Saturday, June 30, 2007

Senate Fails to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform

From Catholic Charities

June 29, 2007
Volume 1 Number 4

Inside the Special Issue on Immigration:

Senate Fails to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Catholic Charities USA Calls for Accountability
Save the Date in July: Upcoming Webinars on Immigration

Senate Fails to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform

On June 28, the comprehensive immigration reform proposal (S. 1639) collapsed in the U.S. Senate after several weeks of talks and negotiations. The Senate failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to limit debate, and clear final way for passage of the legislation. The 46 to 53 vote on the legislation crossed party lines, with 33 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and 1 Independent voting in favor of allowing the bill to proceed for final passage. There were 37 Republicans, 15 Democrats and 1 Independent opposing the effort. To see how your member voted, please click here.

According to various reports, it is unlikely that the Senate will return to immigration this year and uncertain if the House will take the issue in the near future. However, Catholic Charities USA will stay committed and continue to push for a just and fair comprehensive immigration reform. Please see below for Catholic Charities USA’s statement on the failure of the Senate to pass comprehensive immigration reform and our call for accountability.

Please click here for a Washington Post article on what occurred this week in the Senate. For more information on the immigration debate, please also visit the Justice for Newcomers website or the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) Campaign website.

For more information on immigration, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Director of Immigration and Special Population Policy, at

Catholic Charities USA Calls for Accountability as Congress Fails to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform; Urges Continued Efforts To Find Agreement

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, issued the following statement on the Senate pulling the immigration bill from the floor.

“The Senate’s inability to pass fair and comprehensive immigration reform is a monumental failure for our country.

“Our nation needs its leaders to find compromise solutions to solve our toughest challenges. Today’s action to give up on the bill leaves in place the status quo – a deeply flawed, untenable, and much-criticized immigration system that is desperate need of reform.

“Sadly, just as our nation prepares to celebrate its birthday, the U.S. Senate has turned its back on Lady Liberty and the 12 million immigrants living in fear who yearn to breathe free and achieve the American dream.

“This must not be the end of the efforts by Congress this year to reform our broken immigration system. This requires a humanitarian solution not partisan politics. Catholic Charities USA calls on the Senate to show leadership and try again to find agreement on comprehensive immigration bill. Too much is at stake for our country, for immigrants and their families who are seeking a better life, and for our nation’s security.”

Friday, June 29, 2007

Iraqi Christians Hit Hard

The U.S. bishops, through their chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy, Bishop Thomas Wenski, said: "The deadly cycle of violence must stop if peace with justice for all Iraqis is to be achieved."

Iraqi Christians number about half their pre-war population of 1.2 million. The summary of their statement lists crimes and the fear in which Christians in Iraq now live.

Abbot Notes Spiritual Aim of Pauline Year

The Benedictine abbot of the monastery attached to the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls mentioned the goal of the Year of Paul, which Pope Benedict just announced.
"It has a primarily spiritual scope, a time for increasing in faith, hope and love," Father [Edmund] Power said.
He offered brief remarks the same day the pope proclaimed the "Pauline Year, one day before the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baghdad Christians Find New Life in Kurdish North

Today's NYT has a brief and moving story about Christians who fled for safety into northern Iraq because they would not or could not leave their country. The prayerful plea of some helps distant onlookers, deaf to bombs and not mired in misery, to appreciate their plight.
“We were saying to Jesus, ‘See us and save us.’”

Year of St. Paul an Ecumenical Effort, Says Monk

"St. Paul," he said, "has perhaps been somewhat forgotten as a person, even if we hear his words in one of the readings at almost every Mass."
Benedictine Fr. Johannes Paul Abrahamowicz briefly considered that all Christians might appreciate St. Paul more. Pope Benedict will proclaim a Year of St. Paul this 28 June 2007.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Two Islamic Movements To Watch

John Allen Jr. reports what people rarely hear these days: a movement of Islam declares the "word" overcome the "sword."
Nursi is best known as the author of the Risale-i Nur, the "Message of Light," a 6,000-page commentary on the Qu'ran. He rejected political and military solutions to the crisis posed by secularism, instead concentrating on Qu'ranic study in light of the natural sciences. Nursi argued that the time of the "jihad of the sword" was over, and that now is the era of the "jihad of the word," meaning a reasoned attempt to propose Islam as a basis for a reconciliation of science and modern institutions with religious faith and morality.
Mr. Allen's insightful article confirms that all Islam is not terrorizing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Web Site for Roman Pilgrims

Pastoral tourism is a Vatican office with evangelizing potential. Its new website--in several langauges--does not limit itself to Rome.
Image of pilgrim's credential is in the public domain.

