Consortium Newsletter - January 6, 2017

Father Fred Scinto's picture

Father Fred Scinto

January 6, 2017

CONSORTIUM NEWSLETTER

(JANUARY 6, 2017)

 

HISTORY IN THE MAKING: POPE FRANCIS ATTENDS THE 500TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION (CONTINUED)

The Events Themselves in Sweden (Continued)

 

  • According to Pope Francis in the Lund Cathedral Prayer Service on October 31, 2016, “Catholics and Lutherans must ‘look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness … We ought to recognize with the same honesty and love that our division distanced us from the primordial intuition of God’s people, who naturally yearn to be one, and that it was perpetuated historically by the powerful of this world rather than the faithful people.’The division among Christians, he said, goes against Christ’s will for his disciples, weakens their ability to serve the world and often makes it difficult for others to believe Christianity is a religion of peace and fraternity.” (Origins, “Sweden Visit: Homily at Ecumenical Prayer Service Commemorating the Reformation,” Pope Francis, November 10, 2016)

  • “The ecumenical prayer included a confession of the wrongs committed by both Churches as well as a celebration of the journey from ‘conflict to communion’” (Austen Ivereigh, contributing editor to Crux, CRUX, “Pope in Sweden heaps praise on Luther, but no breakthrough on Communion,” October 31, 2016).

  • Francis also said, “As Catholics and Lutherans, we have undertaken a common journey of reconciliation … This is also a moment to thank God for the efforts of our many brothers and sisters from different ecclesial communities who refused to be resigned to division, but instead kept alive the hope of reconciliation among all who believe in the one Lord.”

  • “Certainly there was a sincere will on the part of both sides to profess and uphold the true faith, but at the same time we realize that we closed in our ourselves out of fear or bias with regard to the faith which others profess with a different accent and language … Nor can we be resigned to the division and distance that our separation has created between us.” (Francis)

  • Francis pushed strongly for movement towards unity.Both faith communities should “mend a critical moment of our history” by forging new common path … “We have a new opportunity to accept a common path … We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another … God watches over us and God’s gaze of love inspires us to purify our past and to work in the present to bring about the future of unity that God so greatly desires.”

  • Please do not take the above for granted because we are beginning to get used to such sentiments now.This is a Roman Catholic Pope talking about Martin Luther and the Lutherans who until not too long ago were the “enemy” – Martin Luther who was excommunicated by an earlier Catholic Pope (Leo X)!The shift here is truly miraculous and is being accomplished by divine grace, as Francis states so clearly!Be sure to take a moment here and now to thank God for doing such miracles in our day!Do this in the light of the following statement made by Pope Francis at the Prayer Service in the Cathedral of Lund: “We … must look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness, for God alone is our judge.We ought to recognize with the same honesty and love that our division distanced us from the primordial intuition of God’s people, who naturally yearn to be one.”

     

  • “Speaking in Spanish, the pope pointed to two positive consequences of the Reformation.While separation has led to suffering and misunderstanding, ‘it has also led us to recognize honestly that without (Jesus) we can do nothing,’ he said, and therefore ‘has enabled us to better understand some aspects of our faith.’” Austin Ivereigh, “Pope in Sweden heaps praise on Luther, but no breakthrough on Communion”)

  • “The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing” (Francis) The Pope also added that “with the concept of ‘by grace alone,’ he (Luther) reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as God seeks to awake that response.The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God.” So, “Luther’s own spiritual experience in which he was haunted by the question of how to obtain God’s mercy, ‘is the decisive question for our lives,’ Francis said” (Ivereigh, ibid.).“And furthermore, the declaration on justification says that both Catholics and Lutherans confess that ‘by grace alone’, in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit” (Ivereigh, ibid.).

  • According to Pope Francis, the Reformation also “helped give greater centrality to Sacred Scripture in the Church’s life.” His context for this was the following: “the pope added that the half a millennia of separation between the two faith groups has ‘enabled us to understand better some aspects of our faith,’ noting specifically: ‘With gratitude we acknowledge that the Reformation helped give greater centrality to Sacred Scripture in the church’s life.’” (Ivereigh, ibid.)

  • Moving towards his conclusion, Pope Francis said that “we Christians will becredible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst.Without such witness, Christian faith is incomplete.”In his conclusion itself, the Pope re-iterated something he had said earlier: “as Lutherans and Catholics, we pray together in this cathedral, conscious that without God we can do nothing.”

