Category : Article

Pope Francis Giving Homily in Philadelphia
Article
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“What about you? What are you going to do?”

Pope Francis delivered an incredible homily during his visit to Philadelphia on Saturday morning, at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Most of you know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by this local Church. When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope — he was a very wise Pope! — asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church. “What about you?”

“What about you? What are you going to do?”

By virtue of our baptism, we are each called to participate in building up the Kingdom of God… to proclaim the Good News… to share God’s love with the world… to share our gifts and talents… to give the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15).  By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to do something.

“What about you? What are you going to do?”

This is essentially the point of evangelization; kindling our passion for God such that it bubbles over into every aspect of our lives.  Young and old, women and men, youth and adults, laity and religious; we are called to love and serve the Lord.  We are called to give glory to God by our life.

“What about you? What are you going to do?”

I, for one, am excited and inspired by the Holy Father’s words.  On Sunday, October 4th, I’ll be leading a Day of Renewal for the St. Paul Mission Parish at the San Juan Renewal Center in McAllen, TX.  We will spend time reflecting on Pope Francis’ (and Pope Leo XII’s) words: “What about you? What are you going to do?”  Pray for us!  And join us if you can!


  • And think about your own answer: What about you? What are you going to do?”

For the complete text of the homily, click here.  To watch Pope Francis deliver the homily, click here.

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Playground
Article, Human Dignity, Justice
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They’re Children, Not Chickens

Two Moms go to a playground with their kids, ages 2 – 4.  One child asks his mom to help him use the fire pole, so she holds him the whole way down.  The second child asks the second mom for help.  She says, “I’d be happy to teach you how to do it, but I’m not going to do it for you.  Do you want to learn?”  Second-Child hesitates before agreeing.  Second-Mom explains how to reach out, hold the pole nice and high, then step out while holding on, wrap feet and legs around the pole, and gently loosen the hold to slide down.  She guides her son’s grip, holds her hands out to catch him in case he needs it, but tries not to actually do the work for him.  By the third try, he’s doing it with enough confidence that she can sit back and watch.

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Prisoners
Article, Informational
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Moral Teaching on Torture

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “Torture Report” brings a slew of articles on the use of torture and the deceit surrounding it.  Although the report itself is 500 pages, there are plenty of sites that offer snippets of commentary alongside snapshots of the report itself.

It is difficult to read about the details.  Even the vague descriptive terms make me squeamish.  But I think that’s a good thing.  It should be difficult to read.  We shouldn’t be desensitized to the details of torture.  A visceral reaction to articles about torture reflect our recognition of the evil in the act.

“Church teaching is clear. Torture is abhorrent and can neither be condoned nor tolerated.” (USCCB, Background on Torture)

Torture is morally wrong.  It is discussed in the Catechism in conjunction with the 5th Commandment’s discussion of disrespect for human life and dignity.

Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity (CCC, 2297).

Why does the Church teach that Torture wrong?

1. Torture debases the human dignity of both the victim and perpetrator.  Not only does the act of torture violate the dignity of the prisoner, but in order to participate in such vile acts, the dignity of the torturer is also violated.  All levels of authority figures who order and condone the practice of torture participate in violating the dignity of both the victim and the perpetrator.  The practice of torture “estranges the torturer from God and compromises the
physical or mental integrity of the tortured” (USCCB, Background on Torture).

“An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” — St. Thomas Aquinas (CCC, 1759).

2. The end does not justify the means. People often speculate that torture is justifiable if it ultimately renders information that can save lives, thus asserting that it is a necessary evil.

Research has shown (and evidenced in the Senate report) that information gathered as a result of torture is not reliable.

But from a moral perspective, the focusing on the reliability of the information misses the point.  Morally speaking, we must never do evil to achieve good, nor must we ever try to justify doing evil because good came out of it.  We are not entitled to achieve our goals by any means necessary.  

3. Do unto others is the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31).  Essentially this is the idea that we should not do to others what we do not want them doing to us.  This is part of the reason why torture is illegal according to international law and the Geneva Conventions.

We cannot condone torturing another human being.  As a matter of faith, we must reject this practice.


Prisoners by José licensed under CC BY 2.0

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The Creation of Adam
Article, Informational
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Creation and Evolution and Pope Francis

The Religion headlines of a variety of mainstream media news sources have noted that Pope Francis says evolution is real and God is no wizard.  Social media was all atwitter with reaction, from shock and excitement…

Evolution and Creation 2

 

…to sarcasm, because this is actually not new.