Wednesday word, 20 Jun 2007

11th Wednesday of the Year (20 Jun 2007) 2Co 9. 6-11; Ps 112; Mt 6. 1-6, 16-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Indiscriminate, Modest and Discreet: Contours of God’s Heart

As we listen to Jesus sayings in Matthew’s chapters 5 through 7, Jesus directly teaches us as he taught his first disciples. As we hear all his sayings, we help ourselves to appreciate them by remembering that God is the measure, the yardstick of all Christian life. We easily tend to make ourselves the measure or some other noble values the yardstick instead of God. Keeping God and God’s heart as the measure challenges us.

Jesus’ teaching about piety reminds us that God’s heart is lavishly indiscriminate: do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. God’s heart is modest: don’t exercise your spiritual practices so that others may see them but so that you may focus on God and God’s loving care of you. God’s heart is genuine and discreet: when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting.

St. Paul echoed Jesus when he reminded each of us to be a cheerful giver. St. Paul emphasized that God’s heart is without sadness or compulsion. This is not the sadness we feel out of empathy for another’s misfortune or even for our own. No, the sadness St. Paul meant was that of sullen, silent resentment. God’s heart is never grudging nor feels it has to give. God delights to grace us!

A spiritual exercise of great value to us is a pause to consider the bounty we receive from God at each moment as well as in our abiding traits and talents. This spiritual exercise allows us to enjoy deeper felt knowledge that we are being enriched in every way [by God] for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God. That is a refreshing way to think of our alms and our service in the name of Jesus: our generosity is one more way that we express gratitude to God. It is a more healthy thanksgiving the more lavishly indiscriminate, modest and discreet we allow it to grow.
Wiki-photo of a collection box for the poor in the university district of Seattle is used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Religious Orders Use Cyberspace

The Carmelites are using the web to exhibit art. This article explains more, plus it contains a link to their virtual art museum.

Chaldean priest abducted in Baghdad is free and in good health

Read this good news in brief.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday word, 18 Jun 2007

11th Monday of the Year (18 Jun 2007) 2Co 6. 1-10; Ps 98; Mt 5. 38-42
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Wideness of God’s Mercy

Last Monday we began it, and next Thursday we will conclude hearing what is called Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew’s gospel. “Sermon” is a misnomer. These two chapters assemble sayings of Jesus. As he assembles them, Matthew gives Jesus’ sayings a sermonic turn for Jesus directly teaches the church: the first disciples down to us. As you hear these chapters and as you reflect on them, hear our Messiah address you.

Jesus recalls what people had been taught, You have heard it said. He adds, But I say to you. This is one way Jesus reveals the divine intention. Throughout God is the measure, the yardstick, we ought to use to live as God’s friends and as disciples of Jesus. The selection we just heard is full of extensions: turn the other [cheek] well. If anyone wants...your tunic, hand [over] your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go...two miles. Give...and do not turn your back....

Because God is the measure, Jesus is describing how God is with us: exceedingly patient; never dismissive; lavish in loving; always with us; and with us even when we are unaware or do not desire God’s presence. Because God is that way, our way with others is to be no different.

Living in ways which demonstrate to others God’s heart and desire requires endurance on our part; eagerness for Holy Spirit’s gifts and other ways God’s power graces us. This is St. Paul’s advice from his own experience. Many more saints and sainted people in our lives have emphasized it, and indeed recommend it to us.

