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Called to Action for Justice

Editor: Amy Woolam Echeverria is the International Coordinator of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Missionary Society of St. Columban.

Untitled-1Bishops at the Synod in Vatican City in 1971

“Justice attains its inner fullness only in love. Because every person is truly a visible image of the invisible God and a sibling of Christ, the Christian finds in every person God himself and God's absolute demand for justice and love.” (Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World, 1971, #34).

Written at a time of great global social and political upheaval and on the heels of the Second Vatican Council, we hear the Church calling for a radical restructuring of the world where the first will be last and the last will be first (Mat 20:16) and where we define our neighbor not by nationality, race, or creed, but by a love that impels us to be in relationship in the world especially with the vulnerable and marginalized.

Read more: Called to Action for Justice


Editor: This is the summary version of the report. The full report is available at the conclusion of this article (in downloadable PDF format).

(Vatican Radio, October 14, 2014) As discussion at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family got underway Monday morning, it was announced that the second phase of this process – next year’s Ordinary Synod – will be held October 4-25, 2015, and will have theme: The vocation and mission of the family in the church and the modern world.

Untitled-1Following the announcement the General Rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdő, presented the mid-term report outlining the main questions highlighted over the past week of General Congregations which will now be examined in by the bishops, fraternal delegates, auditors and experts in the ‘minor circles’ or small working groups.

Cardinal Erdő began by highlighting that the Synod Fathers spoke of how Jesus looked at men and women with love, accompanying them patiently and with mercy. He spoke of how Jesus Christ, "the Truth, became incarnate in human fragility not to condemn it, but to heal it”. Jesus – he said - taught marriage was indissoluble, but showed understanding of those who didn't live up to this ideal.


Are you a “Mr. Cellophane?

There is a plaintive song from the Broadway show, Chicago, entitled “Mr. Cellophane”. The character complains: “Cellophane, Mister Cellophane, shoulda been my name. Mister Cellophane, 'Cause you can look right through me, walk right by me and never know I'm there...”

Untitled-1This sad but humorous song points out that you probably notice your cat, your spouse of seven years, and others but “a human being's made of more than air. With all that bulk, you're bound to see him there, unless that human bein' next to you is unimpressive, undistinguished…You know who... Mr. Cellophane.”

Oddly, when I was in the seminary, learning how to lead people in prayer at Catholic Mass, I remember being told that a Catholic priest’s job at Mass is to become invisible! Our teacher explained that, when we lead prayer, we should do it with so much care and love that we, in a sense, become invisible – and only the presence of God is noticed by those in the congregation.

I found that to be a fascinating idea – “my purpose is to become invisible.” I can see this idea extended to other venues and situations.

Read more: Are you a “Mr. Cellophane?

Strive for the Greater Gifts!

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:31)

Untitled-1It’s early in the new semester of fall 2014. I walked into our campus bookstore the other day and found the usual line which forms at the beginning of a new school year. The place packed with students who had that look on their faces that said, “This semester I’m going to get my act together.” The fall semester always brings new determination and focus.

In The New York Times Sunday Review article, “The Secret Effects of Motivation”, by Amy Wrzreniewski and Barry Schwartz (July 4, 2014) related a study of West Point Cadets that found that when students were motivated by higher values (make the world better, be a better person, a person who understands the world, become a leader, etc.,) they did better in their academics and five years out of college were doing better in life than those who studied to get a better job, make more money or become famous. They studied 11,000 cadets. Most surprising was the singular higher value motivation that did better than those with mixed motivations was create a better world and get a good job!

Read more: Strive for the Greater Gifts!

Martyrs of the Americas – Romero, Labaka and Arango

In our series of articles on New Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, we will highlight people who are true contemporary martyrs. Many lesser-known heroes are presently memorialized in a side-altar display in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island in Rome, Italy.

Untitled-1Bishop Oscar Romero

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez  (1917-1980) was the Archbishop of San Salvador, and spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. He was assassinated while offering Mass in 1980. In 1997, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God, and a cause for beatification and canonization was opened for the assassinated bishop. In this exhibit, he is commemorated by his Roman Missal.

Archbishop Romero denounced the persecution of members of the Catholic Church who had worked on behalf of the poor, In a speech at the Université Catholique de Louvain, in Belgium on Feb. 2, 1980, he said:

“In less than three years, more than fifty priests have been attacked, threatened, calumniated. Six are already martyrs – they were murdered. Some have been tortured and others expelled [from the country]. Nuns have also been persecuted. The archdiocesan radio station and educational institutions that are Catholic or of a Christian inspiration have been attacked, threatened, intimidated, even bombed. Several parish communities have been raided.

Read more: Martyrs of the Americas – Romero, Labaka and Arango

Everything Old is New Again

Untitled-1As we get older, we may occasionally tire of “the new” and wish that some things would just remain the same. And as Catholics there are definitely some beliefs that are central to our faith and we can be sure that they will never change.

However all of us baptized need to adjust to our ongoing need for growth and constant conversion or change of heart. Like fine wine, our heart must continue to be open to an ever-deepening of our faith through new experiences, information and reflection. In other words, in secular terms, as we get older we should be getting better!


