Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 30

1. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The bishops have said domestic violence has no place in relationships, there's a way to recognize it and to help.

2. In a letter to the National Security Council, USCCB International Justice and Peace Chairman Bishop Richard E. Pates and Dr. Carolyn Woo, President of Catholic Relief Services, welcome the expanded response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

3. Did you see Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI together this past weekend?

4. Respect Life Month also begins tomorrow and you can find many resources for life issues at USCCB.org.

5. God loves you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 29

1. Respect Life Month begins Wednesday. In the Respect Life Statement, Cardinal Sean O'Malley said, "Our mission is to show each person the love of Christ. As uniquely created individuals, we each have unique gifts which we are called to use to share Christ’s love. We are continually given opportunities to do so in our interactions with the cashier at the grocery store, our spouses, children, friends and even the people we encounter in traffic. Each of these moments is valuable beyond our realization. We may never know how much a simple gesture of compassion may affect someone’s life."

2. Bishop William Callahan, OFM Conv., of the Diocese of La Crosse talks about living the vows of a consecrated life--poverty, chastity and obedience.

3. The USCCB will host a media conference Oct. 1 at 10 a.m. for the kickoff of the Year of Consecrated Life. Representatives from the three national coalitions of religious orders, will present a set of initiatives that focus on bringing together consecrated religious men and women and families, particularly young adults.Watch it live.

4. Catholic News Service reports, "Pope Francis warned against the abandonment and neglect of the elderly, calling it a 'hidden euthanasia' rooted in today's 'poisonous' culture of disposal and an economic system of greed."

5. God loves you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 26

1. Have you installed the new Catholic News Service mobile app on your iOS or Android device? Use the app today for your chance to win The Simple Wisdom of Pope Francis collection. We'll select 20 winners at random on September 29th and you could be one of them!

2. In a letter to the National Security Council, USCCB International Justice and Peace Chairman Bishop Richard E. Pates and Dr. Carolyn Woo, President of Catholic Relief Services, welcome the expanded response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

3. Father John Crossin is now on Twitter, sharing thoughts on ecumenical outreach in the Catholic Church.

4. Bishop William Callahan, OFM Conv., of the Diocese of La Crosse talks about living the vows of a consecrated life--poverty, chastity and obedience.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 24

1. Speaking at the United Nations, the Vatican's Secretary of State said Climate Change is a man-made issue that demands responsibility and action.

2. Baseball's postseason is next month, but Pope Francis got in the action a little early Wednesday.

3. October is National Respect Life Month. Find out why the Church protects life in all its stages.

4. Also, National Vocational Awareness Week is November 2-8

5. God loves you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 19

1. This weekend brings Catechetical Sunday, which will focus on the theme "Teaching About God's Gift of Forgiveness."

2. Catholic News Service says bishops are returning to the U.S. "after a nine-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a stronger resolve to advocate for peace and to urge the U.S. government to take a leadership role in ushering Israelis and Palestinians toward peace."

3. Pope Francis said the economy and social order must serve the human person.

4. Are you following Marriage: Unique for a Reason and For Your Marriage on Facebook?

5. God loves you.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Protect the Internet for what it is: essential to the common good

By Bishop John C. Wester 

Increasingly, Americans now use the Internet for almost every aspect of their lives, and that means more than only downloading videos to entertain. We use the Internet to find employment; get, share and create news; take care of our health; take part in formal education and sate our curiosity about many things outside of formal education; engage in political activity and interact with our governments; organize ourselves and band together for support and fellowship, and even seek spiritual insights and support of our faith.

It is almost impossible for anyone who is trying to improve her life or to contribute to her community, to do so without access to the Internet. Knowledge is power, and for the marginalized, denial of Internet service often means being made even more powerless.

The Pew Research Internet Project reports that 87 percent of Americans use the Internet, with near saturation usage among those living in households earning $75,000 or more, young adults ages 18-29, and the college-educated. While our workplace usage hasn’t changed significantly in the past 15 years (44 to 41 percent), digital activity outside of the workplace has become almost universal.

With that in mind, it seems clear that access to the Internet is as essential and necessary for Americans as is access to education, news and other services that allow us to flourish and make positive contributions to society.

The Federal Communication Commission’s recent interest in creating a “two-tiered” Internet will impair for many Americans this basic need – fast, reliable access to all Internet content. Instead of adopting rules that permit the wealthiest companies to purchase the best service, the FCC should insist on fair treatment for everyone no matter our income.