The world may suggest passing things as ultimate. We need only consider briefly our own limitations, compulsions and poverty to know that God’s measure is ultimate and active. Why? Because God’s generosity has repeatedly enriched us so that even in our poverty we enrich many.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sunday word, 17 Jun 2007

11 Sunday of the Year (17 Jun 2007) 1Sm 12. 7,10-13; Ps 32; Gal 2. 16,19-21; Lk 7. 36-8. 3
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The Faith of Jesus

Two notes sound forcefully in today’s scriptures: forgiveness and faith. David, the greatest human king of Israel, sinned greatly. The Lord forgave him because of his sincere faith. The gospel fulfilled that scene. A woman, who was known to be a sinner, received Jesus’ forgiveness because her great love fueled her faith. Jesus recognized it: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Whence came her faith?

St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians declared that people are established in right relationship with God not by external observation of commandments but by response of faith. Their response is in synch with commandments and with ways that are true, gentle, humble and wise.

This was Jesus’ human response to God. Faith gives God claim over us and all creation, seeing God’s claim as life-giving even when we cannot control it, as creative even when all evidence suggests it is not. Jesus responded to God in those ways. Jesus fulfilled and revealed that to which commandments began to point a way: right relationship with God and with others. We use the commandments to help us practice our faith.

St. Paul had great reverence for the commandments and all they embodied. Anyone who would think that after his encounter with the risen Messiah, Paul trashed the commandments and all they embodied sorely misunderstands St. Paul. St. Paul did not trash them. He realized their limits: pointing the way is not the same as the way; nor do pointers to the truth reveal the whole truth.

Jesus’ revealed the whole truth. The witness of Jesus was his constant response to God as the giver of life, the healer of souls and the source of strength in every trial. That response was Jesus’ own faith. The faith of Jesus was the source of that sinful woman’s faith, which fueled her great and tender love toward Jesus, so evident in her tears, her wordless washing and wiping dry his feet.

The faith of Jesus allows us to be people of faith. We direct our faith to Jesus, we place it in Jesus because Jesus and his own faith, his human response to God, models our response to God, namely our faith.

The faith of Jesus, his human response to God, attracted that woman, who washed and dried his feet with her tears. The faith of Jesus drew the Twelve to him. The faith of Jesus drew the women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities to Jesus. Those women were not anonymous, Luke named them. That Luke did not name the woman, who washed and dried his feet with her tears, allows her to represent each one of us, whose names and lives are so dear to Jesus, our Creator and Model of faith.

Jesus modeled human response of loving fidelity to God. Faith names our response. Christian faith imitates Jesus’ response, his human response to God, the faith of Jesus. Christian faith is a verb: responding to God through Jesus by their Spirit. The woman who stands for each of us was deeply moved and drawn to Jesus. She received peace and forgiveness and lived an astonishing new life. We, too, welcome Jesus, our life, who has loved [us] and given himself up for [us].

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, begin to allow yourself to be more aware of the Trinity desiring you to enjoy a share in divine life even as you now live in the flesh. Bask in their gift you. Then ask the woman who loved much to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus in your own words about your desire to respond more sincerely to your Creator and Messiah. Ask Jesus to strengthen your commitment to imitate his faith, his human response to God. Resolve to live as one saved by your faith-response, asking Jesus to be your Model and your shelter when life seems too much. End your time by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, the manner in which Jesus practiced his faith. Resolve to make Jesus’ prayer your way of proceeding through whatever hours remain in your day, so that your choices and even your presence will offer Jesus’ peace to others.
The faith of Jesus, namely Jesus' own faith, best translates St. Paul's Greek phrase five times in his letters, one of them here in this chapter of his Letter to the Galatians. While translators usually give it only one sense, faith in Jesus, the Greek language allows both senses. We have this in English, too: the story of her, for example, can mean either her story or a story about her. The context reveals which one to the careful listener or reader.

St. Paul, was very comfortable with the sense faith in Christ when he spoke about the confessional nature of Christian faith, as in we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones (Colossians 1.4).

