The Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are featured in the upcoming movie “The Mighty Macs,” an inspirational true story about a small, women’s college basketball team that defies all odds and achieves victory.
“We gave the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary final approval of the script,” said director Tim Chambers.
“So in many ways, they collaborated with us to tell a story that just had a values-based infrastructure.”
“The Mighty Macs” is based on the true story of the early 1970s women’s basketball team at Immaculata College in Philadelphia. The small all-women’s Catholic college seemed to have no hope at competing for a national championship. But led by coach Cathy Rush, the women on the team learned that they could overcome all obstacles and achieve their dream.
Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters run Immaculata College and are portrayed as major characters in the film.
“The Mighty Macs” won awards at several film festivals, including the International Family Film Festival and the John Paul II International Film Festival. It opens in theaters across America on Oct. 21.
“I think it was important for us to give kids today a choice,” said Chambers in an Oct. 14 media interview before the premiere of the movie.
He explained that he wanted to make an inspiring sports film for girls but wanted it to be a movie for all ages. The film was given a “G” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Chambers added that he tried “not to be too preachy” with the film because he thought people would not respond well if the movie came across as a “sermon of sorts.”
Instead, he explained that he focused on making a movie that was “faith friendly” and “family friendly,” in which the message was portrayed by the characters’ actions.
“For me as a Catholic, I’d rather people evaluate me on how I act rather than what I say,” he said.
Theresa Shank Grentz, an original member of the winning Mighty Mac’s basketball team, said that the story of the Mighty Macs was overshadowed by God’s guidance.
“There was a lot of Divine Providence from the beginning,” she said.
Grentz said that the members of the Mighty Macs still maintain a close friendship. She attributes this to the fact that they built a “virtuous friendship” during their days at Immaculata College.
“A virtuous friendship is built upon the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude,” she said. “That is going to last. And that’s what happened here.”
“We made each other better.”
She also spoke about the influence of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary during her college years.
“They were a big part of our lives,” she said. “They formed us.”
Sister Marian William Hoben, an Immaculate Heart of Mary sister, taught at Immaculata College for 44 years, including during the Mighty Macs’ glory days in the 1970s.
The 88-year-old sister praised the movie.
“I can’t think of anybody that wouldn’t gain something from it,” she said. “I think that is such a great movie.”
Last year, amidst the contentious debates surrounding Obamacare, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) spoke strongly in favor of a reform of our health care system. The bishops stressed that the measure of any health care reform should be twofold. First, true health care must protect human life and safeguard the dignity of the human person. Second, a good reform should make health care accessible to all, including the poor and the immigrant. When individuals have proper and affordable healthcare, society itself benefits.
The bishops are aware of today’s challenges to provide adequate health care. One out of every six patients in the US receives health care from a Catholic hospital. Even the uninsured are served in Catholic hospitals. In New Jersey, Catholic hospitals in one year alone provided nearly 20 percent of the State’s documented charity care. The cost for this amounted to more than $241,921,000. The government reimburses just about half that amount and, in some cases, nothing at all. Catholic hospitals do a great service for society in providing charity for those who fall through the cracks of the inadequate health care system now in place.
Over the last 40 years, in matters of health care, there has been a very strong bipartisan consensus in America to respect the rights of conscience. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program protects the right of conscience for health professionals. It specifically exempts religiously affiliated health plans from providing contraception, if this violates the right of conscience. Furthermore, under federal law, even those organizations that have a religious or moral objection to certain forms of AIDS prevention are allowed to participate in federal programs that combat the disease in other nations.
Until recently, our government has a good history in respecting conscience rights in health care. However, that history is about to end. In July, 2011, the influential Institute of Medicine–an organization chartered by the National Academy of Science in 1970 to improve health care of the American people and peoples of the world–recommended to the Obama administration that insurance companies should be forced to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions. A month later, the Obama administration approved the recommendation.
In August, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued guidelines to implement Obamacare. These regulations mandate all private health insurance plans to cover sterilization and birth control. Included in the mandated coverage are the IUD, the ‘morning-after’ pill and abortion-inducing drugs. This means that private health plans must provide contraceptive drugs to prevent pregnancy and abortifacients to terminate a pregnancy.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the decision to issue these regulations is a part of the Affordable Care Act. As of next August, religious organizations must comply. If not, they can no longer provide health care coverage.
To argue that contraception and abortion are part of a woman’s right to preventative health care actually treats conception and pregnancy as if they were a disease. Breast cancer is a disease. Uterine cancer is a disease. A human life is not!