Community-serving organizations – such as the church – should not be treated as secondary “customers” in this digital environment. The content and connections we provide to people are more important than entertainment content -- such as movies and television shows -- even though we don’t have the resources to compete with entertainment companies to pay more to the Internet providers.
 Nonprofits rely on the Internet to strengthen their human networks. They use digital platforms to raise money, to mobilize advocacy work, to alert people of dangerous situations, to connect loved ones, to educate children and adults and to provide charitable and humanitarian aid.

Allowing some Internet content to be favored because of its greater ability to pay could result in an even greater divide between the powerful and the rest of a community. Under that scenario, decisions regarding access to public information, the ability to organize, and other first amendment rights, would be determined based only on the bottom line of corporations, not to promote the common good.

The World Wide Web is an international treasure of information, creativity and human potential. It should be preserved and protected by regulation as a place that fosters the best in humankind. The FCC needs a better vision of what the Internet is and what it can do.


Bishop John Wester is chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications and bishop of the Salt Lake City Diocese.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 17

1. Updates from the Holy Land during the Peace Pilgrimage show how the bishops are meeting with leaders of Israel and Palestine, as well as visiting Gaza.

2. The sixth meeting of Pope Francis' council of cardinals is currently taking place.

3. Speaking of Pope Francis, he says to never leave home without your pocket Gospel.

4. October is Respect Life Month and the Catholic Church believes each life is a masterpiece of God's creation.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 16

1. Bishop Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania is spending the night in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as part of the bishops' peace pilgrimage. Join him in prayer between 1 p.m. and midnight (Eastern) on Tuesday, September 16. Bishop Barres will share reflections on the experience once it's completed. Also, he welcomes your special intentions as he prays at the sites of the crucifixion and resurrection. Follow on social media at #PeacePilgrimage

2. Catholic News Service reports: "The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 will serve as a forum for debating issues on the agenda for the world Synod of Bishops at the Vatican the following month, said the two archbishops responsible for planning the Philadelphia event."

3. Next month, Catholic bishops from across the globe will gather at the Vatican for the first of two synods on the family and evangelization. Learn more about these synods and the topics they will explore.

4. This year, the Church will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on September 21, 2014, and will focus on the theme "Teaching About God's Gift of Forgiveness."

5. God loves you.

Working for an economy that values dignity

By Bethany J. Welch

The sun rises in South Philadelphia with vans and bikes. Young men in twos and threes cycle north toward the skyscrapers for jobs in restaurants. Others pedal to construction sites and factories. Older women climb aboard fifteen passenger vans with lunch pails, ready for a long day cleaning offices, while young women pin up their hair to keep it clear of the machines at the industrial dry cleaners. Teen girls and old men are left behind to get the young children washed, fed, and out the door to school.

These days end well after the sun has set, sometimes in pain, sometimes in humiliation. Mario became so sick from the air quality at his job in a garment factory that he eventually had to quit. Meanwhile, his wife, also suffering from the effects, took on additional hours at the factory so they would not lose the apartment that houses them and their three young children. Hoa cleaned hotel rooms for four days and was summarily let go on the fifth before wages were paid out. Romo was injured at a construction site and the employer denied knowing who he was when the ambulance came. Eduardo bought three thousand dollars worth of materials for a renovation job only to be told by the homeowner that they wouldn't be having him complete the work.

As a society, our quest for the benefits of robust competition outstrips basic human dignity. Frequently, the path to riches (for the producer) or the possibility to consume with few limits (for the one buying) involves disregarding working conditions, fair wages or the larger impact on communities. There is a high cost for those low prices. In the neighborhood where I work and live, that cost is often shouldered by immigrant families.

Part of my vocation, running the Aquinas Center in Philadelphia, is to accompany these men and women who came to the United States seeking safety, education, religious freedom and economic opportunity. It also involves giving voice to the struggle when their voices are muted. I have turned lately to the wisdom of farmer and author Wendell Berry, finding many applications for life in the city.

In The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, he describes the danger of overvaluing competition:

The great fault of this approach to things is that it is so drastically reductive; it does not permit us to live and work as human beings, as the best of our inheritance defines us. Rats and roaches live by competition under the law of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the law of justice and mercy.

Justice requires us to hold each other accountable for fair wages, wages that permit the head of a household to rent a decent apartment and feed their family. Justice demands that hours, while long, do not subject a person to unreasonable hardship. Mercy calls for paid sick leave and access to health care. Our faith compels us to strive for an economy that values dignity over discounted t-shirts and respect over a cheap meal.