I am indebted to my teacher of New Testament Interpretation, Luke Timothy Johnson, who introduced me to this. It is a minority opinion, by his own admission, however, it is more persuasive than the majority opinion and more conducive to living as one of Jesus' friends. Johnson's briefest and more accessible source is his Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. Minneapolis, Fortress Press, rev. ed., 1999. pp. 332-33.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Saturday word, 16 Jun 2007

Immaculate Heart of Mary (16 Jun 2007) 2Co 5. 14-21; Ps 103; Lk 2. 41-51
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Heart To Heart

As a Sacred Heart was no stranger to rebuff, dread and pain, an Immaculate Heart shared astonishment, anxiety and inability to understand. I speak of Jesus and of Mary. Heart symbolizes a person; it focuses on one’s core self.

It is all too easy to lose sight of the person of Jesus, whose most sacred heart does not exist apart from him. Our baptism and confirmation conform us to the likeness of his person, and his eucharist nourishes us with the personality of his Spirit in order that we find ourselves by losing ourselves in Jesus.

Similarly, it is all too easy to lose sight of the person of Mary, whose heart-pierced life shaped her heart into its immaculate and ever-pondering selflessness.

When we forget the humanity of Mary and that the Trinity chose to work through it for the reconciliation of each of us and all people, we risk living outside the atmosphere of the Incarnation. In Mary’s son the divine and the human embraced so that the destiny of each person is to become fully divine and human.

We already participate in divinity by our sacramental share of our Messiah’s life which he offers us. We share it in our humanity. The opening prayer reminded us: “as Mary was a fitting home for [God’s] Holy Spirit,” she prays for us to be a “more worthy temple of [God’s] glory.” St. Paul was fond of that image. New creation conveys that we are human temples of Holy Spirit.

Mary’s prayers are not solely for our future. She prays each moment for us to have a deeper felt knowledge of God’s glory and to allow it to motivate our actions and shape our desires: to be living, breathing temples.

Because the first human temple of Holy Spirit continued to feel everything human, including astonishment, anxiety and the inability to understand, we, Holy Spirit temples, take heart, knowing Mary prays for us with intimate knowledge of our fragile and broken lives.

To consider our humanity in the light of Mary’s humanity and God’s desire to work through it and with it offers a refreshing way to appreciate ourselves, Jesus and the mission he entrusts to us: we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us [and gracing us] so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

We might summarize this with the phrase “heart to heart.” Our humanity gives us kinship with Mary and with her son. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn used the phrase when he spoke of human happiness:
“It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world.”/*/
Mary’s heart includes all our experiences, not just happiness. Recalling the fitting home she was for God’s Holy Spirit, bearing God into our world as Jesus, and praying for us to be a “more worthy temple of [God’s] glory” affords us a new way to see the world and ourselves--the way th
e Trinity gazes upon it and upon us.

Flickr-photo by kathrynlafleur,
© All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday word, 15 Jun 2007

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (15 Jun 2007) Ez 34. 11-16; Ps 23; Rm 5. 5b-11; Lk 15. 3-7
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Heart, Which Transforms

In the Old Testament shepherd was a metaphor for God just as flock was a metaphor for God’s people. God’s shepherding defined the role of king: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. ...I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered. ...The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.

God was the king of God’s people. Yet, they wanted a human king like other nations. Scripture narrates God’s rescue and transformation of a ragtag crowd into God’s own people, and their response to God’s graciousness. Scripture oscillates between their faithful response and their selfish response.

Ezekiel’s words sound suspicion about human kingship because many did not shepherd rightly. On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Ezekiel’s words welcome us to no saccharine, futile, fruitless friendship with Jesus. They invite us to hand ourselves into Jesus’ healing care and desire to mission us to extend his caring work as we live and breathe.

St. Paul described the fruitful, real, effects of Jesus’ caring work. By dying and rising Jesus not only lives unconstrained by cloudy and dark powers; Jesus died for us to transform us, to reconcile us to God. Reconciliation by Jesus is more than forgiveness. Reconciliation by Jesus transforms us, recreates us. Each of us ought to be shocked, astonished by Jesus’ selfless gift. The rhythm of Paul’s reasoning reinforces that: Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person...How much more then Jesus’ dying for us...Indeed...while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son...Not only that....

