23April

Saint John Paul II, Alive Among the Saints

Taken from Catholic World Report
by Douglas Bushman

Saint John Paul II, Alive Among the Saints


















At the outset of his Petrine ministry and several times thereafter, Pope Wojtyla told us that his pontificate was dedicated to the faithful interpretation and implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He also told us that central to the renewal of Vatican II is the universal call to holiness. “[T]his call to holiness is precisely the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church by a Council which intended to bring a renewal of Christian life based on the Gospel” (Christifideles Laici, 16).

The Jubilee of the Year 2000 was the occasion for him to reassert: “Holiness…has emerged more clearly as the dimension which expresses best the mystery of the Church. Holiness, a message that convinces without the need for words, is the living reflection of the face of Christ” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 8). In keeping with his constant exhortation to read and to study the texts of Vatican II, he appealed to all to “rediscover the full practical significance of Chapter 5 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, dedicated to the ‘universal call to holiness.’”

“[T]he heart of holiness is love” (Ecclesia in America, 30), that is, participation in divine life in and through Christ’s paschal charity, which is the soul of the apostolate, the inner dynamism of all ministry, apostolate, service, and mission. “[T]he call to the mission derives, of its nature, from the call to holiness” (Address of May 15, 1998). At the same time, holiness is the ultimate goal of the Church’s activities. For this reason, “all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 30). “[I]n the life of the Church every call to action is a call to holiness” (Address of May 3, 1984).

“Now, no less than in the past, the call to holiness must be the chief concern of all the Church’s members” (Ad limina address of May 26, 1992). This is the primary way of participation in the life and mission of the Church, the foundation for every other vocation, without which ecclesiastical activity is deprived of its vital principle. Holiness is the key to the New Evangelization.

Evangelization in the third millennium must come to grips with the urgent need for a presentation of the Gospel message which is dynamic, complete, and demanding. The Christian life to be aimed at cannot be reduced to a mediocre commitment to “goodness” as society defines it; it must be a true quest for holiness. We need to re-read with fresh enthusiasm the fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium, which deals with the universal call to holiness. Being a Christian means to receive a “gift” of sanctifying grace which cannot fail to become a “commitment” to respond personally to that gift in everyday life. It is precisely for this reason that I have sought over the years to foster a wider recognition of holiness, in all the contexts where it has appeared, so that Christians can have many different models of holiness, and all can be reminded that they are personally called to this goal. (Letter to Priests, Mar 25, 2001)

Continue reading at Catholic World Report
19April

Reading the Bible in the Dark

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Reading the Bible in the Dark

April 20, 2014

Easter Vigil

Seven OT Readings: Gen 1:1—2:2; Gen 22:1-18; Exod 14:15—15:1; Isa 54:5-14; Isa 55:1-11; Bar 3:9-15, 3:32—4:4; Ezek 36:16-17a, 18-28.

When my friend went to the Easter Vigil for the first time and started hearing the many readings, he thought for a moment that they were going to read the whole Bible! At Easter, we might expect a lot of New Testament texts, but instead the Church presents us with seven Old Testament readings and eight responsorial psalms. That’s 15 Old Testament texts in one sitting—talk about an Old Testament extravaganza! Interestingly, on Easter morning, zero Old Testament texts are read, except for the super-Alleluia Psalm 118.

Praying and Waiting in the Dark

The Easter Vigil always reminds me of those long car trips my family took when I was young. We would get up before dawn and get on the road so we could make it to our destination by nightfall. At the Easter Vigil, we gather at church in the dark. We wait, watch, hope and pray in the dark. Praying in the dark might seem kind of strange, and reading tons of the Old Testament in the dark might feel even stranger. But, all the waiting, watching, and hoping has a purpose, a direction, a fulfillment. The lengthy and numerous Old Testament readings prepare us and teach us. They re-tell the story of salvation so as to direct our minds toward its ultimate goal, its consummation in the resurrection of Christ. The liturgy itself offers a rhythm of reading, psalm, prayer, then reading, psalm prayer, so we can enter into the cadence of waiting and allow our hearts to slowly swell in preparation for the resurrection. While we listen, we feel the last moments of fasting and penance giving way to the glorious celebration of Easter.

