St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan priest, missionary, and martyr, is celebrated throughout the Church on Aug. 14.
The saint died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, during World War II, and is remembered as a “martyr of charity” for dying in place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 10, 1982.
St. Maximilian is also celebrated for his missionary work, his evangelistic use of modern means of communication, and for his lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception.
All these aspects of St. Maximilian’s life converged in his founding of the Militia Immaculata. The worldwide organization continues St. Maximilian Kolbe’s mission of bringing individuals and societies into the Catholic Church, through dedication to the Virgin Mary.
St. Maximilian, according to several biographies, was personally called by the Virgin Mary, both to his holy life and to his eventual martyrdom. As an impulsive and badly-behaved child, he prayed to her for guidance, and later described how she miraculously appeared to him holding two crowns: one was white, representing purity, the other red, for martyrdom.
When he was asked to choose between these two destinies, the troublesome child and future saint said he wanted both. Radically changed by the incident, he entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans at age 13, in 1907.
At age 20, he made his solemn vows as a Franciscan, earning a doctorate in philosophy the next year. Soon after, however, he developed chronic tuberculosis, which eventually destroyed one of his lungs and weakened the other.
On Oct. 16, 1917, in response to anti-Catholic demonstrations by Italian Freemasons, Friar Maximilian led six other Franciscans in Rome to form the association they called the Militia Immaculata. The group’s founding coincided almost exactly with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.
As a Franciscan priest, Fr. Maximilian returned to work in Poland during the 1920s. There, he promoted the Catholic faith through newspapers and magazines which eventually reached an extraordinary circulation, published from a monastery so large it was called the “City of the Immaculata.”
In 1930 he moved to Japan, and had established a Japanese Catholic press by 1936, along with a similarly ambitious monastery.
That year, however, he returned to Poland for the last time. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and Fr. Kolbe was arrested. Briefly freed during 1940, he published one last issue of the Knight of the Immaculata before his final arrest and transportation to Auschwitz in 1941.
At the beginning of August that year, 10 prisoners were sentenced to death by starvation in punishment for another inmate’s escape. Moved by one man’s lamentation for his wife and children, Fr. Kolbe volunteered to die in his place.
Survivors of the camp testified that the starving prisoners could be heard praying and singing hymns, led by the priest who had volunteered for an agonizing death. After two weeks, on the night before the Church’s feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the camp officials decided to hasten Fr. Kolbe’s death, injecting him with carbolic acid.
St. Maximilian Kolbe’s body was cremated by the camp officials on the feast of the Assumption. He had stated years earlier: “I would like to be reduced to ashes for the cause of the Immaculata, and may this dust be carried over the whole world, so that nothing would remain.”
The heroic life of Magdalena Truel Larrabure, a young Catholic woman who died at the hands of Nazis during World War II, is the focus of a documentary by film director Luis Enrique Cam.
Born in 1904, Truel grew up in Lima and moved to France, where she eventually joined the country’s resistance. She helped to falsify documents in order to save Jews from the concentration camps and to enable soldiers from allied forces to infiltrate the Nazis.
In 1944, Truel was captured and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany, where she succumbed to a death march near the front lines of the war.
During the final days of her life, she carried a Bible with her that she received from her family. On May 3, 1945, only four days after her death, Germany surrendered to the Allies.
The documentary also features the testimonies of Gonzalo Rosello Truel, a relative of Magdalena Truel; Hugo Coya, a journalist who uncovered the story of Magdalena; and Gustavo Gorriti, a Peruvian reporter of Jewish descent who asked the country of Peru to recognize Magdalena as a “national hero.”
Since May of 2012 the documentary has been presented in various schools and universities in Peru, but the official presentation will take place at the Peruvian Congress on July 17.
On July 14, the documentary will be made available on YouTube, and Peruvian television aired it on July 27-29, when the country celebrated its independence.
I’ve recently started dating a girl who everyone says is wrong for me. They don’t like that I broke up with a girl who seemed perfect for me in order to date this girl I’m seeing now. I keep telling people opposites attract just to get them off my back. But honestly, I have no idea why I’m interested in her. I can understand why my family thinks she’s wrong for me. I just can’t help it. Did I make a huge mistake I’m going to regret?
Did you make a mistake because the other girl was a better suitable marriage partner for you? Maybe. But that’s not going to be easy to answer. For more reasons, I’m sure, than what may be obvious to others, and maybe even yourself, you want to see this new girl instead of continuing the relationship with your ex-girlfriend.
I’m not sure the question is, “did I make a mistake?” You might want to ask yourself why you broke up with the one and are dating the other. Being honest with yourself will help you learn more about why you make the choices you do.
Worrying about what others think can be a distraction. Appreciate the advice and feedback of those you love, and do consider it (often loved ones can see things we can’t), but don’t let it make you feel guilty or second-guess yourself.