What was always so--God was the one who did shepherd rightly for our sake--God’s Son embodied. Jesus sets [each lost one, each of us] on his shoulders with great joy.

Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep began three lost parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Jesus told them to the Pharisees and the scribes because they grumbled that tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus invites us, indeed all people, to draw near to Jesus in order that we might be transformed to our original dignity as the crown of his creation.

When we are prone to grumble; when find ourselves complaining against God or others; when we verge on self-pity: it is good to repeat with all our hearts the Psalmist’s words, The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Who can want when, in the words of our novena prayer, “gentle, humble Jesus...fill[s] our hearts with [his] Spirit and inflame[s] us with [his] love?”
Wiki-image is used according to the GNU Free Documentation License.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Women Visit the Middle East

National Council of ChurchesUSA

NCC delegation to Mid-East tells its story
While the most recent violence raged in Lebanon and Gaza, fifteen women leaders from several NCC member denominations traveled through Israel/Palestine and Jordan. They returned with a deeper understanding of the complex currents of faith a
nd violence in the Middle East. They paid particular attention to the plight of women and children--Muslims, Jews and Christians--who live in one of the world's most stressful and dangerous areas. Led by the Rev. Dr. Thelma Chambers-Young (here with Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilis III), the delegation is still searching for signs of hope that a way will be found out of the morass of hatred and violence. Several participants have contributed their hopes and fears to the delegation's blog, which can be found here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tuesday word, 12 Jun 2007

10th Tuesday of the Year (12 Jun 2007) 2Co 1. 18-22; Ps 119; Mt 5. 13-16
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Mirroring Jesus

The use of Amen, the Hebrew affirmation of someone’s statement, So be it--or very concisely, Yes--is not limited to a response to another. All four gospels attest to the unique way Jesus used Amen: he used it to affirm the truth of his own important sayings. Plus, Jesus used Amen at the beginning of them never at the end.

St. Paul gave us his insight that Jesus embodied Yes, so be it, Amen, with his life. Our Amen is secondary to Jesus: all God’s promises find their Yes in Jesus. That is why we utter the Amen through Jesus, to the glory of God.

The guarantee, the security, God gives us in him is not about anything triumphal or elitist. It is God’s gracious gift of placing us with Christ leading us to serve his gospel. The security God gives us frees us to be like Jesus more able decide for the good news of the kingdom with life-and-death consequences./1/

Another way to appreciate stark consequences is Yes and No. Yet another way is the irreversible choice of God to save humanity, God’s everlasting covenant of salt, as it was called many times in scripture.

Salt was part of all offerings: with all your offerings you shall offer salt./2/ Jesus transformed sacrifice by being the sacrifice. We are to imitate his selfless love. Recalling the essential use of salt in the first covenant helps us appreciate Jesus’ words about salt: they have everything to do with witness, even unto death. Jesus words are not about salt and light: Jesus transformed the salt of offering into the witness of one’s life. Light on a mountain is salt full strength; the light of a lamp under a bushel is tasteless salt.

Offering ourselves to God: placing ourselves in God’s heart, devoting ourselves to the gospel of Jesus, however we name it, is no small thing. Nor do we do justice to our family name, Christian, if we consider it that way. Instead, we are to mirror our light, Jesus, each moment we live and follow his lead in giving glory to God.
/1/ See 2 Corinthians 2.14-16: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the latter an odor of death that leads to death, to the former an odor of life that leads to life. Who is qualified 10 for this?
In his metaphor of aroma, Paul very well could have traded on incense, which sweetened the offerings of the first covenant. Incense was always seasoned with salt, pure and holy (Exodus 30.34-38).

/2/ Leviticus 2.13: However, every cereal offering that you present to the LORD shall be seasoned with salt. Do not let the salt of the covenant of your God be lacking from your cereal offering. On every offering you shall offer salt.

