“The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.”
Deacon Bill McNamee
On Wed., Nov. 23, our diocesan family said goodbye to Deacon Bill McNamee, as many joined Deacon Bill’s wife, Mary Jane, and their children at his funeral Mass in Immaculate Conception Church, Springfield. The funeral Mass was the fitting culmination of the final leg of Deacon Bill’s journey. He was diagnosed in late April with an aggressive form of brain cancer and given only four to six months to live. After trying the latest treatments in hope of a cure, Bill and his family realized the truth and prepared for his death as Christians do: with faith, hope, and love.
I make special mention of Deacon Bill because he was a friend and he served on my staff, as well as that of Bp. John Leibrecht’s before me, as the Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Deacon Bill arrived as a permanent deacon from St. Louis when he and his family moved to Springfield in the mid-1980s. This was at a time when the permanent diaconate, recently restored after the Second Vatican Council, was relatively unknown in our diocese, and so he did not exercise this ministry until years later.
Deacon Bill loved his vocation: his first vocation as a husband and father, and then his next vocation as a deacon. Both vocations were a response to a call from our Lord to serve others.
It was fitting that there were so many priests, deacons, and deacon candidates in attendance at his funeral Mass. Bill’s love for Christ and the Church, his love for people and vocation, for his family, and our deacons and their families was a gift. We will continue to benefit from Deacon Bill’s service to the Church for many years because of his life and ministry.
‘Good Leaders, Good Shepherds’
I ask you to join me in praying for our priests, as many of them embarked this week on a two-year program of prayer, study, formation, and friendship known as “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds.” This program is facilitated by the Catholic Leadership Institute, and has already been adopted by 64 other diocesan presbyterates across the US.
The program is based on Scripture, the wisdom of the Church’s teaching, as well as the wisdom of good shepherds, especially The Good Shepherd, and seeks to develop and form priests more deeply in their role as shepherds and leaders.
I am excited for them and for all of the parish communities they serve. I know that among their main motivations to take part in this endeavor, is a desire to love, serve, and lead all people, as best they can, according to the mind and heart of Jesus. Thank you for supporting them by your encouragement and prayer as they allow God to further shape their priestly hearts.
Bp. Johnston’s prayer intentions for December are:
For the security and well-being of Christians in the Middle East; especially in Egypt, Iraq, and the region around the Holy Land.
The US bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their fall general assembly, voted Nov. 14 to add Oct. 22 as an optional memorial for Blessed John Paul II in the proper of saints calendar for the US.
The next day, the bishops voted to add an optional memorial for Blessed Marianne Cope, who ministered in Hawaii to people with Hansen’s disease.
Oct. 22 was recommended as the memorial for Pope John Paul by the bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship when it met in June. The date is the late pope’s feast day and the anniversary of his installation as pope in 1978. He was beatified May 1.
“The only thing we don’t know about the (Mother Marianne) memorial is the date,” Abp. Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, committee chairman, said Nov. 15 after the votes were cast authorizing a memorial for the New York-born nun and a Spanish-language Mass text for the memorial. “We are in conversation with the Holy See” as to which date shall be chosen, he added.
Jan. 23 had been suggested as the memorial for Mother Marianne by the Vatican following her beatification in 2005, according to a Nov. 14 presentation on the memorials.
Abp. Aymond, speaking on the first day of the bishops’ three-day meeting in Baltimore, said the date for such memorials are typically set for the date of the person’s death, which in Mother Marianne’s case was Aug. 9, 1918. However, that date is the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), who died Aug. 9, 1942.
Jan. 23 is the optional memorial in the US for St. Vincent the deacon and martyr. That date was transferred from Jan. 22 so that the US church can observe the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children–which itself shifts to Jan. 23 when Jan. 22 falls on a Sunday.
The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree last April permitting the celebration of a Mass of thanksgiving for Pope John Paul in local churches at the designation of the diocesan bishop during the year following the beatification. Beyond that time frame, the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar do not permit the observance of memorials of blesseds unless they are inscribed on a particular calendar.