When Pres. Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010, his health care reform included a religious exemption. To read the exemption is enough to realize it hardly qualifies as a serious attempt to respect the conscience rights of those who morally object to abortion, artificial contraception and sterilization. According to the law, the only exemption on religious grounds would be for those who serve only members of their faith community, exclude those of other faiths from their employment, and focus on teaching their religious beliefs.
In reality, this narrowly defined religious exemption clause would apply only to a Catholic institution hiring only Catholics and providing health care services only to Catholics. Thus, no Catholic hospital would ever qualify for this exemption! As Richard Doerflinger has astutely noted, “Jesus himself, who helped and healed people of various faiths, would not be ‘religious enough’ to qualify for this bizarrely narrow exception” (Richard Doerflinger, Sept. 16, 2011).
To put it quite bluntly, the regulations under Obamacare pose an unprecedented threat to the religious freedom. These regulations leave no room for exemption for Catholics or any other groups or individuals who, on moral grounds, oppose contraception and abortion. In effect, these new regulations exclude the practice of religion from health care.
In his Sept. 7, 2011 letter to Congress, Card. Di Nardo told our elective lawmakers that “this effort to corral religion exclusively into the sanctuaries of houses of worship betrays a complete ignorance of the role of religion in American life, and of Congress’s long tradition of far more helpful laws on religious freedom.”
Do we really want Catholic institutions and other religious institutions to be compelled to act against their moral teaching? Is this really a benefit to society? Is tolerance not emptied of its meaning? If the government refuses to change the law, Catholic hospitals, charitable institutions, and universities and colleges would be compelled to stop providing all health care coverage for workers. Do we really want this to happen?
Is not the government overstepping its legitimate role and dictating its own secular morality when it mandates contraception and abortion for all health plans? What will the government mandate next?
Reprinted with permission of The Beacon, newspaper of the Paterson Diocese.
Bp. Serratelli is the bishop of Paterson, New Jersey.
Catholics have a responsibility to participate in public life in order to positively influence our communities, our states and our nation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the duty to vote is “morally obligatory” and further summarizes a Catholic’s public duties in paragraphs 2238 through 2246. We cannot sit on the sideline and expect secular culture to move toward truth; we must actively bring our values to government through the ballot box.
In our form of government, we relinquish individual freedom in exchange for a peaceable society that protects families and individuals in the fulfillment of their rights and duties. This society is a republic, not a pure democracy, and is guided by laws written by our elected representatives. If Catholics do not vote, if our voices are not heard by those in power, these officials may advocate for policies, regulations and statutes contrary to the teachings of the Church and which offend our consciences.
In an article titled, “Voting May Be Habit-Forming: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment,” Professors Gerber, Green, and Shachar of Yale University conducted a study of voting behavior. This study concluded that voting is habit forming; the more often a person voted in the person, the more likely that person is to vote in the future. As Catholics, we need to understand this fact and adjust our behavior accordingly.
There are five main reasons to vote in every election:
First, voting is habit forming. If we want to be faithful citizens, we need to vote regularly and inculcate habitual voting in our children. Family political discussions at election time and a parent bringing his or her underage child to the polls are excellent ways to teach the habit of voting to the next generation.
Second, it is possible to avoid casting a ballot with whom we do not agree or about whom we know nothing. In this situation, a voter may either leave the ballot blank (and cast an “undervote”) or vote “none of the above.” This fulfills our Catholic obligation to vote and strengthens the voting habit without violating our conscience.
Third, prior to every election, political candidates compile a list of “likely voters.” Based on the principle of voting as a habit, these “likely voters” are those who have participated regularly in prior elections and are the ones to whom the campaign is directed. A habitual voter is likely to receive direct mail, campaign phone calls or candidate visits. Communications by candidates educate voters on that candidate’s platform while a personal visit or phone call is an excellent opportunity for a Catholic to express his or her opinion on issues to the candidate in a conversational atmosphere.
Fourth, all elections have consequences to Catholics and their families. Whether it is the sexual education curriculum of the local school board, a local government entity seeking to provide health benefits to the unmarried or homosexual “partners” of employees or even the county hospital prescribing the “morning after” pill as an abortifacient contrary to Church teaching, the opportunity to positively influence secular culture is available to habitually voting Catholics in every election.
Finally, voting begets other habits that are a boon to our communities. A habitual voter is likely to familiarize himself or herself with local issues in order to participate intelligently in local elections. A vigilant electorate is more attuned to the nature of local, state and national government and less patient with corruption by elected officials. Habitual voting translates into more efficient, more transparent and more honest government.
Voting in every election, large and small, is as important to good Catholic citizenship as regular exercise is to maintaining bodily health. It is not enough to study voting guides; this information is of no use to someone who fails to vote on Election Day. In order to maximize our influence as Catholic voters and amplify beyond our individual numbers, we need to adopt voting as a lifelong habit.
