Sep 14, 2012

"Works of Love are Works of Peace" (Mother Teresa)

Youth in the Middle East greet Pope Benedict XVI as a courageous herald of truth and peace, thanking him for giving them each, as a personal gift, the new Arabic translation of the YOUCAT, the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Here are some of the words of the Holy Father during his visit to Lebanon:
"Fundamentalism is always a falsification of religion. It goes against the essence of religion, which seeks to reconcile and to create God’s peace throughout the world. ... The essential message of religion must be against violence - which is a falsification of that message, like fundamentalism - and it must educate, illuminate and purify consciences so as to make them capable of dialogue, reconciliation and peace". (Pope Benedict XVI, September 15th 2012)
Surely, as Pope John Paul II would say, the Pope has come to "greet the martyrs of the third millinieum." JP II also warned against violence in God's name:
"It is a profanation of religion to declare oneself a terrorist in the name of God, to do violence to others in his name. Terrorist violence is a contradiction of faith in God, the Creator of man, who cares for man and loves him."—Blessed John Paul II
To government leaders in the Middle East, and to citizens across the world, Pope Benedict explains what it takes to achieve peace among peoples, and identifies the obstacles to peace. In his speech he exclaims, "If we want peace, let us defend life!" (Here is the full text of his speech, translated by the Vatican.)

Sep 8, 2012

"The Truth Will Set You Free." (Jn. 8:32)


Quote from the Youcat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) on Freedom:
286 What is freedom and what is it for?

Freedom is the God-given power to be able to act of one's own accord; a person who is free no longer acts under the influence of someone else.
God created us as free men and wills our freedom so that we might decide wholeheartedly in favor of the good, indeed for the greatest "good"--in other words, for God. The more we do what is good, the freer we become.

287 But doesn't "freedom" consist of being able to choose evil as well?

Evil is only apparently worth striving for, and deciding in favor of evil only apparently makes us free. Evil does not make us happy but rather deprives us of what is truly good; it chains us to something futile and in the end destroys our freedom entirely.
We see this in addiction: Here a person sells his freedom to something that appears good to him. In reality he becomes a slave. Man is freest when he is always able to say Yes to the good; when no addiction, no compulsion, no habit prevents him from choosing and doing what is right and good. A decision in favor of the good is always a decision leading toward God.

288 Is man responsible for everything he does?

Man is responsible for everything he does consciously and voluntarily.
No one can be held (fully) responsible for something he did under coercion, out of fear, ignorance, under the influence of drugs or the power of bad habits. The more a person knows about the good and practices the good, the more he moves away from the slavery of sin. God desires that such free persons should (be able to) take responsibility for themselves, for their environment, and for the whole earth. But all of God's merciful love is also for those who are not free; every day he offers them an opportunity to allow themselves to be set free for freedom.

289 Must we allow a person to use his free will, even when he decides in favor of evil?

For a person to be able to use his freedom is a fundamental right based on his human dignity. An individual's freedom can be curtailed only if the exercise of his freedom is detrimental to the freedom of others.
Freedom would be no freedom at all if it were not the freedom to choose even what is wrong. It would violate the dignity of a man if we did not respect his freedom. One of the central duties of the State is to protect the liberties of all its citizens (freedom of religion, of assembly, and association, freedom of opinion, freedom to choose one's occupation, and so on). The freedom of one citizen is the limit to the freedom of another.

290 How does God help us to be free men?

Christ wants us to be "set free for freedom" (see Gal. 5:1) and to become capable of brotherly love. That is why he sends us the Holy Spirit, who makes us free and independent of worldly powers and strengthens us for a life of love and responsibility.
The more we sin, the more we think only about ourselves and the less well we can develop freely. In sinning we also become more inept at doing good and practicing charity. The Holy Spirit, who has come down into our hearts, gives us a heart that is filled with love for God and mankind. We avail ourselves of the Holy Spirit as the power that leads us to inner freedom, opens our hearts for love, and makes us better instruments for what is good and loving.
Quote from the Youcat on Conscience:
295 What is Conscience?

Conscience is the inner voice in a man that moves him to do good under any circumstances and to avoid evil by all means. At the same time it is the ability to distinguish the one from the other. In the Conscience God speaks to man.
Conscience is compared with an inner voice in which God manifests himself in a man. God is the one who becomes apparent in the conscience. When we say, "I cannot reconcile that with my conscience", this means for a Christian, "I cannot do that in the sight of my Creator!" Many people have gone to jail or been executed because they were true to their conscience.

296 Can someone be compelled to do something that is against their conscience?

No one may be compelled to act against his conscience, provided he acts within the limits of the common good.
Anyone who overlooks the conscience of a person, ignores it and uses coercion, violates that person's dignity. Practically nothing else makes man more human than the gift of being able personally to distinguish good from evil and to choose between them. This is so even if the decision, seen in an objective light, is wrong. Unless man's conscience has been incorrectly formed, the inner voice speaks in agreement with what is generally reasonable, just, and good in God's sight.

