The Walk of (the Year of) Faith

Lisa Gulino

Last year was probably the busiest year of ministry that I ever did have in my 25 years of serving God as an ecclesial minister. It was, after all, the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope-emeritus Benedict, celebrated from October 11, 2013 until November 24, 2013. I was entrusted by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin with the joyful task of providing ample opportunities for the people of God in our Diocese to “rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” (Porta Fidei, 2).

In preparation for this Year of Faith, my colleagues and I read the Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei. We were struck by Pope Benedict’s warning that the gift of faith cannot be taken for granted and that the Year of Faith was intended to help all rediscover the rich content of our Creed, renew our act of Faith and recommit oneself to being a living witness to Christ in our daily walk.

During my prayer time, as I surveyed the year to come and what it might entail ministry wise, I also reviewed what the year would hold for me personally.  In this glance forward, I recognized that during this same time frame, there would be a convergence of significant anniversaries and jubilees in my own personal life. These included the 50th anniversary of my birth, 30 years of my consecration to Jesus through Mary, 25 years in ministry, and five years of service in the Diocese of Providence. In light of these personal milestones, I wished to give God thanks and praise for the many blessings he has showered me with throughout my life and ministry. I also knew that I could not let the Year of Faith pass without intentionally renewing and strengthening the gift of faith given me. And this is when I decided to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) as a pilgrim.

I would go on pilgrimage in the true sense of the word. Pope Benedict XVI, in his own visit to Santiago in 2010, said that to make a pilgrimage is to “step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor….” (Address at the Cathedral of Santiago De Compostela)

Some of the six pounds of intentions that I carried with me lay on the altar of the Eucharistic Miracle in O’Cebrino, Spain.  This is where I started my pilgrimage.

Some of the six pounds of intentions that I carried with me lay on the altar of the Eucharistic Miracle in O’Cebrino, Spain. This is where I started my pilgrimage.

The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage route from France to the tomb of the Apostle St. James the Greater in Galicia, (northwestern part) Spain. Tradition has it that the saint is buried in what is now the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostelo. For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have been traveling this route in prayer and sacrifice, seeking silence and shaking off the torpor which may have taken hold of their mind and heart. For myself, I wanted to heed the invitation Pope Benedict XVI extended in the Year of Faith “that none of us grow lazy in the faith. It is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us.” (Porta Fidei, 15)

 

So I set out to plan my journey on the Way of St. James. In hindsight, I realized I gained a new understanding into what it means that the Church herself is a pilgrim and accompanies us along our sojourn through life. Many people helped me prepare for this pilgrimage, from those who let me borrow a backpack and other gear, to those who walked with me in training, friends who gave me tips from their own pilgrimage and all those who prayed for me to keep me safe and healthy.  On August 12, 2013, with the support of many and six pounds of prayer intentions gathered from colleagues, family, and friends, I boarded the plane to begin the first leg of the pilgrimage. Little did I know what lay in store for me physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Next post: The Top 10 Things I Learned on My Camino

Lisa Gulino is Director for the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation in the DIocese of Providence and teaches ministry for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

 

The Gift of Celibacy

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Mass to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and on the same day the first Mass of a newly ordained priest. Both were so filled with joy. In one, the joys of a lifetime of service to the church, in the other the joy of embarking on a new life. I was struck by how grateful both men are for the gift of their priesthood.

This juxtaposition also made me think about a recent article I read on the results of a survey that the Pew research company did on Catholics’ attitude on priestly celibacy. The study reported that 7 in 10 Americans think priests should be able to marry. I think this ordinationreflects a misunderstanding of the vow of celibacy and the ministry of the priest. Celibacy is indeed a sacrifice; it is however a sacrifice rooted in love.

Celibacy is not an end in and of itself, some sort of life-long chastity battle, but rather it is a means to an end. It is a means to love freely, generously and fully, not one other person– as in a marriage– but to love all God’s people and to be free to extend that love in whatever way people need it; hospital rooms in the middle of the night, funerals on holiday weekends, Mass at 7:00 am before work. Availability is one end of celibacy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that celibacy “[I]s … a giving of oneself entirely to God and to the Church, a ‘sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart, celibacy radiantly proclaims the Kingdom of God’” (1579).