Salvation’s Story

If we have been listening attentively to the Old Testament readings throughout Lent, we have already encountered the story: the Fall, Abraham, the Exodus, the kingship of David, the resurrection future and the Suffering Servant. But now the Church presents to us the resurrection logic of the universe. By starting with the creation account of Genesis 1, the Lectionary points out that all of creation, all of reality was pointing toward this moment, that the destiny of the universe is somehow tied up in Jesus’ resurrection. The readings for the vigil pick up the story and retell it in its grandest dimensions: God’s creation of everything, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt, the prophet Isaiah’s announcement of God’s merciful recall of his people from exile, and Ezekiel’s proclamation of cleansing.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
17April

Down the Slippery Slope: A Timeline of Social Revolution

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Down the Slippery Slope: A Timeline of Social Revolution



















It is certainly not breaking news to assert that America is in cultural decline. Many aspects of this decline have been widely documented: the breakdown of the family, threats to life, and ever increasing secularization.

My intent in this article is to draw together the consistent progression of this cultural decline so that we can step back and examine the path of the social revolution that has been underway in America for some time. As we see, the undermining of family and life is not something new.

I have broken the following timeline into several stages. That is not to say that the only developments of this time concerned a single matter. Rather, the name marks the major turning point of that stage. I have also included a few international events, when they seem indicative of broader social change.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
12April

The Paradox of Suffering

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

The Paradox of Suffering

April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041314.cfm

“Anything worth living for is worth dying for.” It is hard lesson for us to learn. No one wants to go around dying, but of course, we all know that truly living for someone or something besides ourselves isn’t very easy either. The prophet Isaiah thrusts aside our hedging by presenting us with a stark contrast: a disobedient people who can’t even find their mother’s divorce certificate from God (Isa 50:1) and an obedient servant who willingly proclaims God’s message of repentance and deliverance in the face of terrible suffering (Isa 50:4-7ff). The passage selected for the First Reading is the words of that Suffering Servant.

Speaking of Tongues

This section of Isaiah begins with a self-description, starting with the tongue. It sounds a lot like other OT poetic passages where the poet describes his tongue and speech at the beginning of his song (Pss 35:28; 45:1; 51:14; 71:24; 119:172). Here though, the prophet Isaiah is not describing himself, but putting these words in the mouth of the Suffering Servant. The Lord has entrusted a special message to this servant. Indeed, his tongue is “well-trained” (50:4). The Hebrew word here, limud, is rare and indicates the kind of knowledge that results from discipleship. The point is not that the Servant has been inspired in the moment, but that his message is the result of a long period of training. He has been trained in righteousness, in the law of God.

Rousing the Sleepy and handing on the message

When the Servant goes to describe the purpose of his training, he surprises us. His “tongue training” is for the purpose of waking up the sleepy. His goal is to rouse, encourage, sustain and wake up others. He does not want to merely give people information, but to put heart into them. Isaiah is teaching us that encouraging is not just a gift, it is a skill. The Servant has learned how to rouse the weary. Of course, the kind of slumber we’re talking about is not mere physical sleep, but spiritual stagnation, acedia, sloth. The Servant will wake people up out of their sleepy spiritual approach to life.

The Servant emphasizes his role as handing on a message from God. “Morning after morning” the Lord speaks to him and day after day, he faithfully conveys the message he hears to others. So his mission involves both listening and speaking. God “awakens” his ear and conveys a message to him. Faithful listening leads to faithful speaking. One must first be awakened in order to awaken others. The Servant consciously passes along a message, a difficult message of repentance, a call to return to the Lord, but also a message of hope and restoration. He insists also on his fidelity. He says “I have not rebelled; I have not turned back.” However, his faithfulness to God’s message will cost him.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
04April

God, the Tomb Robber

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God, the Tomb Robber










April 6, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ezekiel 37:12-14

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040614.cfm

I like to think of God as a tomb robber. He does not strike me as a masked bandit plundering valuable artifacts from an Egyptian tomb for sale on the black market. Rather, he robs something much more important from the tomb: people! God does not steal mere dead bodies from tombs; instead, he restores the life of the dead person, revivifying the body and bringing back the person’s spirit.