Credit - Catholic Memes

Creation Evolution

No Conflict

Sarcasm aside, the Catholic Church does (officially) teach that there is no conflict between faith and evolution / the Big Bang theory.  Specifically, the Church teaches that Scripture is authoritative only in matters of faith, not science.  To put this another way, the Church will speak to the Why of creation, but not the specific details as to the How.  Catholic teaching asserts that God created all things from nothing, but does not say how.  Explaining how everything came to be belongs to the realm of science.

Continuity

The Church has held this position that there is no conflict between faith and evolution / the Big Bang theory since Pope Pius XII in 1951.

  • Pope Francis made a statement at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 28, 2014.
  • Pope Saint John Paul II made a similar statement to that same group in October 1996.
  • Pope Benedict XVI not only agreed with his predecessor and his successor there is no conflict, he specifically spoke against the idea of teaching “Intelligent Design” as a scientific theory.

It is important that popes reaffirm this teaching in continuity with one another because many people still do not know that this is what the Church teaches.  So, of course Pope Francis made the statement!  But no, Francis did not disagree with Benedict, nor is Francis’ statement in stark contrast to Benedict’s.  There is continuity, as there should be.

Intelligent Design

In 2006-2007, during Pope Benedict’s papacy (2005-2013), there was a heated discussion about teaching Intelligent Design and/or Creationism alongside the theory of evolution and the Big Bang Theory.  Concern arose because proponents wanted to teach Intelligent Design and/or Creationism as alternative scientific theories.

“Intelligent Design Theory” attempts to be a form of science, redefining science to accept miraculous explanations; Creationism specifically uses the bible as a source of scientific authority.

An article in the Vatican newspaper made it explicitly clear: “Intelligent design is not science and should not be taught as a scientific theory in schools alongside Darwinian evolution.” (Catholic News Service)

Good theology understands God’s role in creation, but that’s theology, not science.  Believing in an “unmoved mover” or “superior cause” or “intelligent designer” is theology, not science.  The Church grants science the rightful domain of explaining the origins of the universe, but acknowledges God’s guidance in some way (and does not define what that “way” is).

Recognizing that it speaks with authority in matters of faith, not science, the Church does not officially endorse any one specific theory. However, the Church does recognizes the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the Big Bang Theory and evolution, and officially states that creation and evolution are not contradictory (the faithful do not need to choose one or the other).


Adam creation © Depositphotos.com/savacoco

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Old Bible
Article, Questions, Scripture
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Have You Ever Wondered: Why the Different Bibles?

Did you know that Catholics use a slightly different Bible than other Christian denominations? Have you ever wondered why?


My 8 year old son (mini-Bill Nye the Science Guy) made his First Holy Communion in May, and has been obsessed with what the differences are, and why there are differences.

When your kid suddenly becomes obsessed with a facet of faith, you do your best to respond in kind.  The explanation–which is wrapped up in Church history–is actually quite interesting.


Alex and Fr. Wencil at 1st Communion

Why the Differences?

A brief recap Jewish history to get some context:  

  • Around 1280 BC, Moses led the Chosen people to the Promised Land
  • King David reigned around 1000 BC
  • In 721 BC the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians
  • In 586 BC the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians  

As each kingdom fell, the Jews were exiled and scattered–or dispersed (“diaspora”)–around the region.  In the Diaspora following the fall of the Southern Kingdom, many Jews settled in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which was immersed in Greek language and culture.  After about fifty years, the Persian Ruler, Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, but a whole generation had been born and raised while living in foreign lands, many of whom chose to stay.  As time passed and more Diaspora Jews spoke Greek, there was a desire to have a copy of the Jewish Sacred Scriptures translated into the Greek language.

Legend has it that 72 scholars set out to translate the Scriptures from Hebrew to Greek.  The Greek word for seventy is “septuaginta,” which is why this translation is known as the Septuagint [sep-tue-ah-jint].  It was completed around 100 BC and was widely used by Jews outside of Jerusalem.

So then the New Testament came to be:

  • The life, ministry, parables, teachings, miracles, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus happened around 30-33AD.
  • The Letters of Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude were written to various Christian communities in the years that followed the Resurrection.
  • These Letters were so profoundly powerful that they got passed around from community to community while the stories of Jesus were told and retold orally.
  • Eventually the Gospels were written down and passed around as well.
  • Since most people spoke and wrote in Greek, the Gospels and Letters were also composed in Greek.

Although the New Testament itself was written in Greek, since Jesus and the Apostles lived and traveled in and around Jerusalem and Judea, they probably did not use the Septuagint when they read from scrolls.  They probably used scrolls written in Hebrew and Aramaic.  Which brings us to the next part of the story…

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