Another end of celibacy is to be a sign to the world that we are made for union with God, that even marriage is a means—a way of learning to love– in preparation for an eternal union with God. A friend of mine who served as a priest chaplain in the Air Force observed that often he was called to the hospital at the request of an injured airman, an airman who was not a Catholic, but asked specifically for the priest thinking he was somehow closer to God, perhaps holier! My friend was always quick to point out that priests are not by default holier. Rather, the witness of the celibate life is a sign of a desire and a discipline to live one’s life first and foremost for God and with God and people perceive that in some way. This kind of experience in these visits were both a grace for my friend and a reminder that he is called and people expect him to live differently because of his priesthood.

I have the privilege to work with many priests and most of them are very happy men. They speak honestly about how celibacy can be hard sometimes and life can feel lonely (what married person would not say the same). What they appreciate is the grace that comes with faithfully living a celibate life and the moments of grace they experience bringing God’s love into people’s lives in moments of great joy and moments of total despair. Priests have a very privileged place in the lives of the people they serve and that, many of them would not trade for the world!

Susan Timoney is the Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington and teaches spirituality for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Moses’ Father

Moses Coleman
This Father’s Day is a particularly special one in my household as it is my first. My wife and I welcomed our son, Moses Elias Coleman, into this world on July 16th, 2013, and thus we will be celebrating Father’s Day with an 11-month-old. While reflecting upon this fact I could not help but notice the serendipity of Father’s Day coinciding with the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity this year. Further adding to this happy coincidence is the first reading from today’s Mass for the Most Holy Trinity featuring, you guessed it, a scene from the life of the prophet Moses. The synchronicity of these events, however, is not confined simply to the names of persons. The biblical passage in today’s first reading is one which I often use in the classroom in order to demonstrate the harmony of the Old and New Testaments. More specifically, today’s first reading shows that both Testaments agree that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16).

The biblical passage in question relates the story of God’s theophany to Moses atop Mount Sinai. Previously, Moses had asked God for a glimpse of the divine ‘glory’ (kabod). In response to this request, and because Moses had found favor with the LORD, God promiMoses with 10 Commandmentssed to reveal His ‘beauty’ or ‘goodness’ (tub) to the prophet (Ex 33:17-19). But rather than simply display His presence, God also speaks His glory to Moses. While passing over Moses, God utters His divine name (see Ex 3:14) – a very intimate act – and then verbally communicates His presence. God says: “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” (Ex 34:6). This revelation of God’s nature, i.e., “slow to anger and rich in kindness,” is almost axiomatic in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Nm 14:18; Neh 9:17; Ps 85:15; 103:4-8; 145:8; Jl 2:13; Jon 4:2; etc.). In other words, later prophets and psalmists discerned well that this phrase reveals – as much as human words can – something essential of God’s divine nature.

To put it plainly, when Moses experiences the LORD’s divine presence, what is revealed to him is God’s ‘loving-kindness’ (chesed). He sees not God’s righteousness, or even holiness, but His love. God’s glory is His love. In the original Hebrew, this word connotes a mode of loving which is relational and covenantal. It is not ‘unconditional,’ but calls for a response in kind from the beloved. Like a father loves his child, so too does God love Israel; and this love – as the above passage demonstrates – is part of God’s innermost being. “When Israel was a child I loved him,” God says through the prophet Hosea, “out of Egypt I called my son” (11:1). But simply because this love is ‘conditional,’ does not mean that it is coerced. On the contrary, God gives us the freedom (brings us “out of Egypt”) and patiently waits for His covenantal love, His paternal love, to be reciprocated by His children.

Turning to the New Testament, perhaps the best-known illustration of God’s paternal love for us is cRembrandt's Prodigal Sonontained in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32). Although much can be said of each of the main characters in this parable, the father in this story mirrors well the love and patience which our Heavenly Father has for each one of us. When his spendthrift son asks for his inheritance (which is tantamount to saying, “I wish you were dead so that I could have my money now!”), the father honors the freedom of the son and acquiesces to his request. Upon the son’s return the father spies him from “a long way off,” suggesting that he has been vigilantly awaiting this moment, and embraces his son with neither reserve nor hesitation. Despite living a life of debauchery and impurity, squandering his inheritance on prostitutes and tending to unclean animals, the son’s sincere contrition and confession are enough to send the father into a flight of rapturous joy.