A 2001 convert to the Catholic Church, Travis Ketner is a graduate student studying educational administration in San Antonio, TX. Educating others, especially Catholics, about politics and local government is his personal and professional mission. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We continue our reflection on the mysteries of the rosary as a means of entering more deeply into sacred mysteries made present in Holy Mass with an examination of The Sorrowful Mysteries
1. The Agony in the Garden
And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the Mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. And when he was come to the place, he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And he was withdrawn away from them a stone’s cast. And kneeling down, he prayed. Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. And when he rose up from prayer and was come to the disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow. And he said to them: Why sleep you? Arise: pray: lest you enter into temptation (Lk 22:39-46).
When we assist at Holy Mass, we are invited to enter through, with and in Christ into our own Garden of Gethsemane to place our burdens, cares and concerns before our heavenly Father. There, aided by the infinite graces that are poured forth from the Lord’s Holy Cross, we, like Jesus, may hope to be strengthened unto willing submission to God’s will–if only we pray fervently; diligently avoiding the ready temptation to despair.
The Council Fathers describe Holy Mass as that through which “the human is directed and subordinated to the Divine” (cf SC 2). Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane provided a poignant example for us as He willingly subordinated Himself, in His sacred humanity, to the will of the Father, in perfect love not just for God, but for each and every one of us as well.
Are we willing to at least attempt by God’s grace to do the same, or will we in our own agony be wearied by sorrow and grow forgetful of the gift that has been won for us by Christ?
Invited by the Lord who calls us by name as once He called His Apostles, Arise! Pray!, we who respond are offered the fruits of our Redemption made present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass wherein the chalice of the Lord’s agony is transformed in the glory of the Resurrection into the Chalice of Eternal Salvation!
In our effort to willingly “subordinate to the Divine” at Holy Mass, uniting our sufferings to the Cross of Christ, we must never forget that the Blessed Virgin Mary, our model of faith, stands ever ready to help us.
“The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to His disciple with these words: ‘Woman, behold thy son’” (cf LG 58).
Let us turn then to Mary for aid at Holy Mass, seeking the maternal guidance of she who always and everywhere responded in perfect supplication to God, “Be it done to me according to thy word!”
2. The Scourging at the Pillar
And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man. Look you to it. And the whole people answering, said: His blood be upon us and upon our children. Then he released to them Barabbas: and having scourged Jesus, delivered him unto them to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band (Mt 27:24-27).
Lest we make the mistake of condemning by pride those who carried out the crucifixion, as though we ourselves could look down from the cross, let us remember to measure our righteousness not against the actions of others, but according to that perfection of which only our heavenly Father is perfect. In so doing we cannot help but conclude that it was, in a sense, into our hands as well that Jesus was delivered unto death.
We must pray for the grace to see our every sin as a lash upon the back of our Savior, scourging Him anew; our every denial of His holy will as a tear in His precious flesh; our lack of love for one another as the very cause of His suffering…
As such, we who have been baptized into the death and Resurrection of the Lord, recognize in truth that none of us are truly “innocent of the blood of this just man.” Unlike Pilate, however, we offer thanksgiving to God in the Most Holy Eucharist – in faith, hope and love – for His magnificent outpouring of Mercy, that His Precious Blood may indeed be upon us and our children–for without it we know that we are destined to death.
3. The Crowning with Thorns
Then the soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band. And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, King of the Jews. And spitting upon him, they took the reed and struck his head. And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him and put on him his own garments and led him away to crucify him (Mt 27:27-31).
How often we who should know better call upon Christ as King, but fail to treat Him as such; even at times as it relates to our participation in Holy Mass!
The Council Fathers tell us that “the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or by the Church as She teaches in His name” (cf SC 33).
This means that every time we insist upon a liturgy that caters to our own personal tastes (perhaps as it relates to the text of the Missal, the music that is used, or the roles that we play, etc.) even when our preferences deviate from those things that have been chosen by Christ for our own good, we make a mockery of Christ’s Kingship. It is as though we are pressing a crown of thorns upon His precious head once more!
Likewise, when we treat the sacred liturgy as that self-contained one hour on Sunday morning, acting as though we are free to go forth to do whatever we please regardless of what Holy Mother Church proposes for our instruction and belief (be it in our dealings with one another, the way in which we exercise our civic duties, the moral decisions we make, etc.) we make a mockery of Christ’s Kingship.
Let us be mindful of such failings, recognizing our own part in the Crowning of Thorns, seeking the grace that we need to ever carry the King of kings that we receive at Holy Mass in the Most Holy Eucharist in our hearts, that He may reign in all that we do, until He comes again in glory.
