Continued prayers for those affected by Ebola

ebola

It is with profound sadness that we learn of the two Dallas healthcare workers being treated for the Ebola virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson. We pray not only for their recovery, but also for their families and loved ones.

We commend the efforts of Dallas city and county officials for the manner in which they have responded to these serious incidents. We are confident that local, state and national health officials will take the necessary steps to care for the sick and protect the community.

This situation reminds of the countless hours of selfless service that nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals and institutions provide in protecting us and our community. This is a time for our community to respond with calmness and compassion.

Let us continue our support of community efforts and prayers for those whose lives have been touched.

The little things in life bring us happiness

littlethings

It has always seemed to me that in the final analysis the little things of everyday life are what bring us happiness and satisfaction in life. Now there is scientific evidence to support my feeling.

An editorial in America (Sept. 22, 2014) comments on research in The Journal of Consumer Research, reporting that for older people small, quotidian events can provide as much happiness as extraordinary experiences. Of course, once-in-a-lifetime events like a trip to the Holy Land or winning a marathon are unforgettable and can be a happy experience, providing wonderful memories, but they don’t make a life.

It occurs to me that the happiness value of the more mundane and pedestrian life events is what we talk about when a friend or relative dies. Coffee klatches, golf games, family outings, life’s passages, baptisms, birthdays, marriages, graduations, ordinations are the subject of our stories. What do we really enjoy? Dinner with friends, listening to music, reading a good book or the Sunday paper. Why? Because they bring us happiness and satisfaction.

Younger people may look for the “mountain top” experiences, but maturity helps discern that which brings true happiness and satisfaction. America concludes its editorial with a passage from First Timothy, “Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.”

Image Credit: “Shoes are not for Reading,” by Angela (Angie) Accarrino on Flickr.

 

2014 University of Dallas Ministry Conference

udmc2014

For me the University of Dallas Ministry Conference has become a wonderful fall tradition and celebration of being Church. It is a time of networking, of growth, of worship and entertainment. It is a coming together of the Church of North Texas and beyond. It is truly an experience of walking in faith together.

An impressive array of speakers of national and international note has been assembled by the UD School of Ministry for the conference on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 23-25. There will be tracks for Catholic School teachers, youth ministers, catechists, parish catechetical leaders and marriage ministers who wish to grow in their ministerial skills and knowledge.

But the conference is also for all who wish to grow in their faith, with workshops in Scripture, spirituality, marriage and family life and the social teachings of our Church. Sessions will be offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

In addition to the sessions, the exhibits offer a chance to see new techniques and programs that are available for parishes and schools and see the new offerings from the best Catholic publishers. There will also be liturgical art displays and musical performances.

This year the conference will again be held at the Irving Convention Center, with a direct connection to the DART Orange Line.

I urge all Catholics to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in faith, understanding and ministerial skills. I invite you to visit http://www.udallas.edu/udmc/index.html or phone 972-721-5105 or 972-265-5811 to register or get more information.

Perhaps the UDMC will become your new fall tradition, too.

A course in Reality 101 for Synod Fathers

Synod

At the beginning of each session of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, the Synod Fathers receive some very valuable information. It comes from one of the 12 married couple auditors participating in this Synod who give their perspective on the pastoral needs of families based on their personal experience. It has been a course in Reality 101 for the Synod Fathers as the couples from all parts of the world share their intimate insights of conjugal spirituality, sexuality, birth control, children, including those who have chosen a gay or lesbian lifestyle and the pain of separation and divorce.

It is interesting to compare the approach to pastoral needs of the family at this Extraordinary Synod with the approach taken at the Second Vatican Council. To begin with, unlike the Synod, artificial birth control was taken off the table by Pope Paul VI. In comparison to the Extraordinary Synod’s 12 married couples, there was only one married couple among the auditors of Vatican II. They were Pepe and Luzma Alvarez-Icaza of Mexico City, who were present at the third and fourth sessions and contributed in committee meetings but not to the assembly of Council Fathers.

It would be unfair to imply that the bishops at the Synod had no understanding of the challenges faced by families today, but to hear such frank statements from couples from so many areas of the globe brings the reality of their pastoral need home in a strong manner. It also counters a tendency among many bishops to dismiss many difficulties faced by families as uniquely American.

Council Fathers at Vatican II did address the family, primarily in terms of conjugal spirituality, conjugal love and as primary educators of their children but did little to address the situations that are so pressing today that were not as center stage 50 years ago.

To his credit, Pope Francis asked for candor. It appears he is getting just that from the auditor couples. Please join me in continuing to pray for the success of this very important Synod.

Image Credit:  CNS photo/Paul Haring

Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family

Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family

What is happening in the Vatican is both unique and traditional. The Synod of Bishops that began this week reflects the ancient tradition of discerning the will of God that began with the Apostles when the question of Gentile converts was discerned at what is sometimes referred to as the Council of Jerusalem in the 15th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Under the leadership of Peter, the leaders of the young church prayed and after much debate discerned what should be required of Gentile converts. Peter confirmed and announced the results as, “The decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…”

It is unique in that the Synod Fathers will have a much more open structure with open discussion than has been true in the past. In addition to the bishops, married couples and other lay persons are participating. This ancient process of discerning the Spirit was recalled by the Holy Father when he addressed the opening session of the Synod. Pope Francis called on the Synod Fathers to speak freely and openly and to listen to others with humility. “Therefore, I ask of you”, the Holy Father insisted, “these two attitudes of brothers in the Lord: speak with parrhesia and listen with humility. And do so with great tranquility and peace, because the Synod always takes place ‘cum Petro et sub Petro’ (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is a guarantee for all and a protection of faith”.

