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Deacon Greg Kandra’s thoughts on Roe V Wades 40th

January 19, 2013 By 

[Click here for the readings]

Every year on the anniversary of 9/11, I find myself thinking of 9/12: September 12th, 2001. The day after. Waking up. Looking out the window. Seeing the beautiful late summer sky that morning, just like the morning before. From all appearances, nothing had changed.

But, in fact, everything had changed.

Over a decade later, we are still grappling with how that day in history changed so much.

It is the same way, I think, with January 22nd , 1973. The anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

We tend to focus on that date as being most significant. And it is. But then there was the 23rd. The day after the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, the world didn’t look different. Life went on.

But now, as we mark the 40th anniversary of that event, we are able to see more clearly just what happened. Everything shifted. In many ways, we are living in the world of January the 23rd. It is forever the day after. And nothing has been quite the same.

How has the world changed?

Let me count the ways.

1.2 million abortions a year – roughly double the number of 40 years ago.

The total number of abortions since 1973: 54, 559,000—and climbing.

In New York City today, 40% of all pregnancies, nearly half, end in abortion.

Among minorities, it’s as high as 60%.

In some neighborhoods, it’s 67%.

And that’s just the beginning. To some, it seems, that’s not enough.

In Albany two weeks ago, the governor of this state proposed an abortion bill that threatens to make New York the bloodiest state in the union.

It would permit unlimited late term abortion on demand – right up to the ninth month.

It would allow people who are not doctors to perform abortions.

It would declare that the “state shall not discriminate” against the right to abortion, a declaration that could threaten the very existence of Catholic hospitals. Long Island alone is home to six hospitals that could be crippled by having Medicare funds withheld if they refuse to comply.

If enacted into law, this bill would declare that abortion is a fundamental right that cannot be denied. No parental notification for minors, no limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, no limits on late-term abortions.

How has the world changed?

When the governor announced these proposals during his address, the audience cheered.

We have reached a point where the killing of innocents receives a standing ovation.

This morning, I was struck by the words of the prophet Isaiah: For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.

For the sake of our city, for the sake of our nation, for the sake of generations yet unborn—those who do not have a voice, those who may never have a voice— we cannot be silent. We cannot be quiet.

When killing is seen as a viable option, and cheered in the halls of power, we cannot be quiet.

When scraping a child from the womb is a routine event for half the women in our city, we cannot be quiet.

When our leaders advocate laws to make death more accessible, and murder more manageable, and when living and dying are now merely a matter of choice, we cannot be quiet.

How did we get here? Have we been too passive, too complacent, too accommodating? Maybe. Maybe we have told ourselves too often, as so many have, “Well, I’m personally opposed, but I don’t want to force my religious views on someone else.”

While championing freedom and “choice,” maybe we haven’t noticed what has happened: the children who aren’t in the playgrounds or in the classrooms. Maybe we haven’t noticed the hospitals that are closing obstetrics units because so few babies are being born.

Maybe we haven’t noticed that there aren’t as many children anymore with Down Syndrome, because 90% of them are being aborted.

How has the world changed?

It’s been there all along. We just haven’t noticed.

But maybe it’s time we did notice. Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at our world and what we have become —and what we can do

In the gospel today, we encounter the first miracle of Jesus, changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

It is a miracle of transformation, of conversion. It shows what Jesus does: he makes the ordinary extraordinary. He changes everything.

I can’t help but think that there is something in us— in our culture, in our values—that needs changing. Desperately.

Recall the timeless teaching of the gospel:

“Whatever you did to the least of these,” Christ said, “you did to me.”

Think of what is being done to Christ 1.2 million times a year in this country alone.

That is what we need to change.

For the sake of them, we cannot be silent. We cannot be quiet.

When you get home, visit the New York State Catholic Conference website. Read the details of this bill for yourselves. With a few keystrokes, you can find the representative serving your neighborhood and learn how you can make your voice heard.

But before we do that, there is something else much more fundamental that we need to do. And that is very simple.

Pray.

We need to pray for our leaders, yes.

But we need to start with people even closer: ourselves.

Pray for courage. Pray to stand up for what is right, even when everyone else tells us we are wrong. These days, especially, there is no shortage of people eager to do that.

