “Peace on Earth”, which they reportedly performed after less than an hour of rehearsal.

A few days after the taping, Crosby said of Bowie, “clean-cut kid and a real fine asset to the show. He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well.”

Crosby died on October 14, nearly five weeks after recording the special at Elstree Studios near London; in the U.S., the show aired just over a month later, on November 30, 1977, on CBS. In the United Kingdom, the special first aired on December 24, 1977 on ITV. The timing led to rumors that the duet was “computer-generated.”

Monday, January 11, 2016

Marianist Monday

January, 2016

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

This is a photograph I took three years ago when I went to Israel journeying with 13 students and a rabbi on a program known as “Project Understanding.”   Yes, if you look closely, it is a shepherd watching over his flock of sheep.

At this time of the year, we traditionally have shepherds and sheep around our crèche.  Why the shepherds?  In a beautiful meditation, Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. writes,

Certain things about the shepherds made them best disposed for the angel's visit.  For example, how could a shepherd not marvel at the way his sheep recognized and heeded his particular voice?  It was as if they were made for that voice.  Which perhaps made the shepherds wonder about the Voice for which they themselves had been made.  Moreover, shepherds were constantly on the lookout, scanning the horizon for predators.  They lived in a state of perpetual readiness -- primed to do battle with wild beasts like hyenas, jackals, wolves, and even bears who would threaten their flocks.  Their very vulnerable charges depended on the shepherds for protection.  Did this move the shepherds to think about their own weakness, and heighten their expectation of a Savior who would come to rescue them from the "wild beasts" of their own inability, evil and sin?  A Savior who was even more solicitous and self-sacrificing than they?  And who, more than the shepherds, understood the promise of Psalm 23 -- that "the Lord is my shepherd"?  Who had greater certainty that what God had revealed in Scripture would become a fact in history?  

 In other words, the angel visited the shepherds because they are so much like us.  Which explains the shepherd's instantaneous response to the announcement of the angel: "Today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord" (Lk 2:11).  Once the angelic choir concert is over, the shepherds immediately say to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made know to us" (Lk 2:15).  Thus, the proclaimed "good news of great joy" corresponds deeply with what the shepherds had always been waiting for.  Without hesitation, off to Christ's manger they go.  For faith is acknowledging an exceptional Presence that changes us, that fulfills us, that reveals us to ourselves and makes us want to adhere to it with all the strength of our freedom.

The shepherds promptly share what they are given.  They become evangelizers who witness to others what had happened to them so that, "when the chief Shepherd is revealed," all "will receive the unfading grown of glory" (1 Pt 5:4).

May we bear witness to the great happenings of this Christmastide.  We hope and pray that the Christ Child be born in each of us this year.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Roger

Sunday, January 10, 2016

10 Signs Christianity Is on the Rise


Christianity is a dying relic of an ancient past. The Internet is killing it. Science is killing it. Western sophistication is killing it. Right?


In many ways, Christianity is on the rise as never before—worldwide, and in America. Here are the ways we can tell:

1. Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds worldwide.

The research shows Christian numbers rising, not falling worldwide. "Christianity should enjoy a worldwide boom in the coming decades, but the vast majority of believers will be neither white nor European, nor Euro-American,” writes Philip Jenkins of Baylor University, author of The Next Christendom.

In America, this will mean that as white descendants of Europeans fall off a demographic cliff, they will be replaced by the growing Southern Christian and Catholic populations.

2. Nominal Christianity is dead—and that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, in America, research showing that Christian numbers are tanking is a little misleading. What it really shows is a fall in the number of people who call themselves Christians but have never darkened the door of a Church. We no longer feel we have to dishonestly mark the “Christian” box, and we now feel it’s okay to be honest and mark the “atheist” box—but this shows health rather than weakness.

It is an interesting dynamic: In the West, the nominal Christianity that was inherited unthinkingly is disappearing and in the East and South, real Christianity is a rapidly growing grassroots movement. Books like God’s Century by Monica Duffy Toft of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and God Is Back by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist are trying to figure out what that will mean.

3. The Church is promoting the sacraments.

But the nominal Catholic rate still causes problems. We know various polls place Mass attendance at various small percentages. What we don’t know is the extent to which they merely show that nominal Catholics still mark “Catholic” on polls.

Another thing we also know is that the Church is promoting the first necessary step to increased Mass attendance: Confession. The Vatican’s 24 hours for the Lord March 13-14 is doing this church-wide, seeing promotions pay off in Great Britain, while events such as Chicago’s Festival of Forgiveness and Philadelphia’s confession push are doing the same in America.

4. Eucharistic Adoration is on the rise.

A good measure of whether Catholics are more than nominal is Eucharistic adoration. To spend time with Jesus Christ is the very definition of a Christian, after all. Adoration is offered at 7,094 U.S. parishes as listed by In 2005, that website’s president, Mike Mortimer, estimated that there were 715 perpetual adoration chapels in America. The Vatican now estimates that there are 1,100 perpetual adoration chapels in America.

The worldwide church is led by a man who prays a daily Eucharistic hour and the Church in America is actively promoting Eucharistic adoration through events like the Eucharistic Adoration Novena.