  • The words of Francis at the Lund Cathedral were very well received but what Ewa Siekierski, a Danish Catholic who came from Copenhagen in Denmark to Sweden to see the Pope, stated are words of wisdom we must all heed: “It cannot just be Pope Francis who puts action behind the words that Catholics and Lutherans must get closer to each other.We – ordinary Catholics – must also do our part for it to become a reality.” Amen.This is part of our present mission; so take a moment in prayer at this moment to see what this means for you right now!Thank you!

     

  • So much more could be said about the ecumenical prayer service at Lund Cathedral in which Pope Francis participated but the above suffices to give you what you need to know about this from a general Catholic viewpoint.And so we will move on.

 

  • Do not take the above for granted and be sure to thank God for what is happening ecumenically between Catholics and Lutherans; also be sure to pray for the success of the celebrations and events connected with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.Thank you!

  • Do your share to make relations between Catholics and Lutherans closer.Reflect upon the words of Ewa Siekierski and if you can do nothing else but pray, please do pray for God’s blessings upon this; make your prayer here not just a prayer from time to time but part of your regular prayer life.Thank you!

     

  • If we are truly interested in ecumenism, we cannot give you what Pope Francis said in Lund Cathedral and say nothing about what the Lutheran side had to say.It is only fair to hear what the Lutherans said at the prayer service in which Pope Francis participated.So now we will hear the Lutheran side and give an ear to the Lutheran homily at the ecumenical service/prayer service commemorating the Reformation.The words below are those of Reverend Martin Junge, the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation which was founded in Lund, Sweden.

 

  • Junge expressed his desire that Catholics and Lutherans share Communion soon even though full unity between the churches has not been achieved.“Unlike Pope Francis, who made no mention of the question, Junge made clear that intercommunion was a shared goal of Lutheran-Catholic unity dialogues.God, he [Junge] said, would like to see Catholics and Lutherans coming together around ‘tables where we can share the bread and wine, the presence of Jesus Christ who never left us, and who calls us to remain in Him so that the world might believe.’” (Ivereigh, “Pope in Sweden heaps praise on Luther, but no breakthrough on Communion”).Pope Francis is not of the same mentality and this is one big difference that still continues between the two churches.“The Catholic Church has insisted that regular sharing of the Eucharist will be possible only when divided Christians have attained full unity” (Origins, “Sweden Visit: Homily at Ecumenical Prayer Service Commemorating the Reformation,” Reverend Junge, November 10 2016); however “the issue is raised in a joint statement signed at the end of the prayer ceremony pledging both churches to continue to work together towards a common Communion” (Ivereigh, “Pope in Sweden heaps praise on Luther, but no breakthrough on Communion”. (See below.)

  • “With the prayer service [the one mentioned above], Pope Francis and leaders of the Federation launched a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary in 2017 of the Reformation.While in the past Catholics and Lutherans’ sometimes carried stones to throw at each other, Reverend Junge said in his homily, that is no longer possible ‘now that we know who we are in Christ.’The stones cannot be used ‘to raise walls of separation and exclusion’ either he said.‘Jesus Christ calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation.’” (Origins, “Sweden Visit: Homily at Ecumenical Prayer Service Commemorating the Reformation,” Reverend Junge, November 10, 2016)

  • “Also speaking in fluent Spanish – he was raised in Chile – Junge praised the men and women in the past from both Churches who sought to overcome the Reformation divide through dialogue, prayer and common works of charity.‘Jesus never forgot us, even when we at times appeared to have forgotten Him, losing ourselves in hate-filled, violent actions,’ he said.” (Ivereigh, ibid.)

  • Continuing, Junge declared that “as we see Jesus among us, we have also started to see each other anew … Our memories are often marked by pain and conflict … The liberating grace of baptism is a divine gift that calls us together and unites us.”

     

  • We now leave altogether the ecumenical prayer service in Lund Cathedral to move on but three things we must take with us:

  • Francis described his overall visit to Sweden thus far (including the ecumenical prayer service in Lund Cathedral) as “a very ecclesial journey” – words well-chosen and carefully chosen when he was boarding transportation to go to Mälmo (or Malmö).