And: pray for change – in our world and in ourselves. Prayer’s power lies not only in asking God to intercede in the events of our world, but in asking Him to intercede within us—asking Him to make us what He wants us to be, and then embracing that with gratitude and with faith.

If we pray for that, our potential is limitless. We may become a holy people – and we may begin to make a holy world. And that is where real change begins.

How has the world changed since 1973?

We know the answer.

But perhaps in another 40 years, the answer will be different. Perhaps in another 40 years, we —as a people, as a nation, as a culture —will stop cheering death. We will instead cheer life.

And we will be able to say it is so because we had the will, the desire, the faith to make it so.

The miracle at Cana reminds us: An encounter with Christ changes everything.

Look at what he did with water.

Imagine what he can do with each of us.

And then imagine what that might mean for the world.

I Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ

My new son spent the first eight and a half years of his life in a Chinese orphanage. Within a week of our meeting, just about a month ago, we were attending Mass at a small church in Guangzhou. It was likely his first encounter with Christians gathered in worship.Last week a family friend was heard muttering that she could not believe we had him in a church within the first week of meeting him. On some level, I understand her concern that the visit to a church was something of a culture shock. I know something of postcolonial literature; I’ve frequently assigned Chinua Achebe’s fine work Things Fall Apart to undergraduates as a commentary on globalization in the postcolonial era. I am aware of the status of religions in China, and the suspicion on the part of the country’s leadership that academics come to China to subvert the Communist Party by means of Western religion. I live in a pluralist world and am fully cognizant of the fact that professing a religious faith is a political act, and that doing so unreflectively can be hostile to some—especially those who have been hurt by the practitioners of that tradition.

Yet it is impossible for a lover to deny the reality of the beloved, to acknowledge the difficult politics of the day as a reason to hide one’s love. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave” (Song of Songs 8:6). The paradigmatic Western love story, Romeo and Juliet, dramatizes this kind of love that cannot rest content with quiet anonymity. If love is love, it demands the light of day. The lover recognizes with sadness that there are political forces that militate against that love, yet one cannot therefore withdraw from giving one’s heart fully.

In professing that I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, I profess a love that is born in the innocence of beauty, yet spoken in a politicized world. I am therefore torn in this love: I move from the heights of encounter with a truth I find profound and life-creating, to the depths of sadness when that truth is shrunken to fit lesser ends.

One might assume that in a politicized world, the love of Christ amounts to a hatred of those who deny or even malign him. To be sure, many over my Church’s history have made that connection, from those in early centuries who blamed the Jews, to those in later centuries who fought Muslims, to those in the modern era who have circled the wagons against the forces of modernity.

Yet I approach the problem in a rather irenic way: I marvel at people’s yearning for truth and goodness and beauty, and am more willing to share that desire than to find the ways that our shared desires find different expression. I give thanks when people use reason for the sake of the good. I marvel when people with long and ancient traditions preserve a sense of the holy in the world. I love many of the stories and teachings of the Buddha and Confucius, and their culture-shaping praise of right living. I reverence the gift of Jewish faith even today: I am so compelled by the law given to Moses that I give thanks for those who preserve that law in practice. I have benefitted from my interactions with peace-loving and generous Muslims.

Still, my heart has been shaped by encounter with the risen Christ, and so I look at the world through that encounter. Just as the elder Capulet might have counseled his daughter never to have anything to do with the troublesome House of Montague, so might some perceive my introducing my son to Christian worship as a politically charged act. I see it rather as an invitation to share in that which holds our family together: a shared love for the kind of world that Jesus imagined. Jesus is the bond that holds together our marriage; the compass point by which we have made decisions; the source and goal of the desires we hope to cultivate in our children.

Of course I know that each of my children must ultimately decide how they choose to respond to Christ. My role as a father is simply to broker the introduction, so that they in their freedom can come to know him. During this season, when we recall and anticipate the coming of Christ into the world, it is important to remember that his guise was the most unimposing imaginable: he came as an infant, and only because a girl made a free decision to give birth. My prayer as a father is that he might come so gently into their lives.

