Thursday, October 30, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 30

1. The United States should pursue non-proliferation and diplomacy to promote U.S. and global security, not allocate funds to modernize its nuclear forces, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in an October 30 letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. In the letter, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates $355 billion in spending on nuclear forces over the next decade, much of that toward modernizing those forces.

2. See social media talk about Bishop Pates' talk on weapon with the hashtag: #IranDialog

3. Pope Francis said people shouldn't be lulled into thinking the devil isn't real.

4. The lighting of the Sistine Chapel has people talking.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 29

1. Pope Francis is encouraging action and prayer toward stopping Ebola.

2. With elections less than a week away, learn about Catholic teachings on civic participation.

3. As people discuss end of life issues, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, of Portland, is encouraging one woman to not give up hope.

4. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, had a brother with Down Syndrome. Today, he reflected on families that have a member with special needs and the extraordinary gifts they bring to the Catholic Church.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 28

1. Pope Francis said in his homily today that people need to experience the faith inside the church's walls.

2. He also spoke today on economic and environmental justice issues throughout the world and urged people to speak out.

3. The USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development's newsletter, Notes for Neighbors, is out today and highlights the work being done by the Church for the poor and the environment.

4. Sunday is the start of National Vocation Awareness Week. Bishop Michael Burbidge says it's an opportunity to share the joy of the religious life.

5. God loves you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 27

1. Pope Francis said the family is being attacked by a throwaway culture.

2. Catholics have a moral obligation to participate in civic life. They are reminded to get out and vote Nov. 4.

3. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development national collection date is the Sunday before Thanksgiving. You can find collection resources here.

4. Bishop Jaime Soto, Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, talks about the work of CCHD and the collection.

5. God loves you.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 24

1. Pope Francis said today that it's the responsibility of every Christian to work toward unity for the Church.

2. Cardinal Donald Wuerl talks about the recently-concluded Synod and looks forward to next year.

3. There is a week left in Respect Life Month and there are many resources about Catholic stances on life issues avaialable.

4. Bishop Daniel Thomas, who was installed at the Bishop of Toledo Wednesday, is now on Facebook.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 23

1. Pope Francis on Thursday called on all men and women of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty in “all of its forms” and for the improvement of prison conditions.

2. The bishops of South Sudan appreciate the support of the international community and call for greater emergency assistance as well as pressure for dialogue to keep their country from descending into increased poverty and conflict, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in an October 22 letter to Ambassador Donald Booth, special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.

3. Here are photos from yesterday's Mass celebrating the Feast Day of St. John Paul II at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington.

4. The Catholic Bishops of the United States affirmed their stance against domestic violence, and their support for victims of domestic violence, in their 2002 statement, When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women, an updated version of their 1992 statement.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 22

1. All wars begin in a jealous heart, Pope Francis said today, and people need to let go of pride and envy.

2. Today is the Feast Day of St. John Paul II, patron saint of World Youth Day. Check out for the latest information on the next World Youth Day in Poland.

3. National Migration Week starts in the first week of January. Learn more in this video:

4. People of Life has been sharing daily resources on Facebook during Respect Life Month. Head to their Facebook to like them today.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 21

1. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington reflects on the Synod and what's next for families in this Catholic News Service video.

2. The USCCB's Committee on Divine Worship will present five liturgical items for vote, including revisions to the liturgy of the hours and a revision of guidelines for the celebration of the sacraments with persons with disabilities, at the annual Fall General Assembly, November 10-13, in Baltimore.

3. Pope Francis will visit Turkey this November, the Vatican announced today.

4. National Vocation Awareness Week begins Nov. 2, and there are resources available to learn more.

5. God loves you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 20

1. The Synod of Bishops on the family has ended, but you can learn about what happened on Catholic News Service's special site.

2. On October 19, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass of the Synod on the Family and the beatification of Pope Paul VI. Read how Pope Paul influenced an American bishop and about his emphasis on peace and justice issues.

3. The USCCB's Committee on Divine Worship will present five liturgical items for vote, including revisions to the liturgy of the hours and a revision of guidelines for the celebration of the sacraments with persons with disabilities, at the annual Fall General Assembly, November 10-13, in Baltimore.

4. USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz reflected on the Synod in this Catholic News Service video:

5. God loves you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 17

1. Bishop Ricken, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis says, "The vast and immediate reach of digital technology means today’s evangelizers have more tools than ever at their disposal. This is a gift, especially because proclaiming Christ to the world is not optional for the Church."

2. On Sunday, Pope Francis will celebrate the closing Mass of the Synod on the Family and the beatification of Pope Paul VI. Read how Pope Paul influenced an American bishop and about his emphasis on peace and justice issues. Here is a round-up of all our blogs this week on Paul VI.

3. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI will attend the beatification.

4. Sunday is World Mission Sunday, a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice.

5. God loves you.

Something Nice for Paul VI

On October 19, at the close of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome, Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul VI (1963-78), who oversaw most of the Second Vatican Council and its implementation.

To commemorate this milestone, this blog is featuring posts on Pope Paul -- honoring his legacy by reflecting on his individual and lasting contributions to the life of the Church. These posts are authored by bishops and lay Catholics:
and a bonus...

Note to diocesan editors and webmasters: These commentaries are free for your reprinting and posting. Please note the source as this blog, linking back where possible.

(CNS Photo/Giancarlo Giuliani)

A Church That Must Go Out -- Pope Paul's Final Exhortation

By Bishop David Ricken

Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of the need for a Church that goes out from itself, bringing mercy to the margins of society. This call is evident in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), in which he states, “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”

These words, like much of Pope Francis’s thought, draw heavily from Pope Paul VI (1963-78), whom Pope Francis will beatify, or bring one step closer to being declared a saint, October 19.

On December 8, 1975, Pope Paul issued Evangelii Nuntiandi, “On Evangelization in the Modern World.” This apostolic exhortation was shared with the hope of fostering “a new period of evangelization.” Pope Francis has called Evangelii Nuntiandithe greatest pastoral document that has ever been written to this day.”

Evangelii Nuntiandi advanced the call of the Second Vatican Council to become a Church that reaches outside of itself and transforms the world around us (see Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 2). Through proclaiming Christ to the world, the Church and those who accept her message will experience a profound change of mind and heart.

Paul VI was keenly aware that evangelists had to first be evangelized. The self-righteous, the judgmental, those who feel they are better than others would not bear fruit. Repentant sinners, those who realize they can’t live life on their own and need Christ, those willing to listen to others and share their own stories of how Christ has touched their lives – those would be the needed witnesses who experience continual conversion.

Paul VI also challenges us to see evangelization as more than just a one-on-one encounter, but also the transformation of society and culture. Evangelization calls for a new way of living personally and as a people. The power of the Gospel affects, or as Paul VI states, upsets “mankind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation.”

Yet Paul VI realized that even as the Gospel transforms peoples and societies, “the conditions of society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man.” In other words, the way the Church spreads the Good News is always evolving. This has been evident recently in the calls for “new language” at the Synod of Bishops in Rome. It’s also the case with the many Catholics, bishops, clergy and lay people alike, who have generated a powerful witness through their use of social media, Pope Francis chief among them.

The vast and immediate reach of digital technology means today’s evangelizers have more tools than ever at their disposal. This is a gift, especially because proclaiming Christ to the world is not optional for the Church. All Christians are called to share the joy of Christ and his Gospel. Bishop Paul Bradley of Kalamazoo, Michigan, recently said on Twitter: “It’s not that the Church has a mission; rather the Mission, of spreading the Good News of Jesus, has a Church to carry out the mission.” Or as Paul VI said, “She exists in order to evangelize.”

Paul VI prayed that evangelization would become our “daily preoccupation” and “a way of life and action." With the Lord Jesus Christ as the center of our lives, may we go forth boldly, sharing the joy of the Gospel with all we meet.

Bishop Ricken is bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. He tweets @BpDavidRicken.

CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 16

1. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, blogged today about his hopes for the final days of the Synod.

2. Pope Paul VI will be beatified this Sunday and one of the U.S. bishops he appointed, Bishop Howard Hubbard, said the former pontiff greatly influenced his ministry.

3. Some think Paul VI's calls for justice and peace are even more relevant today. Others talk about his impact on their families and their relationships.

4. Everyone is talking about Pope Francis' impact, but did you know Paul VI did these seven things before Francis made it cool?

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 15

1. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, spoke at a press conference during the Synod in Rome. Keep an eye on Catholic News Service for information from the synod.

2. Synod participants are reflecting on Paul VI, who will be beatified this Sunday.

3. In case you missed it: The USCCB will vote for the secretary-elect of the Conference and the chairmen-elect of five committees during the bishops’ annual fall General Assembly, November 11-14, in Baltimore. Each bishop elected will serve for one year as secretary-elect or chairman-elect before beginning a three-year term.

4.We are just two weeks away from the start of National Vocation Awareness Week, which is dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 14

1. Cardinal Peter Erdő, presented the synod's 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.

2. Bishop Howard J. Hubbard served as bishop of Albany, New York, from 1977-2014. At the time of his retirement, he was the last remaining bishop appointed by Pope Paul VI heading a U.S. diocese. He shares how Paul VI shaped his ministry on our blog. Pope Paul will be beatified this Sunday, October 19.

3. Here are seven things Paul VI did before Pope Francis made it cool.

4. Archbishop Carlson of St. Louis says violence is not an answer to racism in Ferguson, Missouri.

5. God loves you.

How Paul VI Shaped my Ministry

By Bishop Howard J. Hubbard

In 1963, as a seminarian in Rome, I was present in St. Peter’s Square when the white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel. Shortly thereafter Cardinal Giovanni Montini, the archbishop of Milan, appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as Pope Paul VI.

The most pressing issue confronting Pope Paul was his relationship to the Second Vatican Council, which was preparing for its second session. Would Pope Paul stay the course of aggiornamento set by Pope John XXIII, or would he revert to the more traditional approach preferred by many of his former colleagues in the Roman curia? Pope Paul was more vigilant and involved in monitoring the deliberations of the Council. However, he cautiously supported reform, but sought to do so in a balanced way that did not alienate others.

Pope Benedict XVI referred to Paul’s encyclical Populorum Progressio as the “Rerum Novarum of the present age” of globalization. This is high praise, as Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, issued in 1891, launched the modern period of papal social teaching. In Populorum Progressio, Paul VI underlined the indispensable importance of the Gospel for building a society according to peace and justice.

Paul VI’s vision communicated two important truths:
  1. Promoting human development is integral to the Church’s mission, not something added or peripheral.
  2. Authentic human development concerns the whole person in every dimension (personal, social, political, economic, and spiritual). 
Paul’s encyclical had a major impact on my own priestly ministry, helping me to appreciate how exercising the ministry of social work was not distinct or separate from my priestly ministry but a concrete and tangible way of exercising this ministry. Thus, at Providence House, a storefront information, referral and social action center in Albany’s inner city, and Hope House, an addiction treatment facility for those hooked on heroin or other hard core illegal drugs, I realized my ministry was not distinct or separate from my priestly call.

Pope Paul’s vision for this type of ministry was reinforced further by the 1971 Synod of Bishops on Social Justice, which he convoked, proclaiming that social justice advocacy is as much a part of the mission of the church as the proclamation of God’s Word and the celebration of the sacraments.

Finally, I would note another document issued by Pope Paul continues to be as relevant today as it was when it was first issued in 1975: Evangelii Nuntiandi. Pope Paul made it abundantly clear in this document that the Church must always be a missionary church and that the responsibility for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ belongs not just to the clergy and religious but to every member of the church.

Pope Paul helped me to understand that you don’t need to be a brilliant theologian, a charismatic speaker or have the courage of a martyr to evangelize. You just need to believe that Jesus always releases grace whenever we testify to Him, and that this grace has the power to draw people to His side. This perspective informed my efforts at evangelization in the Diocese of Albany.

As we celebrate Pope Paul’s beatification, I hope that his visionary and courageous leadership will prompt us to recall the outstanding and indispensible contributions he made to implementing the reforms of Vatican II and laying the framework for addressing the issues facing the Church today.

Bishop Hubbard served as bishop of Albany, New York, from 1977-2014. At the time of his retirement, he was the last remaining bishop appointed by Pope Paul VI heading a U.S. diocese.

Seven Things Paul VI Did Before Pope Francis Made it Cool

Only a pope who has railed against clericalism to the extent that Pope Francis has could get away with canonizing two popes at once and then beatifying a third within six months. But that's exactly what will happen October 19, when Pope Francis moves another one of his predecessors, Paul VI (1963-1978), one step closer to official sainthood.

There's been ample consideration of how Pope Francis completes a triumvirate with his two immediate predecessors, and it's easy to compare Francis to the jovial, Council-calling, tradition-shirking John XXIII. But in numerous other ways, there's a direct line of influence from Pope Paul to his latest successor, who was ordained a priest during Paul's pontificate and largely formed by it:
  1. "A poor Church for the poor." In his first audience as pope, Francis explained his choice of name as inspired by Francis of Assisi — the man of poverty, the man of peace, the friend of creation. He has gone on to condemn on numerous occasions a "throwaway culture" linking everything from poverty to genocide to a willingness to cast people aside as disposable. Pope Paul's 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio greatly laid the foundation for this thinking, as did his 1972 World Day of Peace message, "If you want peace, work for justice."
  2. Atheists in Heaven. Pope Francis got headlines (and a Vatican clarification) in May 2013, when he asserted in a homily that God's saving grace was also available to atheists. Maybe surprising, salvation for unbelievers was hinted at in Paul VI's first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam (1964), in which he ponders (#104) whether atheists have truly rejected God or have rejected a poor representation of God made by Christians.
  3. Birth control and mercy. In March, Pope Francis addressed Humanae Vitae, Paul VI's 1968 encyclical on marriage by characteristically saying the encyclical should be applied "with much mercy, attention to concrete situations." Anyone who thinks this is a new approach to Humanae Vitae, however, hasn't gotten to #29 of the letter, in which Pope Paul encourages priests to bring the mercy of Christ to the couples they serve. He says priests should draw confidence from the fact that the Holy Spirit is also working in the hearts of these couples.
  4. Mission Church. If Pope Francis' vision of Church could be boiled down to one phrase, it would be: a mission of mercy to the margins. It's not enough for the Church to simply welcome people. It must go out. Pope Paul addressed this in what could now be called his prequel to Francis' Evangelii Gaudium, the 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi. (Pope Francis calls it the greatest pastoral document ever written.) Pope Paul summarized the outward focus on the Church in one sentence: "She exists in order to evangelize."
  5. The Patriarch. When Francis met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in the Holy Land in May, he was explicitly echoing the historic meeting of Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in 1964. Francis, however, had already met Bartholomew; the patriarch was even present at Francis' inauguration Mass. And Patriarch Bartholomew came to the Vatican, June 8, to participate in the interfaith prayer service for peace with the presidents of Israel and Palestine. With Francis and Bartholomew expected to meet in Turkey later this year, it looks like Francis is parlaying Paul's example and turning the Sees of Peter and Andrew into one dynamic duo.
  6. Bishops working together. Pope Francis made it clear at the opening of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome this month that he wanted the bishops to speak their minds honestly and listen humbly, that in making their discussion frank they would serve the needs of the Church. He got his wish, and now the Church will engage in a year of discussion leading into yet another Synod on the family in October 2015. Paul VI instituted the Synod of Bishops as a way of continuing the collaboration of the world's bishops on the heels of the Second Vatican Council.
  7. Servant Leadership. When Paul VI discarded the triple papal tiara, he sent a message that the pope was not a king, but a bishop, a pastor, a servant. In his first days as pope, Francis turned heads by appearing on the balcony of St. Peter's sans traditional red cape and deliberately referring to himself as bishop of Rome. He also could have been channeling Paul when his inauguration homily (and one of his first tweets) asserted that "True power is service."

CNS Photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo

Friday, October 10, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 10

1. The USCCB Blog is looking back at the contributions of Pope Paul VI, who will be beatified Oct. 19.

2. Catholic News Service will keep you up-to-date on the proceedings of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, taking place through next week at the Vatican.

3. A new permanant exhibit looking at the life of St. John Paul II will debut at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. It will features footage and photos of him as a young priest.

4. The USCCB will be closed Monday.

5. God loves you.

Pope Paul's Call for Peace and Justice Challenges us More Than Ever

By Jill Rauh

Pope Paul VI spent the first years of his pontificate shepherding the Second Vatican Council to its conclusion, visiting the United States and the Holy Land and, in doing so, brought the Catholic Church into the modern world, began healing ancient divisions among Christians and challenged the entire world to peace. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that his 1967 contribution to the Church’s social tradition, the encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) has been called the “Magna Carta on development.”

Paul VI, who will be beatified October 19, builds on the already rich social teaching of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) and his successors and focuses on inequality and underdevelopment. Pope Paul offers a global vision for economic justice, development and solidarity. This vision is as challenging in 2014 as it was almost 50 years ago.

Here are a few major themes of enduring relevance:

Ending poverty: a mandate for all.
Paul VI writes: “The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance. And the Church, cut to the quick by this cry, asks each and every man to hear his brother's plea and answer it lovingly.” Ending poverty is the responsibility of all of us.

Economic justice
We must work towards a world where all people can be “artisans of their destiny” and where “the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table.” The economy must be made to serve the human person (instead of the other way around).  We must address inequality and restore dignity to workers.  And we must remember that the needs and rights of those in poverty take precedence over the rights of individuals to amass great wealth. The Church has a preferential option for the poor.

'Development is the new name for peace'
Pope Paul’s challenge on poverty leads directly into his appeal for peace. Development is “the new name for peace,” he writes. Development leads to peace, since “peace is not simply the absence of warfare.” And war, which destroys societies and the individuals who inhabit them, and which the pope railed against in his 1965 address to the United Nations, is, to borrow a phrase, human development in reverse. Authentic development responds to the needs of the whole person, including both material and spiritual needs. It results instead from fighting poverty and establishing justice. Pope Paul would distill this in his theme for World Day of Peace 1972: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

True development requires a true commitment to solidarity—the idea that we are one human family, each responsible for all. Without solidarity, “there can be no progress toward complete development.” Those who are wealthy can also be poor—morally poor—as they live blinded by selfishness.  We have to overcome our isolation from others, so that “the glow of brotherly love and the helping hand of God” is reflected in all our relationships and decisions.

Think global, act local
Inequality is a global issue, and wealthy countries should act to help nations in need through “aid,” relief for poor countries “overwhelmed by debt,” “equitable trade relations,” “hospitable reception” for immigrants, and, for businesses operating in foreign countries, a focus on “social progress” instead of “self-interest.”  Sadly, these are all issues still in need of our attention.

So enduring was Paul VI’s vision, John Paul II revisited it in Sollicitudo rei Socialis (1987), as did Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate (2009). Its themes are also strongly apparent in the teaching of Pope Francis, who witnessed the “globalization of indifference” and lives destroyed by war and poverty in Latin America. Pope Paul and Pope Francis both challenge our current response to poverty and violence. They challenge us with the alternative of a vision that is cohesive and global, Catholic in the truest sense.

Jill Rauh is assistant director of education and outreach of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Finding the Challenges and Joys of Paul VI's Teaching on the Family

By Maria Wiering

Looking back, I’m sure the moment was awkward.

My now-husband and I were on our second date: evening coffee at a laid-back café in St. Paul, Minnesota. We had been friends for years, and I wanted to investigate potential roadblocks as we moved from friendship to something more.

So, I asked, with the coolness of the Grand Inquisitor: did he agree with the Church’s teaching on contraception?

Graciously, my husband has no recollection of this moment. I recall him looking slightly uncomfortable, but he affirmed that yes, he trusted the Church.

Whew, I thought, probably searching for the next conversation non-starter.

The truth is, if he had said no, it probably would have been a deal breaker. I felt strongly about avoiding contraception, and realized I needed a like-minded spouse. The question wasn’t like asking his feelings on vegetarianism, or another lifestyle preference, even one with ethical components. I was asking him, essentially, if he was willing to surrender decisions about our family size – and therefore our personal plans and aspirations – to God’s providence.

Admittedly, it was a big ask.

In Humane Vitae, the 1968 encyclical affirming the Church’s teaching on birth control, one gets the impression Pope Paul VI also knew he was putting in a steep order. He acknowledged that abiding by the Church’s teaching could be a burden for some couples, and told them to focus on eternal life – not a card one usually has to play if the immediate upside of something is blatantly obvious. However, the encyclical is incredibly pro-woman, pro-child and pro-family, which is what has convinced me, and many others, to shape our lives around it.

After Paul VI explained contraception was an unacceptable means to prevent births, he acknowledged that couples who wished to avoid pregnancy must practice self-discipline. He promised it would bear fruit: “It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities.” And, he added, it’s a good example for their kids, too.

By contrast, he pointed to the potential characteristics of a world rife with contraception use, including marital infidelity; a “general lowering of moral standards”; disrespect of women, making them “mere instruments of selfish enjoyment”; and governmental endorsement (imposition even) of artificial contraception.

Looking around today, it’s hard to argue he wasn’t right.

In March, Pope Francis said Pope Paul VI’s “genius was prophetic.” He cautioned, however, that the encyclical should be pastorally applied with great mercy – something Paul VI called for as well.

As Catholics, we often think of this mercy being expressed in the confessional, but it should be an attitude we in the pews embrace as well. We Natural Family Planning promoters must avoid a better-than-thou air of haughtiness. A certain sense of pride is understandable, given our minority status and the kind of dedication it requires to practice it. NFP is, however, only a tool to space births, not the marital end game. A merciful attitude towards Catholics who struggle to keep this teaching, instead of an us-and-them approach, would serve all lay Catholics well.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t widely extol the benefits of NFP. I love understanding how my body works, and that my husband understands it as well. It also appeals to my crunchy, organic-produce-loving self, as it requires thought and time, but nothing artificial – and potentially harmful – in my body. It also has helped numerous friends pinpoint fertility problems and eventually become pregnant.

I’ve been married – and a mom – long enough to know that this vocation does entail burdens, some that the girl at the coffee shop six years ago couldn’t have anticipated. Those burdens, however, deepen my admiration of my husband and appreciation for my son, and are lightened by the quiet comfort and joy of cooperating with God’s plan for our family.

Maria Wiering is a staff writer at the "Catholic Review," newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. USCCB offers resources for finding a national NFP provider and local NFP classes.

Paul VI and Dialogue -- We Wouldn't Be Here Without Him

By Bishop Denis Madden

When Pope Paul VI, who will be beatified October 19, inherited the Second Vatican Council from John XXIII in 1963, his challenges included fulfilling the late pope’s wishes to “open a window” in the Church and to reach out to “our separated brethren.” Pope Paul’s approach to both of these was to introduce the concept of dialogue.

The Church hasn’t been the same since.

John O’Malley recounts in his book “What Happened at Vatican II” that the Council’s early draft on ecumenism didn’t use the word dialogue once. Then Pope Paul issued his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam (On the Church) on August 6, 1964. In it, he repeatedly stressed the importance of dialogue, stating, “The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which it lives. It has something to say, a message to give, a communication to make.” The Council championed dialogue from then on.

November 1964 saw the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), which called on “all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism,” that is, dialoguing with, praying together and simply building friendships with non-Catholic Christians.

In October 1965, the Council took dialogue beyond other Christians and applied it to the world’s religions with Nostra Aetate, a brief but groundbreaking document that swept away centuries of erroneous negative teaching about the Jewish people and held up examples, essentially starting points for dialogue, where the Catholic Church saw positive elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The document noted that all religions seek answers to the big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why do people suffer? What is the road to true happiness? All of these call for dialogue.

Pope Paul put the call for dialogue with the world into action through his apostolic journeys to places including India, Portugal, the United States, Colombia, Turkey and the Holy Land. His reason for taking the name Paul as pope was to emulate the journey of the missionary disciple. His historic January 1964 meeting with Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem renewed the Catholic dialogue with Orthodox Christians and led the following year to the mutual rescinding of the excommunications of 1054 that had divided the churches.

In October 1965, during his visit to the United States, Pope Paul became the first pope to address the United Nations. His remarks, essentially to the entire world, included the famous call: “No more war, war never again!” The implications are clear. The Catholic Church does not simply engage in dialogue for dialogue’s sake, but because the fruits of dialogue—engagement, friendship, respect, recognizing the human dignity of people different than ourselves—are the seeds of peace and the Kingdom of God.

Through our dialogues with others, the Catholic Church has seen much good fruit over the past 50 years. We owe it to the grace of the Holy Spirit. But in a very practical way, we also owe it to Pope Paul.

Bishop Madden is an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 9

1. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said that the decision on October 7 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit striking down marriage laws in Nevada and Idaho was “astonishingly dismissive” of the rights of children and detrimental to the democratic process.

2. World Mission Sunday is set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. In 2014, World Mission Sunday is celebrated on October 19.

3. Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, soon to be installed as Archbishop of Chicago, said he's trying to stay in touch with every day people as a way to remain connected to his mission.

4. Pope Francis said you pray with a friend - Jesus - who is a companion during life's journey.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 8

1. Remember: keep up with the latest Synod reports from Catholic News Service.

2. The Pope remembered his first Communion 70 years ago today.

3. Bishop Martin Holley celebrated a Mass marking Respect Life Month and you can hear a brief part of his homily on our Audioboom page.

4. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the USCCB has many resources on the topic.

5. God loves you

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 7

1. There's a new Catholic News Service homepage for their coverage of #Synod14. Keep track of all the latest news at

2. The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, and the chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, expressed serious disappointment at the October 6 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to consider current cases that strike down laws upholding marriage as between one man and one woman.

3. Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay asks a great question on his Twitter today.

4. A new book from Catholic News Service explores Pope Francis' connection and emphasis on families.

5. God loves you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 6

1. Pope Francis says synods are meant to better nurture and tend to the Lord's vineyard, to help realize his dream and loving plan for people.

2. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will meet in Baltimore, November 10-13, for their annual Fall General Assembly. The bishops will hear the first presidential address of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of USCCB, who was elected to a three-year term in November 2013. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, will also address the bishops.

3. Today, at the start of the synod, Pope Francis told bishops, “I ask you to speak with frankness and listen with humility. Do so with tranquility and peace, for the Synod always takes cum Petro et sub Petro – with Peter and under Peter – and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee for all and the safeguard of the faith.”

4. Respect Life Month began during the last week and tomorrow there will be a Mass here at the USCCB. Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account for pictures.

5. God loves you.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 3

1. Cardinal Walter Kasper discusses his proposal for divorced and civilly remarried relationships in a Catholic News Service video.

2. Cardinal Raymond Burke, in this Catholic News Service video, explains why he hopes October's synod of bishops will close the debate over Cardinal Walter Kasper's proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

3. One cardinal says the synod will openly discuss sensitive topics

4. Archbishop Jose Gomez used his Twitter today to share a message for Respect Life Month.
5. God loves you.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 2

1. Pope Francis said today that he prays for migrants who faced close borders.

2. “Ask yourself this question today: How is my relationship with my guardian angel?" - Pope Francis

3. “Our brothers and sisters in Christ living consecrated lives make great contributions to our society through a vast number of ministries,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of USCCB. “They teach in our schools, take care of the poor and the sick and bring compassion and the love of Christ to those shunned by society; others lead lives of prayer in contemplation for the world.”

4. Bishop Michael Burbidge speaks in this YouTube video about the consecrated life.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 1

1. As the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, the USCCB's Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations is promoting “Days with Religious” initiatives and resources to help families learn about the consecrated life of religious men and women. Activities will focus on sharing experiences of prayer, service and community life with those living a consecrated life.

2. Does your parish ever pray with other Christians? Julia McStravog, program and research specialist for the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the USCCB, writes today, "Prayer and Dialogue Bring Christians Together and Make us Better Catholics."

3. On the note of dialogue, Pope Francis said today, "in the Christian community everyone needs the other, and every gift received is fully realized when it is shared with brothers, for the good of all. This is the Church! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, is expressed in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of faith, that is given by the Holy Spirit so that together we can enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life”.

4. Bishop Kevin Vann, of the Diocese of Orange, writes on the first day of Respect Life Month, "let us unabashedly witness to the Gospel of Life: God’s love for the unborn, women and families in crisis, those on death row, unaccompanied refugees, those struggling with mental illness, or surviving domestic violence. Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation! And all of us can lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need."

5. God loves you.

Prayer and Dialogue Bring Christians Together and Make us Better Catholics

By Julia McStravog

As a lay Catholic who grew up decades after the Second Vatican Council, my early experiences of church didn’t really include dialoging with other Christians. Dialogue was something done by academics, fueled by a spirit of “peace and love” in the years following the Council. Parish life, on the other hand, was and is a flurry of activity—catechesis, faith formation, focus on marriage and family—that leaves little time and energy toward nurturing fruitful relationships with our fellow Christians. After all, most people’s experience of church is restricted to Sunday mornings when, by default, we all worship separately with our respective faith communities.

This separation is especially unhelpful when the focus of so much catechesis is inward, on building a solid foundation for understanding the ins and outs of being Catholic. As Cardinal Bergoglio said only days before being elected Pope Francis, when the Church focuses inwardly, it “becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” Also, a frequently overlooked aspect of Catholic identity is that engagement with our fellow Christians is required in order to achieve unity. Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, issued 50 years ago this November, says that divisions among Christians “openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.”

While the U.S. Bishops engage in multiple dialogues with other Christians throughout the country, lay people play an essential role in dialogue and Christian unity. Our common baptism should motivate us to engage in ecumenical collaboration. Praying with fellow Christians is often a great entry point for connection, dialogue and relationship. It’s the “dialogue of religious experience.” Creating spiritual connections through common prayer breaks beyond surface level understanding, allowing us to embrace our fellow Christians and the spiritual riches of varying traditions.

In the words of Pope Francis, “Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.” Ecumenism is most important where it is most difficult. Fractured and divided communities need the spirit of ecumenical dialogue for healing and to lay a solid foundation of friendship. The universal work of the Holy Spirit guides Christians through prayer to the unifying presence of Christ.

As we look to the future of ecumenical engagement, it will be the bonds of local communities through lay involvement that drives the direction of dialogue. Catholics must realize that dialogue and Catholic identity mutually enrich one another. Dialogue and engagement lead us to catechize ourselves and become better Catholics as we communicate our faith experience to others. And a Catholic who is well catechized understands that dialogue and the pursuit of Christian unity are essential to who we are and to answering the prayer of Jesus in John’s Gospel, “that they all may be one.”

Julia McStravog is the program and research specialist for the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.