I find your situation interesting. You broke up with someone whom your loved ones think is best for you. Now you’re dating someone who seems to make no sense to these loved ones. But, it makes no sense to you, either. You’re right in telling them that opposites attract, and that might be your situation.
We hear an awful lot about compatibility today. Marriage experts emphasis it, dating sites program algorithms to match your compatibility while searching members, and in general, people talk about wanting to meet someone with whom they have much in common.
Yet there’s still the reality that opposites attract. Despite all the emphasis on finding someone who is similar to you, many people are attracted to (and often marry) someone who is their opposite.
Often, it’s a completely unconscious happening, but maybe even despite your mind acknowledging that this is someone wrong for you, you can’t help the attraction. What is it about someone who is our opposite that can be so appealing?
One obvious answer is intrigue. This person is not your type. There’s something about them that puzzles you. You have to learn more. You might even detest how different they are, yet you’re drawn to them like some kind of magnet.
Intrigue is a powerful lure when it comes to attraction. When something is different than what we are used to, it’s hard to resist acting on curiosity. From that curiosity comes interest, and from interest comes attachment.
The most intriguing thing about the person is how interested they are in you, despite you realizing there is nothing about you and your life that makes sense as to why they are interested.
So two different worlds collide. The result is an experience of each other’s worlds blending together. The time you spend is interesting and exciting because just about everything you share is new to both of you, or something you would have never thought to do and would probably never enjoy doing.
The question is, how long will the intrigue last before the questions of practical life for the future begin playing a role? And will what started out as intrigue successfully find a way to become a fusion of two lives becoming one life that both are happy living?
Sometimes, what a person initially loved about the other because it was different later becomes something annoying or tiresome because it’s something that deep down bothers you or you don’t like, but you’ve tried to like it or accept it.
Opposites are also tricky in the area of how things are done in everyday life. For example, if you are very conscientious about spending money and like to save, and you might be attracted to someone who has a care-free approach to spending. This leads to doing all kinds of things while you’re dating that you wouldn’t have done normally. In marriage, you might later be frustrated at this person because they have caused your family to have serious credit card debt.
Plenty of marriages take place between two opposites. The successful ones are two people who truly loved the other for who they are in all their opposite-ness, and they find a way to incorporate these differences into everyday life as a team effort. The unsuccessful ones are two people who stopped seeing the differences as delightful, are sick of them, and now want the other to change.
It’s one of the most natural things in the world to want to share your life with someone who understands you and approaches life as you do. It does make things easier. For marriage, the more you are on the same page, the better for all the practical things that make up daily family life, as well as for the path to eternal life.
What you need to be most attracted to are the qualities and abilities the other has that render them able to love, serve as a spouse and parent, and seek the highest good in all situations with God as the author and center of truth, navigating the journey of this world toward the next.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
July 30 marked the launch of a major Olympic event that you won’t find in the official Games brochure, 24-hour Eucharistic adoration.
“We’re flying the flag for Christ if you like,” said Franciscan Fr. Francis Conway of St. Francis of Assisi Friary in Stratford, the Catholic Church closest to the Olympic village in London’s East End.
“We will have Eucharistic adoration from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., when another East End parish will take over from 6 p.m. till late, and then a third parish will continue through the night until we take over again at 9 a.m.,” Fr. Conway explained.
The two other parishes participating are Our Lady and St. Catherine of Siena in Bow and St. Antony of Padua in Forest Gate.
Until Aug. 12, London is hosting over 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries, along with an estimated 5-6 million visitors from the United Kingdom and beyond.
Fr. Conway explained that the parish has drafted in extra priests from Portugal, France, Colombia, Singapore, and elsewhere to cope with the expected pastoral demand from both Olympic participants and tourists.
“We don’t really know what to expect, but we’re ready,” he said. Yesterday, for example, “we had an archbishop from Puerto Rico arrive along with the Puerto Rican athletes to say Mass.”
“Obviously a lot of people have come to Stratford, and we felt we had to offer them a place of rest and hospitality.”
The parishes of London’s East End have the advantage that they are already multicultural and multi-lingual, since many recent immigrant communities have settled in the area. In fact, St. Francis parish kicked off the Olympics with an “international evening.”
“People were invited to wear their national costumes, and we had festivities and games as we watched the Olympic opening ceremony on television,” Fr. Conway said.
Over the next two weeks, the parish will hold a series of events, including prayer evenings and healing services. It is all part of the Catholic Church in England’s wider initiative to mark the 30th Olympiad.
St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux rank among the thirty-three Doctors of the Church. Their lives have played decisive roles in the building up of the Church, and their writings enrich for their theological content and spiritual doctrine. Who were these women?