5. Catholic youth movements have never been stronger.

A movement’s future is only as strong as its next generation, and so for Catholicism to have a future it has to have a youth movement. Catholicism does. Our most recent World Youth Day attracted 3.7 million—one of the 30-year event’s largest gatherings ever.

At home, we see a pro-life force largely led by young American Catholics, which dwarfs almost every other activist movement. Tens of thousands of Catholic young people descend on Washington each January for the March for Life, and you can add to that the young people at the 115 smaller marches for life throughout the United States and the nationwide life chain events in October.

6. … and the Catholic youth movements are linked to higher education.

When I went to college, people referred to “the hardcore four” or “thriving five” Catholic colleges faithful to the magisterium. Now I work at a college and we continually hear new stories of schools trying to reclaim their Catholic identity in order to compete. Today, the National Catholic Register’s latest Catholic Identity Guide lists more than 30 schools that are promoting the strength of their Catholic identity.

At the same time, new Catholic centers at state schools are trying to make inroads in hostile environments that dismantle students’ faith: The Seek 2015 conference of FOCUS (The Fellowship of Catholic University Students)attracted nearly 10,000 college students this year.

7. New, young vocations.

Another phenomenon you can’t help but notice in Catholic circles is hidden from official numbers: The new young vocations. We see them at Benedictine College all the time—in our classrooms, in our Abbey, and among our alumni. But because of the huge numbers of elderly priests and nuns, the total numbers of priests and nuns keeps dropping in America.

Research does show that millennials are “even more likely” to consider vocations than the generation before them, and anecdotal evidence shows that there was a Benedict Effect before there was any Francis Effect in vocations, and that priests under 35 represent a sign of hope in the Church.

8. Strong, engaged Bishops.

Complaining about bishops is a pastime as old as the Church itself. It can be done in a helpful way (see the letters of St. Paul in your New Testament) and in an unhelpful way (as in the joke about the part of the bishop-making ceremony where the candidate’s spine is removed).

But the 21st century has seen a huge change in the way American bishops engage the world. It first became noticeable with the candidacy of John Kerry, a radically pro-abortion politician whose nominal Catholicism forced bishops to take a stand. Then came the rise of Obama and the HHS mandate—which every U.S. bishop denounced. Finally, new strong bishops are emerging from what Thomas Peters calls the “Benedict Bishop Bump.”

9. A new interest in Scripture.

Many people predicted when the Da Vinci Code was popular that the long-term effect of the novel’s crazy anti-Scriptural premise would be to increase interest in Scripture. That paradoxical prediction has proven true. In the wake of the Da Vinci Code, a new interest in Scripture can be seen in popular books, television miniseries, and major Hollywood movies.

10. The witness of the martyrs.

Last but not least by a long shot is the witness of the martyrs. The beautiful way Christians are showing their deep faith and love for Jesus Christ, as I’ve said before, will grow the Church just as it did in the former atheist communist bloc, and indeed as it did in the early Church.

The bottom line is that if Christianity is true, then we can expect it will continue to rise and not die. If it’s not true, then it will certainly die—and the sooner, the better. But since Jesus Christ really did die and rise and leave us the sacraments, don’t expect it to go away any time soon.

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


As we blunder through the last few days of the Christmas maze; as we confront the possessiveness  of a culture awash in glamour, gadgets and household gods, we must be reminded not to lose sight of Bethlehem. For our pilgrimage to this place changes our lives. The Magi "went home a different way." They could never go home the same way again after Bethlehem.
There is an incredible amount to learn from the wise men, the Magi from the East.

Learn, for instance, that outsiders discover the Christ while the religious establishment falls all over itself to please the king. Learn from the wise men, the ones who are the wrong race, the wrong color, the wrong religion, and the ones who fall down on their knees before the child, while the chosen ones, the mainliners, are busy keeping the public order. Learn from the wise men that the insiders are busy supporting the status quo, politically and economically, in the very halls of power and authority, while the outsiders are giving lavish and generous gifts to a baby.

And even note that the first ones to greet Jesus are not the insiders, members of the chosen people, but strange-looking outsiders: not Jews, but Arabs. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Image result for wise gifts
Two thousand years ago, gold, frankincense and myrrh were worth (by today's standards), six hundred, five hundred and four thousand dollars per pound, respectively. A similar gift today (frankincense and myrrh have declined in value, gold has increased) would set a 21st century king back six thousand dollars for the gold, but only fifteen dollars apiece for frankincense and myrrh.
Wise gifts

The Magi celebrated the Christ child with the most valuable items in the ancient world. But these gifts were not just of monetary value. They were also gifts of health and long life. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were among the earliest and most prized curative medicines in the ancient world.

Once we understand the gifts of the Magi we can better comprehend what kind of gifts we too should be bringing to our Lord and Savior. We hold in our hearts and in our hands the ability to offer Christ's own healing presence to the world everyday, not just at Christmas. The gifts of goodness, grace and love, as well as frankincense, gold and myrrh represent the gifts the Christ child truly wants from us - our whole selves.