  • And let us heed these words form his homily in the Cathedral: “Pope Francis insisted that Catholics and Lutherans must ‘look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness.’Division, he said, goes against Christ’s will for His disciples, weakens their ability to serve the world and makes it difficult for others to believe Christianity is a religion of peace and fraternity.” (Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, “Unity before Lutherans, Catholics share communion,” The Catholic Register, November 6, 2016)Our Holy Father has spoken and here is God’s will for us now!

  • And “Pope Francis began the [prayer] service praying that the Holy Spirit would ‘help us to rejoice in the gifts that have come to the Church through the Reformation.’In an interview released October 28 [2016], he said those gifts were greater appreciation of the Bible as God’s Word and an acknowledgement that members of the Church are called to a process of ongoing reform.

         “In his homily, Pope Francis insisted that Catholics and Lutherans must ‘look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness.’  Division, he said, goes against Christ’s will for His disciples, weakens their ability to serve the world and makes it difficult for others to believe Christianity is a religion of peace and fraternity.” (Wooden)

     

  • At the end of the time in Lund for the Pope and the Lutheran leaders, a joint statement on the Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation was signed.This is too important a document not to say something about it and so we will do this before we leave Lund (with the Pope).The statement was signed by the Pope and Lutheran Bishop Manib Younan, the president of the Lutheran World Federation.

  • “The statement said, ‘Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity.’The pope and Bishop Younan signed the agreement October 31 at the end of an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran Cathedral in Lund that launched a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary in 2017 of the Reformation.The statement did not authorize further opportunities for shared Communion, but repressed longing ‘for this wound in the body of Christ’ to be healed.This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors, which we wish to advance also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue … While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church.Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends.” (Origins, “Sweden Visit: Joint Statement on Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation,” Pope Francis and Bishop Younan, November 10, 2016) (Bishop Younan is a Palestinian refugee.)

  • The joint statement also made clear that “our common faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism demand of us a daily conversion by which we cast off the historical disagreements and conflicts that impede the ministry of reconciliation … We urge Lutherans and Catholics to work together to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum.” (ibid.)

  • Part of the conclusion states that “we call upon all Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us.Rather than conflicts of the past, God’s gift of unity among us shall guide cooperation and deepen our solidarity.” (ibid.)

  • “Francis and the Lutheran federation president, Bishop Munib Younan, drew sustained applause at the end of the service [the ecumenical prayer service] when they signed this joint declaration/statement pledging to improve relations through dialogue, while working together to heal conflicts, to welcome refugees and care for the planet” (Andrew Medichini, Jan M. Olsan, and Nicole Winfield, “Pope on Reformation: Forgive ‘errors’ of past, forge unity,” Waterloo Region Record, November 1, 2016).

     

  • We now leave Lund Cathedral and go to the next event on October 31, 2016, at the ecumenical celebration at the Malmö Arena.

  • This was a 10,000-strong arena gathering to celebrate the fruits and results of 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.

  • “After the Lund event, the Vatican and Lutheran delegations rode together on a bus to attend an event highlighting both churches’ peacemaking and humanitarian efforts.An Indian environmental activist, the bishop of besieged Aleppo, Syria, a Colombian peacemaker, a Burundian refugee and a South Sudanese refugee athlete headlined the event.” (Medichini, Olsen, and Winfield)

  • Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan had already signed a joint statement committing their two churches to the path of unity.“We realize that much more unites us than separates us” (Pope Francis).Recall then at this point that at Lund (see above) Pope Francis and Bishop Younan had signed this document there that called for the two churches to continue working for unity; this is a very very major point never to be forgotten!

  • “A centerpiece of the Malmö event was the signing of a ‘declaration of intent’ by the heads of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities, and the Lutheran World Federation’s World Service.The two organizations promised to ‘witness and act together,’ supporting one another, including by serving the victims of war in Syria and Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.” (Origins, “Sweden Visit: Ecumenical Celebration at Malmö Arena,” Pope Francis, November 10, 2016)

  • “With God’s help, today we have gathered here, Lutherans and Catholics, in a spirit of fellowship to direct our gaze to the one Lord, Jesus Christ.Our dialogue has helped us to grow in mutual understanding; it has fostered reciprocal trust and confirmed our desire to advance toward full communion.” (ibid.)

     

  • More from this document (above) now.