Mother Marianne Cope was “a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, N.Y., she and several other members of her community eventually went to Hawaii, at the request of the (Hawaiian) government, to aid in the care of those suffering from leprosy. Eventually she went to Molokai only a few months before the death of Father–now Saint–Damien de Veuster,” Abp. Aymond said.
“She remained there and continued his great work until her death in 1918, caring for those afflicted with leprosy for more than 30 years,” he added.
Jan. 23 is already observed as an optional memorial in the Syracuse and Honolulu dioceses. “The provinces of Los Angeles and San Francisco have recently petitioned to have the observance added to their proper calendars,” Abp. Aymond said.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has already approved English- and Spanish-language Mass propers for a Pope John Paul memorial, and an English text for a Mother Marianne memorial; the US bishops’ Subcommittee on Divine Worship in Spanish prepared the Spanish-language Mass text approved Nov. 15 by the bishops.
The approval of the memorial dates as well as the Spanish-language Mass text for Mother Marianne required approval of two-thirds of the Latin-rite bishops, with subsequent approval by the Vatican.
The Pope John Paul memorial was approved 154-2 with one abstention. The Mother Marianne memorial was approved 216-2 with two abstentions. The Spanish text for the Mother Marianne memorial was approved 216-1 with three abstentions.
Abp. Aymond also disclosed Nov. 14 that another worship-related item on the bishops’ agenda–a new English translation of the Rite for Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, and for Consecrating the Chrism–would be deferred until the Vatican develops new texts. He advised the bishops to use the texts currently found in the Sacramentary for the year 2012.
The text was not included in the new Roman Missal–which succeeds the Sacramentary–as the US bishops had hoped. Work on developing texts has taken place since 2009, but the final version needs to be approved by the bishops’ conferences of all English-speaking nations.
Abp. Aymond said Nov. 15 it is still possible the Vatican will have prepared an English-language text for these ceremonies in time for their use next year.
During their annual three-day fall assembly in Baltimore, the US bishops’ discussed threats to religious liberty, efforts to support traditional marriage and the need to keep a close eye on health care issues.
They also were updated on the Roman Missal translation and the new US ordinariate to bring former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
During the Nov. 14-16 meeting, they also voted on several items, ranging from approving the annual budget of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to adding new optional memorials for Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Marianne Cope to the US liturgical calendar.
New Orleans Abp. Gregory M. Aymond, chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship, gave a brief report Nov. 15 on the adoption of the new Roman Missal, addressing questions related to its implementation this Advent.
When asked if it were possible to still use the old missal translation in certain circumstances such as when eucharistic ministers visit the elderly for Communion services, the archbishop said: “The guidelines say to use the new one. But the pastoral practice should allow for some flexibility.”
In votes cast during the first two days of the meeting, the bishops elected Abp. J. Peter Sartain of Seattle as USCCB secretary-elect and Bp. Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, as chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
They also approved a $217.4 million budget for 2012 and a 3 percent increase in diocesan assessments for 2013. They also overwhelmingly approved a five-year extension of a resolution calling bishops to adhere to sound financial reporting within their dioceses and OK’d priorities and plans for 2012 for the USCCB with a 219-6 vote.
The bishops overwhelmingly approved a new set of guidelines for how dioceses and parishes will administer national collections. The document a combination of history, rationale and how-to guide.
On the first day of the gathering, the bishops voted to establish a permanent Subcommittee on Health Care Issues under the Committee on Doctrine’s jurisdiction.
Prior to the 214-15 vote, Abp. Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., said he was “strongly in favor” of the new subcommittee because health care is part of “the Gospel mission of the church” and involves “billions and billions of dollars in funding.”
The new subcommittee will address such issues as guidance in implementing the bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” and in addressing non-Catholic hospitals in Catholic health systems, for-profit Catholic health care, canonical status of Catholic health facilities, conscience protection and health care reform.
The bishops approved Oct. 22 as an optional memorial for Blessed John Paul II in the US liturgical calendar. They also approved an optional memorial for Blessed Marianne Cope, with the date to be determined.
Washington Card. Donald W. Wuerl announced Nov. 15 that a new ordinariate–functionally similar to a diocese–will be created Jan. 1 to bring Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
The cardinal said that 67 Anglican priests have submitted their dossiers seeking ordination in the Catholic Church, and 35 of those have received the initial approval from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That means they can move to the second stage of approval, which includes a criminal background check, psychological evaluation and a recommendation from the Catholic bishop where he lives and from his Anglican ecclesiastical authority.