Sneak Preview of Lazarus

In this Sunday’s reading from Ezekiel, we get a sneak preview of the gospel account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The great prophet tells us in advance that God wants to “open graves” and cause people to rise out of them. Lazarus is a case study in what this kind of power looks like. God reverses the seemingly unreversible problem of death. What the prophet foretells in the first reading comes to fruition in the Gospel reading.

Bony Context

Now in the context of Ezekiel 37, this little passage serves as the interpretation of what has come before, Ezekiel’s famous prophecy of the valley of the dry bones. The Lord gives the prophet a powerful vision of dead, dry bones, strewn about in a valley as if a battle had taken place there long ago. The prophet emphasizes how many there were (“behold, there were very many”) and how dead and dry they were (“and lo, they were very dry”). After showing Ezekiel the bones, the Lord commands him to prophesy to the bones, to speak God’s life and spirit into them. Immediately, they start to click together and the Lord covers them in sinews, muscles and skin. Finally, Ezekiel prophesies and God’s spirit comes and fills them.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
02April

Understanding what it means to encounter Christ’s love in the sacraments

Taken from The Catholic Servant, April 2014
By Professor Douglas Bushman

Understanding what it means to encounter Christ’s love in the sacraments

[Editor’s Note: Professor Bushman’s article was written as an introduction for an article about the Sophia Institute for Teachers. That article, an interview with Veronica Burchard, the Vice President for Education Programs at Sophia Press, will be published in the April edition of “The Catholic Servant.”]

In every way, the sacraments are about God’s love, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. In them Jesus makes Himself present as the One Who loves us “to the end.” (Jn. 13:1) In each sacrament He says: “I love you, I have given My life for you (Jn. 15:13; Gal. 2:20), and I want to love you right here, right now. Do you desire this? Will you permit me to love you?” We cannot say “Yes” and mean it, or know what we are saying “Yes” to, unless we know Who Jesus is: why God became man, and why He died on the Cross to save us.

The sacraments presuppose the faith by which “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” (I Jn. 4:16) By faith we know the great story of God’s love, which culminates in Jesus’ teaching on love, the new commandment of love (Jn. 13:34), and His death on the cross. The Creed summarizes this story of God’s love. Faith makes our “Yes” to Christ’s love a fully informed and personal “Yes.” Then Jesus says to us what He said in response to people’s faith: “as you have believed, let it be done for you”; “great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” (Mt. 8:13; 15:28) Jesus wants to say “Yes” to our faith-filled desire for His love!

The faith we bring to the sacraments is like that of the woman with a hemorrhage. She was desperate because she spent all of her money, yet no doctor could heal her. Her future could only be resignation to inevitable suffering. Hearing about Jesus’ miracles, she found new hope—hope in God. Knowing where to find Jesus, she left her home, thinking: “If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.” (Mk. 5:28) She did, and she was healed. “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from Him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who has touched My clothes?’” (Mk. 5:30) Then He said: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mk. 5:34)

Jesus wants to be touched by faith! In the sacraments, He responds by touching us with His love. When Jesus asked, “Who touched Me?” His disciples pointed out that many in the crowd had brushed up against Him. But, to only one did He say, “your faith has saved you.” Only one touched Jesus with deep and intense faith! In the sacraments, Jesus dispenses the saving power of His love to those who approach Him in faith, fully aware of their great need and especially of His great love.