  • Caritas Internationalis “is the social and justice arm of the Catholic Church.It is at the same time a confederation of 165 national organizations present in 200 countries and territories and a central entity of the Holy See.Serve, accompany and defend the poor: its mission is to promote a civilization of love, based on the social and other teachings of the church and is developed around five central strategic orientations that are: Caritas at the heart of the church; save lives and rebuild communities; promote sustainable integral human development; build global solidarity; make the Caritas Confederation more effective …

  • “The Lutheran World Federation has engaged with diakonia and service since its founding in 1947.World Service, the diaconal arm of the Lutheran World Federation, focuses especially on the needs of refugees and internally displaced people in humanitarian assistance, development aid and advocacy … Caritas Internationalis and the Lutheran World Federation World Service have worked together on several occasions during the past decades in many countries and regions addressing the root causes of poverty and humanitarian crises.” (ZENIT, “Caritas, Lutheran Federation Sign Common Declaration,” October 31, 2016 at https://zenit.org/articles/caritas

    TO BE CONTINUED

     

    SOME REMINDERS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR OUR ONGOING JOURNEY

  • By the time you get these materials, we will be at the end of the liturgical Christmas Season.My hope and prayer for yourself and myself is that throughout the whole of 2017 “may the message of Christmas fill your life with joy and peace” (Christmas card from McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton Ontario).I love the image on the front of the card which is Baby Jesus Holding the Globe (on the following page).

     

 

The sculpture was done by William Mcelcheran, world-renowned sculptor (1927-1999).  I find this depiction of Jesus fascinating and I am very intrigued by the baby’s smile.  The statue in the card was connected to the following scriptural passage from Colossians 1:16-17 (New International Version):

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

You can download a picture of the statue with the above Scripture passage and keep it in a prominent place at home or at work to remind you throughout the year what the beautiful message of Christmas is.  Even better, if you like, you can get one of these 5½ inches bronze statues through a donation to McMaster Divinity College: contact can be made at divdonor@mcmaster.ca or 905-525-9140, extension 23529.  Thank you.

  • “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year” (Charles Dickens).

  • Here is a simple family religious celebration for the New Year 2017 for the whole family that will uplift the whole family, including small children.Do not celebrate it too early in the New Year so that it does not get related to the secular celebrations; celebrate it around mid-month.Gather the family together in a circle (you can hold hands if you wish).Begin with the Sign of the Cross.Then the mother or father says a simple spontaneous opening prayer asking God for blessings on the family collectively and individually.Have someone read the Gospel, Luke 2:15-20.Then sit and have a simple discussion with everyone participating around these 3 questions:

  • For what am I thankful/grateful right now?;

  • What do I want God to give me in 2017?;

  • and What am I going to do in 2017 to make our family happier?

    End with a “Glory be to the Father”… or the “Our Father.”  It is a good idea to give everyone something religious to take away from the prayer celebration to keep for the year as a memento, e.g., a little angel, a shepherd, Baby Jesus – something inexpensive that you can find at a religious goods store or even at the Dollar Store.  Use your imagination!

     

  • Assisted suicide (legalized euthanasia) is off and running in Canada unfortunately.“Euthanasia is occurring in Quebec at three times the rate the government predicted, but obtaining accurate statistics on methodically assisted deaths across Canada is almost impossible and could lead to abuse, according to opponents of the practice.[The law was passed by Parliament in the early part of summer of last year (2016) and the number of people euthanized since includes many hundreds.] Alex Schadenberg [a pro-life leader fighting this euthanasia], executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said that even in Quebec, where the requirements for reporting and oversight are the most rigorous, euthanasia deaths are likely being underreported.A recent report from the Quebec government showed 262 euthanasia deaths in the first seven months after the province legalized the practice last December [2015].In Quebec, the government report included three cases of euthanasia that did not comply with the law, but there is no information on what, if anything, will happen in those cases, said Aubert Martin, executive director of the province’s grassroots anti-euthanasia organization, Living with Dignity.‘We are talking about killing a human being,’ Martin said.‘This is criminal.Is there going to be any follow-up?’” (Signs of the Times, America, “Assisted Suicide Count In Canada Challenged,” November 28, 2016)

         World-wide it seems the next step in legalized euthanasia is to allow it for anyone who requests it, whether the person is sick or dying of an ill ness or well.  It seems that this is coming in Western Europe: a number of months earlier (in 2016), Belgium passed such a law!