Tim Muldoon is a Catholic theologian and author of several books, and teaches at Boston College. (More)

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Vocation Awareness Week

Some thoughts for this week’s Vocation Awareness Week

 

On the day of my ordination I was made a Priest.

Now I spend the rest of my life becoming a Priest.

 

What is a vocation?

God loves us into being, and creates each of us for a purpose and a calling. The calling is our vocation, and our vocation is more than our work — it’s more than our doing; it is the wholeness of our being: who we are, and who and what we serve.

“Who and what is being served” is always a good question to ask.

 

The Still, Small Voice of Love

Father Henri Nouwen writes:
 

Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, “Prove that you are a good person.” Another voice says, “You’d better be ashamed of yourself.” There also is a voice that says, “Nobody really cares about you,” and one that says, “Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.” But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, “You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.” That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen.

 

That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us “my Beloved.”

 

Christmas Message from Newtown’s Pastor

Msgr. Robert Weiss published the following in his parish bulletin this week:

Dear Parishioners,

Had I written my Christmas message a couple of weeks ago as I had planned, it would have had a far different tone than this message. We have not only witnessed one of the greatest tragedies in the world, but we as a community are called to do what we can to move forward.

I have been asked so often how do we celebrate Christmas this year. I believe that we celebrate it in its truest sense, putting aside all the secularity and simply sitting in silence and praying that the hope, healing and peace promised to us by Christ will be given to us in abundance. Perhaps, at least for us as a community, we can reclaim some of what this holyday is meant to be.

We know that some hearts in this town will be broken again on Christmas morning when that one special person is not there to open their gifts. For those whose children and spouses are with them, rather than just going right for the gifts, perhaps a hug and a prayer should come first. Prayers for those for whom this day will never be the same again and hugs for those surrounding you whose life you hold as precious. We need to know that even in these darkest hours, there is still light, light that is brighter than that great star over Bethlehem, which will take us to the place where we need to be…it will take us to the heart of Christ who will heal our brokenness, remove our anger and hurt and fill us with the peace and strength we need to not just move forward but to reclaim the life that is ours as a community in Christ Jesus. Thank you for the incredible strength that you have been for me in these days and for lifting me up in your thoughts and your prayers. I pray a special Christmas for all of us this year and for all that this holy season can hold for us as believers.

Holy Christmas, Monsignor Bob Weiss

Christmas in light of Newtown, Webster, NY…..

Maureen Dowd
New York Times Op Ed

When my friend Robin was dying, she asked me if I knew a priest she could talk to who would not be, as she put it, “too judgmental.” I knew the perfect man, a friend of our family, a priest conjured up out of an old black-and-white movie, the type who seemed not to exist anymore in a Catholic Church roiled by scandal. Like Father Chuck O’Malley, the New York inner-city priest played by Bing Crosby, Father Kevin O’Neil sings like an angel and plays the piano; he’s handsome, kind and funny. Most important, he has a gift. He can lighten the darkness around the dying and those close to them. When he held my unconscious brother’s hand in the hospital, the doctors were amazed that Michael’s blood pressure would noticeably drop. The only problem was Father Kevin’s reluctance to minister to the dying. It tears at him too much. He did it, though, and he and Robin became quite close. Years later, he still keeps a picture of her in his office. As we’ve seen during this tear-soaked Christmas, death takes no holiday. I asked Father Kevin, who feels the subject so deeply, if he could offer a meditation. This is what he wrote:

How does one celebrate Christmas with the fresh memory of 20 children and 7 adults ruthlessly murdered in Newtown; with the searing image from Webster of firemen rushing to save lives ensnared in a burning house by a maniac who wrote that his favorite activity was “killing people”? How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn’t seem to do the loving thing? If we believe, as we do, that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why doesn’t He use this knowledge and power for good in the face of the evils that touch our lives?

The killings on the cusp of Christmas in quiet, little East Coast towns stirred a 30-year-old memory from my first months as a priest in parish ministry in Boston. I was awakened during the night and called to Brigham and Women’s Hospital because a girl of 3 had died. The family was from Peru. My Spanish was passable at best. When I arrived, the little girl’s mother was holding her lifeless body and family members encircled her.