4. The Carrying of the Cross
And as they led him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country; and they laid the cross on him to carry after Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves and for your children (Lk 23:26-28).
Consider well the image of Simon of Cyrene–the passerby who was snatched from obscurity to a place of prominence on the Via Crucis, for he strikes a poignant figure of every single Christian who aspires to share in the glory of the Risen Lord–He who is uniquely present and operative in the sacred liturgy of the Catholic Church.
Yes, we are called to “take up our cross and to follow Him,” (cf Mt. 16:24) but there really is but one Cross that can truly redeem us; the Cross of which Jesus said, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (Jn 8:21).
Though we typically tend to think of Simon of Cyrene as he who assisted our Blessed Lord, this is to miss the point.
In truth, Jesus had need of no man’s assistance on the Way of the Cross; rather, the Cyrenian was called forth not for the Lord’s sake but for ours; that we might see what it means to emerge from the outlands to walk with Christ toward the Eternal Jerusalem. In other words, our journey of faith is not so much a matter of taking up our own cross as it is making the Cross of Christ our very own.
We know that we are not the authors of our own salvation; we are by the grace of God but co-operators in His saving action–that which is made present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And so we are moved by grace to join the sacrifice of our lives to the one Sacrifice of Christ that is made present on the altar, that by His Saving Action we may be made holy and acceptable to God the Almighty Father to the glory of His name.
5. The Crucifixion of the Lord
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side: and immediately there came out blood and water (Jn 19:25-30,34).
In these, the shortest of the last seven words of Christ on the Cross, one sees evidence of the Lord’s physical suffering as He hung parched upon the Tree of Life; His precious Body paradoxically approaching death.
In order to grasp at the deeper meaning of the Lord’s words we must remind ourselves that Jesus laid down His life willingly for a specific purpose; namely, to ransom the fallen children of Adam from eternal death. As such, the utterance “I thirst” can also be understood as an expression of the merciful Lord’s desire to gather His own “as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings” (cf Mt. 23:37).
With this in mind, the Sacrifice of the Cross made present to us in the sacred liturgy is most fully appreciated when it is viewed as the supreme act of Divine love that is ultimately ordered toward the fulfillment of the beloved other who stands in need of Redemption; namely, humankind.
When considered from this perspective, the “thirst” of which Jesus spoke is also properly understood as our thirst – an expression of sinful humankind’s longing, as compelled by grace, to attain to the eternal destiny for which he was created; namely, Divine union, and this is precisely what is offered by Christ to His people in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Lord freely took our spiritual dryness upon Himself and carried it in His sacred humanity to the Cross that it might be quenched with the water and blood that issued forth from His pierced side. And so it is here where we stand at Holy Mass with the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that the Lord who is mystically present and operative among us may accomplish in us the work of our Redemption. Thanks be to God!
Author and speaker Louie Verrecchio has been a columnist for Catholic News Agency since April, 2009. He recently launched “Preparing the Way for the Roman Missal–Where the New Translation meets the New EvangelizationTM” available at www.MissalPrep.com.
The arrival of November signals that the year is winding down. All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, is dedicated to remembering our departed loved ones. The past becomes present, and perhaps, even for a few moments, we relive some of those times we experienced with our loved ones. Still, the past cannot be retrieved, nor can the future be predicted. Only the present moment can be grasped.
The Church’s Theology of Time
The Judeo-Christian view of time is directional, cyclical and spiral. In the Judeo-Christian notion, time unveils its own secret meanings. Jews and Christians can take their world in an upward direction with a sense of purpose. This ascent to God in the here and now directs our actions with creativity and with a view to change and progress. The annual cycle of the holy days recalls that the Jews are God’s Chosen People with a mandate to please God and build a better world by living the divine covenant. This mandate is also the Christian’s, but with the new awareness that the coming of Christ has enriched our view of time; we too live in the sacred mysteries of Christ. His Incarnation has made earthly time sacred. Christ lived and worked in time, preached building the kingdom in anticipation of the heavenly kingdom, and died on that solemn day of days. His life exemplifies how to sacralize our time. He did everything to please his Father.
The clock moves us from one little task of the day to the next. We rise in the morning perhaps with a faint awareness that we write part of our life story on the day’s blank slate. The day awaits our imprint. For the Catholic Christian, the daily cycle of little things assumes greater importance because Jesus dealt with minutia.
The daily cycle of street time is also the Church’s cycle of sacred time. The one is lived concentrically within the other, but the Church’s year of grace takes precedence over the ticking of the clock. (The phrase, “the Church’s year of grace,” is the title of the five-volume set of books by Pius Parsch, The Church’s Year of Grace (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1962.) Beauty shall continue to be our subject: living the beauty of the Church’s year of grace.