  • Here is something for you that may test your credibility.“the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, said it was investigating the Reverend Frank Pavone, Director of Priests for Life, after he placed the body of an aborted fetus on an altar and broadcast an endorsement for the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Facebook Live on November 7 [2016]” (Signs of the Times, America, “News Briefs,” November 28, 2016).All of us Catholics are called to be pro-life but such a sensationalistic act reaps no support for our cause!

     

  • It is so much easier for us to feel good and do good during the Holidays (Christmas Time and New Years’ Time).We still have some experience remaining of these times because they have just ended and so, we still have some of the “glow” and some of the good feelings left from these times.So, why not make that decent donation we have been wanting to make to a worthy cause now before we get too much further into 2017?Because of our Baptism and Eucharistic Celebrations, we have the spiritual eyes to see this “glow” and these “good feelings” as God’s nudging of us in grace.Let us act upon this now.Thank you.And Is there any way I and you can keep this “glow” and these “good feelings” for the whole of 2017?Pray to Abba about this and see what happens.Again, thank you!

  • You may have noticed that a big chunk of the Consortium’s material has to do with the separated or divorced or divorced and remarried or bereaved or anyone else suffering from PTSD.You may have also noted consequently that hardly anything was said about the need for forgiveness and the bestowing of forgiveness to those who have hurt us.Because grace and divine mercy super-abound during the Christmas Season, would it not have been good to recommend for our brothers/sisters suffering from PTSD that this is a good time to start the undertaking of forgiveness so very necessary for these, our sisters/brothers?

         A practical pastoral decision was made not to do this because, even though grace and divine mercy abound at this time, the holidays are so difficult as they are for those suffering PTSD that these sisters and brothers of ours should not be asked to undertake another (good) exercise because they already are too painfully over-burdened at this time with just trying to survive!  Certainly this is not an infallible kind of decision and it can be argued but I was working from the above premise/presumption that comes from my long ministry to the separated/divorced (and bereaved) (forty years).

         Now let us move into some reflection on “forgiveness and bestowing forgiveness to those who have hurt us”.  For those suffering from PTSD (see above), this forgiveness is absolutely necessary for the grief journey or the grief work that is needed for healing.  Jesus in the Gospels insist that we forgive – period!  He knows how important this is within a holistic context, i.e., we need to forgive in order to be made whole again at all levels such as spiritual/religious, social, psychological, and physical/medical (yes, physical/medical).  It also means in grace the exchange of servitude for freedom, the transition from victimhood to true self-hood, the movement from sadness/depression to joy and peace, the change from stress/handicap to overall health/development, from isolation to community, from aloneness to relationships, etc., etc.

    Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves (through God’s grace and help).  It is the disentanglement of what has made me a victim so that I can continue my new life by moving forward.  It is looking away from the rear-view mirror in my life that hurtfully brings me back to the original hurt over and over and over again and looking to the new possibilities my future brings me.  Very importantly, not to forgive is to continue to give to the one that hurt me power over me whereas forgiveness allows me to build a new life and a new beginning in freedom.

    Forgiveness is not a one-time act that can be performed in a day; usually when we are hurt deeply it will take a long time to do.  Forgiveness is more a journey than a single act and at times it may not be finished until I am in my funeral casket!  Jesus does not expect us to do it in a few days but he wants to get us started on the journey that is forgiveness and keep on going until it is completed (over time).  Forgiveness does not mean I forget all that has happened to me and Christ does not charge us to do so: we remember, not so we can get revenge on the one who hurt us, but because we are to learn from what happened.  And at times we have been hurt so badly that we cannot forget, e.g., when we have a bad fall, we may have bruises that last a long time or some kind of permanent change in our body.  So it is not needed for forgiveness to forget!  Nor does it mean that from now on I have to “like” the person who hurt me: I need to love that person and do for him/her loving acts but I need not and probably cannot come to like the person.  Not a requirement!

    Some things you can do to facilitate forgiveness:

  • pray to God to help you do it;

  • ask a couple of people who are close to you to pray for you for God to help you do it;

  • examine what happened and if there is something you discover that was blameworthy from your side, ask the person who hurt you to forgive you for what you have done specifically; this is not easy but it often facilitates well the forgiveness you need to do;

  • do not go over the event over and over and over again so that you end up working yourself into a rage because this is not spiritually and psychologically healthy for you;

  • go and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) with a priest (with whom you are comfortable);

  • get some counselling that also includes spiritual direction;

  • as you undertake your journey of forgiveness, if you slip up in some way, be gentle with yourself and do not beat yourself up;

  • use over and over and over, the prayer “Lord, have mercy on me;” you can also pray to your favorite saints to help you forgive;

  • and lastly, as you start to make progress on your journey of forgiveness and continue on it, in gratitude, thank God for what is happening.