The actions followed the November 2009 issuance of an apostolic constitution authorizing the creation of an ordinariate to bring in Anglicans, or Episcopalians as they are more commonly known in the US, who seek to leave their tradition and join the Catholic Church.
The cardinal later told reporters that Anglican parishes with a total of about 2,000 members have asked to become part of the Catholic Church through the process established in 2009. Card. Wuerl was named by the Vatican to head an ad hoc committee for the constitution’s implementation.
On the first day of the meeting, Bp. William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and chairman of a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, outlined threats to religious liberty issues, saying there seems to be a pattern in culture and law to treat religion “as merely a private matter between an individual and one’s own God.”
Regarding efforts to support traditional marriage, the chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth reported to the bishops Nov. 14 that their campaign to strengthen marriage has reached a large audience and has been honored by professional advertising organizations.
In a presentation on the work of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Bp. Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., said public service announcements with the theme of “a good marriage goes a long way” were released in September to 1,600 television stations and 7,000 radio stations.
He also announced the launch of a new Web site–www.marriageuniqueforareason.org–aimed at educating Catholics on the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Web site corresponds with a new DVD, guide, and booklet.
In a related report, Bp. Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., chairman of the defense of marriage subcommittee, said there are a great many challenges on the legal front to traditional marriage, ranging from various states legalizing same-sex marriage to the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.
He said one thread of the subcommittee’s efforts is to work on persuading the Obama administration to “press the reset button on the trajectory of undermining marriage.”
The bishops also heard from Card. Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Card. Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Card. Donald Wuerl of Washington about the church’s efforts to expand and strengthen the church’s post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel.
Women who have had abortions, as well as the men and parents who might have encouraged it, “need to know that God forgives them and that all is not lost,” said Card. O’Malley, who described Project Rachel as “one of our best pastoral initiatives.”
In another report, two bishops who recently visited Iraq said the US and American Catholics must do their part to help keep Iraq from sliding into chaos once US troops leave the country at the end of the year.
“The US withdrawal of combat troops does not reduce the obligation to help,” principally to protect Iraqis and provide assistance, said Bp. Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, during a Nov. 15 press briefing at the bishops’ meeting.
“It would be extremely important for our government to participate in an orderly transition. … The great fear right now is if the troops leave, the violence will intensify,” Bp. Kicanas said, adding the US must “make sure people’s lives are protected and violence doesn’t erupt.”
In his opening address Nov. 14, Abp. Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, said the church needs to restore its luster, credibility and beauty in the hearts of its members.
He called on his fellow bishops to communicate to the world that the sinfulness of the church’s members is not “a reason to dismiss the church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more.”
The archbishop said the church still has plenty to say to the modern world.
In later remarks, he said he was encouraged by a Nov. 8 private meeting he had with President Barack Obama at the White House. He found the president to be “very open to the sensitivities” of the US Catholic Church on issues related to religious freedom that the two discussed.
At a Nov. 14 news conference, Abp. Dolan spoke about Penn State University’s sex abuse scandal, which he said “shows that the scourge (of sex abuse) is not limited to any one faith and certainly not limited to priests,” he said.
During the first day’s session, the bishops also met Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano, the new apostolic nuncio to the US.
Contributing to this report were Nancy Frazier O’Brien, Mark Pattison and Patricia Zapor in Baltimore and Carol Zimmermann in Washington.
When Rosibel Mancillas Lopez meets undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of mainstream US culture, she goes into action.
She tells them they have basic rights under the law, despite their lack of citizenship. She explains Catholic teaching and its promotion of human dignity. She points them to avenues where they can advocate for changes in US immigration law.
Enrolled in the University of San Diego law school, Mancillas, 24, has taken a similar message to students on campus, where she organizes monthly trips to Tijuana, Mexico, in an effort to breach the cultural chasm.
Mancillas was honored for her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants Nov. 14 by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which presented her with the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award during the US bishops’ fall meeting. The award honors a young adult for leadership in fighting poverty and injustice.
As Mancillas sees it, her efforts follow her desire to live the Gospel.
The fact that Mancillas and her family–mother Rosa, father Porfirio, and two brothers, Porfirio Jr., and David–lived in the shadows for eight years in the 1990s before they became US citizens also has a lot to do with what she finds has become her life’s calling.
“Something that has had a strong impact on me is Catholic social teaching, in particular the teaching on human dignity and the right of everyone to have labor and work,” said Mancillas, who plans to become an immigration attorney. “Related to this is immigration in the sense that immigrants are stripped of their human dignity just because they were born in a different part of the world.
“We tend to forget their humanness once we start judging them based on their language, based on the culture, based on the customs,” she added. “What faith does for me is bring back all of this into perspective, that yes, we’re all human, that we’re all God’s children, that we’re all meant to pursue happiness.”
Mancillas’ advocacy work started in 2009 at Holy Family Parish, which was part of the San Diego Organizing Project, a CCHD-funded community group working on immigrant rights issues. She helped build a program that educated immigrants about their rights and how to follow the path to citizenship.
The project was turned over to the parish and that’s when Mancillas began focusing on the student community at the university. The monthly trips to Tijuana include a stop at the imposing border fence to examine the barrier that separates the two countries. The stop gives participants the opportunity to look at the crosses and other memorials hung on the Mexican side of the fence recalling those who have died trying to cross into the US
The students also work with children and people with AIDS.
Bp. Jaime Soto of Sacramento, CA, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, commended Mancillas for her work to “create a community where the dignity of all is respected.”
“As you work to give voice to the voiceless, especially to immigrants, you give us great hope, Bp. Soto told Mancillas in presenting the award.
Mancillas told the bishops during a reception at the bishops’ conference that her work as an advocate for immigrants brings great joy to her life.
“I feel very undeserving, but receiving this award is a strong affirmation for me to continue doing the work I am doing,” she said. “I take it as God finally responding with a strong yes to the question I ask him every day: ‘Is this what you want me to do?’”
Home is the place where we feel safe, where we can shut out the world, enjoy the people we love and who love us, be accepted for who we are, and always go if something is wrong.
Home is the place where we grow into the person we are called to be. Those whose home do not offer them these things will have all kinds of personal problems that disrupt their ability to develop.
Because it is a fundamental reality in every person to desire God, Who created us for Himself, and to be with Him, all pursuits of a home in this life are connected to the natural desire to seek God and can never be completely satisfied until we are in our eternal home in heaven with God.
We all want to be loved, which is to meet God in others. To be loved is to experience the Heart of Christ. All people deserve that home, that Heart, no matter what they have done.
The first call of the Christian is to love, to live that Heart of Christ, to be merciful. “What would Jesus do?” is sadly not a question we Christians are too anxious to seriously ask.
When it comes to dating and marital love, this is even more of a concern.
When you are falling in love, you are developing a dependency on the other for your happiness. It’s natural. The more you love someone, the more it hurts when they fail you. The law of love demands there be forgiveness if there is a sincere desire to be forgiven and of never doing something like that again.
If Jesus were sitting next to you, you would have no trouble disclosing every detail about what you did, and your regrets. Jesus, in all His mercy, would say something like, “It’s not beyond any human being to do such things” with the kindest voice, and in such a welcoming way. You would share what you did and ask forgiveness solely because you feel completely safe with him. The environment that Jesus provides is a safe, homey one. There is nothing that can happen that is unforgivable. His mercy endures forever.
We are also to provide such Jesus environments for others. Most especially it must be there for those we love. As you develop a relationship, and love grows strong and marriage becomes desired, that safe and homey environment should be present, cultivated, and well established. The more it is established, the safer the other feels about being themselves, sharing themselves, and even sharing their faults, weaknesses and sins. As they fall, they recover quickly because the mercy of the other is always there.
Now some cynical people might say this is a recipe for disaster because the other person will take advantage, knowing that mercy is waiting for them no matter what. This discounts the notion that justice for actions that must be tended to within any relationship, not to mention the emotional pain that needs healing. Though one might be merciful, they also can be hurt and must heal.
Starting with mercy is best because it says that no matter what has happened, we love each other and we are safe. We can get through anything. If the one who hurts you does not have a sense of that Jesus environment of mercy, they will have fear about what has happened. This fear can keep the person from doing what is necessary to remedy the problem, which can hurt the relationship.
How many of us have been in relationships where we felt we could not confess something we did, or fear disclosing parts or all of what happened? This is not normal in a healthy relationship. The Jesus environment is one of true friendship. True friends love each other regardless of what they do. When a true friend is wronged by us, their mercy is waiting. It might take time to re-establish the level of friendship and trust again, but they do not abandon you, physically or emotionally.
Being merciful is also incredibly attractive. It’s very hard to find people who will see you as Jesus sees you. People tend to first react with anger or some other negative reaction, instead of with mercy. This is very unattractive. When we do something wrong and that we regret, it is hard enough to face that within ourselves. When we have to face the one we love whom we have hurt, it is that much more terrifying. How incredible it is to have the first hurtful experience with the one you love be a merciful experience. They don’t react negatively. They don’t scream or cry or throw a fit. They don’t storm out.
Instead, they calmly look upon you as you share what you have done. Perhaps they first take your hand, or hug you, or softly speak. They first remind you that you are safe and home. They help you realize that nothing you have done is something they couldn’t have done as well, that you are not unforgivable, irredeemable, or unloved.
People do a lot of stupid things on dates. Most of it is out of bad habits they have developed. All of it is out of weak human nature. It’s way too easy to pass judgment on others as you are dating, and way too convenient to say that this is not “the one.” And for many, it is entirely too difficult to trust those they date enough to cut them slack, give them a pass, be merciful. The risk of them taking advantage of you is too great.
Merciful we must be. We must cut them slack. We must give them a pass. We must make them feel safe and home so they can be themselves. We must work at friendship; true friendship. Love is kind and merciful. If you want love in your life, it must start with you.
When a person hurts you, consider what Jesus would do. And consider first that the only way for there to be real progress with the problem is if the person first feels safe enough with you to fail.
I can’t stress this enough. There are so many relationships where one or both live in fear of how the other will react if they screw up. What this means is there are way too many people seeking love who are not encountering the mercy of Jesus Christ in the person they are trying to get to know and grow in love with. Instead, their relationship is tainted by fears of what the other might do or say because of their shortcoming. What kind of relationship is that? Is that the kind of relationship we have with Jesus?
Our Lord told us that love casts out all fears. We are never afraid with Jesus because he is home; we feel safe with Him; we can tell Him anything and know that He will forgive us and share with us grace that helps us be better.
You most certainly are forgivable and redeemable. You are NOT your wrong doing and sins. You are a person. You have a right to feel safe enough to hurt the one you love, trusting in their mercy first, and prepared to fulfill justice in the situation second. You aren’t a terrible person because you feel too afraid to talk to the person you are in love with. A true friendship will naturally drawn out the desire to share everything as you feel safe and comfortable in that person’s love.
This is the essence of marital love. All single people need to practice providing the Jesus environment of mercy for those they date. It is the first priority for both of you, since married life is primarily about hurting each other and needing a safe, homey environment where forgiveness can be asked for and applied. If you fear talking to the person you are dating, or have experienced negative reactions as a result of trying to talk to them, and you don’t feel comfortable sharing your faults or wrong doings with that person, then there is a serious problem that must be remedied.
There are always going to be problems. Loved ones are going to fail you. Your first call in all situations is to be merciful, and to maintain a strong sense of the reality that only God can never let us down. In fact, expect failure in others and you will live more peacefully.
“Madden NFL 12” (EA Sports) puts professional football right into the hands of the player. The customizable features are seemingly endless in this latest installment of the franchise that originated with 1988’s “John Madden Football.” Gamers can create teams, players and even playbooks.
This year, “Madden” offers new features aimed at making the game as realistic as possible, from bidding on free agents to cutting players at the end of the preseason. Franchise mode allows fans to be at the helm of their favorite NFL team or to create their own team from scratch.
The customizable playbook means that fans can compile plays from the best coaches around the league: the hard running game of Rex Ryan, for example, or Andy Reid’s notorious deep ball.