The Virgin Mary is the unsurpassed model of faith. At the Annunciation, God takes the initiative of love—”He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19)—by coming to Mary through the Archangel Gabriel, who proposes God’s plan to her. In response, Mary says, “May it be done to me according to Your word.” (Lk. 1:38) God awaits such a response of faith in the sacraments: “May it be done to me according to Your word of love!” The Holy Spirit then overshadows Mary, transforming her to be the Mother of God. Christ dwells in her so that through her He can come into the world. Similarly, when we encounter Christ in the sacraments, His love transforms us. He comes to dwell in us (Jn. 14:23) by the gift of sanctifying grace so that He can work through us to bring God’s love into the world.

Jesus promised: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself.” (Jn. 12:32) He keeps this promise by bestowing grace through the sacraments. The risen, glorified, and ascended Lord loves us still through the rites that He established and the men whom He appointed to represent Him. Through the grace conferred in the sacraments, Jesus brings us into communion with Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and with one another in the Church. In the power of His love and grace, we are able to live out our new life in Christ. In this way, the sacraments prepare us for everlasting communion with God and all the saints in Heaven.

In Baptism Jesus redeems us from all sin, which prevents us from receiving the Father’s love. Becoming one with Him, the Father speaks to us the words He spoke at Jesus’ baptism: “You are My beloved son [or daughter]; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk. 3:22) The Father rejoices in the goodness of His Son that He sees in us. We become a new creation in Christ. (II Cor. 5:17) As God was pleased with creation and “found it very good” (Gen. 1:31), He says to us: “It is good that you exist.”

Confirmation deepens the bond of love with God and with the Church, as Jesus fulfills His promise to send the Holy Spirit so that we can bear witness to Him and be faithful in trial and persecution. (Jn. 15:26–27; Lk. 12:11–12) Confirmation equips us for the New Evangelization. The Eucharist brings communion with Christ to perfection. In every sacrament, Jesus’ paschal charity, the love by which He loves us “to the end,” is at work. In the Eucharist, the Lord Himself is present in His great act of offering Himself to the Father for our salvation. Here, Christ makes us associates in His mission to save the world, inviting us to offer ourselves—through, with, and in Him—to the Father. This holy sacrifice removes every obstacle to God’s love as we make a total gift of ourselves to God in Christ. This is the summit of worship for God’s priestly people, and the fullest manifestation of the mystery of the Church, that is, the mystery of God’s love transforming those who believe.

In the sacraments of healing, Confession and Anointing, we say, with the leper: “Lord, if You wish, You can make me clean.” (Lk 5:12) He could not know how Jesus would respond, but in faith knew Jesus’ answer: “I do will it” (Lk. 5:13) By faith we know, in advance, that Jesus will forgive us, declaring through His minister: “Your sins are forgiven.” (Lk 7:48) As signs of His authority to forgive sins, Jesus’ miracles of healing make our hope certain: “that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” (Mk. 2:10–11) God’s word of love never fails: “My word that goes forth from My mouth … shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Isa. 55:11) Jesus is the Word of God, and God is love. (I Jn. 4:8) When He says, “I love you,” we are healed, transformed, and enriched, and we can say, with Mary: “The Mighty One has done great things for me.” (Lk. 1:49)

All He requires is that we desire this as well. Like the woman with a hemorrhage, faith tells us where to find Jesus. He does not hide. Through His bishops and priests, Jesus waits for us in the confessional as He once waited at a well for the Samaritan. (Jn. 4:6) As He responded to the plea of Jairus (Lk. 8:41–42, 49–56), when we are unable to come to Him, in His ministers He comes to us—“under our roof.” (Mt. 8:8)

Through Matrimony and Holy Orders, Jesus makes us His associates in special missions to love others. These sacraments confer the grace to grow in holiness by being conformed to Him Who “did not come to be served but to serve.” (Mk. 10:45) Through the ordained, Jesus continues to love us by teaching the truth, sanctifying through the sacraments, and guiding us as our shepherd. He says to men of every age what He said to the Apostles, “I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:18), and through this sacrament His words are effective. Those who are married receive a mission to grow in holiness together by seeking the Kingdom of God in the service of life and love in the family. In this sacrament, Jesus confers the grace to fulfill God’s first command: “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28)

The sacraments make Jesus’ paschal charity active and effective in the world. Just as people of faith knew where to find Jesus to be healed and saved, we know that we encounter His love in the sacraments. Two desires converge in the sacraments: God’s desire to love us, and our desire to be loved by Him and to love Him in return. We, on earth, desire what Christ, in Heaven, desires. In the sacraments, God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven! (Mt. 6:10)

Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L., is Professor of Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, where he holds the Blessed John Paul II the Great Chair of Theology for the New Evangelization.