In a blog last May I remarked on the Pope’s use of the term “parrhesia”. “It comes from the Greek παρρησία which means to speak with freedom.” It is used 31 times in the New Testament, where it means to speak boldly and fearlessly with courage and without ambiguity. Pope Francis spoke of the “parrhesia of the Holy Spirit.”

He also used the term “cum Petro et sub Petro” which is an ancient expression of collegiality. We recall the passage from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, par. 22, “Just as by the Lord’s will St. Peter and the other apostles constituted one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff as the successor of Peter, and the bishops as the successors of the apostles are joined together.”

We must keep in mind that the Synod is a discerning body, not a legislative one. Its purpose is to reflect on how to apply the teachings of Jesus to contemporary pastoral situations. The fruits of this extraordinary synod will provide input for the ordinary Synod in 2015.

Please join me in prayer for the Holy Father and the Synod Fathers as they seek the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit.

 

Image credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring

Calm, Compassion and Prayers are Needed

prayer-3

I am very grateful that North Texans are compassionate and always ready to help a neighbor in need. This is truly a wonderful community. So it is my great hope that we will all respond to the current appearance of the Ebola virus in Dallas with that same legendary compassion…and calm. I believe that the near hysteria sweeping our community and indeed, the entire country, since the diagnosis of Thomas Eric Duncan is fueled by misunderstanding and exacerbated by overwhelming media coverage.

The facts call for a calm, reasoned approach to this situation. City, county and national health authorities have given assurances that Ebola is spread only by direct contact. Every effort and all necessary steps are being taken to identify, monitor and, when necessary, isolate affected people.

As Christians and people of goodwill, we should feel great compassion for Mr. Duncan, his family, and all those affected by this virus here and in West Africa where so many have died. We are especially grateful for the dedicated medical personnel here and abroad who are committed to stop the spread of this terrible illness.

We should also be very conscious of the escalating number of children affected by the D68 Enterovirus. And, as we enter influenza season, we must also remain vigilant in recognizing the symptoms of these more highly contagious viruses and take precautions.

Catholics attending Mass should remember that it is up to each individual to decide whether to drink from the cup at Communion. Those who suspect symptoms that may signal impending illness should refrain from doing so. Likewise, during the Sign of Peace, people may offer simpler gestures (smile, simple bow of the head) to accompany the words of peace instead of a handshake or hug.

I ask that you join me in praying for all those who are battling serious illness. May God restore them to good health, bring comfort to them and their loved ones and protect all those who offer care and treatment to them. I also pray that we can approach this time of illness with calm and compassion and that we will encourage others to do so as well.

Fear of the Lord

Holy Trinity

 

In Isaiah’s messianic prophecy on the Root of Jesse we read, “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.”

We might ask “what can be delightful about fear?” The two words seem directly opposite to one another. But the Hebrew word used by the prophet is yirah which refers not to a fear based on terror but rather a fear based on reverence or awe. It is the feeling we get when confronted by the majesty of God’s creation, the overpowering splendor of the night sky or the endless sea, before which we feel overwhelmed by our own insignificance.

As is often the case with words that become clichés, awesome has been stripped of its power, but it aptly describes the experience of joy and delight Paul describes in his letter to the Church at Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”

Fear of the Lord means a filial reverence, an awareness of the inconceivable reality that we are sons and daughters of God, confident in the knowledge of the Father’s unconditional love. As with all the Gifts of the Spirit, Fear of the Lord comes from an intimate personal relationship with Jesus who is the personification of the Father’s unconditional love. (John 3:16).

Domestic violence is all about power

 Domestic violence is all about power

Recent public outrage over domestic violence is long overdue, but the problem is far larger than a few football players and a federal judge. For us, as a church, it is a serious pastoral problem. Addressing domestic violence is just as central to the Catholic mission as helping the poor and the hungry. It is not something that only occurs with celebrities whose abusive behavior it spotlighted by the media, one in four women in America is a victim of domestic violence and every six hours a woman in this country dies at the hand of her spouse.

What that means is that these victims live next door to you or down the street. They may be sitting in the next pew at Mass. It is a crime that usually occurs behind closed doors, but it doesn’t stay there. It spreads out in concentric circles. It is also a safe environment issue, not only because of the danger to the abused spouse, but because of the children who witness the abuse. Children who grow up in violent homes are six times more likely to commit suicide. They are 24 times more likely to commit sexual assaults and 75 times more likely to commit crimes against people.

Who are these perpetrators? First of all, they are bullies. Domestic violence is all about power. It is about possessiveness and jealousy. Abusers are quick to blame others for their actions, “She made me angry.” Their abusive behavior is usually manifested in other ways through playful use of force or cruelty to animals. Frequently they have been victims of abuse themselves.

Victims of domestic violence should be encouraged to seek professional help which is available. Information on resources may be obtained from the Diocesan Safe Environment Office at 214-379-2812.

Domestic violence is unacceptable and against the will of God.

Image Credit:  CNS photo illustration/Greg Tarczynski