Life Lived As Though God Does Not Exist
Today, religious faith in the western world is one of many options, and even Catholics have opted for a secular humanism. Moral erosion has eaten into the very fabric of living. A secularized and sexualized culture engulf the family. Moral relativism has been elevated to a civil religion and a public philosophy. For many, life is no longer lived with reference to God and no longer viewed as central or essential to one’s life.
The Catholic family who wishes to live a devout faith needs to look beyond our secularized street time. A secular culture is not synonymous with a secularized culture. The former is healthy because it recalls Jesus’ caution that what belongs to Caesar is to be given to Caesar, but what belongs to God is to be given to God. Secularization thrives in an atmosphere that not only has no need for God in the public square, but it consciously pursues the attitude that men and women can and should live as though God does not exist. As Catholics, we do not subscribe to this view. We believe in a God-centered and Christ-centered world. We need the support of sacred time to face the onslaught of a secularism that seeks to quarantine Catholic faith and practice from the public square.
Modern Persecution of Christianity
Persecution of Christianity, and in particular, the Catholic faith, has assumed a new virulence here at home as well as in other lands. Persecution takes many expressions, from outright violence in Asia and the Mid-East to subtle fiats in the United States made in the name of justice for all. With the Church’s high moral standards and her teaching of objective truth, she irritates public officials. Moreover, the Church continues to be the target of governmental intrusion into her moral teaching. At the same time a democratic form of government should know how to reconcile cultural, ethnic, and religious pluralism without radical moral pluralism. In The Secular Age (The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2007), Charles Taylor deals at length with these issues.
The Parish Church: Center of Liturgical Life
As societal forces virulently press for privatized religion, the public celebration of the liturgical year in the parish has assumed a new urgency. Parishes that promote a strong liturgical life serve as oases in the midst of a cultural desert hostile not only to the Judeo-Christian moorings of western culture but to virtue itself. The parish staff serves the parish faithful in the name of the Church.
With the influx of new immigrants from other continents, the Church faces new challenges to universalize the Church in the particular. The parish church today supports not just a program of religious education; the parish church itself has become the nerve center for the religious education of the family. And the center of this religious education is the sacramental life celebrated within the year of grace. In John Paul’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Catechesi Tradendae,” catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life. Nothing in the life remains outside the Church’s catechesis: from sports to politics to social justice, from science to the arts to care of the environment. Moral questions about human sexuality and that of marriage and the family call for special attention. The Church is committed to strengthen the family, especially where the culture opposes the standards of the faith. Where public morality has broken down, the parish assumes virtually all aspects of Christian formation. Comprehensive religious education begins with externals, from well-cared for churches and attractively-arranged and informative bulletins to the care with which the sacraments are celebrated to concern for our children and the most vulnerable.
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 email@example.com.
“With the Lord, there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” This responsorial psalm is derived from Psalm 130, which has the trembling words “If Thou, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?” In other words, if You keep a record of sins, who could ever make it to heaven?
How true. We are committed to not sinning, yet we sin. God is first merciful because we all sin, despite our desire and efforts not to. We don’t deserve God’s mercy, but he grants it freely and always. We don’t deserve redemption, but God desires us to be redeemed.
God’s foremost posture with us is mercy.
As a Christian, I am mandated to be the same. I must insert myself in these words of the psalm, so that it can be said by anyone about me: “With Anthony, there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” And so must all of you. Can you honestly say “everyone finds mercy with me?”
What is true love or deep friendship between two people if there is not foremost a posture of mercy between them? It is a house of straw. When the Big Bad Wolf comes along, he need only blow it down to get to the three little pigs. So it is with couples or friends who have problems and allow the strong winds that shake their relationship to tear down the home they have built.
In my view, the idea of being home is the essence of what love is. This is why you feel you are home as long as you are with the person you love, no matter where you both are. Or why you long to get back to that person when you are apart from them. That is home.
This sense of home is one of profound safety, warmth, comfort, and peace. It is a firm knowledge that no effort of the Big Bad Wolf can blow down your house. Your whole being rests because no matter what happens, the foundation of the home is mercy and forgiveness. Your human condition to fail is accepted and welcome.
Isn’t this ultimately what heaven is to be? Heaven is our only true and lasting home. Our time on this earth is a brief one, but it requires us having opportunity to experience this eternal home while in this world in order to help us be fashioned into the saints we are to become.