297 Can a person form his conscience?

Yes, in fact he must do that. The conscience, which is innate to every person endowed with reason, can be misled and deadened. That is why it must be formed into an increasingly fine-tuned instrument for acting rightly.
The first school of conscience is self-criticism. We have the tendency to judge things to our own advantage. The second school of conscience is orientation to the good actions of others. The correct formation of conscience leads a man into the freedom to do what has been correctly identified as good. With the help of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, the Church over her long history has accumulated a vast knowledge about right action; it is part of her mission to instruct people and also to give them directions.

298 Is someone who in good conscience acts wrongly guilty in God's sight?

No. If a person has thoroughly examined himself and arrived at a certain judgment, he must in any case follow his inner voice, even at the risk of doing something wrong.
God does not blame us for the objective harm that results from a wrong judgment of conscience, provided that we ourselves are not responsible for having a badly formed conscience. While it is quite true that ultimately one must follow one's conscience, it must likewise be kept in mind that people have swindled, murdered, tortured, and betrayed others on the basis of what they wrongly suppose to be their conscience.  

cardinal wilfrid youcat

Sep 7, 2012

"Put the Word into Practice" (James 1:22)

"...The Law of God finds its complete fulfillment in love (cf. Romans 13:10). God’s Law is his Word that guides man on his life’s journey, it leads him out of the slavery of egoism and brings him into the 'land' of true freedom and life..." (Benedict XVI, Sunday Angelus Message)

Aug 29, 2012

"There Will Not Be Left One Stone Upon Another"--It Is Time For Catholic Families to Start Meeting Together as Small Christian Communities of Faith


An Association of Families
And a Network of Small Christian Communities
Giving Witness to the Gospel and the Sanctity of Human Life.

1. Solidarity:  Friendship and Charity is to prevail everywhere and at all times.
The following suggestions serve as a framework to help Families to stay connected with one-another, though personal encounters, in the tradition of Christian Hospitality. These visits, which could be as brief or as extended as the families desire, are voluntary, not compulsory, thus allowing for the flexibility that Charity often requires.

          The head of the family will meet with the parish priest once a year.
This could be in the context of the traditional Home-Visit and House-Blessing.  Remember that the proper function of the Head is "to serve, not to be served" (Mt 20:28) after the example of Our Lord at the Last Supper.

is a day set aside for rest and the worship of God (CCC 2172).
It is also set aside for Family (CCC 2185) and for tending to the needs of the Sick (CCC 2186).

2. Subsidiarity
:  In order to foster a ‘decentralized unity’ of Families,
in Love and Solidarity, We propose the following schedule of family encounters:

(Of course, these must remain flexible with respect to the dictates of Charity and the primacy of individual families, who might have special plans for certain Feast Days, Vacations, etc.)

will meet as a household at least every Sunday, before or after Sunday Mass.

          Extended Families will meet about once a month (every 4th consecutive Sunday, beginning with the second Sunday of the year).

          Subdivisions—associations of 3 to 5 local householdswill meet about once every 2 months (every 8th consecutive Sunday, beginning with the 4th Sunday of the year).

          Neighborhoods—-associations of 3 to 5 subdivisionswill meet about once every 4 months (every 16th consecutive Sunday, beginning with the 8th Sunday of the year).

          Communities—-associations of 3 to 5 subdivisionswill meet about once every 4 months (every 16th consecutive Sunday, beginning with the 16th Sunday of the year).

3. Catholic Action
--The friendships nurtured through this association will foster solicitude for individuals in need, expressed through the Works of Mercy:

          to Feed the hungry,
          to give Drink to the thirsty,
          to Clothe the naked,
          to Shelter the homeless,
          to Visit the sick,
          to Visit the imprisoned,
          and to Bury the dead;

          to Counsel the doubtful,
          to Instruct the ignorant,
          to Admonish sinners,
          to Comfort the afflicted,
          to Forgive offenses,
          to Bear Wrongs patiently,
          and to Pray for the Living and the Dead.

These actions will not be done on behalf of this association, but will be the responsibility of individuals who see the opportunity for such a personal initiative.  Although collaborative efforts are always possible, this association will not have a common fund, since it is not a Charitable Agency;  We will leave such measures in the responsibility of individuals, who are free to establish Foundations to fund specific needs, as well as the parish priest, who will be encouraged by his bishop to form a local Caritas, or Parish-Based Charitable Agency, according to the new additions to Canon Law. (See Intima Ecclesiae natura, 11 November 2012)

For fellowship and example, you may also want to meet-up, personally, with other Small Christian Communities, such as those associated with Presentation Ministries, a network based in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati which follows the specific example and direction given by their founder, Fr. Al Lauer.