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-80)
As a Third-Order Dominican religious woman, Catherine experienced God’s love not from books but from the immediacy of her own experiences in prayer. “Her doctrine was infused, not acquired,” declares the Papal Bull of canonization. She told her confessor that she never learned anything about salvation from others, but only from “the sweet Bridegroom of my soul.” It is said that Catherine could not finish the Lord’s Prayer without falling into an ecstasy. “Match love for love,” she writes; God is a Trinity of Power, Wisdom, and Mercy, and it is fitting that the Wisdom should take upon himself our human nature so as to remedy our disobedience, ignorance, and selfishness.”
From 1376 to the end of her life, she influenced public affairs, first concerning a Crusade against the Turks, and the second, dealing with her efforts to return the Avignon papacy to Rome. She spent her final days in Rome pleading for the unity of the Church. In “The Dialogues of Divine Providence,” she addresses Christ with clarity, force, and sweetness. Concerning his passion and death, she writes: “Oh Loving Madman! It was not enough for Thee to become Incarnate, that Thou must also die?”
In 1939, Pius XII declared St. Catherine of Siena and St. Francis of Assisi as the chief patron saints of Italy. A contemporary portrait of the mystic-saint, painted by Andrea Vanni, hangs in the church of St. Dominic in Siena, Italy. Her feast day is firmly fixed for April 29.
We now turn to consider two Carmelite saints, one who shone like a glittering star and the other, like the tiniest pearl of great value.
St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82)
In her autobiography, St. Teresa of Avila gives a vivid account of her early Carmelite life as worldly and indulgent. As she began to receive remarkable graces in prayer, she came to see that her vocation within a vocation was to reform the Carmelite Order. Those who knew about her tepid religious living and who themselves lived lukewarm lives opposed the reform. For the former group, she seemed a hypocrite, and for the latter, reform would show up their own mediocrity. Nevertheless, with St. John of the Cross, she undertook the reform of the Carmelite Order.
Teresa was a shrewd woman but lacked any formal theological training. She writes therefore from her own personal experience with a lively charm, ever astute, but with a disregard for orderliness in her writing. This may be partly due to the fact that her confessors directed her to write down her thoughts in the swirl of her reform.
Ascetical theology is indebted to Teresa for describing in words an ordinary lay person can grasp the four stages of the mystical life: mental prayer, the prayer of quiet, the prayer of union, and the prayer of ecstasy. Her best known book is The Mansions of the Interior Castle, a beautiful metaphor for the inner life of man and woman.
On prayer, her counsels are practical: “Never, for any reason, neglect to pray.”…“The quality of one’s life and the quality of one’s prayer interact with one another. Both must be steadfastly oriented toward God.”
Teresa’s sense of humor is legendary. One day, as she rode on a donkey traveling from one convent to another, she was thrown to the ground. She quipped to the Lord, “If this is how you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few!” Below is one of her many prayers, universally loved and often quoted:
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you.
Everything passes. God never changes.
Patience obtains all.
Whoever has God wants for nothing.
God alone is enough.
The original sculpture of “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa” by Gian-Lorenzo Bernini (1645) is located in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. Teresa’s feast day is October 15.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-97)
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, who died at age 24, entered the Carmelite Order at the age of 15. Two of her older sisters were also nuns in the same monastery. She sought to live a prayerful life but she could find no explicit ministry that she could practice when she reflected on First Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13. But then she made a startling discovery–it was really a grace.
The Mission of Love
Thérèse offers all in the Church a valuable lesson on 1 Corinthians 12-13. She goes to the heart of First Corinthians:
I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In a word, love is everlasting. (“Liturgy of the Hours,” Oct. 1, 1450-51)
As Thérèse read the ode to love in chapter thirteen, her heart was filled with joy:
Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my calling is love … In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction (Ibid).
She became convinced that the power of the love of one person could build up the Body of Christ, anywhere and at any time.
In her autobiography, Thérèse writes: “I knew that the Church had a heart that appeared to be aflame with love. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love embraces every time and every place.” At last, she found her answer. Her calling was love, and she perceived the power of the love of one person to build up the Body of Christ.
Unfortunately, photographs of her can be insipid, and many look on her ‘little way’ as sentimental piety. If it were, it should be rejected. But in fact, it is a heroic way concerned with the present moment.
Why has the Church ranked this cloistered nun with such a short life among the Doctors of the Church? First, she grasped the heart of the Church’s mission. In the vocation of love, there is no separation or opposition between love of God and love of neighbor. Limitations of the cloister would not curtail her ministry or her total self-giving, which she knew was the most effective and most fruitful action of the Church. Second, her ‘little way’ is simple, direct, and universally accessible, especially to the homebound, the infirm, and the forgotten.
Finally, Thérèse embraces a theology of Christian hope. Sooner or later, every person comes to the edge of the cliff, and perhaps many times during one’s lifetime. The time of unemployment is one example of this. It is a dynamic faith and unshaken trust that casts one’s care on the Lord. For her, the Carmelite vocation was an apostolically-fruitful life, a life lived in the heart of the Church. Though St. Francis Xavier spent his life as the itinerant apostle to the Indies, Thérèse spent herself as a cloistered missionary, and for this, she has been named with him as Co-Patron of the Missions. “Thérèse’s ‘little way’ no longer seems little.” (Stephanie Paulsell, Reading St. Thérèse, Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Summer/Autumn, 2010. 74) Her message, Paulson concludes? “More love.” Her feast day is October 1.
Here we have three women-saints, three Doctors of the Church, each so different in personality yet one in purpose. Their message to women as well as to men: pray, work your best, and let God do the rest. Of saints, Phyllis McGinley writes: “What are saints except geniuses–geniuses who bring to their works of virtue all the splendor, eccentricity, effort, and dedication that lesser talents bring to music or poetry or painting?” (Saint-Watching, 17)
Like musicians, painters, poets, saints are human beings but obsessed ones. They are obsessed by the goodness and beauty of God as Michelangelo was obsessed by line and form, as Shakespeare was bewitched by language, and Beethoven by sound.
Saints are not born; they become God’s masterpieces. They are made into God’s works of art.
Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY, holds degrees in philosophy (PhL), musicology (PhD), theology (M.A.), and liturgical studies (PhD). She has taught at all levels of Catholic education and writes with a particular focus on a theology of beauty and the sacred arts. Her Email address is email@example.com.
I’m absolutely fed up! I’m done! I’m tired of the singles trap and everyone telling me it’s just not my turn yet! Why isn’t it my turn? Why must it take so long? I’m tired of being alone! I’m tired of having no one to share my life with! I’m trying not to be upset with God, but seriously, enough is enough! And if you tell me it will happen in God’s time, I’m done with you too. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I can’t handle hearing anymore pious mumbo jumbo.”
That’s a lot of exclamation points, indicating a lot of frustration. I can’t blame you, especially about not wanting to hear the same “pious mumbo jumbo” anymore. Of course, it’s not mumbo jumbo at all, but I will admit that many of us advisor types tend to take the easy way out by saying, “it’s all in God’s time” or “when it’s meant to happen to you, it will” or “I’ll pray for you.”
We take that easy way out sometimes because frankly, we just don’t have the answer.
When people are suffering, what they need most is empathy. I have no idea what you are going through and what factors are contributing to your obvious suffering. I only know for certain that you are in pain.
You want some answers, and fast. But that’s not going to happen. It’s futile to insist on and force solutions, and even more futile to succumb to anger and bitterness.
It’s very interesting that you mentioned being tired of “the singles trap.” That’s actually exactly what you have fallen into, perhaps without even realizing it. The singles trap is the belief that life is meaningless as an unmarried person. Marriage makes happiness possible at last.
You might be saying, “That’s rubbish! That’s not what I think.” Maybe not consciously. But consider how you feel, and what you are saying as a result of your frustration. You hate it that you are still single, and don’t want to be single anymore. That’s valid enough. I fully support that. But not to the point that you harbor anger, bitterness, excessive frustration, and resentment.
These attitudes are fashioned over time through voluntarily allowing negative realities to penetrate to the depths of the self. You are slowly but surely becoming these negatives. You allow your personal peace and happiness, that are gifts of God, to be rattled or replaced by the anger.
God created you first and foremost to love Him, serve Him, and be with Him forever in Heaven. He did not create you to be married. Marriage is not the answer to your happiness, nor the solution to your overcoming your anger. That’s a trap. The singles trap, to be exact.
It sounds to me that you believe you are entitled to be married by now and you are on a quest to find out why you’re not.
There are undoubtedly reasons why you are still single. Some of it’s probably your fault. Some of it’s probably the fault of your parents and your upbringing. Some of it’s probably the fault of free will and those who sadly choose to break up with you for stupid reasons. Some of it probably has nothing to do with fault at all, but one thing’s for sure…it’s not God’s fault.
In fact, it’s also futile to look for fault at all. When you do find out where the fault lies, it doesn’t help. It might provide some kind of distorted satisfaction, but you don’t find peace and happiness.
You can let anger run aggressively and recklessly until it becomes who you are, thus you are habitually a bitter, nasty, and unenjoyable person to be around.
And then congratulations! You just made yourself completely unattractive to anyone who might be a prospective candidate for a marriage partner.
Do you see what I’m getting at? You might very well have good reasons for being upset as to why you are still single. But you can’t give into it. It’s not worth it. You only hurt yourself, and your chances of finding love.