    May God help you forgive and become free again.  Amen!

     

  • I become more and more frightened as I see how we (as humans) are using the Internet and Social Media today.Both the Internet and Social Media are truly great modern blessings for us journeying in our present world; they do and can do so much for the betterment of humankind.The problem is not in the Internet and Social Media but in how we use/misuse them.

    Some studies horrify me.

    Back in 1979, Alvin Toffler wrote a book that has become a classic –  Future Shock.          His thesis is that we have speeded up life and change so much that we are bombarded with more than we can healthily handle and absorb.  Not being able to handle and deal with all this and absorb it, we become “sick” with a modern disease called “future shock.”  We cannot handle all that is coming at us and so we become unhealthy. Unfortunately, since his day, we have speeded things up so much faster and keep creating more than we can handle healthily.  Today there is a strong discussion/dialogue going on among researchers, health care-givers, cultural critics, scientists, computer experts, medical doctors, neuroscientists (brain specialists), sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, theologians, etc. in order to try to see what we can do to make the situation much less unhealthy and much more healthy for us humans!  Even Silicon Valley is now worrying about this: increasingly those who work there take weekend “Sabbaths” (from late Friday to early Monday) from electronic gadgets, the internet, social media, etc. so that they do not succumb to the unhealthy aspects of today’s culture and its speed and its huge masses of electronic/digital data which is truly suffocating us.  Ironic is it not?  In our society we eliminated the idea of the religious Sabbath every weekend so that we can continue the break-neck speed of our culture and now we are re-introducing the notion of Sabbath all over again!  Speaking of Sabbath, do you and I as Catholics/Christians really respect the religious Sabbath as God’s Third Commandment to us?  You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see that we are like everybody else in this regard, for the most part.  What a shame!  What a pity!

           I have already mentioned to you in these Consortium materials the study released very recently about the average attention span of the average person in our culture being about 11 seconds!  People go in and out of focus, so to speak, every dozens of seconds.  Think about it!  For example, how are you supposed to preach in this kind of situation?  Consider also this research that came out of Australia about two months ago.  “Thanks to technology, we are more connected than ever.  But we may not be happier.  A recent survey of 1500 people in Australia suggested adults who reported extensive usage of social media like Facebook and Twitter suffered ‘significantly higher levels of loneliness and negative emotions.’” (“Bad News,” Maclean’s Magazine, November 21, 2016) One last example.  The misuse of social media is quickly rising as a major cause of divorce today in the United States and Canada.  Many many more studies could be cited here but this suffices to make my point.

           These are the people to whom we minister today in our culture/society. How do we respond to them so that the Church remains/becomes relevant to them?  We can no longer just keep on doing what we used to do in the past.  The genius of Pope Francis in the Holy Spirit is that he is very much aware of the people we are privileged to serve today!  He knows the above!

           One thing we can do is pray more for our flock.  This has always been the demand on the Church’s ministers in the past but today it takes on a new urgency.  So please think about whether you and I spend enough time praying for our sheep.  Secondly, I remember a long time ago someone telling me that to be a good preacher (in the twentieth century) you had to prepare your sermons/homilies with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  If we update this for the twenty-first century Church, we ministers/preachers have to prepare our sermons/homilies with the Bible in one hand and culture-criticism material in the other.  God help us all do so!  Amen!

     

  • “Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters.

    Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace.”

    (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2015)

  • On January 19, 2017, “Living Mercy Every Day” is an event in Windsor, Ontario, at Marie Rose Place, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.Particulars follow.