They looked to me as I entered. Truth be told, it was the last place I wanted to be. To parents who had just lost their child, I didn’t have any words, in English or Spanish, that wouldn’t seem cheap, empty. But I stayed. I prayed. I sat with them until after sunrise, sometimes in silence, sometimes speaking, to let them know that they were not alone in their suffering and grief. The question in their hearts then, as it is in so many hearts these days, is “Why?”

The truest answer is: I don’t know. I have theological training to help me to offer some way to account for the unexplainable. But the questions linger. I remember visiting a dear friend hours before her death and reminding her that death is not the end, that we believe in the Resurrection. I asked her, “Are you there yet?” She replied, “I go back and forth.” There was nothing I wanted more than to bring out a bag of proof and say, “See? You can be absolutely confident now.” But there is no absolute bag of proof. I just stayed with her. A life of faith is often lived “back and forth” by believers and those who minister to them.

Implicit here is the question of how we look to God to act and to enter our lives. For whatever reason, certainly foreign to most of us, God has chosen to enter the world today through others, through us. We have stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, but far more often the God of unconditional love comes to us in human form, just as God did over 2,000 years ago.

I believe differently now than 30 years ago. First, I do not expect to have all the answers, nor do I believe that people are really looking for them. Second, I don’t look for the hand of God to stop evil. I don’t expect comfort to come from afar. I really do believe that God enters the world through us. And even though I still have the “Why?” questions, they are not so much “Why, God?” questions. We are human and mortal. We will suffer and die. But how we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not.

One true thing is this: Faith is lived in family and community, and God is experienced in family and community. We need one another to be God’s presence. When my younger brother, Brian, died suddenly at 44 years old, I was asking “Why?” and I experienced family and friends as unconditional love in the flesh. They couldn’t explain why he died. Even if they could, it wouldn’t have brought him back. Yet the many ways that people reached out to me let me know that I was not alone. They really were the presence of God to me. They held me up to preach at Brian’s funeral. They consoled me as I tried to comfort others. Suffering isolates us. Loving presence brings us back, makes us belong.

A contemporary theologian has described mercy as “entering into the chaos of another.” Christmas is really a celebration of the mercy of God who entered the chaos of our world in the person of Jesus, mercy incarnate. I have never found it easy to be with people who suffer, to enter into the chaos of others. Yet, every time I have done so, it has been a gift to me, better than the wrapped and ribboned packages. I am pulled out of myself to be love’s presence to someone else, even as they are love’s presence to me.

I will never satisfactorily answer the question “Why?” because no matter what response I give, it will always fall short. What I do know is that an unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds, and renews us in life. This is a gift that we can all give, particularly to the suffering. When this gift is given, God’s love is present and Christmas happens daily.

We Really Need the Prince of Peace

We call Jesus the “Prince of Peace.” It’s there in our Christmas carols. It’s there in our church services. It’s even right there on our Christmas cards. We know who Christ is, and this time of year we repeat that phrase again and again. This year especially. After Newtown, we need the Prince of Peace more than ever. We pray, we sing, we call out to Christ asking for that peace right now.

But calling out means nothing if we are not ourselves peaceful people. Because if we call ourselves Christians, if we want to claim that Christ is the Prince of Peace, then we cannot remain silent in a culture of violence.

I know a lot of responsible gun owners. I live in a community with many hunters who practice gun safety. I have friends who have handguns and go to shooting ranges. And, while I personally don’t want any guns, I’m not judging them here.

But no one needs an assault rifle. No civilian needs something that was created for the sole purpose of killing as many people as possible as quickly as possible. These guns were constructed for one reason and one reason only: to destroy human life.

Spare me the arguments about what will happen if only criminals, and not law abiding citizens, have assault rifles. Spare me your stories of what a good shot you are, and how you could have stopped this. Spare me your arguments about why Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, yet he wouldn’t tell you to put away your AR-15. Spare me your worship of a piece of steel.

Spare me John Wayne. I want Jesus Christ.

In Advent you cannot prepare your hearts for Christmas, you cannot long in your heart for the Prince of Peace, and simultaneously continue to worship something designed to rack up the highest possible death toll. You cannot wait for the birth of a child full of promise, while simultaneously not thinking about those twenty children who were full of promise in Newtown. And you can’t sing the line “sleep in heavenly peace” if you are not willing to do everything you can to make sure that no parent ever again has to endure sleepless nights, wracked with grief, the week before Christmas.