Wiki-photo of sea-salt harvest is used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Important to Recover the Capacity for Interior Silence"

On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Pope Benedict encouraged Eucharstic adoration at the midday Angelus in St. Peter's Square.
Adoration outside holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what happened in the liturgical celebration and renders a true and profound reception of Christ possible.
Eucharistic adoration has both personal and social consequences, which Pope Benedict summarized in one section of his recent apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist:
And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another."
Wiki-photo is used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

Christ's Body Reaches Beyond the Church

This letter appeared at on 06 June 2007. A friend wrote posthumously to the slain Iraqi priest. It is moving and inspiring.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Chaldean Church to Convene Synod in Iraq

While many people may think churches holds synods and other assemblies in peacetime only, Iraq's Chaldean Church (an eastern rite of the Catholic Church) is convening one in the midst of its war-torn times.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Legislative News of Note

[received 01 June 2007 as an email]

ww logo

Special Editor’s Note:

Washington Weekly is published regularly when Congress is session.

However, Catholic Charities USA wanted to inform you that, as Congress adjourned for the Memorial Day recess, President Bush signed into law the supplemental spending bill. This included an increase in the federal minimum wage, the first time it has been increased in over a decade. The bill signed into law also included $650 million to address the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) shortfalls expected this year in some states. Also, we wanted to inform you that a great step forward has been made in affordable housing. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would establish an Affordable Housing Fund of $500 million a year through 2011, reserving funds for production of new housing and rehabilitation of existing housing for low income persons. In the first year, funding would specifically go towards rebuilding housing in the Gulf Coast for low-income persons. The Hensarling Amendment, which would have effectively excluded Catholic Charities and other organizations from using the housing trust fund to help low income families, was not included.

Increasing the minimum wage, improving SCHIP, and ensuring affordable housing are key items in Catholic Charities USA’s legislative agenda and Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America.. We thank you for responding to our action alerts urging Congress to increase the minimum wage, ensure access to health care for low-income children and approve the Affordable Housing Fund. Your efforts make a difference!

Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
1731 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

For information about advocacy, please contact Christin Driscoll at (703) 236-6245 or

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Benedict XVI Mourns Clerics Slain in Iraq

Chaldean Patriarch Denounces "Shameful Crime"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2007 ( Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a telegram of condolence in Benedict XVI's name, remembering the priest and three deacons murdered Sunday in Iraq.

The priest was killed in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit after saying Sunday Mass.
Read the entire post.

Tuesday word, 05 Jun 2007

St. Boniface, martyr, bishop (05 Jun 2007) Tb 2. 9-14; Ps 112; Mk 12. 13-17
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
True Colors

In this second chapter of the Book of Tobit we heard that Tobit became blinded by white scales and that his loss of sight heightened his strict sense of honesty until it fomented a marital argument. Their argument prepares the way for Tobit to pray for mercy and to praise God, which we will hear tomorrow. Divine intervention will unfold in the rest of the story.

For the moment we see Tobit in agony because of his blindness. He was not two-faced. Based on the truth, incomplete though it was, he would not waver from his honesty, though one imagine it easy to do in his agony.

The well-known encounter of Jesus and some devious Pharisees and some of Herod’s loyalists also revolved around honesty and hypocrisy. Jesus knew it would be hard to accept certain desires of God as one’s own--earlier prophets had learned that by experience. We can readily imagine Jesus’ frustration.

Our presence at the altars of God’s word and of God’s son, leads us to ask ourselves: do we show feelings or express beliefs we do not truly hold or possess? Does any of our praying seek to manipulate God instead of praising God and relying on God’s mercy?

Honest prayer, like any honest relationship, does not hide difficult feelings from God. No. Honest praying pours our hearts to God, even screaming if necessary. (None of needs help to do that, but some of us need permission to pray honestly, which is a virtue of the psalms.) When can any of us say we hid nothing from God?

The Pharisees and their allies in the gospel selection teach how not to come before God. Tobit models honesty about his feelings, even when they led to sharp words. He was a model of honest praying. One need not fear showing one’s true colors with God because God intervenes to transform them. St. Boniface recommended the proverb: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own prudence./1/
/1/ Proverbs 3.5. See the brief excerpt of his letter in the Office of Readings for his feast.

