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