In an attempt to become more like a role-playing game, “Madden” has recently included a feature called “NFL Superstar” that allows gamers to create a player, or choose a rookie, and play through his career. When the character is created, the fan chooses which position he will play–the game isn’t just about quarterbacks anymore.
Now gamers are given the option to throw a block as an offensive tackle, or blitz in as a linebacker without even calling the plays. This new approach brings the generally broad scope of the normal Madden experience into sharper focus, and offers a more direct relationship with a single player on the field.
Of course, like any other game, “Madden NFL 12” does have a few drawbacks. For instance, for players without Internet access, the NFL team rosters are not entirely up to date. Some of this can be remedied, though, by trading players in franchise mode. Also, with so many different aspects of football, learning and remembering the controls for each position can be frustratingly difficult.
There’s also a rather steep learning curve to “Madden,” and it might take a while for children or gamers who don’t know enough about football to play at an engaging level. Thus, gamers who may not know the difference between a 3-4 defense and a 4-3 defense will be at a severe disadvantage initially. Parents may want to treat this as an opportunity to teach their children the fundamentals of this complex sport.
The music included in this version of “Madden” contains some very questionable content from a Christian perspective. But the soundtrack can easily be eliminated via the “settings” options.
The game contains earthy song lyrics. Game experience may change during online play. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II–adults and adolescents. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board rating is E–Everyone.
Grevas reviews video games for Catholic News Service.
The nation and American Catholics both can help keep Iraq from sliding into chaos once US troops leave the country at the end of the year, said two US bishops who visited Iraq for four days in October.
“The US withdrawal of combat troops does not reduce the obligation to help,” principally to protect Iraqis and provide assistance), said Bp. Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, AZ, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, during a Nov. 15 press briefing during the US bishops’ fall general meeting in Baltimore.
“It would be extremely important for our government to participate in an orderly transition. … The great fear right now is if the troops leave, the violence will intensify,” Bp. Kicanas said, adding the US must “make sure people’s lives are protected and violence doesn’t erupt.”
The American public needs to be sold on the necessity of providing sufficient aid to Iraqis in a time of budget crunches, said Bp. George V. Murry of Youngstown, OH, who accompanied Bp. Kicanas to Iraq.
“It becomes a matter of not putting Iraq out of our minds” once the soldiers have returned, Bp. Murry said. “Along with the pain that we went through and the number of men and women who have lost their lives, we talked about going into Iraq to liberate Iraq from years of oppression.
“That liberation is not just the physical removal of Saddam Hussein, but we have to give them the opportunity to live their lives with dignity, with freedom and with hope.”
Bp. Murry said that to aid Iraq he envisioned a “modern-day version of the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.”
“When something comes up that our country and other countries consider important we do find the money,” he said. “Iraq is suffering from the results of the war. The US and the nations that joined with it in the war can help Iraq rebuild their infrastructure and rebuild their country.”
Bp. Murry added, “We have to be open to Iraqi refugees coming to this country, and to countries in Western Europe.”
Iraqi-Americans and Iraqis living in Jordan have complained about the US’s slow pace of processing and rejection of immigration requests for reasons they cannot comprehend.
The size of the Christian minority in Iraq, principally Chaldean Catholics, has shrunk since the war. While there had been an estimated 100,000 Christians in the capital city of Baghdad, Bp. Murry said he was told only 4,000 remain today.
“We have focused so much on disengaging form Iraq and getting our soldiers back to our families,” he said. “Our president and our Congress have to realize there’s more to the question than bringing the soldiers home. We’re leaving a country that’s in very difficult straits and they need our help more than ever before.”
Bp. Kicanas said a frequent refrain he heard during the Iraq visit was, “We need jobs. We need work. We need peace.” He added opportunities for work must be provided, noting that Caritas Iraq, which receives funding from CRS, is teaching women how to cook and how to sew skills that can translate into jobs.
He said the US needs to reauthorize its Commission on International Religious Freedom, which will cease to exist if the Senate action doesn’t reauthorize it by Nov. 18.
Having it in place “would be extremely important for our government to participate in an orderly transition,” Bp. Kicanas said.