Bethany J. Welch, Ph.D, is Director of the Aquinas Center, and is the 2014 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award winner.

Read Archbishop Wenski's 2014 Labor Day Statement.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 15

1. U.S. Bishops continue their Peace Pilgrimage, which you can track on social media, thanks to our storify and Facebook page.

2. "This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man," Pope Francis said Sunday. "Here we see the reciprocity of differences."

3. New resources are now available for marking the annual observance of October as Respect Life Month with the theme "Each of us is a masterpiece of God's creation. "

4. The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is convening in October to discuss pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization. See a video we did on Pope Francis' letter to families on the synod.

5. God loves you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 8

1. Do you have plans the week of September 11-18? How about following 18 U.S. bishops on a pilgrimage to pray for peace in the Holy Land?

2. Father John Crossin said recent popes have been clear in their desire for continued dialogue with Muslims.

3. Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Pope Francis wants people to wish her a "Happy Birthday" and to say a "Hail Mary from the heart."

4. Pope Francis also said war is senseless slaughter and can always be avoided.

5. God loves you.

As Bishops Go to the Holy Land to Pray for Peace, Follow Their Pilgrim Experience

Do you have plans the week of September 11-18? How about following 18 U.S. bishops on a pilgrimage to pray for peace in the Holy Land? You can do it from the comfort of your home or anywhere you might have access to a device with an Internet connection -- which is to say, practically anywhere.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, is leading the pilgrimage. “Our pilgrimage could not come at a more critical moment,” Bishop Pates said. “The conflict between Israel and Hamas, the latest of far too many cycles of violence, has seriously eroded hope for peace in the Holy Land. Prayer for peace is needed now more than ever.”

The need for the power of prayer has prompted the bishops to open their pilgrimage experience up to virtually everyone through social media. The bishops will visit Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the sites of the Jesus' birth, upbringing, ministry, suffering and death, and as they do so, they will blog, tweet, post on Facebook and share stories with media.

For many Catholics in the United States, particularly those in Iowa, New York, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Texas, California, Georgia, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and in the military, this might just mean your bishop (or retired bishop, or auxiliary bishop, or a neighboring bishop) is making this journey and needs your prayers.

Here are the bishops going on pilgrimage and, where applicable, how you can follow them:

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran, (retired) Oklahoma City
Bishop Tod Brown, (retired) Orange, California
Bishop Oscar Cantú, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Bishop Robert Coyle, (auxiliary) Archdiocese for Military Services
Bishop Bernard Harrington, (emeritus), Winona, Minnesota
Bishop Richard Higgins, (auxiliary) Archdiocese for Military Services
Bishop Howard Hubbard, (retired) Albany, New York
Bishop William Medley, Owensboro, Kentucky
Bishop Dale Melczek, Gary, Indiana
Bishop William Murphy, Rockville Centre, New York
Bishop Michael Pfeifer, (retired) San Angelo, Texas
Bishop Edward Weisenburger, Salina, Kansas (also Twitter)

You can also look for updates from USCCB on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Catholic Relief Services (Facebook, Twitter).

These bishops will follow in the footsteps of Jesus by 2,000 years, follow in the footsteps of Pope Francis by just over three months, and follow the devastation of war by only days. People everywhere are encouraged to follow them, both on social media and with prayers.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Listen to the Popes on the Value of Muslim-Catholic Dialogue

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
By Father John Crossin, OSFS

When the pope says an issue is vital to the stability of the human family, that carries a lot of weight. When the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs wrote their recent statement reaffirming the Church’s commitment to dialogue with Muslims, they found that not only one pope had stressed this idea, but three. In fact, there was such an abundance of verbiage affirming Muslim-Catholic dialogue, from the Second Vatican Council down to Pope Francis, that the bishops dedicated an entire section of their statement to Vatican and papal quotes.

These statements have a clarity that demands our attention. At a time when some encourage violence, the popes speak of friendship and peace. In their combined teaching, themes emerge. We can start with the importance of engagement and friendship, build into common concerns like human dignity and peace, and finally cast a hopeful eye to the future.

Let’s listen attentively for just a few moments…

“Christians and Muslims can work together, bearing witness before modern civilization to the divine presence and loving Providence which guide our steps. Together we can proclaim that he who has made us has called us to live in harmony and justice,” said John Paul II to a delegation of Muslims in 1990. In 2006, Benedict XVI expressed his wish “wish to continue establishing bridges of friendship with the adherents of all religions, showing particular appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians.”