This article was funded by the Venerable Pope Pius XII Chair of Writing sponsored by Fr. John Paul Erickson.

01April

Does Faith Need Culture? Answers from Scripture & the Church

Taken from Catholic Exchange
Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Does Faith Need Culture? Answers from Scripture & the Church



















“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ).

Is culture something necessary for the life of faith? Or, is it rather a distraction? Does it pull us further away from a focus on the next life, by rooting us in the things of the earth? Is it a temptation to try to build a lasting city, when Hebrews says “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (13:14).

The relation of faith and culture actually goes back to the very beginning of the Bible: “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion” (Gen 1:28). This primordial command to man and woman at their creation is followed by the account of the creation of Adam, when “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). This primordial mission is reaffirmed in the psalms: “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the sons of men” (Ps 115:16). And further: “Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Ps 8:6). God clearly intends for humanity to have a mission on the earth, to shape it and to govern it, for God’s glory and man’s perfection.

We could ask whether Jesus intends this same mission to continue in the New Testament. Jesus does not contradict this primordial cultural mission, in fact his parables largely use the language of shaping the earth, but nonetheless he clarifies for us what Christian culture should be: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt 6:10). A Christian culture is one that seeks to embody the Kingdom of God on earth, by fulfilling the will of God in our lives. The Book of Revelation states this in drastic language through the song of the Elders in Heaven:

Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth. (Rev 5:9-10)

Christ’s work of redemption initiates us into the Kingdom, literally makes us a Kingdom, of priests to reign on earth. We know that this is not to be understood in military or political terms, but rather in that Christ’s holiness should shape the earth through our lives.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
28March

The Problem with Prejudice

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

The Problem with Prejudice

March 30, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Lent

First Reading: 1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033014.cfm

Prejudice is one of those things that always strikes us as monstrously unfair precisely because it involves pre-judging, judging a person or situation before we actually know anything. Yet, no matter how we try, “pre-judgments” are terribly difficult to root out of our minds and hearts. A person’s clothing, shoes, hairstyle, teeth, jewelry, tattoos or lack thereof, car, or whatever often become a basis for us to make a snap judgment about the person, who he or she is and how we’ll choose to relate to him or her. In this Sunday’s Old Testament reading, God shows how he evaluates people and overrules the human tendency toward prejudice.

Context

This reading begins with the Lord sending the prophet Samuel on a mission to anoint a new king. Just before this moment in the First Book of Samuel, God has withdrawn his favor from the existing king, Saul (1 Sam 15). In fact, when the new king is anointed, the Lord takes his spirit away from Saul and an evil spirit begins tormenting him (16:14). Saul is on his way out, but the Lord chooses a “soft launch” approach for the new king: He will begin in obscurity and only gradually gain influence over the tribes of Israel.

Anointing

Samuel brings with him a “horn of oil” to anoint the new king. A horn could be used as a container for oil, much in the same way Davy Crockett used a powder horn (which you can still buy on eBay). Samuel would anoint the new king by opening his oil horn and pouring its contents on the head of the candidate. This is a symbolic act, which echoes the period of the Judges, when the spirit of the Lord would “rush upon” a person (Judg 3:10; 11:29; 14:6). Anointing carries with it a sense of divine appointment and empowerment with His Spirit. Kings like Saul were anointed (1 Sam 10:1), but so were priests (Exod 28:41). In the New Covenant era, anointing oil is used in the sacraments of Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Sacrament of the Sick.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
26March

The Benedict Option: What Does It Really Mean?

