Category : Article

Aerial View of Houston Flooding
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On Harvey and the Psalms

Anyone who has seen me in the past few weeks knows that I recently taught an Adult Faith Formation class on the Book of Psalms.  Why?  Because I can’t stop talking about it.  I have completely geeked out with research, reading, and passion for the Psalms.

What I learned has had a profound impact on both my spirituality and my theological appreciation for the Psalms themselves.  It’s changed the way I view suffering and how we pray about our struggles. Frankly, it’s changed the way I view most everything.

This week, I’ve noticed this change quite clearly while scrolling through Facebook. The first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey has dominated my feed. Many friends have reposted memories and pictures from the devastating flooding.  I was particularly struck by my friend Christina’s post:

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I heard the suffering in Christina’s post: both her own struggle reliving painful memories, and her awareness that “many are still” suffering.

Christinas House

A year ago…

Screenshot 2018-08-29 20.52.47

…as the flood waters came into their home, Christina and her husband Anthony, their kids and pets were rescued by boat.

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Then they waited.

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Finally, Anthony was able to (briefly) return to the house.

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The devastation in our region was mind boggling.  And so was the help Houstonians offered one another.  Christina and Anthony received a small army of assistance as they began the arduous task of gutting the irreparable and cleaning the salvageable. Help from people they knew and others that “just showed up.”  This happened everywhere around us.

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Our faith does not provide us with some sort of “suffering-protection-insurance,” but it does help us persevere by giving us plenty of models for calling out to God in the midst of suffering and an increased awareness of God’s grace in the midst of it all. This is especially present in the Psalms.

Anthony’s posts are akin to Psalms of Thanksgiving.  They recall the suffering and express gratitude for gifts of God’s grace.

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Christina’s posts are steeped in Lament.  But that’s not a bad thing.  In fact, that level of honesty is necessary for an authentic relationship with God.

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The Psalms of Lament insist that we speak difficult truths to God in prayer, whether it’s simply acknowledging that these memories are painful or recognizing that many are still suffering.

I have profound respect for Christina’s honest expression of what so many are still feeling, yet are afraid to say aloud.  She is a compassionate woman whose faith sustained her through ten months of recovery, demolition, and rebuilding her home. She and her family have faced trial after trial after trial since the day the rains came.

And she is lamenting: turning to God and speaking the truth.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I hope to share some of my favorite insights about the Psalms with you.  But rather than re-teaching the class (which I’d be happy to do!), I plan to share a nugget at a time.

If you don’t want to miss any of these insights and nuggets, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. (In other words enter your email on the sidebar.)

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cropped-gassonin-sunset
Article
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THAT IS Being Catholic

I was invited to write a blog post at For Your Consideration.

We are called to evangelize through witness (living out our faith) and sharing (explicitly spreading the Good News).  So often our instinct is to examine what else we can do. We focus on the call to conversion and re-evangelizing our colleagues through Faculty Faith Formation. We also have a tremendous opportunity to engage in the “new evangelization” to colleagues who have become distant from the faith by simply naming the ways in which we are already living God’s love in our life, work, and ministry.

Read more at https://foryourconsideration-stm.com/2018/06/18/that-is-being-catholic/.

 

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Pope Francis Giving Homily in Philadelphia
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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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