You might never really know why you are still single. But you are. You are still the unique person God created you to be. He made you for love. Maybe you won’t live that love in the context of marriage. There are so many ways to give yourself away in love for God and neighbor that can fulfill your life and provide a lasting peace and happiness.
I realize that’s easier said than done, but honestly, what choice do you have? Keep succumbing to the anger, and you isolate yourself from God, the source of all love and happiness.
Have some people in your life you can trust and who are empathetic when you need to vent. This will help you prevent your natural and understandable frustrating moments from becoming part of who you are.
Give all your problems, emotions, and negativity to God (really letting it go and making it His problem), and you are truly free.
It might be pious mumbo jumbo to say it, but be happy that you were created by God, you are loved intimately by God, and you are destined to be with God. Your life has purpose and meaning regardless of marriage. Be happy, and don’t let anything or anyone take it from you.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
Whether the federal contraception mandate stands or falls, it has changed US politics forever, the head of the Knights of Columbus observed during the 2012 Catholic Media Conference.
“It definitely has changed the political landscape,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a June 22 interview at the convention held in downtown Indianapolis.
“What we see clearly, is an attempt to redefine the role of religion in American society.”
The Obama administration, he said, is applying a “very narrow” conception of religion and its social role. “So that leads us to ask the question: What will the administration do next, whether or not it wins on the HHS mandate?”
He predicted that US politics would be permanently changed by the assault on the Church’s freedom and its role in society, even if the HHS mandate eventually fails.
“Once the ‘genie is out of the bottle,’ it’s going to be difficult to put it back in,” the head of the Catholic fraternal order noted. “It ought to give us all very serious concern.”
Anderson, a veteran lawyer, explained that the administration’s restrictive view of religion was previously seen in the “Hosanna-Tabor” Supreme Court case, pitting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a Lutheran church and school.
In that 2011 case, Anderson recalled, the government attempted “a redefinition of what constitutes ‘ministry,’” claiming that a teacher of religious and secular subjects was not a “minister” and could not be fired at the school’s discretion. The school’s rights, however, were unanimously upheld by the court.
Shortly after that decision was handed down, Health and Human Services finalized its contraception mandate, forcing religious institutions–except those covered under a narrow exemption–to provide services that violate their moral principles, including sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.
According to Anderson, both the Hosanna-Tabor case and the HHS mandate are part of a larger effort to redefine religious freedom and marginalize faith-based institutions.
In Hosanna-Tabor, “the administration was arguing for the most narrow possible, most restrictive possible, definition of ministry.” Similarly, the HHS mandate granted an exemption only to institutions that primarily employ and serve those of the same faith for the purpose of spreading “religious values.”
The Obama administration, Anderson said, “has continued to attempt to redefine religion, by taking an extremely narrow definition of what constitutes a ‘religious institution.’”
“Many institutions that we would normally think of as part of the charitable or service mission of the Church, suddenly are defined out of the ambit of being a faith-based religious institution.”
Even if the HHS mandate is defeated in court, or fundamentally changed by the administration, the thinking behind it will persist and continue to shape political life.
“What we’re seeing is a paradigm shift–in how religion is viewed in American society, and the role of religion. Once you make that shift, the logic leads on down a certain path. And that path is: ‘Wherever we can find a less inclusive role for religion, we take the less inclusive role.’”
To turn back from this course, Anderson suggested, Americans must first “understand authentically what the Constitution intends by the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.” These clauses exist not to marginalize religion, but to protect its integrity and allow it to shape social life.
The head of the Knights of Columbus also wants Americans to rediscover “the role of religion in society in promoting the common good,” as envisioned by the country’s founders.
“American society has traditionally found, and the Founders believed, that religion is good–and is good for the common good,” the Supreme Knight noted. “We value a freedom because the freedom produces a good in society.”
“If you look at the history of the Catholic Church in America–where we built so many schools, and hospitals, and orphanages, and Catholic charities–it’s a tremendous contribution.”
But modern Americans, Anderson said, may have a “diminished sense of the role of religion in fostering the common good.” Without this sense of religion’s social role, its “free exercise” may be misunderstood as serving only the self-interests of believers, rather than the nation’s common interest.
To fight this perception, Anderson suggested Catholics “need to tell our story better–and we also need to do more.” The Church’s social teaching, he said, “should compel Catholics to works of greater charity in society, to promote the common good.”
By using their freedom to serve society as a whole, Catholics can help all Americans rediscover religious liberty as a universal good–worth preserving not only for the benefit of believers, but for the good of the whole country.
To preserve their religious freedom in the long term, Anderson suggested, Catholics “have to have a more visible role in society–and a more effective role in society–in actually doing those things that actually benefit the common good.”