         “The Jubilee Year of Mercy is over but we are still called to be people who live mercy every day.  We will reflect on what mercy is and what it looks like in daily life, at work and in the world.  We will also reflect on the spiritual practices that support us in living mercy in our lives every day.  Facilitator: Anne Shore.  Cost $15.  For more information: www.marieroseplace.com.  To register: marierose@mnsi.net or (519) 253-1383.” (“Bulletin Board,” Living With Christ, December 2016)

  • In Cobourg, Ontario, you will find Villa Saint Joseph Retreat and Ecology Centre which has ongoing events for those of us who are committed to Pope Francis’ ecological concerns.“Our Centre is on the shores of beautiful Lake Ontario and offers a quiet, prayerful and relaxing environment.We value holistic spirituality, inclusive of all peoples and all the earth.Our ministry and programs are rooted in an ecological interfaith and justice-oriented stance.More information at: (905) 372-2741, villa@eagle.ca or www.villastjoseph.ca.” (“Bulletin Board,” Living With Christ, December 2016)

  • I hope you can still get/find a copy of Living With Christ, Christmas 2016; its cover is one of the most beautiful depictions of Madonna and Child I have ever seen.It is not only a beautiful depiction of Mary and Jesus but it says so much about the real Incarnation.The picture is one of Mary and Jesus as Inuits in parkas for a cold snow-bound environment and known as Our Lady of the Snows; it is an oil painting by the artist Bern Will Brown, located in Our Lady of Snow Church, Colville Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada.

    There are many other examples of the non-white Mother and Child throughout the world that are magnificent, ranging from the black African Madonnas and Child to the East Asian Madonnas and Child of the Far East.  Have you looked closely at Our Lady of Guadalupe, just recently celebrated on December 12, 2016, by the Church?  She is aboriginal and, if you look very closely, at the cloak on which Her image is imprinted, you can see that she is pregnant (with Jesus).  Of all the Church’s Madonna apparitions of the Church, I have always preferred this one to be the best.  And lastly, as I was growing up as a child, in my Italian family, we had a big picture of a black Madonna sitting in a big tree that fascinated me: this was Our Lady of Foggia (Italy) and my mother told me Her very interesting story.

    What has all this got to do with anything?  These beautiful and appealing Madonnas are traditional in the Church because they express so very well what the Incarnation (that we have just celebrated) is all about.  Most of us automatically think of the Madonna and Child as being white like the dominant white population of the Western World; we do not even think of Her and Jesus in Middle East terms (Jewish or Arabic) which would be more historically correct.  However, the truth is Jesus came for everyone, for people of all races and ethnicities, and this is powerfully expressed by the various differing depictions of Madonna and Child.  This is a powerful evangelization of the basic Gospel!  Thank God and Christ for that!  Thank you!

  • Check the post-Christmas and post-New Year’s sales at this time and see if you can find a copy of a statue of Santa Claus kneeling before Baby Jesus.If you can, you may want to pick it up for next Christmas because it is a great tool to teach the relationship of Santa Claus (=Saint Nicholas) to Christ and especially for the smaller children.

  • Today we cannot really and fully understand modern man/woman without knowing something of the basics of neuroscience (“brain specialized study”).A delightful book has just bene published, titled Brain Briefs by Doctor Art Markham (chief author) that is an excellent excellent guide for understanding the basics of neuroscience.The book consists of relatively short answers to various basic questions, some being very important questions and some being not so important (using the authors’ own words!).It is easy to read and very very easy to understand.I am sure you will read some of it and then you will not want to put it down!I guarantee you that if you read the book as ways to enhance your (holistic) ministry, you will not be disappointed!

  • One other suggestion for improving our ministry in the Church.Start a journal.Journaling has been shown to reach our deepest emotions better than any other process: this is why it is used in ministry to those suffering from PTSD.It is also relatively easy way to keep remembering and using important materials we discover on our life journey; just think of how much we learn that is really great knowledge for personal spiritual growth and for holistic effective ministry and then we lose this within a year.It is also an excellent way to keep good ideas that hit you during special times like the Christmas Liturgical Season.So start a journal for yourself to keep insights that are good for you and your ministry and you might be surprised at how better you minister to those God puts in your care.Thank you!

  • Let me leave you with one more thought before we end.The basic psychological and religious premise/attitude by which we live our lives is this: either we choose to function as victims or as creators (with God’s help and grace, of course) of new life in an ongoing way.We choose and we need to choose very wisely because this is so key to life.Ask God to give you the Spirit to choose wisely and may our loving merciful God do so!Amen!

     

    May God be very generous and merciful to you, your loved ones, and all those that you are privileged to serve in ministry.  Amen!

     

    Father Fred Scinto, C.R.,

    Resurrection Ministries,

    Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

    (fscinto@rogers.com)

    (519-885-4370 or toll free 1-877-242-7935)

     

     

     




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