In dialoguing and bearing witness together, we discover what we have in common. “I believe that we, Christians and Muslims, must recognize with joy the religious values that we have in common, and give thanks to God for them,” said John Paul II in 1985. And having this in common, he argued, would contribute to peace.

(CNS photo/Arturo Mari, L'Osservatore Romano)

“No matter how difficult, no matter how long, the process of seeking peace must continue,” John Paul II said on a visit to Jordan in 2000. “Building a future of peace requires an ever more mature understanding and ever more practical cooperation among the peoples who acknowledge the one true, indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. The three historical monotheistic religions count peace, goodness and respect for the human person among the highest values.”

Pope Francis reaffirmed this a mere nine days after his election in 2013, stating, “It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions.”

While these papal quotes are scattered across the Church’s recent history, it’s quickly apparent that the real focus is on the future and the people who will inhabit it.

“It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction,” John Paul II said, visiting the Umayyad Great Mosque in 2001.“I am convinced that the future of the world depends on the various cultures and on interreligious dialogue,” he said in Cairo the year before.

In 2005, in an address to Muslim communities in Cologne, Benedict XVI put everything in perspective, declaring, “Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.”

Let’s meditate on these most important values — and seek to live them.

Father Crossin is executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Five Things to Remember on Sept. 2

1. It's September, and this month, Pope Francis is praying especially that "the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life" and that "Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering."

2. Bishop Denis Madden blogs about the importance of dialogue, especially in the face of horrific world events. Bishop Madden chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He notes that Pope Francis has called dialogue "the only way to peace."

3. Pope Francis is far from the first pope to pursue world peace. Catholic News Service has a profile of Pope Benedict XV, who was elected 100 years ago tomorrow, just after the outbreak of World War I. As a result, Benedict (whom Benedict XVI later called a "prophet of peace") dedicated much of his pontificate to peacemaking and humanitarian efforts.

4. A little hiatus — Five Things will be taking the rest of the week off, but will return September 8.

5. God loves you.

Dialogue: a Catholic Response to Violence and Fear

By Bishop Denis Madden

This summer saw heartbreaking acts of violence throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, with the near eradication of Iraq’s ancient Christian communities by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the execution of American journalist James Foley. Atrocities can shock us into silence and feelings of helplessness, but, as Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl recently insisted, these events intensify our duty to speak out. Last month, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue spoke out with a statement reaffirming our commitment to dialogue with Muslims.

For many, this might seem counterintuitive. Dialogue in the face of savage, unreasoning violence? Engagement with the religion many people automatically (and wrongly) blame for this violence? But the bishops insist that “the most efficient way to work toward ending or at least curtailing such violence and prejudice is through building networks of dialogue that can overcome ignorance, extremism, and discrimination and so lead to friendship and trust with Muslims.”

This is not only about countering the violent extremism of a group like ISIS, but building a future in which the seeds of such extremism wither and die rather than take root. Pope Francis has repeatedly urged dialogue among all people as a way of leading to understanding and friendship and as “the only way to peace.”

The quest for understanding, friendship and peace must also take place in our communities and in our parishes. In July, Newsweek reported that Islamophobia in America is on the rise. This is tragic, especially since one lesson we should take from these recent horrors is the danger posed to the whole human family whenever any minority, religious or otherwise, is perceived as an evil or a threat. It’s crucial that Catholics understand and espouse what was articulated at the Second Vatican Council and reiterated by popes ever since, our respect and affection for our Muslim brothers and sisters.

The official dialogues the U.S. bishops have pursued over the years with Muslim organizations in the United States have reinforced this bond. And Muslim leaders in the United States, including the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, have been resolute in their condemnation of the violence in Iraq and Syria. For them, the violence in these countries carries the added twinge of pain that Christians should feel when we see people, in this country or elsewhere, using our religion as an excuse for slander, bigotry or other inhospitable acts.

Unjust aggressors must be stopped, as Pope Francis has recently asserted. And especially in these moments of global turmoil and trauma, the bishops are convinced that dialogue with people different than ourselves “offers the best opportunity for fraternal growth, enrichment, witness, and ultimately peace.” On a large scale, Pope Francis calls this process building a culture of encounter. Our response to evil and violence cannot be fear of others. Fear destroys everything it touches. By continually strengthening relationships with those of differing cultural, social and religious heritage, fear is overcome.

Bishop Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, is chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.