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

The Benedict Option: What Does It Really Mean?


















“Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again: ‘Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?’” (Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, quoting Psalm 34:14-15).

The Benedict Option—what does it really mean? In my mind, it is quite simple: taking St. Benedict and his Rule as a model for the Christian life within the context of our culture.

The term Benedict Option was coined recently by Rod Dreher. He initially defined it in somewhat negative terms as “pioneering forms of dropping out of a barbaric mainstream culture that has grown hostile to our fundamental values.” It is not surprising to think of St. Benedict in this light, as he himself withdrew in disgust from late fifth century Rome in favor of a cave in Subiaco. However, Benedict did not stay in isolation long, and quickly became an Abbot, gathering large numbers of men to himself.

Dreher points to a “community of Catholic laity” growing around Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma as an example of the Benedict Option. It is important to note, however, that there is not a formal lay community there. People simply want to live near the monastery, many have become oblates and participate in the liturgical life of the monastery, and they live in friendship and fellowship with one another.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
21March

Don’t Complain About Blessings

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Don’t Complain About Blessings

March 23, 2014

Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17:3-7

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032314.cfm

Complaining comes naturally to most of us. Even if our circumstances improve, they could always be better, so we can find something to complain about. The ancient Israelites felt the same way. After God delivered them from Egypt with powerful, miraculous interventions, and after they had crossed the Red Sea and received the manna from heaven, they still find something to complain about: thirst.

Grumbling vs. Gratitude

You would think that a group of people just delivered from hundreds of years of slavery and hardship would have a lot to be grateful for. After God shows up in power and frees his people from the oppressive yoke of Pharaoh, you would think that their songs of joy and thankfulness would last longer than a moment. But gratitude is harder to cultivate than grumbling. As soon as the people feel a need—this time, for water—they confront their leader with complaints. It reminds me of a time I was going on a high school trip. The travel agent arranging the trip told us not to complain during our travels because “it makes the trip miserable for everyone—the one complaining and the ones listening to the complaining.”

The Israelites should have been constantly reflecting on their divine deliverance in an attitude of humble, grateful joy, but they give in to what is easier—to allow the inconvenient present to overshadow the glorious past. This kind of grumbling places all the emphasis on the here-and-now and loses sight of the bigger picture, the more important story, the great things that God is doing for his people. So complaining is an intellectual mistake, if you will. It emphasizes one thing, the present, at the expense of another, the past. It overplays the significance of “how I feel right now” versus the larger picture of life. Gratitude, the opposite of grumbling, embraces a truer version of the story. That is, gratitude focuses on the important theme, the hope-filled trajectory of the story, which encompasses past, present and future, rather than myopically zeroing-in on the present. Gratitude requires an outward focus on the larger truth, while grumbling embodies an inward-turning, selfish approach centered on the now.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange

20March

Pope Francis, Vatican II show love for poor: Professor to discuss mission of Church, gift of Vatican II document

Taken from the Denver Catholic Register

Pope Francis, Vatican II show love for poor: Professor to discuss mission of Church, gift of Vatican II document




























What does the Vatican II document “Gaudium et Spes” (“Joy and Hope”) and Pope Francis have in common?

Both emphasize a commitment to the poor and see the human dignity in every person, said Professor Douglas Bushman of the Augustine Institute.

In the next Archbishop’s Lecture Series April 8 on the John Paul II Center campus, Bushman will speak about the pontiff’s focus on serving the poor and recognizing the God-given dignity in everyone, in particular those neglected by a world that values productivity and defines fulfillment in terms of material prosperity, he said.

He offered a glimpse of his upcoming talk with the Denver Catholic Register.

Blessed Pope John Paul II once said Vatican II and its documents are like a gift the Holy Spirit gave the modern Church, Bushman shared.

“Well, people love to open gifts, so they should open up the documents of Vatican II and read them,” Bushman said. “When my students study these texts, they always express their surprise at how profoundly relevant, biblical and spiritual they are.”

“Gaudium et Spes” is no exception, Bushman said.