Our entire life on earth is as a sinner trying to become a saint. But too many people want us to be saints at all times without much (if any) room for failure. For many who are dating and seeking the right person, they seem to always come up short because ultimately, they discover that the people they date are flawed or have too much potential to hurt them.
God, of course, is the only one who can fulfill this high expectation. God is pure love and incapable of anything that is not good for us. Yet, we still foolishly pursue finding in another person what only God can give. God is home. With him you find complete safety, security, warmth, welcome, comfort, and peace. With human beings, not so much.
However, we are called to be like God, and we are provided the grace to do so. Unfortunately, I think too many take this call to mean that we must never sin. It’s clear that God is realistic about us and knows we will and do sin, or else Jesus would never have bothered instituting the beautiful sacrament of penance and reconciliation. When we go to confession, our sins are obliterated and we are given a clean slate.
How many of us can say we do that for those who hurt us? That we are so like God that we provide mercy to all who wrong us? This is the aspect of being like God that is much more attainable to us than the living without sin. Being merciful to others.
Jesus taught us to ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. In other words, don’t bother forgiving me, Lord, until I first forgive others. He also taught us in the Beatitudes that “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
It is mercy that is the heart of the law of love, because it is the heart of God’s essence. Essentially, God loves us so much that he welcomes us home, just as Jesus taught with the Prodigal Son.
Home is where the heart is. That saying is correct. I would specify that it is where the Heart of Christ is. As we fuse our heart to the heart of Christ, we live a love that makes us attractive, welcoming, home.
The misunderstanding about modern dating and those who seek to find love is that people want to find someone who makes them feel good and never hurts them. The truth is they are seeking to find home; a place where they can be who they are and not have to worry about their inevitable moments of failure and sin. They want to find that love of God in the person they desire to give themselves to.
Sadly, because they cannot find someone who is first merciful, they cannot find home, and they settle for what they can get in all manner of distorted views of love. Thus, we have a disaster of bad relationships, bad marriages, bad friendships.
Every person deserves a good home. When they fall or sin or hurt someone, they need mercy though they may not deserve it. In the second part of this reflection on what it means to be merciful in relationships, I will address the problem of being too hurt to be merciful and be that home, the harm that comes from rejecting the call to mercy, and how this ultimately applies to finding and living true love.
In the meantime, meditate on the words of the Psalm, “With the Lord, there is mercy and fullness of redemption” and where it says “the Lord” insert your own name, and consider with Jesus how true this is when it comes to your dealings with others.
Anthony Buono, married with seven children, lives in Virginia. He is the founder and president of www.avemariasingles.com and www.roadtocana.com. He also has a blog, www.6stonejars.com, that gives advice to Catholics on dating, courtship, and marriage.
Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, 70, was appointed Oct. 19 by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as his official representative to the US.
Abp. Timothy M. Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), called the appointment “yet another sign” of the great care the pope has for the US and its Catholic community.
“As the personal representative of our Holy Father, you will serve as a continuing sign to us of that source of renewal and hope that Pope Benedict brought to our country,” said Abp. Dolan in an Oct. 19 letter welcoming the new nuncio.
Abp. Viganò will succeed Abp. Pietro Sambi, who died in July from complications that developed after he underwent lung surgery.
As papal nuncio, he will serve as the pope’s personal representative to the Church in the US. He will carry out diplomatic duties and will also play an important role in selecting new bishops in the US
The position of papal nuncio to the US is viewed as a key diplomatic position for the Vatican.
Born in the northern Italian town of Varese, Abp. Viganò was ordained a priest in 1968 and entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1973. He has served in diplomatic missions to Iraq, Great Britain and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
The archbishop has also served as the nuncio to Nigeria, and he has worked for more than a decade in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Most recently, he has served for two years as secretary-general of the commission governing the Vatican city-state.
In his Oct. 19 letter, Abp. Dolan recalled Pope Benedict’s comments during his 2008 visit to the US. The Holy Father noted the “excellent contribution” of American Catholics to their country and expressed hope that his visit might bring “renewal and hope for the Church in the United States.”
The archbishop pledged the “prayerful support” of the US bishops as Abp. Viganò begins his mission of continuing that renewal of the American Church.
With nearly four decades of diplomatic service for the Holy See, the new papal nuncio possesses “a depth of understanding of the role of the Church in a pluralistic society,” said Abp. Dolan.
He added that the Church in the US will benefit from Abp. Viganò’s “training in both canon law and civil law.”
“They will enable you to see the intricacies involved in representing the Holy Father in both the Church and diplomatic worlds, especially now as they are lived out in America’s democratic society,” he said.
Abp. Dolan also invited the new nuncio to attend the fall plenary session of the USCCB in Baltimore this November.