The US and other Western nations are “mission territory” for the Catholic Church in modern times, Card. Timothy M. Dolan of New York stressed in a July 17 Online posting.
“I was raised–as were most of you–to think of the missions as ‘way far away’–and, to be sure, we can never forget our sacred duty to the foreign missions,” the New York archbishop wrote on his “Gospel in the Digital Age” blog.
“But, we are a mission territory, too. Every diocese is. And every committed Catholic is a missionary. This is at the heart of what Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI call the New Evangelization.”
Card. Dolan voiced his agreement with Philadelphia Abp. Charles J. Chaput, who observed in a June 2012 speech to the Catholic Press Association that his own archdiocese was “now really mission territory … for the second time.”
While the Philadelphia archbishop’s statement may seem startling, Card. Dolan said it was “right on target’–not simply due to troubles facing the Church in Philadelphia, but because of the larger crisis of faith sweeping through Western societies.
“Our beloved Archdiocese of New York is also mission territory,” the cardinal and US bishops’ conference president observed. Although his local church is financially and administratively sound, it faces the same spiritual challenges that prompted Abp. Chaput’s remark.
“Maybe, we have gotten way too smug. We have taken our Catholic faith for granted,” the New York archbishop suggested.
The entire Church, he said, can no longer “coast on the former fame, clout, buildings, numbers, size, money, and accomplishments of the past.”
On July 12, the Gallup polling organization released figures showing a historic drop in US resident’s confidence in religious institutions. Only 44 percent of Americans, from various faith backgrounds, now say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “the Church or organized religion.”
That figure marks the lowest point since at least 1973, when religious organizations were ranked as the country’s most trusted institutions with around 66 percent confidence. The figure has generally declined since then, reaching previous lows of 45 percent in 2002 and 46 percent in 2007.
But Catholics should not be “depressed” by Western countries’ shift away from religious belief and practice. Instead, they should be “awakened and challenged,” Card. Dolan said.
Today, he said, the Church is “with the apostles on Pentecost Sunday as we embrace the New Evangelization.” The campaign to re-evangelize historically Christian societies is the topic of an October 2012 synod in Rome, which will begin the Year of Faith called by Pope Benedict XVI.
“You and I are missionaries,” the New York archbishop told the faithful, emphasizing that the conversion of others “starts inside” with one’s own conversion.
“What is America to me? A name, a map, a flag I see; a certain word, democracy. What is America to me? The town I live in, the street, the house, the room, the pavement of the city and the garden all in bloom, the church, the school, the clubhouse, the million lights I see, but especially the people, that’s America to me.”
On July 4, Americans will proudly display the flag outside their homes to celebrate the optimism and the indomitable sense of freedom of our Founding Fathers. This is America’s national birthday–our 236th.
America resembles an eagle that soars higher than all birds, and from its heights: “Living above the lofty mountains and amid the solitary grandeur of nature, the eagle is a symbol of freedom, whether with strong pinions that sweep into the valleys below and upward into the boundless spaces beyond.” (Eagle Symbol Meaning) The eagle is mentioned in sacred Scripture: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles” (Is 40:31).
Celebrating Independence Day
Americans celebrate Independence Day with rousing music–high-spirited, and energetic–from the music composed by “The March King,” John Philip Sousa, to George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin to our beloved patriotic hymns. One of these is “America, the Beautiful,” permeated as it is with idealism. Catherine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics in 1893 on the pinnacle of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs. The majestic music, composed by Samuel Ward, was composed on a ferryboat in the harbor of New York City. America is “a thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness.” The hymn prays that “God mend [our] ev’ry flaw,” that “God shed [his] grace on [us],” and that we be confirmed “in self-control.”
In 1945, Frank Sinatra made famous the song, “The House I Live In.” Intended to oppose anti-Semitism and racial prejudice at the end of World War II, it pays tribute to the American experiment, so dearly fought for and expressed in the opening words of our Declaration of Independence. The lyrics, now almost 70 years old, are of course products of the World War II generation. Nevertheless, they are refreshingly homespun and evoke a feeling of gratitude for our “God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Earl Robinson, its composer of the words and music, compares America to a house:
“The house that I live in: a plot of earth, a street, the grocer and the butcher, or the people that I meet, the children in the playground, the air of breathing free, all races and religions, that’s America to me.”
The lyrics continue:
“The place I work in, the worker at my side, the little house or city where my people lived and died, the howdy and the hand-shake, the air and feeling free, and the right to speak my mind out, that’s America to me. The things I see about me, the big things and the small, the little corner newsstand and the house a mile tall. The wedding and the churchyard, the laughter and the tears, and the dream that’s been a-growing for a 150 years.”