“To do the right thing always involves leadership. Historically, Americans have not walked away from people in need,” Bp. Murry said, citing earthquake victims in Haiti and Japan, and tsunami victims in Indonesia. “Americans step up to the plate and help.”
Bp. Murry said Congress should also approve S.1245, a Senate bill that would appoint special envoy to the Middle East to safeguard religious rights. Prayer is also helpful, he added.
“A third thing people can do is give,” Bp. Murry said. “The church has some agencies in place. CRS can direct funds in Iraq. The Catholic Near East (Welfare Association) does that as well. And the Dominican sisters have some very fine programs on the ground in Iraq.”
Friday was a special day at Saint Francis Medical Center’s Family BirthPlace as eleven bundles of joy made their appearances on perhaps the most memorable date of the year. Starting at 7:33 a.m. on Nov. 11, 2011, the babies continued to arrive throughout the day, with number 11 showing up at 5:55 p.m.
Saint Francis averages about five deliveries each day and the 11 born on Saturday set a new record. The eleven babies, by time delivered, are:
7:33 a.m.–Payton Lee Simpson
8:17 a.m.–Colby Steven Fenwick
8:58 a.m.–Zarianna Yvonne Ricks
10:48 a.m.–Saylor Faye Rusher
11:37 a.m.–Peyton Lane Cowger
12:28 p.m.–Alyissah Skye Bolden
1:28 p.m.–Lincoln Daniel Peek (twin)
2:01 p.m.–Isabella Marie Grimes
2:04 p.m.–Jackson Dylan Peek (twin)
4:09 p.m.–Alexander Lee Abt
5:55 p.m.–Cael August Berry
Lance Berry, new father of Cael August–baby number 11–says he and his wife were not planning for a Nov. 11 birth, but Cael had other plans. Making the date even more special, Berry currently serves in the U.S. Navy as a recruiter, and his new son was born on Veteran’s Day.
Saint Francis Medical Center’s Family BirthPlace offers expecting parents an individual, family-centered birthing experience in a comfortable, medically advanced environment. The Family BirthPlace features the region’s first Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staffed by three board certified, fellowship-trained neonatologists who care for premature and critically ill newborns; a highly experienced staff; the region’s first LDRP (labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum) suites; and comfortable surroundings with homelike amenities, including the Family Room, a 500-square-foot hospitality suite that features the comforts of home used by families awaiting the arrival of their newest addition. Saint Francis is proud to be the only employer in Missouri ranked on Modern Healthcare magazine’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare list for four consecutive years–2008-2011.
“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?”
I often think of how we can be of assistance to those who are searching for God and the meaning of their lives. It is a good thing to ponder and for which to prepare. Scripture even commands us, “Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply, but speak gently and respectfully” (1 Pt 3:15).
Sometimes, before we can introduce others to the Savior, we have to show the path to God. One of the truest paths is thanksgiving. Not the national holiday we celebrated this week, but the movement of the heart that overcomes us when we reflect on something good we have received.
An airport conversation
This recently occurred to me after a conversation I had with a young man in an airport while travelling. Waiting for our flight, the man volunteered that he was married to a Catholic, but that he was not “anything.” He said that his family never attended any church or practiced a religion when he was a child. He then volunteered that his mother had recently died, and I could tell that he loved her. He asked me if God did exist, would his mother be in heaven. I responded that I believed in God and in heaven, but I could not answer the question about his mother. I added that God seeks us and loves us our whole lives, and continues throughout our lives to invite us into a relationship of friendship. God wants us to discover him and he wants to save us if we’ll let him. I then mentioned Jesus and his coming into the world in order to seek us and bring us home. I urged him to seek God and pray when he is alone and reflect on these deep questions, including those about his mother, and then let God act.
When reflecting on our conversation later, it came to me that a common experience most people have is an awareness of receiving some gift that they did not earn or seek, and being grateful. For most of us, this gift is the good people who have made up our lives: parents, grandparents, spouses, brothers and sisters, children, friends. These “gifts” are what make our lives blessed and happy. They not only bring us joy and beauty, but they help us through any darkness or sadness that comes our way. Other blessings also fill our lives with joy: nature, work, hobbies. Most people would say they are thankful and filled with gratitude for these blessings. The question then arises: “To whom or for what are you thankful?” If God does not exist, why be thankful? From where does that urge to be grateful emerge, and to whom or to what is it to be directed?