This is also true that topics that at first seem quite new for us may really be only new to us. For example, when I was younger I don’t remember ever hearing about evangelization except in connection with the Protestant denominations. Yet, as we learn from Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelium Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), he sees that from our own Baptism we are called to be evangelizers. He says:

Read more: Everything Old is New Again

The Gospel Meets the World

Untitled-1Jesus was a man of his time and culture. He was a peasant Jew growing up, working, and ministering for most of his life in Galilee, in northern Judea. After the death of Joseph, he grew up in a single-parent household and earned his living as a tradesman, a carpenter.

When he looked around him he saw farmers sowing their seeds and harvesting their crops, shepherds tending their flocks, and fishermen on the Sea of Galilee hauling in their catch or mending their nets on the seashore.

He saw neighbors crushed by poverty, resentful of the heavy Roman taxes. He witnessed the difficult life of widows – like his own mother – and of orphans. He saw up close and at first hand the loss and sorrow caused by death and hopelessness. The flint hard life of peasants found occasional release in joyous, no-holds-barred wedding feasts or in the birth of a child.

When he was about thirty (Luke 3:23), he took to the road, preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and announcing the good news (gospel) of God’s gracious favor. As he moved among the villages and hamlets of Galilee, he addressed people who came from the same background as he did. He spoke to them using the language, images, and experiences they shared in common. He spoke about farmers: the one who went out to sow his seed; the one who was concerned about weeds in his crop of wheat; and the one who needed a bigger barn for his abundant harvest.

Read more: The Gospel Meets the World

Pope Francis’s Pectoral Cross

Untitled-1Pope Francis (on left) with his pectoral cross;
(on right) a close-up of his pectoral cross.
You may have noticed a bishop’s or pope’s pectoral cross at one time or another. The words “pectoral” means “on the chest”, which is precisely how it is used by bishops, abbots, cardinals and popes. It is odd to realize that the pectoral cross with its accompanying chain was worn in ancient and medieval times not only by clergy but also by laity as well. However by the end of the Medieval period this insignia was only worn by bishops and other high-ranking Church officials.

Today the pectoral cross is much larger than the crosses worn by many Christians. Its design can be a crucifix – that is, a cross with a corpus (the body of Jesus); other designs include more stylized designs and symbols. Generally it hangs from the neck and is worn in the center of the chest below the heart (as opposed to just below the collarbones) and can even contain relics of a saint.

The Cross of Pope Francis

The maker of Pope Francis’s Pectoral Crossgives the following explanation:

“The copyrighted original version of Pope Francis Pectoral Cross was created by the Italian craftsmen Antonio Vedele. The cross is also, know as the Papa Francesco Cross or Papa Francisco Cross.

“The beauty of the cross is the meaning and simplicity it depicts: Christ the Good Shepherd leading the flock and carries the lost sheep on his shoulders. On the top of the cross is depicted the Holy Spirit. The cross is beautiful highly detailed silver oxidized die cast and is made in Italy.

Read more: Pope Francis’s Pectoral Cross

Married Catholic Priests and Vocations

Untitled-1Catholic priest, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, with his wife and children; he was a married former Anglican clergyman and serves in a Catholic parish in Greenville, NC.Married priests? I am one. As a former Anglican minister, I have been ordained as a Catholic priest under a special measure called the Pastoral Provision. Through this process a married man who has been ordained in the Anglican (and sometimes Lutheran and Methodist churches) is granted a dispensation from the vow of celibacy in order to be ordained as a Catholic priest.

Therefore I am frequently asked, “Father, you are so good with the children, and you understand marriage first hand. Don’t you think the church should allow priests to marry?” First of all there are some distinctions to be made. Celibacy for priests is a discipline of the church, not a doctrine. That is why exceptions can be made and the rule could be changed.

The dangers and challenges of changing the Church's discipline

However, if it is changed that doesn’t mean that (all) priests can be married. The Church continues to uphold the fine and ancient tradition of priestly celibacy and a priest has taken a vow of celibacy which is life-long and cannot be broken.

Read more: Married Catholic Priests and Vocations

She Whom God Called "Mother"

Untitled-1Madonna of the Streets (or Madonnina, "Little Mother") by Roberto Ferruzzi (1854-1934)It is beautiful, it is worthy and beneficial to discourse at length on the title of the Blessed Virgin - the Immaculate Conception, the Divine Motherhood, Assumption, Mediation, Co-Redemptrix - if never forget that this Great Woman of all ages, called “blessed”, was also the lovely girl that her friends simply called Mary.

Mary – A Most Special Little Girl

We knew who she was, but, then again, we don’t know. We knew she was the only daughter of an old couple loved by Anne and Joachim and their neighbors. With them the small town of Nazareth certainly had jumped for joy the day their little girl was born.

Mary being their first-born, it may have appeared to them that God was not favoring them since being childless was seen as an infamous curse. Yet no doubt Anne and Joachim frequently engaged in fasting and praying, hoping, even in their old age, that God would finally bless them with new life.

We can imagine that God, since the very creation of the world, had sat down to think with more delicacy and attention before God created that very special soul – in many ways so special. Then, having completed this masterpiece, God resolved never again to create any similar person because, after all, God was creating the soul of the mother of God’s only Son. 

Read more: She Whom God Called "Mother"

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”

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