The final stanza recalls our famous presidents, our fight for freedom, the torch of liberty, and our home to welcome all God’s children; it celebrates the goodness of our people who praise God for a land of worth and beauty. This is a house we call freedom. This is the house we live in. President Lincoln once said that “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Colonial costumes, parades and picnics, hot dogs and hamburgers, barbecues and fireworks–these make up the fun of Independence Day. And in our churches, there are special prayers and patriotic hymns for religious freedom.
Our American enterprise
The story of American independence began early in the 17th century with the quest for political and religious freedom. Our founding documents are rooted in these two freedoms. The First Amendment to the Constitution states that the government has certain limited powers to preserve the good order of the people, but “government is not juridically omnipotent.” One of its limitations has to do with the distinction between state and church, in their purposes, methods, and manner of organization.
“The freedom of the Church is a pregnant phrase,” writes Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ. His thoughts as articulated in “We Hold These Truths” mean, in the first place, the freedom of the Church as a spiritual authority to carry out her divine commission. But, secondly, it means the freedom of the Church as the Christian people to live within her fold an integral supernatural life, a life with inherent super-political dignity that transcends the goals and power of the state. The Church then lays claim to immunity from subordination to the state and its temporal ends. The chief example of this is matters dealing with the dignity of the whole person, marriage, and the family.
Religious freedom is freedom from coercion; it is the absence of constraints and restraints on individuals in their efforts to pursue freely the positive values of religion. In this sense, the first colonists were united in their determination to worship freely and without constraints or restraints from government and society.
Religious freedom is the recognition of the inviolability of the human person, individually and in association with others in what concerns religious belief and action. In other words, the people are united in their religious freedom to believe and practice without any governmental coercion, restraints, or constraints. The political or civil freedoms of the First Amendment, unlike later freedoms or rights, were assurance against coercive action by government and society. (Francis Canavan, SJ, “Religious Freedom: John Courtney Murray, SJ and Vatican II”)
In an address given on April 4th 1943, the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen observed what was both startling and obvious. “A proof that we are in danger of losing our freedom,” he said, “is that everyone is talking about it. Picture a group of men on a roof-top proclaiming in song and story the glories of architecture, while below saboteurs have already knocked out half the foundations of the house–and you have the picture of modern freedom.”
Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom (1965)
The conciliar fathers spoke to the issue of religious freedom, though they could not have imagined the urgency their words would take on in 2012. Religious communities, they wrote, “have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word.” In addition, religious communities “should not be prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity.”
The Religion clause of the First Amendment
We celebrate our liberty in law, and the establishment clause has two parts: the government (a) shall make no law establishing a religion, and the government (b) shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof. This clause is a good law but not a religious law; it is not an article of faith but an article of peace in a pluralistic society. What can be further stated about the First Amendment?
1. America has proved by experience that political unity and stability are possible without uniformity of religious belief and practice, without the necessity of any governmental restriction on any religion.
2. In areas allotted to the government, it is easier to differ without civil strife when religious differences are excluded.
3. The Catholic Church, for example, is better off when left alone to carry out its identity and its mission. Why? Because religious freedom is guaranteed not only to the individual Catholics but to the Church as an organized society with its own law and jurisdiction. In other words, “this independent authority has been the essential element of freedom in the political tradition of the Christian West.” (Canavan)
Anti-Catholicism in the US
Anti-Catholicism, the last acceptable prejudice in the US, has a long history, but a new anti-Catholicism has taken on a subtle coloration–coercion by the government in the name of freedom. It appears as the virtuous counterpart of hatred; it is alive and well.
In 1642, the Virginia colony, and later the Massachusetts Bay colony, passed laws prohibiting Catholics from settling there, but the law was repealed within 10 years. In 1719, Rhode Island imposed civil restrictions on Catholics, but in Pennsylvania, and then in Maryland, toleration of Catholics was permitted.
In the entertainment industry, Catholics are prime targets for writers, for film and television producers who hold contempt for the Church and do so with stunning ridicule. This is because the Church is still viewed as profoundly set apart in the modern culture by reason of her high standards and teachings. The Church is a thorn in the side of a visual culture that is secularized and sexualized.
Coercive Power, St. Thomas More, and St. John Fisher
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” It was true for Thomas Paine, and it remains true today. It was true in 1534, when Henry VIII declared himself the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church in England. He demanded an oath of fealty from his subjects when his request to Rome for an annulment from his wife Catherine was refused–an annulment that would annul the first annulment to marry her. Sir Thomas More and Bp. John Fisher would not bend to a divorce that would free him to marry Anne Boleyn. For this reason, he made a spectacle of them and had them beheaded. They were neither the first Englishmen nor the last to suffer torture and death for the sake of their faith.