Aug 28, 2012

"I No Longer Call You Slaves...But Friends"--On the Co-Responsibility of the Laity for the Church

From the Message of the Holy Father to the Members of Catholic Action:
....On the occasion of the Sixth Ordinary Assembly of the this International Catholic Action are being called upon to reflect on “eccesial and social co-responsibility”. It is highly significant and timely subject for the laity on the eve of the approaching Year of Faith and Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

Co-responsibility requires a change in mentality, particularly with regard to the role of the laity in the Church, who should be considered not as “collaborators” with the clergy, but as persons truly “co-responsible” for the being and activity of the Church. It is important, therefore, that a mature and committed laity be united, who are able to make their own specific contribution to the Church’s mission, in accordance with the ministries and tasks each one has in the life of the Church, and always in cordial communion with the bishops.

In this regard, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium describes the nature of the relationships between laity and Pastors with the adjective “familiar”: “A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill is mission for the life of the world” (n. 37).

Dear friends, it is important to deepen and to live out this spirit of profound communion in the Church, which characterized the early Christian community, as the book of the Acts of the Apostles attests: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (4:32). Feel the commitment to work for the Church’s mission to be your own: through prayer, through study, through active participation in ecclesial life, through an attentive and positive gaze at the world, in the continual search for the signs of the times. Never tire of becoming more and more refined, through a serious and daily commitment to formation, through the aspects of your particular vocation as lay faithful, who are called to be courageous and credible witnesses in every sphere of society, so that the Gospel might be the light that brings hope in difficult situations, in troubles and in the darkness that men today so often find along the path of life.

To guide others to an encounter with Christ by announcing his message of salvation with language and ways understandable in our own day marked by rapidly transforming social and cultural advances, is the great challenge of the new evangelization. I encourage you to continue generously in your service to the Church, by fully living out your charism, whose fundamental feature is that of adopting the apostolic goal of the Church as a whole, in a fruitful balance between the universal and local Church, and in a spirit of intimate union with the Successor of Peter and of active co-responsibility with one’s own Pastors (cf. Vatican II decree on the lay apostolate Apostolicam actuorsitatem, 20). At this stage in history, work in the light of the Church’s social teaching to become a laboratory of “globalization of solidarity and charity”, in order to grow with the entire Church in the co-responsibility of offering a future of hope to humanity, by having the courage to make even demanding proposals.

Your Catholic Action Associations boast a long and fruitful history, written by courageous witnesses of Christ and the Gospel, some of whom were recognized by the Church as blesseds and  saints. In their train, you are called today to renew your commitment to walk along the path of holiness, by preserving an intense life of prayer, encouraging and respecting personal paths of faith and by esteeming the riches of each person, with the accompaniment of the priests who assist you and of leaders who are capable of educating you in ecclesial and social co-responsibility. May your lives be “transparent”; may they be guided by the Gospel and enlightened by an encounter with Christ, whom you love and follow without fear. Adopt and share the pastoral decisions of the dioceses and parishes, by promoting occasions to meet and sincere collaboration with the other elements of the ecclesial community, by building relationships of esteem and communion with priests, for the sake of a living, ministerial and missionary community. Cultivate authentic personal relationships with everyone, beginning with families, and offer your availability to participate at all levels of social, cultural and political life, by always setting your sights on the common good.

With these brief thoughts, while I assure you of my affectionate remembrance of you, your families and your associations in prayer, from my heart I send to all the participants in the Assembly the Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all whom you meet in your daily apostolate.

Benedictus PP. XVI [Translation by Diane Montagna at ]

Let us pray, and resolve to do what we can in "this great struggle for religious liberty:" 
"We recognize that a special responsibility belongs to those Catholics who are responsible for our impressive array of hospitals, clinics, universities, colleges, schools, adoption agencies, overseas development projects, and social service agencies that provide assistance to the poor, the hungry, immigrants, and those faced with crisis pregnancies. You do the work that the Gospel mandates that we do. It is you who may be forced to choose between the good works we do by faith, and fidelity to that faith itself. We encourage you to hold firm, to stand fast, and to insist upon what belongs to you by right as Catholics and Americans. Our country deserves the best we have to offer, including our resistance to violations of our first freedom....
"Catechesis on religious liberty is not the work of priests alone. The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom." 
—Bishops of the United States

If you have Facebook or Twitter, you too can use your talents in this great struggle:
Please save and share this picture--perhaps it will get your friends' and followers' attention:

Also, if you feel called to offer me material assistance as we answer our bishops' call to fight against the HHS Mandate "with all the energies that the Catholic Community can muster," please don't send money. Rather, if you are moved by conscience to join Christian Healthcare Ministries as I did, just let them know that you were referred by member # 156,332 (that's me!--Imagine that--there were 156,331 other Christians who joined this program before I did). If you provide my number during the application process, it would provide me with a one-time wavier to help pay the monthly gift of $45 that goes to help the other members with their healthcare bills. [Please note that with CHM, you can choose your level of involvement: Bronze level is $45/mo, Silver is $85/mo, Gold is $150/mo, and the add-on coverage of catastrophic healthcare costs exceeding $125,000 is $45/yr. Each plan has different benefits, but in each case you would be helping other Christians in need, according to your ability.]

May God Reward You!


Donnie Schenck