Wiki-image of St. Boniface baptising and being martyred is in the public domain.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday word, 04 Jun 2007

9th Monday of the Year (04 Jun 2007) Tb 1. 3; 2. 1a-8; Ps 112; Mk 12. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A Challenge Ever New

This week we hear the Book of Tobit, which won both Jewish and Christian readers. Its story fascinated me even as a boy. The story, written around the 2d Century before the birth of Christ is set during the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which began 50 days after Passover, or late spring as now. It follows one wealthy Jewish family among the many held captive in Nineveh.

As you hear it, listen for several themes: fidelity to torah, the intercessory function of angels, piety toward parents, the purity of marriage, reverence for the dead, and the value of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. See how any of them apply to you and your life.

These early verses sound the themes of fidelity to torah, particularly, sharing with the poor and reverence for the dead. The last one was particularly challenging because the government forbade burial to dead Jews, to make examples of them and likely to mock their rites of burial, which Jews held to be a divine command. Even under pain of execution, Tobit would not reject God’s commands plus he hastened to show reverence for the dead.

Reject is a thread that runs through the gospel. Many, especially the religious professionals, the builders in Jesus' pointed parable, rejected God in favor of themselves. Their lust for power and esteem hardened many against Jesus. God would work through Jesus’ rejection as the Psalmist sang:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.
Both readings invite us to consider our selves: how much do I weave God’s desires into my daily living? What do I exalt to the point of squeezing God out of my life--which stealthily becomes my rejection of God? Do I have a hero like Tobit to help me focus my heart and actions on living a faithful life, so that I respect more than I reject?
Flickr-image by Lawrence OP used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical license.

Justice, Immigrants and the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church serves immigrants daily. It actively participates in immigration reform. One resource to learn more is Justice For Immigrants, an initiative of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.

A second resource is:
Justice for Newcomers; A Catholic Call for Solidarity and Reform represents the response of Catholic Charities USA and our members to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops campaign for immigration reform: Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday word, 03 Jun 2007

Trinity Sunday (03 Jun 2007) Prv 8. 22-31; Ps 8; Rm 5. 1-5; Jn 16. 12-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Surging Superabundance

Although the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is not ancient, it certainly is not new. This solemnity gives the Latin-rite church around the world the opportunity to celebrate this foundational doctrine of our Triune God.

Humans enjoy celebrating; we need it, in fact. The absence of celebration and worship suffocates human life and work./1/ Christians sought ways to celebrate the Trinity. By the 5th Century a few places honored the Trinity on the Sunday following Pentecost.

More people wanted to honor the Divine Persons with a universal celebration. When appealed for a special feast, the 11th Century Pope Alexander II refused because such a feast was not customary in the Roman Church, pointing out that it daily honored the Holy Trinity with many prayers in and outside of Mass. As a testimony to human need for celebration, Alexander did not forbid this celebration where it already existed. The 14th Century Pope John XXII ordered the feast for the entire Church on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Humans need to celebrate, and we Christians need to celebrate the mysteries of faith in order to live them better day by day.

Today we celebrate the reality of God in our lives, our triune God in whose divine names we were baptized and united to the Trinity. Images make the Trinity attractive as well believable.

Lady Wisdom sustains everything God created. She echoed the Creator’s words in Genesis in her voice: “I play[ed] on the surface of [God’s] earth; and I found delight in the human race.

This delight is our poor word trying to communicate the deep desires of God creating us; sending Jesus to restore our original dignity; and abiding with us as Creator and Redeemer by their Holy Spirit.

This same divine delight sees beyond our dust, our fallible, fallen selves, and sees what we do not easily see: we are images of God; we are little less than angels because we share the divine likeness. To pray to see as the Trinity sees allows us graced vision, which changes how we see ourselves, others and our world.

Seeing isn’t all. St. Paul reminded us that our Messiah Jesus has given us access to the Trinity of Persons who are our one God. Access translates a bible-word used about worshiping and making offering to God. Jesus is the offering, once and for all, who gave himself for us out of selfless love.

His selfless love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. No trickle or delicate pouring this gift of Jesus’ Spirit. St. Paul meant a gushing, liberal bestowing of the very agent, the very personality of the selfless love the Divine Persons have for each other. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. In their selfless love we stand. Looking through their selfless love changes our vision of everything and gives us new hope and renews our vigor to change the world.