Oh Prince of Peace, we need you. And we need your courage now. Help those of us who claim your name to also claim your demand for peace. Amen.

— Rev. Emily C. Heath (@calledoutrev) from West Dover, VT

 

ADVENT: LEARNING HOW TO RECEIVE

 

If Jesus is the archetype of what the gift is and how a gift is given, Mary is the archetype of how a gift is received.

The amazing thing is that the Scripture says nothing especially positive about Mary. No credit rating is stated; it doesn’t say she prayed a lot or regularly went to the temple. No heroic anything. Mary seems to know she is nothing according to her own Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

She clearly knows and fully accepts she stands under the total mercy of God. Mary knows she did not earn this. It was all mercy, mercy, mercy. Divine choice says something about the chooser much more than the one who is chosen. In the spiritual world, all worthiness is given. Our only job is to fully and freely receive. Mary was a supreme receiver station.

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Cokie Roberts: Help The Saints!

 By Cokie Roberts

As a girl growing up in the 1950’s I had one great advantage that most women my age did not enjoy: I was educated, raised really, by nuns who took girls seriously.  It was a radical notion in those years; it took until the 1964 Civil Rights bill to make it illegal to discriminate against women in hiring, and until 1972 to prohibit bias against women in education, including athletics.  It took a lot longer to make those statutes stick. So the nuns were well ahead of their time.

But that’s not unusual for women religious.  They have not only been ahead of the country’s time, they have pushed and prodded the nation to accept a new time since the Ursulines first arrived in my home town of New Orleans in 1727.  Sent here by the French to open hospitals for the military colonists, they soon started schools for girls, and insisted on educating free blacks and Native Americans.

Think of it!  It was the early 18th Century, hundreds of years before their ideas would be accepted by the larger society.

That story is told over and over through the history of women religious in America.  In 1810 when Elizabeth Ann Seton set up a free school for the needy girls of St. Joseph’s parish in Emmitsburg, MD, she effectively started—and then spread–what became the highly successful parochial school system in this country.  A few years later, only weeks after arriving in Missouri from France, Philippine Duchesne established the first free school west of the Mississippi River.  When the bishop refused to allow her to teach African American children in the school, she did it on her own.
As the story continues through American history, and you look to the work of Katharine Drexel, Francis Cabrini and Marianne Cope—women who worked with blacks, poor immigrants and lepers–you realize that you are reciting a litany of saints.  Each of these women religious has been canonized for her willingness to be ahead of her time—to bring those on the margins into the mainstream.
But the mainstream is way too comfortable a place for the nuns.  As Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said recently, “Women religious stand in very close proximity to people at the margins, to people with very painful, difficult situations in their lives.  That is our gift to the Church.”
What a gift it is.  Day after day these women work with the poor, the sick, the frightened, the incarcerated.  It is literally the Lord’s work. And it is, by definition, work that doesn’t pay very well in terms of money, even if it results in sainthood.  So now tens of thousands of religious women and their brother priests are left in need of cash for their care.
It’s a problem that’s only going to get worse as the population of religious ages.  So we have to pitch in.  Think how we have benefitted from them, both as individuals and as a society.  This country is a far fairer place, a place closer to fulfilling its promise for all its people because of the contributions of these determined and dedicated religious.
And who knows? The nun you help might just end up in the litany of saints.  Now there’s an opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss!
————————–

Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News.

Editor’s Note: To contribute to the Retirement Fund for Religious, visit: http://www.usccb.org/about/national-religious-retirement-office/

Waiting with the Word is Advent Waiting

First Sunday of Advent

“Our waiting is always shaped by alertness to the Word. It is waiting in the knowledge that someone wants to address us. The question is, are we home? Are we at our address, ready to respond to the doorbell? We need to wait together, to keep each other at home spiritually, so that when the Word comes it can become flesh in us. That is why the Book of God is always in the midst of those who gather. We read the Word so that the Word can become flesh and have a whole new life in us. ”

Father Henri Nouwen