“The meeting is a moment of prayer, business, and fellowship and we look forward to welcoming you on this occasion,” he said.
On Oct. 22, the first “John Paul II sister” launched a year-long series of talks on the life, charism, and spirituality of Blessed Pope John Paul II.
“Over a number of years, I’ve been preparing a lot of material that relates to John Paul II’s charism and his spirituality and his writings in different areas,” Sr. Bernadette Pike, MG, said.
Her series of talks, entitled “Living the Legacy,” is intended to present this information to lay people who are interested in living after the example of the late pontiff.
As a John Paul II sister, Sr. Bernadette is a member of the broader group, the Missionaries of the Gospel. The community is still in its very early stages, with its first members still receiving their own formation.
The Oct. 22 launch date for her talks was chosen to correspond with the first official celebration of Bl. John Paul II’s feast day in some dioceses.
The possibility of adding the feast day of Bl. John Paul II to the Church calendar for the US will be discussed at the upcoming November meeting of the US bishops.
Until then, it is up to each bishop to decide if the feast day will be celebrated in their diocese. Several dioceses, including Rome, Krakow, and Washington, DC, will celebrate Oct. 22, 2011 as the first official memorial of Bl. John Paul II.
Sr. Bernadette hopes that her talks will offer listeners “a deeper insight into where the Holy Father was coming from and what the Holy Spirit was trying to do through him in order to renew the Church.”
The international talks, which will be given bi-weekly for a year, will not yet be broadcast publicly but will instead be held through a video conference. Sr. Bernadette said that she has sent a link to the conference to people across the world who have expressed interest in participating in it.
Originally from Australia, Sr. Bernadette said the idea of the John Paul II sisters was initially proposed in 2004.
Abp. Barry James Hickey of Perth, Australia, was supportive of the idea, but over the course of several months of discussion and prayer, it was determined that the community should include more than just the sisters. Lay men and women had expressed interest in living after the example of John Paul II, and a discussion of establishing the John Paul II priests and brothers had also arisen.
The decision was made that a larger community should be established to encompass the various groups wishing to live the charism of John Paul II. With the guidance of Abp. Hickey, the Missionaries of the Gospel were officially established on June 23, 2007.
Sr. Bernadette made her final vows as the first John Paul II sister on Oct. 16, 2008. Two other women who had been in formation with her became ill and had to leave the community.
Although Sr. Bernadette is now the only John Paul II sister, she said that she is in contact with several other women who are interested in joining the community.
Currently, Sr. Bernadette is living in Washington, DC, where she has been sent to study at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences for two years. She explained that she is in a program that integrates psychology, philosophy, and theology with the intent of gaining a fuller understanding of the human person in order to better evangelize and form people in the way that John Paul II did.
Sr. Bernadette said her own initial encounters with John Paul II took place through other people. She said that she was particularly struck by the stories and pictures of her friends who had gone to Rome for World Youth Day in 2000.
She was impressed by the pope’s way of “personally relating to people and being present with them and bringing Christ to them in such a relevant, tangible way.”
At the time, Sr. Bernadette was returning to her faith. She said that her encounters with the pope through her friends helped her to “experience Christ” and grow deeper in her faith.
As she learned more about John Paul II, she realized that she was drawn toward his “thought and his way of doing things” and wanted to spend her whole life shaping and forming people in the way that he did.
When Sr. Bernadette met John Paul II in 2004, her appreciation for him was already strong.
She spoke of the incredible experience of simply seeing “his way of being with others and with God.”
At the pope’s beatification on May 1, 2011, Sr. Bernadette read the second reading.
She believes that the legacy of Pope John Paul II will reach far into the future of the Church.
“I think it will completely revolutionize the way the Church does everything,” she said.
“I know that’s a really bold statement,” she added, explaining that she believes that people have only begun to understand “the gift that the Church received through John Paul II.”
Bishops from the home dioceses of the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals made a bet on the outcome of the 2011 World Series.
Abp. Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, MO, challenged Bp. Kevin W. Vann of Forth Worth, TX, a former Cardinals fan, to the bet involving local food items, charitable donations, and a Stetson cowboy hat.
In a joint press release, the dioceses explained that Fort Worth’s bishop would send the traditional Texan hat to Abp. Carlson, along with a supply of “authentic” Texas barbeque, if the Cardinals won the series.
But if St. Louis lost, the city’s bishop would send a supply of local delicacies to Bp. Vann, including toasted ravioli, Gus’s pretzels, Schlafly Beer, and Fitz’s Root Beer.
The St. Louis Archdiocese said Bp. Vann would also receive “a Cardinals baseball cap to replace the caps Bp. Vann discarded when he moved to Texas,” if the Rangers took the trophy.