Our world needs this kind of change. Indeed, this interior kind of change gives us the freedom of the children of God. Divine freedom, spiritual freedom, is our beginning to love more selflessly, more like our Messiah, whom we worship. To celebrate Jesus in word and sacrament, to celebrate the mystery of his selfless loving frees us to live it better day by day.

Renew your worship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit for 15 minutes daily this week. Grow aware of being in their presence. Speak to the Persons as Holy Spirit moves you; or, say nothing. Feel their presence creating you at each moment. Ask Mary to present you to her Son. Ask Jesus to present you to his Father so that you may sense more clearly your share in their Spirit, calling you to "renew the face of the earth." Close by slowing saying the Glory Be. Savor each word, each person who takes great delight in you gives you a share in Jesus' work.
/1/“Homo faber (Man the Maker) suffocates himself and suffocates the world if he is not in the first place homo celebrans (Man the Worshipper).” Olivier L. ClĂ©ment, “The Glory of God Hidden in His Creatures.” The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Translated by Thedore [stet] Berkeley O.C.S.O. New City, 1993, first English publication.
Wiki-image of 13th Century Borromean Rings is in the public domain. Wiki-image of Rosetti's Holy Trinity is used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

"We baptized them, but for many reasons, we never really evangelized them sufficiently."

That was one South American cardinal's expression of the state of affairs. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. cites Cardinal Hummes and his point of view in Mr. Allen's summary of the results of the meeting of CELAM, the Conference of Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. The meeting was in Brazil, and Pope Benedict attended the opening.

For 19 days "162 bishops, 81 other participants, and 23 observers and theological advisors" deliberated. The meeting ended Thursday. Its results? "To some extent, it comes down to whether one is inclined to see the glass as half-full, or half-empty," Mr. Allen begins. Read his summary about the "half-full side of the ledger" as well as what others may quickly point as the other, half-empty side.
In the end, whether CELAM produced anything that could truly reinvigorate the church in Latin America, home to almost half of the Catholics in the world, will only become clear when -- and, it must be said, if -- the conference's documents are studied, digested, and translated into pastoral action.
Mr. Allen is a good guide at helping everyone begin to appreciate what needs to be pondered.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday word, 01 Jun 2007

St. Justin, martyr (01 Jun 2007) Sir 44. 1, 9-13; Ps 149; Mk 11. 11-26
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Trash and Trees

We take trash removal for granted until ours is not removed. Trash becomes a dangerous problem when it isn’t removed for days or weeks, which happens during strikes and even disasters which interrupt services.

Because we have trash removal, nail polish remover, spot remover and even surgical removal we may not be able to appreciate the Jewish phrase current in Jesus time and before, “mountain remover.” Mountain was used as a metaphor for a problem; “remover” for one who solved it.

Sometimes we create our problems as our phrase attests: “They’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” When they used mountain the Jews generally meant problems not of their making. The “mountain remover” was God. Faith in God, the giver of the Covenant, the one who promised to sustain the people, cast human cares on God. Sometimes people tried to manipulate God, the danger Jesus saw in the unfruitful temple business, which he cleared.

Bad fruit and decaying fruit trees had long been symbols of spiritual decay and unjust activity. Jesus justified clearing the temple by citing ancient, prophetic statements. Should anyone not believe them, Mark framed the temple-cleansing scene with a tree that bore no figs, which Jesus cursed, and with the scene of Jesus and the disciples walking by it after the temple cleansing seeing the fig tree withered to its roots.

Faith deeply relies on God as the “mountain remover” as well as one’s personal companion. St. Justin sought a faithful and sure companion from his youth. After an elder told him about Jesus and his good news, Justin not only found the certainty for which he longed, he introduced others to the faith and explained it to those who had nothing to do with it.

Justin would echo Jesus: Have faith in God! Forgiveness is a key way we allow God to work through us to remove problems in our world. It guarantees our fruitfulness of faith.

Flickr photo of fig tree by njhdiver used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.