In this document faithful may find one of the greatest gifts—the answer to many of life’s deepest and most profound questions like the meaning and purpose of life.

This answer, he said, lies in Christ.

“The main point of ‘Gaudium et Spes’ is that Christ is the answer to all of the questions that people cannot avoid asking about the meaning and purpose of life,” Bushman said.

The document states, “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.”

Continue to the full article at Denver Catholic Register
14March

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

March 16, 2014

Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 12:1-4a

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031614.cfm

It is easy to think that God is distant, uncaring, comfortably sitting in the sky somewhere, and ignoring us. We have a lot of problems and if we were omnipotent, that’s probably how we would treat humanity and everybody else. Total, absolute power sounds like a quick way to establish permanent, perfectly comfortable vacation away from all the noise, evils and “issues” that take up so much of our time. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God could have condemned humanity to reap the harvest of its own sin. He could have left us to our own devices or even annihilated us. But he didn’t. Instead, he tracked down a guy named Abraham and calls him to do something unusual—to believe.

Lectionary Plan for Lent

On this Second Sunday of Lent, the Lectionary provides us with a second snapshot of salvation history. The Sunday Old Testament readings for Lent follow a chronological progression. In the first week, we hear of Adam and Eve, in the second, Abraham, then Moses and David, then finally the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah. In this way, the Lectionary takes us by the hand for a whirlwind tour of humanity’s creation, fall, and promised redemption, which will be brought about by Jesus during Holy Week. This chronological telling of Salvation History will be recapitulated in the many readings of the Easter Vigil.

God Launches His Rescue Mission

Here in Genesis 12, God launches his rescue mission to fallen humanity. Adam and Eve sinned; Noah’s generation sinned; the people after the Flood sinned. Our ancestors established a rather consistent track record. God now initiates a more drastic—and yet more subtle—plan of action. He puts in a call to Abraham, who lived in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and later in Haran (in modern Turkey). This is the beginning of the story of salvation, God’s intervention in history. In fact, when St. Stephen offers his defense to the Sanhedrin, he starts the retelling of salvation history with the call of Abraham (Acts 7:3). The Lord invites Abraham on a mission. He calls him to leave his homeland and family and go to a place where he has never been in order to initiate God’s rescue plan for humanity. Abraham plays a key role as the father of the Chosen People and the Father of Faith. His “yes” to God begins the story of Israel, within which Jesus will appear to bring salvation to the whole world.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
12March

The Lenten Desert: God Testing Our Hearts

Taken from To Keep and to Ponder
by Dr. Edward Sri

The Lenten Desert: God Testing Our Hearts

The Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent takes us into the desert—the place of testing. Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness recall Israel’s 40 years’ sojourn in the desert. What was the purpose of this long journey through the wilderness? Moses told the people that God brought them there so that “he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart” (Deut. 8:2).

The testing of Israel entailed more than seeing if the people would obey God’s commands. Their trials in the desert were intended to test their hearts.

And when we experience our own deserts –when we experiences trials in life or struggles in prayer—we should remember that God may be doing the same with us. He may be testing our own hearts: Are our hearts truly for God and God alone? Or are they committed to the Lord only for what He does for us. This was the kind of testing Israel faced.

In Egypt, the Israelites benefited from God’s spectacular signs and wonders. They saw God’s might hand inflict the Egyptians with plague after plague. In Egypt, they were liberated from slavery and they witnessed God’s triumph over their enemies. They sang God’s praises and rejoiced in the Lord their savior.

But when taken out in the desert, things became very different. The people were humbled, taken out of all that was familiar, traveling in the wilderness without food and drink, unsure where the Lord will lead them next, and wondering if they will ever get to the Promised Land. Shaken, the people began to doubt. They began to fear and complain. They even were tempted to go back to Egypt—at least that was familiar to them.

What would they do now? Would they truly allow the Lord to guide them? Would they entrust their lives completely to God?

Or would they strain to remain in control—afraid to let go, trusting in their own plans and timetables, failing to allow their lives to be led by God’s Word?