The point is this: Gratitude, which wells up in one’s heart, is a type of “proof” for God. It is there because it is a response of the heart that acknowledges the reception of a gift. It is a response to the Divine Giver. The young man was grateful for the gift of his mother, and hoped that somehow she was only a bittersweet memory, who was not annihilated at death.
Thanksgiving as worship
Of course, Christians are farther down this path. Because we have received the gift of faith and opened our hearts and minds to what God has revealed, we direct our gratitude to a person: God, who has revealed himself to us definitively in Jesus Christ. Jesus also is the source and reason for all the other created gifts we receive: “Through him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be” (Jn 1:3). Our gratitude as Christians is also greater because we discover the even greater gift—that God gives himself to us.
Again, the response is thanksgiving, but how do we express adequate thanks for gifts whose worth cannot be measured? Through worship, and even here, God helps us to give him fitting worship: “The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps 116:13). Jesus invites us into the return of thanks that he, the divine and only-begotten Son, gives to the Father. This offering of obedient love, fully carried out on the cross, is perpetuated and made present at every Mass. It is no coincidence that Eucharist, the Greek word for thanksgiving, is what we call this sacred action.
At every Mass, the family of God, the Church, celebrates a thanksgiving meal. It is more than just a meal; in it we offer our selves back to God in Christ, and receive again the gift of God in Christ. He makes us into his people and into his body.
On Thanksgiving Day, we counted our blessings and were grateful. But, more than this, let us direct our thanksgiving to God in the act of worship that he has bestowed on us as the way he wants his children to give him thanks—the holy Mass. Go this Sunday and every Sunday, and if your heart is so moved, attend a week-day Mass as well.
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common …”
I recently attended the annual convention of the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW), in Chicago, on Nov. 9-12. I serve as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) liaison to the NCCW, and this was the first convention that I have attended since my appointment.
At one of the Masses, Card. Francis George, OMI, the archbishop of Chicago, remarked in a homily that one of the characteristics of younger people today is that they are not “joiners.” This tendency cuts across the full range of organizations and groups that have been a part of our nation’s social fabric. Whether religious or civic, political or philanthropic, younger people do not “join” as much as did older generations.
Card. George mentioned this because the Catholic women are striving to renew and add members to the ranks of their local councils; and they are not alone. Virtually every organization of any sort is seeking to bolster its roster. The reasons for this trend are likely to be the subject of many studies. The implications for our nation are significant.
The Founding Fathers presumed a strong presence of local organizations made up of citizens who came together to manage day-to-day life and the well-being of their own communities. These institutions include churches, but also other civic organizations centered upon the life and work of people. For the most part, these local groups and organizations assist in the majority of matters that affect peoples’ lives. They are an example of subsidiarity, the principle that those in authority recognize the rights of the members of society to have a say in the matters which affect them. These organizations serve as mediating institutions between individuals and the larger, often impersonal, civic government. Without them, the government takes on more and more of a role in the individual’s life.
In addition, the groups and organizations to which people belong help to pass on culture and identity. Think only of the role that the Church has in our own lives. Our identity as Catholic Americans is handed down not only by our own individual family, but also by the family of God, that is the Church, in our local parish and diocese. We have an identity not simply as individuals, but as members of a people who belong to God. From our Hebrew roots, Catholics inherit this sense of belonging to God as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pt 2:9). To not belong to this people is to lose one’s identity, something akin to dying.
Within the Church, we have groups that help individuals to flourish. They focus on prayer, doing good works, education, supporting the various Christian vocations, etc. They are needed because no one can successfully go through this world alone, nor can we live our faith in isolation. The early Church manifests this essential communion in the description in the Acts of the Apostles of the earliest believers, who regularly came together for prayer, sacraments, and common life within community. As the hour of his Passion approached, Jesus prayed for those who belonged to him, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).
The urgency that we have to belong affects not only our religious life, but also our civic life. It is said that no man is an island. In the midst of a busy life, let us not allow ourselves to be isolated or separated from others, who need us as much as we need them.