In Robert Bolt’s play, “Man for All Seasons,” there is an early and tense encounter between Card. Wolsey and Sir Thomas. The cardinal asks the King’s future short-lived chancellor to come along with all the rest. More replies with prescience: “Well, I believe, when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” At his mock trial, the future saint declared, “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
‘When You Walk Through a Storm, Hold Your Head up High’
These days, cynicism in the country runs high while economic and moral un-freedoms bring us low. But on July 4th, American logic bids our dark sentiments be put aside to rise above life’s oppressive demands and to renew our belief in the American dream. America is a mosaic of distinct cultures formed into one beautiful stained glass window. We are still the greatest country on earth so long as we keep a close eye on St. Thomas and St. John Fisher in the rear-view mirror.
Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY, holds degrees in philosophy (PhL), musicology (PhD), theology (MA), and liturgical studies (PhD). She has taught at all levels of Catholic education and writes with a particular focus on a theology of beauty and the sacred arts. Her Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holy Joe’s Cafe and Mission Capodanno have joined forces this Fourth of July to provide a place of respite for those who are forward deployed and serving on transition force commands.
Together, these two organizations are reaching out to forward-deployed chaplains inviting them to establish a Holy Joe’s-Capodanno Café in Afghanistan or Kuwait. The newly-created “joint task force” of Holy Joe’s Café and Mission Capodanno also invite interested others to invest time and resources into this endeavor from the home front.
“Coffee has the effect of making the chaplain’s space a nice place to hang out,” chaplain Pete St. Martin said. “It is in these moments that God and I do our best work, I believe in casual conversation with no specific agenda and before the burden someone is carrying has erupted into real trouble.”
“Establishing a frontline Holy Joe’s- Capodanno Café”, says Mission Capodanno’s Executive Director Vincent Criste, “is to invite weary soldiers to come and relax, enjoy a taste of home and share wholesome conversation on a very human level with someone who can offer them what they truly seek–and that someone is the chaplain.”
Holy Joe’s and Mission Capodanno are reaching out to individuals and corporations interested in sponsoring a chaplain looking to establish a Holy Joe’s-Capodanno Café or sustain one of the 182 Holy Joe’s Cafés currently in operation. Additionally, an invitation is going out to chaplains–especially those now serving in Afghanistan and Kuwait–to consider adding such a gathering place to their ministry’s “tool box”.
Mission Capodanno founder Judy McCloskey explained that a coffee-shop setting provides a more comfortable environment for soldiers to visit.
“While some soldiers may be reluctant to visit the chaplain’s office, others may be more comfortable discussing their concerns over a cup of coffee in hand,” explained Mrs. McCloskey.
“A soldier might even surprise himself at the depth of conversation that takes place when a chaplain shares a cup of coffee. Sometimes, it’s a simple matter of generating the opportunity for these soldiers to talk to someone who knows how to listen. And practically speaking, meeting over a cup of coffee is a lot less intimidating than making an appointment at the chaplain’s office.”
Both entities recognize that a coffee house provides neutral ‘grounds’–pardon the pun. There’s much synergy exchanged between these two organizations. Both are providing requested materials–excellent coffee and solid Catholic resources such as Fr. Capodanno holy cards and Fulton Sheen Wartime Prayer Books–free to chaplains and troops.
Whether in a chapel setting, community center, or a unique frontline coffee house, Holy Joe’s provides coffee for the body and Mission Capodanno provides resources for the soul.
“Holy Joe’s Café partners with the Carmelite’s Mystic Monk Coffee to ship orders received within 72 hours to forward-deployed US military chaplains,” Tom Jastermsky said.
“We are proud to say that we have five years of working and praying with the monks. Every donation goes to the purchase of coffee which directly benefits both Chaplains and the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming.”
Chaplains serving in both Kuwait and Afghanistan currently remain the outreach’s focus, but each Chaplain’s request–even those that may be outside the immediate service area–will be considered.
Tom sums it up well: “Its a small act, but a big undertaking.”
Holy Joe’s Café is an entirely volunteer ministry of the First Congregational Church in Wallingford, CT, which has shipped over 160 tons of coffee supplies to deployed chaplains since 2006. Holy Joe’s has partnered with 800 chaplains in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan as well as Marine Expedition Units.
Mission Capodanno is a Catholic, lay-run organization that seeks to build spiritual resiliency among the 1.8 million Catholics in today’s United States armed forces. With only 250 Catholic priests in the Chaplain Corps and with 800 priests needed, Mission Capodanno provides requested Catholic materials for free to chaplains and Religious Program Specialists of all faiths who minister to the needs of Catholic soldiers. As a 501 (c) 3 non profit organization, Mission Capodanno has provided for chaplains, commands, and individuals stationed in more than 10 countries, US military academies, the Pentagon, throughout the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii.
For more information about Holy Joe’s Cafe in Afghanistan and elsewhere, visit their blog, YouTube channel, or coffee donation page.