Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Novena of Meditations on the Father's Love -OR- on Fatherhood

But while he was yet at a distance, his father
saw him and had compassion (Luke 15:20).
There is some overlap here with other collections of passages, like with those on God's Love and on Being Children of God, but I wanted to present passages with this post which specifically illustrate the solicitude which God the Father directs toward us - his children in Christ Jesus - as a loving Father.

First Day - Matthew 5:43-48

Second Day - Mark 9:9-11

Third Day - Luke 11:5-13

Fourth Day - Luke 15:11-32

Fifth Day - John 12:20-26

Sixth Day - John 14:18-24

Seventh Day - John 16:20-28

Eighth Day - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Ninth Day - Hebrews 12:1-11

Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.  (1 Peter 5:7)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Peace and Justice Updates, February-March 2014


February - March 2014

Referendum for Unification with Russia, Ukraine - The Crimean people will vote on a referendum widely expected to transfer control of the Black Sea region (Crimea) from Ukraine to Moscow, despite an outcry and threat of sanctions from the West. The vote, dismissed by Kiev and Western governments as illegal, has triggered the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War and marks a new peak in turmoil in Ukraine. It follows events in November when the now ousted President Viktor Yanukovych walked out on a trade deal with the European Union sparking violent protests in Kiev. More than 2000 polling stations and two million ballot cards have been hastily printed since the referendum was announced more than two weeks ago.


Pope Francis' Letter to Families, Vatican - Pope Francis issued a letter to families on February 25 in which he asks for prayers for the upcoming Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”. In the letter, he asked for the prayers of families with the intention "that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task." He also notes that the Extraordinary Synod on the family will be followed a year later by an Ordinary Assembly with the same theme, as well as by the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia in 2015.


UNAIDS-Caritas Internacionalis, Rome - The United Nations, the Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations pledged to work more closely together to try and bring an end to the global AIDS epidemic at an international conference in Rome February 25-26. UNAIDS and other agencies leading the fight against the disease recognized that Churches provide up to 50% of all HIV-AIDS community care in some countries. Participants at the two-day meeting also noted that faith-based groups offer a unique combination of access to life saving drugs and care for the dignity of the individual, which other medical or scientific partners cannot provide.


Starvation and Refugee needs in Central Africa - A massive food shortage continues to worsen as refugees displaced by violence in the South Sudan and the Central African Republic arrive in regions of Central and East Africa, e.g., Chad, Cameroun, and Ethiopia, where the needs of the refugees far surpass the availability of aid and resources. UN bodies such as the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the World Food Program (WFP) struggle to provide for the needs of the refugees. The UNHCR has received only 9% of the $112 million it is asking for in 2014 while the WFP is airlifting tons of rice and cereal as many of the roads remain impassible and will become even more so as the rainy season approaches.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Growth in Charity

Here is a short article I just finished writing which, if all thing fall in their proper order, should be published in the March 2014 edition of the Western Dominican Province's Lay Dominican bi-monthly, "Truth be Told".

"We love because he first loved us" (1 Jn. 4:19). God's love precedes our own. The starting point for our growth in the theological virtue of charity is the knowledge of God's love made manifest most especially in Christ's death for us at Calvary: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as expiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:11). In his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI points out that Christ's "death on the cross is the culmination of the turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form" (no. 12). In contemplating this love God has for us in Christ Jesus, we avail ourselves of the opportunity to personally realize and accept this love, thus germinating the seed of faith implanted within us at baptism, and so come to "know and believe the love God has for us" (1 Jn. 4:16).

Such knowledge of and faith in God's inexhaustible love for us inspire a sense of appreciation and gratitude by which we feel that the only appropriate response to such love should be nothing less than our wholehearted fulfillment of the Lord's twofold command to love God, and one's neighbor as oneself (cf. Mt. 22:37-39). Thus inspired by the Spirit who "pours God's love into our hearts" (Rom 5:5), we comprehend how it is that to love God means "to keep his commandments, and [that] his commandments are not burdensome" (1 Jn. 5:3), since our reciprocal love for God inclines "our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments" (1 Kg. 8:58, cf. Ps. 119:36). This knowledge of God's love also liberates us to actively pursue lives of "faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6) when our realization of God's love as our greatest good diminishes in us "the cares of the world, the delight in riches, and desire for other things" (Mk. 4:19), and so allows us to more freely submit ourselves to the "law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2). Benedict XVI further explains how the Holy Spirit motivates our life of charity:

"By dying on the Cross - as Saint John tells us - Jesus 'gave up his Spirit' (Jn. 19:30), anticipating the gift of the Holy Spirit that he would make after his Resurrection (cf. Jn. 20:22). This was to fulfill the promise of 'rivers of living water' that would flow out of the hearts of believers, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 7:38-39). The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes their hearts with Christ's heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when he bent down to wash the feet of the disciples (cf. Jn. 13:1-13) and above all when he gave his life for us (cf. Jn. 13:1; 15:13)." (Deus Caritas Est, no. 19)

This growth in God's love is an ongoing process. The occasion arises when we notice that prior senses of inspiration have waned, and that continued growth in love entails that we express love in the same manner as Christ did: on the cross. In some cases, love may indeed be painful, and in any case demands that we put the needs of others ahead of our own. Our desires to justify spiteful or selfish behavior on our part become obstacles to consistently displaying the love to which God calls us, and we recognize that to love when it is most difficult depends increasingly on God's grace.

Sacred Scripture links this training of our dependence on God's grace to the theological virtue of hope: "The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love" (Ps. 147:11; cf. 33:18-22). Though God's love is always present, there may be times when we only know this through faith, as our senses and our circumstances at such times may seem devoid of love. God commands us to love others whom even on a daily basis treat us uncharitably (cf. Mt. 5:43-48). In such contexts, our ability to nonetheless desire the good for such individuals calls for our surrender to God's grace in hope that this same grace may continue to transform our hearts and theirs even when such transformation may not be readily visible. It is still natural for us in the meantime to mourn the consistent lack of mutual love between ourselves and those around us, though such mourning directs our hope toward the Lord's promise, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt. 5:4, cf. Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, pp. 86-88).

It is in these very situations, however - when we do what is right by loving God and neighbor in spite of our passions - that the fire of charity purifies our beings and so increases our capacity for love. Saint Peter writes, "Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart" (1 Pet. 1:22). Jesus also describes the process by which those disciples who have already borne fruit are pruned by our heavenly Father so that they may bear more fruit (cf. Jn. 15:2), and so come to share more fully in Jesus' divine life (cf. Jn. 15:1-11). "Looking to Jesus," then, as "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Heb. 12:2), we persevere not only in hope that God will sustain us in love, but so, too, that we may ultimately attain final union with him "who is seated at the right hand of God" (ibid.). And, conversely, it is the very act of pressing on toward our final destination in hope that we continue to grow in our capacity for love as God's children since "everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 Jn. 3:3).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Peace and Justice Updates, January - Februray 2014


January - February, 2014

Persecution of Christians in the Middle East - Britain's most senior Muslim politician, Sayeeda Warsi, has warned that the persecution of Christians has become ‘a global crisis’. In a January 10 open letter to L’Osservatore Romano, she wrote: "The bitterest irony of this persecution - ostracism, discrimination, abuse, forced conversion, torture and even murder - is that it is taking place in a region where Christianity has its roots...Sometimes these cases are examples of collective punishment: people lashing out at Christian minorities in response to events happening many miles away...Other times, a Christian is just a convenient ‘other’ - a scapegoat...The threat to religious freedom, I believe, has become a global crisis."


Geneva 2 Conference, Switzerland - The Holy See has called for an “immediate” ceasefire in Syria, during the Geneva 2 Conference in Switzerland. The leader of the Holy See’s Delegation, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi said the “violence has to stop because too much suffering has been inflicted on all the people of Syria and on the entire region.” The international peace talks are looking for a compromise which can end the conflict in Syria.


Nine Days for Life Campaign - The USCCB launched the "Nine Days for Life Campaign", a novena for the end of abortion. This is the second year that the bishops have held a 9 Days for Life campaign. The initiative ran from Jan. 18-26 and overlapped with the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that mandated legal abortion throughout the U.S. in 1973. All people – regardless of whether they were able to attend the March for Life – were welcome to participate in a nine-day novena for life through their prayers and sacrifices. Pope Francis voiced his support for the March for Life on January 22 when he "tweeted": "I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable."


Farm Bill, U.S. - The chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace responded to the agreement of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, commending their ability to set aside partisan differences to advance a farm bill. The USCCB and its Catholic partners have been vocal in their opposition to harmful cuts and changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Farm Bill Conference Committee proposal calls for a reduction of $8.6 billion to SNAP over ten years by increasing the threshold at which persons receiving the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may receive SNAP benefits. However, the bill does include increases for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Peace and Justice Updates, December 2013 - January 2014



Euthanasia for Children, Belgium: On December 12, the Belgium Senate passed legislation allowing for the euthanasia of children. According to Human Life International's Director of International Coordination, professionals in the medical field pushed to have the law passed, and that the majority of the individuals under 18 who are facing euthanasia are infants. Before the law was passed, doctors were technically breaking the law for euthanizing infants who were very sick. Now, they will face much less legal difficulty for euthanizing sick infants, or for deciding to euthanize infants whom they determine will face poor "quality of life", like those who suffer from diseases such as Down Syndrome.


Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi, First World Day of Peace Messages, Vatican: Pope Francis delivered his second "Urbi et Orbi" (to the City and to the World) address on Christmas. In it, he gave special attention to appeal for: peace in Syria, the end of violence and poverty in the Central African Republic, for social harmony in South Sudan, for peace in Nigeria, the end of conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis, and for relief for displaced refugees in the Horn of African and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also appealed for prayers for the victims of human trafficking, especially children, and for the protection and aide for victims of natural disasters, especially in the Phillipines.

Pope Francis also delivered his first World Day of Peace Message on January 1. In it, he emphasized the need for fraternity as the pathway to peace as the world continues to embark down the paths of globalization and development. He also emphasized that such fraternity is a prerequisite for fighting poverty, extinguishing war, and cultivating nature.


Poverty Awareness Month, USA: The USCCB and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development reminds the Catholic Community in the United States that January is Poverty Awareness Month. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of poverty, especially in light f Pope Francis' recent exhortations for members of the Church to live in solidarity with the poor, stating in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, that he desires "a Church which is poor and for the poor". The USCCB's Justic and Peace Committees have also joined with Pope Francis' global campaign to fight hunger through Caritas Internationalis, "One Human Family: Food for All".


Day of Prayer for the Survivors and Victims of Human Trafficking: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration designated February 8 as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking. February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy Feast Day of Mary, Mother of God!

Here are nine gospel passages which one may prayerfully read for nine days in order to form a sort of novena of meditations on the Blessed Virgin Mary. May the following passages lead you to come to know our Blessed Mother better, and thus to love her more.

First Day - Luke 1:26-38

Second Day - Luke 1:39-56

Third Day - Matthew 1:18-25

Fourth Day - Luke 2:1-21

Fifth Day - Luke 2:22-40

Sixth Day - Luke 2:41-52

Seventh Day - John 2:1-11

Eighth Day - Luke 11:27-28

Ninth Day - John 19:25-27

Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem…The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst. (Zeph 3:14, 15)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Peace and Justice Updates - November, 2013

I am involved in a ministry for which I have the role of providing updates in the area of Peace and Justice, and thought I would post the updates here, as well.


Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, at the city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte, on Friday, November 8.  It was one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded and death tolls range from 1,833 to 10,000, with over 26,000 people injured, and over 200,000 people left in desperate conditions without food, water, or shelter.  Aid from around the world has been pouring in to the Phillipines, but much of it has not reached the people yet due to poor road conditions.  Unsuccessful efforts to find food and water and bury dead bodies keep thousands of people in dire conditions, where starvation is deeply impacting their physical and mental wellness.  Please keep all of those affected by the typhoon in your prayers for quick and efficient means for recovery.

Workshop on Human Trafficking, Vatican: A workshop on the weekend of Nov.1 to Nov. 3 at the Vatican focused on the growing crime of human trafficking worldwide. Especially women and children are being increasingly enslaved for forced labor (agricultural and domestic work), drug smuggling, and sexual exploitation.  Children are robbed of their present lives and deeply wounded for the living out of their future lives.  Human trafficking is becoming more profitable than drug or arms trafficking.  The problem is presumed to be much worse than recorded because human trafficking is an increasingly difficult crime to detect.  Bishop Patrick McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose, CA has also established a Catholic Network to End Human Trafficking, which network held two workshops in October to build awareness of the issue.

Pilgrimages of Families for the Year of Faith, Vatican: Over 250,000 pilgrims participated in the pilgrimage to the Vatican for the Year of Faith.  Pope Francis addressed the pilgrims on various occasions during the pilgrimage, offering them support and advice on how to live out their calling as exemplifying the crucial role that the family plays in society.  The pope expressed how the family should function as a whole community unit of persons who live together in love, not a context in which separate individuals live around each other.  He also expressed to parents the importance of “wasting time” with their children, commenting that “nothing is more valuable than a parent’s time.”

“Special Message” of USCCB: At the conclusion of their annual general assembly, the American bishops issued a “Special Message” which expressed their commitment to finding solutions to the requirements of the HHS Mandate without individuals having to violate their consciences when responding to the Mandate's requirements for business owners to provide health plans which cover artificial contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs.  Source: