Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Be Countercultural, Be Catholic!

The following comes from Tom Hoopes at Catholic Vote:
Being Catholic is the ultimate countercultural lifestyle choice, and college students notice that kind of thing.
My daughter alerted me to the blog post “All Hipsters Eventually Become Catholic” by Edmund Mitchell. He observes the college-aged, culture-loving, alternative-band listening, European-dressing “hipster” culture and writes:
“Isn’t it true that living out the Catholic faith in modern society is the ultimate anti-mainstream life of non-conformity and going-against-the-flow? And the Catholic culture we’ve inherited provides a wealth of uncool topics to choose from.” He goes on to list his counter-cultural Catholic likes and dislikes.
The way we framed the discussion in our day was as a series of “Is it Cartesian or is it Catholic?” questions.
Cartesian meant it stemmed from Rene Descartes, the French Enlightenment founding father who said “I think, therefore I am” and thereby placed himself as the autonomous body-less center of his own spiritual universe. From that, we held, came radical individualism, relativism, mind and body separation and, as we will see shortly, stupid dance music.
Catholic meant it stemmed from the civilization of love built by the incarnate God who refused to stay removed from us. “Catholic” meant aware, enfleshed, messy-but-real humanity whose existence was defined by community as much as by self.
Our “Catholic or Cartesian?” discussions went something like this:
Cigarettes are Cartesian; cigars are Catholic.
Cigarettes are Cartesian because they take you into yourself and away from your surroundings. You usually smoke them alone, on break outside your building, to end stress not by confronting it but by dodging it.
Cigars, on the other hand, are smoked in company with others. They are not an escape from reality but a deeper immersion in it. Cigarettes suck you into your mind; cigars immerse you in your own corporeality. That’s Catholic.
Metrics are Cartesian; inches and feet are Catholic.
Metrics are Cartesian because they were invented in some mental laboratory where everything is perfect and lines intersect and a milliliter is a certain fraction of a liter in the same way that a millimeter is a certain fraction of a meter, as if the universe was created by an OCD Austrian scientist God.
Inches and feet were Catholic because they started as body parts: Inch was a word for thumb and feet are, well, feet, and they can be measured in paces. A yard was an arms-length of cloth. It’s acceptable that all of these things bowed to the need for standardization: They were still measures of man, not artificial mathematical constructs.
Electric keyboards are Cartesian, electric guitars are Catholic.
Electric keyboards make odd made-up noises, according to what the computer chip tells them to do. No matter how you feel inside, or what you do to the keyboard, the keys do what the computer says. The electronic keyboard is the staple of stupid dance music, which by extension is Cartesian.
Electric guitars twang and bend depending on what you do to them with your fingers. If you do it right, they become an extension of your body-soul union. Even if you do it wrong, they still kind of do. The electric guitar is the staple of awesome music, which is by extension Catholic.
Disneyland is Cartesian, mountains are Catholic.
Disneyland is Cartesian because you go there to leave the real and enter a fantasy world invented by a man who thought that science would save the world, starting with him.*
(*Yes, we also thought Disneyland was awesome, and we wanted to go there. We also smoked cigarettes and listened to stupid dance music. I don’t deny our hypocrisy.)
Hiking was Catholic because you go to the mountains to experience real adventure, not “Adventureland;” real danger, not the “Matterhorn;” and real companionship, with human beings who aren’t dressed as animals. And it was all invented by God, who didn’t need to be cryogenically frozen to endure forever.
Madonna was Cartesian, Bob Dylan was Catholic.
Yes, I know that the very opposite was true in one sense, but that’s what made this one so instructive for us in college.
After all, Madonna sang stupid songs (except “La Isla Bonita,” which was kind of nice when it came on in the grocery store) that turned life into a paper-thin two-dimensional version of the real thing, while Dylan sang rich, textured songs which revealed the many layers of the real living and breathing thing called life. His songs also made no sense, but that was a secondary consideration for us at the time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Catholicism: Faith Formation

The Imagine Sisters Movement

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Prayer Need: A Tragic Accident Takes the Life of A Newly Ordained Salesian Priest

The following tragic news comes from our Salesians in the Dominican Republic:

Fr. Víctor Martínez was heading to his hometown to celebrate his first mass when he was tragically killed in an accident.

(Decosal - Jarabacoa) - Fr. Víctor Martínez, SDB died Sunday in a tragic road accident when the newly ordained priest who was traveling with family and friends to celebrate his first Mass in his hometown of Puerto Plata.

Fr. Victor Martinez, a Salesian of Don Bosco, was ordained yesterday at the Parish of Mary Help of Christians in Jarabacoa at the hands of Bishop Julius Caesar Corniel, Bishop of Puerto Plata. He was heading home today to celebrate his first Mass with his family and friends. The accident also killed an uncle of the priest and injured several other people.

The news has brought deep sorrow upon the whole Salesian Family who just yesterday celebrated joyfully his priestly ordination. The Reverend Father Victor Pichardo, Provincial of the Salesians, announced with deep sorrow the news to the youth of all the Salesian houses that were in the concluding Eucharist of Don Bosco Summer Camp. These same young people had witnessed the joyful celebration of the ordination of Fr. Victor the day before and received his first blessing.

Fr. Victor Martinez was born on September 17, 1982 in the city of Puerto Plata. He joined the Salesian Domingo Savio Aspirantate at Jarabacoa in 2000. His last four years were as a theology student at the Salesian Seminary in Guadalajara, Mexico. He was ordained a priest one day before his death.

Building a Culture of Religious Freedom

The following comes from the NCR:

Transcript of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s keynote address given at the Napa Institute on July 26. 

A friend of mine, a political scientist, recently posed two very good questions. They go right to the heart of our discussion today. He wondered, first, if the religious freedom debate had “crossed a Rubicon” in our country’s political life. And, second, he asked if Catholic bishops now found themselves opposed — in a new and fundamental way — to the spirit of American society.

I’ll deal with his first question in a moment. I’ll come back to his second question at the end of my remarks. But we should probably begin our time together today by recalling that even at the height of anti-Catholic bigotry, Catholics have always served our country with distinction. More than 80 Catholic chaplains died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. All four chaplains who won the Medal of Honor in those wars were Catholic priests. 

Time and again, Catholics have proven their love of our nation with their talent, hard work and blood. So, if the bishops of the United States ever find themselves opposed, in a fundamental way, to the spirit of our country, the fault won’t lie with our bishops. It will lie with political and cultural leaders who turned our country into something it was never meant to be.

So, having said that, let’s turn to my friend’s first question.

The Rubicon is a river in northern Italy. It’s small and forgettable, except for one thing. During the Roman Republic, it marked a border. To the south lay Italy, ruled directly by the Roman Senate. To the north lay Gaul, ruled by a governor. Under Roman law, no general could enter Italy with an army. Doing so carried the death penalty. In 49 B.C., when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his 13th Legion and marched on Rome, he triggered a civil war and changed the course of history. Ever since then, “crossing the Rubicon” has meant passing a point of no return.  

Caesar’s march on Rome is a very long way from our nation’s current disputes over religious liberty. But “crossing the Rubicon” is still a useful image. My friend’s point is this: Have we, in fact, crossed a border in our country’s history — the line between a religion-friendly past and an emerging America much less welcoming to Christian faith and witness?

Let me describe the nation we were and the nation we’re becoming. Then you can judge for yourselves.

People often argue about whether America’s Founders were mainly Christian, mainly Deist or both of the above. It’s a reasonable debate. It won’t end anytime soon. But no one can reasonably dispute that the Founders’ moral framework was overwhelmingly shaped by Christian faith. And that makes sense because America was largely built by Christians. The world of the American Founders was heavily Christian, and they saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves. They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers and to welcome their active role in public life.

The Founders also knew that religion is not just a matter of private conviction. It can’t be reduced to personal prayer or Sunday worship. It has social implications. The Founders welcomed those implications. Christian faith demands preaching, teaching, public witness and service to others — by each of us alone and by acting in cooperation with fellow believers. As a result, religious freedom is never just freedom from repression, but also — and more importantly — freedom for active discipleship. It includes the right of religious believers, leaders and communities to engage society and to work actively in the public square. For the first 160 years of the republic, cooperation between government and religious entities was the norm in addressing America’s social problems. And that brings us to our country’s current situation. 

Americans have always been a religious people. They still are. Roughly 80% of Americans call themselves Christians. Millions of Americans take their faith seriously. Millions act on it accordingly. Religious practice remains high. That’s the good news. But there’s also bad news.  In our courts, in our lawmaking, in our popular entertainment and even in the way many of us live our daily lives, America is steadily growing more secular. Mainline churches are losing ground. Many of our young people spurn Christianity. Many of our young adults lack any coherent moral formation. Even many Christians who do practice their religion follow a kind of easy, self-designed Gospel that led author Ross Douthat to call us a “nation of heretics.”[1]  Taken together, these facts suggest an American future very different from anything in our nation’s past.

 There’s more. Contempt for religious faith has been growing in America’s leadership classes for many decades, as scholars like Christian Smith and Christopher Lasch have shown.[2] 

But in recent years, government pressure on religious entities has become a pattern, and it goes well beyond the current administration’s HHS [Health and Human Services] mandate. It involves interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers, private employers and individual citizens. And it includes attacks on the policies, hiring practices and tax statuses of religious charities, hospitals and other ministries. These attacks are real. They’re happening now. And they’ll get worse as America’s religious character weakens.

This trend is more than sad. It’s dangerous. Our political system presumes a civil society that pre-exists and stands outside the full control of the state. In the American model, the state is meant to be modest in scope and constrained by checks and balances. Mediating institutions like the family, churches and fraternal organizations feed the life of the civic community. They stand between the individual and the state. And when they decline, the state fills the vacuum they leave. Protecting these mediating institutions is therefore vital to our political freedom. The state rarely fears individuals, because, alone, individuals have little power. They can be isolated or ignored. But organized communities are a different matter. They can resist. And they can’t be ignored. 

This is why, for example, if you want to rewrite the American story into a different kind of social experiment, the Catholic Church is such an annoying problem. She’s a very big community.  She has strong beliefs. And she has an authority structure that’s very hard to break — the kind that seems to survive every prejudice and persecution and even the worst sins of her own leaders. Critics of the Church have attacked America’s bishops so bitterly, for so long, over so many different issues — including the abuse scandal, but by no means limited to it — for very practical reasons. If a wedge can be driven between the pastors of the Church and her people, then a strong Catholic witness on controversial issues breaks down into much weaker groups of discordant voices. 
The theme of our time together today is “building a culture of religious freedom.” How do we do that?

We can start by changing the way we habitually think. Democracy is not an end in itself.  Majority opinion does not determine what is good and true. Like every other form of social organization and power, democracy can become a form of repression and idolatry. The problems we now face in our country didn’t happen overnight. They’ve been growing for decades, and they have moral roots. America’s bishops named the exile of God from public consciousness as “the root of the world’s travail today” nearly 65 years ago. And they accurately predicted the effects of a life without God on the individual, the family, education, economic activity and the international community.[3] Obviously, too few people listened.

We also need to change the way we act. We need to understand that we can’t “quick fix” our way out of problems we behaved ourselves into. Catholics have done very well in the United States. As I said earlier, most of us have a deep love for our country, its freedoms and its best ideals. But this is not our final home. There is no automatic harmony between Christian faith and American democracy. The eagerness of Catholics to push their way into our country’s mainstream over the past half century, to climb the ladder of social and economic success, has done very little to Christianize American culture. But it’s done a great deal to weaken the power of our Catholic witness. 

In the words of scholar Robert Kraynak, democracy — for all of its strengths — also “has within it the potential for its own kind of ‘social tyranny.’” The reason is simple: Democracy advances “the forces of mass culture which lower the tone of society … by lowering the aims of life from classical beauty, heroic virtues and otherworldly transcendence to the pursuits of work, material consumption and entertainment.” This inevitably tends to “[reduce] human life to a one-dimensional materialism and [an] animal existence that undermines human dignity and eventually leads to the ‘abolition of man.’”[4]

To put it another way: The right to pursue happiness does not include a right to excuse or ignore evil in ourselves or anyone else. When we divorce our politics from a grounding in virtue and truth, we transform our country from a living moral organism into a kind of golem of legal machinery without a soul.

This is why working for good laws is so important. This is why getting involved politically is so urgent. This is why every one of our votes matters. We need to elect the best public leaders, who then create the best policies and appoint the best judges. This has a huge impact on the kind of nation we become. 

Democracies depend for their survival on people of conviction fighting for what they believe in the public square — legally and peacefully, but zealously and without apologies. That includes you and me. 

Critics often accuse faithful Christians of pursuing a “culture war” on issues like abortion, sexuality, marriage and the family and religious liberty. And, in a sense, they’re right. We are fighting for what we believe. But, of course, so are advocates on the other side of all these issues — and neither they nor we should feel uneasy about it. Democracy thrives on the struggle of competing ideas. We steal from ourselves and from everyone else if we try to avoid that struggle. In fact, two of the worst qualities in any human being are cowardice and acedia —and by acedia I mean the kind of moral sloth that masquerades as “tolerance” and leaves a human soul so empty of courage and character that even the devil Screwtape would spit it out.[5]

In real life, democracy is built on two practical pillars: cooperation and conflict. It requires both.  Cooperation, because people have a natural hunger for solidarity that makes all community possible. And conflict, because people have competing visions of what is right and true. The more deeply they hold their convictions, the more naturally people seek to have those convictions shape society. 

What that means for Catholics is this: We have a duty to treat all persons with charity and justice. We have a duty to seek common ground where possible. But that’s never an excuse for compromising with grave evil. It’s never an excuse for being naive. And it’s never an excuse for standing idly by while our liberty to preach and serve God in the public square is whittled away.  We need to work vigorously in law and politics to form our culture in a Christian understanding of human dignity and the purpose of human freedom. Otherwise, we should stop trying to fool ourselves that we really believe what we claim to believe. 

There’s more. To work as it was intended, America needs a special kind of citizenry: a mature, well-informed electorate of persons able to reason clearly and rule themselves prudently. If that’s true — and it is — then the greatest danger to American liberty in our day is not religious extremism. It’s something very different. It’s a culture of narcissism that cocoons us in dumbed-down, bigoted news, vulgarity, distraction and noise, while methodically excluding God from the human imagination. Kierkegaard once wrote that “the introspection of silence is the condition of all educated intercourse” and that “talkativeness is afraid of the silence which reveals its emptiness.”[6] Silence feeds the soul. Silence invites God to speak. And silence is exactly what American culture no longer allows. Securing the place of religious freedom in our society is therefore not just a matter of law and politics, but of prayer, interior renewal — and also education. 

What I mean is this: We need to re-examine the spirit that has ruled the Catholic approach to American life for the past 60 years. In forming our priests, deacons, teachers and catechists — and especially the young people in our schools and religious-education programs — we need to be much more penetrating and critical in our attitudes toward the culture around us. We need to recover our distinctive Catholic identity and history. Then we need to act on them. America is becoming a very different country, and as Ross Douthat argues so well in his excellent book Bad Religion, a renewed American Christianity needs to be ecumenical, but also confessional.  Why?  Because: “In an age of institutional weakness and doctrinal drift, American Christianity has much more to gain from a robust Catholicism and a robust Calvinism than it does from even the most fruitful Catholic-Calvinist theological dialogue.”[7]

America is now mission territory. Our own failures helped to make it that way. We need to admit that. Then we need to re-engage the work of discipleship to change it.

I want to close by returning to the second of my friend’s two questions. He asked if our nation’s Catholic bishops now find themselves opposed — in a new and fundamental way — to the nature of American society. I can speak only for myself. But I suspect that for many of my brother American bishops the answer to that question is a mix of both No and Yes. 

The answer is No in the sense that the Catholic Church has always thrived in the United States, even in the face of violent bigotry. Catholics love and thank God for this country. They revere the American legacy of democracy, law and ordered liberty. As the bishops wrote in 1940 on the eve of World War II, “[We] renew [our] most sacred and sincere loyalty to our government and to the basic ideals of the American republic … [and we] are again resolved to give [ourselves] unstintingly to its defense and its lasting endurance and welfare.”[8] 
Hundreds of thousands of American Catholics did exactly that on the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

 But the answer is Yes in the sense that the America of Catholic memory is not the America of the present moment or the emerging future. Sooner or later, a nation based on a degraded notion of liberty, on license rather than real freedom — in other words, a nation of abortion, disordered sexuality, consumer greed and indifference to immigrants and the poor — will not be worthy of its founding ideals. And, on that day, it will have no claim on virtuous hearts.
In many ways, I believe my own generation, the “boomer generation,” has been one of the most problematic in our nation’s history because of our spirit of entitlement and moral superiority; our appetite for material comfort unmoored from humility; our refusal to acknowledge personal sin and accept our obligations to the past.

But we can change that. Nothing about life is predetermined except the victory of Jesus Christ.  We create the future. We do it not just by our actions, but by what we really believe — because what we believe shapes the kind of people we are. In a way, “growing a culture of religious freedom” is the better title for this talk. A culture is more than what we make or do or build. A culture grows organically out of the spirit of a people — how we live, what we cherish, what we’re willing to die for. 

If we want a culture of religious freedom, we need to begin it here, today, now. We live it by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ — by loving God with passion and joy, confidence and courage. And by holding nothing back. God will take care of the rest. Scripture says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). In the end, God is the builder. We’re the living stones. The firmer our faith, the deeper our love, the purer our zeal for God’s will — then the stronger the house of freedom will be that rises in our own lives and in the life of our nation.

Archbishop Charles Chaput is archbishop of Philadelphia.

[1] For patterns of religious belief in various age groups, see Barna Group and Pew Research Center data.  For the state of moral formation among young adults, see Christian Smith, editor, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011.  For an overview of American religious trends and their meaning, see Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Free Press, New York, 2012
[2] See Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, W.W. Norton, New York, 1995; and Christian Smith, editor, The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 2003
[3] “Secularism,” a pastoral statement by the Administrative Board of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, on behalf of the bishops of the United States, November 14, 1947; as collected in Pastoral Letters of the American Hierarchy, 1792-1970, Hugh J. Nolan, editor, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1971
[4] Robert Kraynak, “Citizenship in Two Worlds: On the Tensions between Christian Faith and American Democracy,” Josephinum Journal of Theology, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2009; see also a more extensive discussion of this theme in his book, Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 2001
[5] C.S. Lewis, see his “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” in The Screwtape Letters, HarperCollins, New York, 2001
[6] Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion, HarperPerennial, New York, 2010, p. 44-45
[7] Douthat, Bad Religion,  p. 286-287
[8] “The American Republic,” a statement by the bishops of the United States, November 13, 1940; as collected in Pastoral Letters of the American Hierarchy, 1792-1970

Instruments of Salvation

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Road Trip USA

Road Trip USA from Menassier Gabriel ///mg image on Vimeo.

The incredible sacrifice of Salvo D’Acquisto

Salvo D’Acquisto was a Salesian Past Pupil and a hero of WWII.  The following comes from the Catholic Herald:
My last post about St Edith Stein brought to mind the figure of the Servant of God Salvo D’Acquisto, another martyr of love from the period of the Second World War. Back in 1995, I visited some of the places associated with him, and wrote an article for the print edition of this newspaper, which I have salvaged from the archives. I think people in the English-speaking world need to know more about this martyr, so here is the article, slightly adapted:
Modern Italy has few war heroes: Marshal Badoglio, King Victor Emmanuel, Mussolini – their names do not appear on public buildings. The attentive tourist will only see blank spaces where stonemasons have done their best to erase the past.
Only one soldier from the period is honoured today; he has squares, schools and streets named after him, He is an NCO named Salvo D’Aquisto, who died aged 22. He has a simple tomb in Santa Chiara, the most beautiful church, in his native Naples, and in Italy they are waiting for him to be canonised; when that happens Salvo D’Acquisto will be the first soldier saint of the Second World War. He is one of many buried in beautiful Santa Chiara. By the altar there’s Robert of Anjou; on the other side of the nave lies Blessed Cristina, Queen of Naples, surrounded by a clutch of Bourbons. Salvo D’Aquisto is in exalted company.
He was the eldest of eight children: three died in infancy, one in childhood; the youngest brother is still alive and living in Naples, and is now in his late seventies. The entire family, including a formidable grandmother, all lived in one large room in the Vomero quarter.
They were not particularly poor by the standards of the time. Their father worked in a chemical factory. Salvo himself was a studious child, even bookish, but still left school aged 14, as working-class boys did in those days.
At 18, the minimum age, having done a few jobs in the meantime, he enrolled in the Carabinieri, the oldest regiment in the Italian Army, which carries out the functions of a police force. Archbishop Giovanni Marra, Italy’s military bishop, describes Salvo as tall, athletic and with limpid eyes, “a true son of Southern Italy”; and so he was in more than just looks. No less than four of his immediate male relatives had enrolled in the Carabinieri a sure sign then that there were few alternative careers available for a talented but poor Neapolitan. He enjoyed the military life. There are facts all documented by the beatification process. In October 1939, as a young recruit, he stood guard outside Palazzo Venezia, where the vainglorious Duce was even then itching to enter the war.
He spent 18 months in North Africa on active service; he was recalled, promoted to NCO, and had his last posting in a little village north of Rome.
But these are only facts: one gazes at photographs, reads his letters home, and speaks to his brother. From these pieces a mosaic emerges of the life of the man who now lies in Santa Chiara. “So quiet you would hardly think he was Neapolitan,” a schoolmaster of Salvo’s says. Much given to the interior life, perhaps?
One sees the young soldier paddling in the Mediterranean, in grainy black and white; or wearing a pith helmet in Libya, smiling. “You are just the type of Neapolitan girl that I have always had in my heart and so much prized,” he writes to his madrina di guerra, a young lady called Maria, who, as was the custom, had sent him her photograph, along with a picture of the Sacred1 Heart, to bolster his morale. “I’ll keep them both next to my heart,” he tells her. In these fragments we see a life.
A typical son of the Italian South? Perhaps. Certainly devoutly Catholic. But there is more than that: his letters to his parents and to his madrina di guerra have a peculiar quality about them. No one could write them today. In seeking the man who lies in Santa Chiara one enters a lost world of purity and innocence. But he was not a plaster saint; unlike so many Italian soldiers, he did not have the good luck to be captured by the British.
When Italy changed sides in September 1943, Salvo was at his post at Torrimpietra, north of Rome; Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio had fled to Bari in a convoy of limousines, but Salvo stayed put. On 23 September, a Thursday, a day of special Eucharistic devotion, he went to confession, Mass and Holy Communion.
His commanding officer had been called to Rome that day, and Salvo was thus, at the age of 22, the senior representative of the Italian state in Torrimpietra. At eight that morning a party of Germans arrived, wearing the uniform of the dreaded SS. Salvo, ever polite, went to greet them, holding out a hand only to be struck by a rifle and taken away without even time to put on his jacket. What had happened was this; the day before, the SS, in occupying a medieval tower at nearby Palidoro had caused an explosion. One German was dead, two wounded, and sabotage suspected.
Despite the fact that the explosion was accidental, the commander of the SS had decided on reprisals. Twenty two local men had been rounded up and were going to be shot unless Salvo could point out the person responsible for the supposed crime.
It was to be a long day.
The Italian prisoners were ordered to dig a trench, some of them with their bare hands. The process of digging their own mass grave reduced many of them to tears.
Only Salvo kept calm and tried to reason with the SS. In vain. It was only at 5pm that he at last succeeded in persuading the SS to let their prisoners go. One of the prisoners stayed to see the outcome, while the others fled in gratitude. He was a 17-year-old boy, and the sole witness of Salvo’s death at the hands of the SS firing squad. For Salvo had convinced the Germans that he was responsible for the imaginary crime, and saved the lives of the 22 hostages in so doing. “You live once, you die once,” he had told the boy while they had been digging the trench that afternoon.
These are the facts, but behind them lies a story of generosity, bravery and Christian charity.
Here is one Italian who did not run away; one man who, in the sorry history of the war, did something immediate to save victims of unjust oppression.
He had been to Holy Communion early that morning; he made his thanksgiving by offering his life for his brethren. But unlike so many on the way to canonisation, the dust of the cloister does not hang heavy upon him. He lived in terrible times, but by his action of giving up his life for his friends, he redeemed them.

Fr. Robert Barron comments on the Devil

Friday, July 27, 2012

Archbishop Chaput and the Path to Renewal

The following comes from the CNA:

Changes in the nature of American society call the faithful to renew their commitment to living out their beliefs in public life, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

The “America of Catholic memory is not the America of the present moment or the emerging future,” Archbishop Chaput said July 26, as he addressed the annual gathering of Catholic leaders hosted by the Napa Institute in Napa, Calif. 

In response to this reality, he urged Americans to “recover our distinctive Catholic identity and history” in order to restore a proper understanding of freedom in the U.S.

The archbishop explained that America’s founders, whose “moral framework was overwhelmingly shaped by Christian faith,” welcomed the cooperation of government and religious groups in promoting society’s interests.

They realized that religion was not merely a matter of private belief or worship, but a matter of “active discipleship,” which involves “preaching, teaching, public witness and service to others,” he said.

Given that context, the founders understood religious freedom encompasses “the right of religious believers, leaders and communities to engage society and to work actively in the public square,” Archbishop Chaput said.

But a growing secularism and the loss of a moral foundation suggest that “America is becoming a very different country.”

He pointed to growing “contempt” for religious faith, as well as “government pressure on religious entities,” seen not only in the highly-publicized contraception mandate but also in attacks on the conscience rights, hiring practices and tax statuses of businesses, charities, medical workers and private citizens.

Such threats will “get worse as America’s religious character weakens,” he warned.

However, there is still an opportunity to change the culture, Archbishop Chaput said, adding that Catholics need to acknowledge “America is now mission territory.” 

Change is brought about “not just by our actions, but by what we really believe – because what we believe shapes the kind of people we are,” he said. “A culture is more than what we make or do or build. A culture grows organically out of the spirit of a people – how we live, what we cherish, what we’re willing to die for.” 

This change in culture will require a shift in thinking, he explained, and a realization that there is not an “automatic harmony between Christian faith and American democracy.” 

“Democracy is not an end in itself,” the archbishop reminded the Catholic leaders gathered in Napa. “Majority opinion does not determine what is good and true.”

Rather, there is a need for politics rooted in virtue, he said. Catholics must stand up for what they believe, realizing that political involvement is “urgent” and will play a significant role in shaping the nation’s future.

“Democracies depend for their survival on people of conviction fighting for what they believe in the public square,” he insisted.

Archbishop Chaput explained that the cooperation required for democracy cannot become “an excuse for compromising with grave evil” or for “standing idly by while our liberty to preach and serve God in the public square is whittled away.”

If we are not willing to work tireless to promote a culture that respects human dignity and a true freedom, “we should stop trying to fool ourselves that we really believe what we claim to believe,” he said.

There is also a need for interior renewal, allowing for silence and God in our lives, he added, explaining that this is necessary to form the prudent and reasonable electorate on which America depends.

Looking to the future of the U.S., Archbishop Chaput called on the faithful to work towards “growing” a culture of religious freedom by living out the Gospel without hesitation.

“The firmer our faith, the deeper our love, the purer our zeal for God’s will – then the stronger the house of freedom will be that rises in our own lives, and in the life of our nation,” he said.

Participants in the July 26-29 Napa Institute Conference will hear from numerous Catholic leaders on how to live as Catholics in modern-day America. The sessions aim to help them to grow in their understanding of the faith and be motivated to live and defend their beliefs in a secular culture.