Continue reading at To Keep and To Ponder
11March

Faculty Focus: Douglas Bushman

Faculty Focus: Douglas Bushman

Meet Douglas Bushman

Prof. Bushman started out as a philosophy major, where he was drawn to the vocation of the intellectual life. After finishing his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) degree at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, Bushman worked at a parish for four years, where he lived with three holy priests and got to know the Church at the “retail level,” and acquainted him with the daily pastoral issues of the Church. Then, after six years of working as the Director of Education for the Diocese of Duluth, MN, Bushman became the director for the Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies master’s program at the University of Dallas.

Bushman has been talking about the New Evangelization under the heading of “Pastoral Theology” for the past 20 years, following the lead of Blessed Pope John Paul II and the second Vatican Council. “That’s why I’m so at home here at the Augustine Institute,” he said. Being a Thomist, he loves being able to find the roots of pastoral theology in Thomas Aquinas’ works, Bushman added.

When Bushman was the director of the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University, he first heard about the Augustine Institute when it was still only an idea. Watching with great interest, he admired the innovative use of technology and absorbed the positive reports of the program and its graduates.

Bushman was given the title of the Blessed Pope John Paul II Chair for the New Evangelization as a recognition of his service to the Church and to convey the mission he has been entrusted with: to compile, finish and publish the fruit of years of labor in the New Evangelization. In addition to writing his own works, Bushman also contributed to “Man Up: Become the New Catholic Renaissance Man” by Jared Zimmerer.

What would it be like to sit in on one of Professor Bushman's classes? Here is a sneak peak!



Bushman’s writings and articles can be found in print in Magnificat and The Catholic Servant, and online at Ignatius Insight, Catholic Answers, the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary blog, and the Augustine Institute’s Tolle Lege blog.

Links to articles:

Bushman Quotes:

  • “Occasionally I think in French.”
  • “We love to be around saints. They make us feel comfortable because they are so comfortable in God’s love and make us want to be in that position of God’s love.”
  • “God does not subscribe to the axiom 'if you want to do things well, do it yourself.' He sends bunglers out there to tell His story.”
  • “All the saints are comfortable with themselves because they so deeply experience God’s love for them.”
  • “If you love the truth more than you love yourself, you like having friends who are smarter than you.”
10March

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. Christopher Blum

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

“To me, I confess, one thing has always seemed preeminently fitting: that every costlier or costliest thing should serve, first and foremost, for the administration of the Holy Eucharist.”

If one were able to compare the great churches of France in the year 1100 to those standing a century and a half later, the marked difference in architectural style would be easy to see. Many of the elements that had characterized the Romanesque style remained: high stone vaults, internal elevations of multiple stories, pointed arches, extensive sculptural programs, and prominent towers. Yet these same elements were taken up into a more generous conception of interior space and overall monumentality that successfully created what most of us think of when we hear the word cathedral: the Gothic style.

It was in the Renaissance that the new style of the twelfth century came to be called Gothic, because the Goths had been barbarians, and the men of the Italian renaissance tended to downplay the achievements of their rivals to the north. With Chateaubriand’s Genius of Christianity (1802), ideological classicism was dealt a severe blow, and it became respectable and even common to admire high medieval architecture, so much so that the name Gothic has long since lost its original, negative connotation. It is, however, well to be aware that the creators of the style did not call their own churches Gothic. Indeed, we have no idea what they called them, for these master builders left behind no narrative accounts. But their German neighbors, who admired the new style and imported it, did give it a name: the Opus Francigena, or, loosely, the French way of building.

This French style was born at the Abbey of St. Denis, just north of Paris, under the patronage of one of the most extraordinary men of the twelfth century, the Abbot Suger (1081-1151). Beginning in 1137, he presided over the reconstruction of the abbey of St. Denis. His master-builder is unknown to us, but between the builder and the abbot, a new style was forged, a style through which, to borrow from its patron’s own words, “the dull mind rises to truth through that which is material.”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
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