Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sister Joan Chittister OSB on St. Francis of Assisi

I do not always agree with everything that Sister Joan has written, but I like this little essay
she wrote for the the National Catholic Reporter website; on St. Francis

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 - Religious Tolerance: My September Fraternity Newsletter Column

“Secular Franciscans are called to make their own contribution, inspired by the person and message of Saint Francis of Assisi, towards a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, shared responsibility, and love may be living realities.

They should deepen the true foundations of universal kinship and create a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fraternity everywhere. They should firmly commit themselves to oppose every form of exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion and against every attitude of indifference in relation to others.” (Article 18: 1-3; General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order)

We are gathering as a fraternity on September 11, 2010. 9/11, not since December 7th, 1941, has a date had such an impact on the psyche of our nation. It has been 9 years since that tragic day, and we are now beginning to see more signs of what the media has been calling “Islamophobia.” The desire of some American Muslims to build an Islamic cultural center near what has been called “Ground Zero,” has touched a raw nerve, which has set ablaze a wave of anti-Islamic anger and attacks. Not only in New York City, but in other communities, people have been protesting even the legitimate building of Islamic centers or mosques.

We Catholics should remember that is not that long ago that anti-Catholic sentiment swept the nation. Catholics were restricted on where to build churches. Any Catholic was thought to owe their allegiance to a foreign leader (the Pope); and therefore not a true American. Even during the colonial days of Massachusetts, a Catholic, Baptist, a Quaker could be whipped, even hung for their beliefs. It was to defend religious minorities from the intolerance of the religious majority, expressed through the State, for which the First Amendment was made to the Constitution.

In Francis’s day, for a Christian knight to kill a Muslim was considered an honor, and vice versa. When Francis approached the Sultan’s camp, unarmed, with love in his heart, his goal was to end the killing by converting the Muslim army. He failed, but he earned the respect of the Sultan by his courteous approach. It is this example that we need to emulate, whenever we encounter our Muslim brothers and sisters. It is time that we stop this hate that is gripping our country. It is time for us to be true instruments of peace.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"What Happened at Vatican II" - A Review and Reflection

I recently finished an excellent book by Fr. John W. O’Malley, “What Happened at Vatican II.” It is a very readable account of the Second Vatican Council, which ran from1962 to 1965.

He begins by the outlining the condition of the Catholic Church in the decades leading up to Vatican II, the view of the Church, the hierarchy, the place of the laity within the Church at that time, the involvement of the Church in the world of the 19th and early 20th century.

He then describes the opening of the Council, and covers the main events of the four sessions; the documents, the debates, the behind the scenes, and the results. He writes a narrative that anyone can understand and appreciate.

Reading this book has given me a new appreciation of the accomplishments of Vatican II, what the Council Fathers were striving for, what the spirit of the Council was, and how endangered that spirit is.

For me, the main themes of the Council of importance are first of all that we are all called to holiness. That all the baptized have a share in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly ministries of Jesus Christ.

This means that the laity are no longer observers of the liturgy, but are called to be active participants in it. The laity, as did the clergy, received the command from Christ to proclaim the Good News, by word and life. The means that the laity has a voice concerning the life of the Church, letting their pastors know their needs, sharing their opinions on issues of importance for the Church.

I still sense distrust among some of the bishops about the laity; that the laity must be kept separated from the sanctuary; that the sacred acts must be hidden from their eyes; that they are unworthy to receive the Body of Christ in their hands. There are bishops who have forgotten that they are called to be servant leaders, not lords. That they must listen to the laity, as they share their experiences, and struggles of living the Gospel.

Many wonderful things came out of Vatican II. Their implementation has been a long, slow process, with mistakes being made, and sometimes a desire to turn back the clock. I can only hope and pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will overcome our human weakness, enflame our hearts once again, and keep the spirit of Vatican II alive.