The winning bishop’s Catholic Charities office would also receive $10 for every run scored in the series.
Bp. Vann once rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals while studying at the city’s Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Before that, the Springfield, IL, native grew up watching the Cardinals’ minor-league farm team, the Springfield Cardinals.
According to the St. Louis Archdiocese, Abp. Carlson “looked forward to the opportunity to remind Bp. Vann of his strong St. Louis roots and change his allegiance back to the St. Louis Cardinals,” in the event of a Cardinals win.
Meanwhile, Bp. Vann was said to be looking forward to “demonstrating that one must follow God’s will and the blessings that come with conversion.”
But the Bishop of Fort Worth also saw a trend at work.
His diocese reminded Abp. Carlson that “North Texas hosted Super Bowl XLV in the diocese in February, the NBA championships in the spring, which North Texas’ Dallas Mavericks won, and now the World Series,” which Bp. Vann was “confident the Texas Rangers will win.”
The Cardinals won the 2011 World Series in a 6-2 Gam 7 win played in St. Louis.
It’s even harder to impress a 16-year-old boy with a Sunday homily.
But on a recent Sunday, a priest at our parish (we’ll call him “Fr. Joe”) did just that.
“Hey, you know that visiting priest, mom? He was on fire. It was like one of those old fire and brimstone deals. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Neither, apparently, had most of the other teens in the Church. Or even most of the adults, most likely.
Pop culture…and its brazen efforts to normalize sexual perversity. Not an easy topic on which to engage teenagers positively and persuasively.
Teens too easily put on mental headphones and tune out “predictable” grown ups. “Yeah, yeah. Back in the day…lecture 192.” Besides haven’t adults always complained about rock-n-roll, teen culture, fashions, and the like? It’s just a generational thing.
But when a priest grabs their attention, keeps them listening—and gives them something meaty to take home and chew on–it’s worth noticing what works.
So what went right?
For starters, Fr. Joe got their attention. He didn’t glide gently into his topic. He fairly roared. He spoke passionately, compelling attention by the volume and certitude in his voice. His voice conveyed the unspoken message: ‘Listen up. This is important. The stakes are high: your soul and our culture hang in the balance.’
Father Joe wasn’t angry and out of control. But he was vehement, concerned, and loud. Troubled about the likely future of our culture, he insisted that his listeners respond, in their own lives, to what he was saying.
Look at it this way: kids understand passion. Celebrities, teachers, coaches, and websites encourage our teens to discover their passion and pursue it, to find what matters to them, and to be a voice for it. But if a priest or youth leader addresses sexual morality or serious cultural problems with the same bland tone of the weekly “doughnuts-and-coffee-in-the-parish-hall-after-all-Masses” announcement, few teens will listen.
And why should they? The speaker’s tone of voice implicitly says, “I know you’re not listening but, bear with me, I’m required to say this.”
Hardly a way to inspire teens to risk their popularity, face humiliation, or endure rejection because they stand up for truth.
A priest who roars, on the other hand, gets their attention. Don’t cringe. I’m not advocating a weekly rant or ear-splitting homilies. But our teachers, pastors, and ministers need to command attention and one way to do that is to let loose with the change-up pitch. Be unpredictable. A dropped voice, a whispering tone, or compelling rhetoric does the trick too.
What else worked about Fr. Joe’s homily?
He used specific words, pointed criticisms, and concrete analogies. Gay marriage? It’s like Grape Nuts: neither grape nor nuts. Gay marriage isn’t “gay”—the homosexual lifestyle teems with unhappiness, depression, disease, and substance abuse. And it isn’t “marriage” either. Marriage has a centuries-old meaning that cannot be changed by popular vote—it requires the faithful sexual intimacy of a man and woman, united permanently to parent the children born of their intimacy. Two women and a turkey baster (or two guys and a rented womb) can’t compare.
Dozens of times a day, the culture pulses seductive, destructive messages to our kids—through music, videos, websites, peer conversations, the media and our schools. (Read Mary Beth Hicks’ excellent new book Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid, and you’ll see the problem.)
Teens need us to respect them enough to provide reasons why certain acts are immoral. Forget the euphemisms. Give them the words to defend traditional morality and provide the examples that challenge the lies behind accepted cultural ‘wisdom.’ If we want our teens to rebuff the culture’s assault on morality, then we need to tackle the other side’s arguments head on. Where else will our teens hear the truth, if not from their families and the Church?
Kudos to Fr. Joe for tackling tough subjects, with passion, clarity, and certitude.
I hope there’s more where that came from—in your parish and mine–for the sake of all our kids.
Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Visiting Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington. DC. She blogs at wordsfromcana.