When I recently taught this passage to my undergraduates I decided to relate a personal experience in order to underscore the love and patience of the father in this story and, consequently, the love and patience which our heavenly Father has for each one of us. When my son was about 4 months old a situation arose in which I was left alone with him while he was crying inconsolably. There was nothing I could do to relieve him of this condition. He w
anted Mama, as all 4-month-olds do, and Papa quite simply would not suffice. So there I was, on the sofa, with the red and tear-soaked face of my son emitting a pulsating and animalistic cry from over my left shoulder, while I gently and calmly patted his back with my right hand. This continued for quite some time…at least in my mind. And so it is with our heavenly Father, who patiently waits for us to calm down from the disruption and disorder of our sins and respond to His paternal love with filial devotion.

This Father’s Day let us remember that whenever we as fathers are “slow to anger and rich in kindness,” we incarnate the glory of God, the love of the Father. Whenever we give or receive paternal love, we are experiencing – in a limited and analogous way – a love whose source is the inner-Trinitarian life of God. And, let us also remember, that this love calls for us to become by adoption what Christ is by nature, i.e., sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Jesus doesn’t want just servants, he wants siblings!

Anthony Coleman teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

 

Everything to Gain

Related article on the SJC Theology Blog

“No one believes anything unless one first thought it believable . . . Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thought . . . Not everyone who thinks believes . . . but everyone who believes thinks, thinks in believing and believes in thinking.” — St. Augustine

Believing is a form of knowing where what is known is revealed by God, but then draws in all else that is known. Believing incorporates all human operations within itself. Believing involves seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, inquiring, imagining, understanding, conceiving, formulating, reflecting, marshalling and weighing evidence, judging, deliberating, evaluating, deciding, speaking, writing. This believing or Catholic faith attends to what God reveals, seeks to know what it means, reasons about wWIndowhat it implies, and is responsible for what must be done. Catholic faith co-inheres with reason, expresses itself through reason, reasons about itself, and reasons about all that is. Such an understanding of faith can help us overcome a culture of timidity. It can help us focus the study of theology at Saint Joseph’s College.

(1) Catholic faith co-inhering with reason defends the whole point of education by affirming the ability of human reason, and all of its operations, to discover and reach the truth. The reigning post-modern academic philosophies are critical of human ability to reach the truth. This hyper-criticism, methodical doubt turned back on itself, is hardly a solid ground for a community of learning. In John Paul II’s words,

The currents of thought which claim to be postmodern merit appropriate attention. According to some of them, the time of certainties is past, and the human being must learn to live in a horizon of total absence of meaning, where everything is provisional and ephemeral . . . and now at the end of this century one of our greatest threats is the temptation to despair.                                                   Fides et Ratio, #91

(2) Catholic faith co-inhering with reason is open to dialogue with all. Dialogue always involves a balance between conviction and a humble openness. Catholic faith respects the differing forms of faith that are found in the branches of Christianity, in the world religions, and among people of good will.

(3) Catholic faith co-inhering with reason provides a robust ground for academic freedom. Human dignity demands that human rights are respected, especially that freedom of conscience which is necessary for true Catholic faith.

(4) Catholic faith co-inhering with reason also provides a strong basis for a special, communal form of academic freedom, the academic freedom of the theology programs to have a unique Catholic identity of their own, and not to be a derived and weak clone of generic American colleges and universities in the midst of an endemic secularity. This communal academic freedom is why a religious community, our Sisters of Mercy, can sponsor a college “rooted in and professing fidelity to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and heritage of the Roman Catholic Church.”

(5) Catholic faith co-inhering with reason is open to the entire range of reality. It stands in awe and wonder before the gifts of what is, the gifts of being. The faculty of Saint Joseph’s College’s undergraduate and graduate programs in theology founded on Catholic faith co-inhering with reason, can be confident in their ability to form a community of reflective intelligence, will understand the difference between a healthy diversity based on the riches of reality, discovered through a reason-informed faith, and a virulent diversity that lets everyone be anything because it has no criteria for telling difference between anything. The theology programs of Saint Joseph’s College have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by being rooted in and professing fidelity to Catholic faith co-inhering in reason.

Daniel Sheridan is Professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and former Director of the Online Theology Program

Mind, Will, Heart, and Body

Previously I explored the remarkable dual canonization of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II. Not surprisingly, the same event has prompted its fair share of humorous takes, too. Will the Church simply go ahead and canonize every pope?   While those particular links asks it satirically, the question does have some legitimacy.

Pope Pius XI

Pope Pius XI

All joking aside, one pope overlooked in the current papal-canonization-craze is Pius XI. This pope deserves renewed attention amid the just and extensive celebrations of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. These popes’ legacies rest largely on their social witness. Each in his own way boldly proclaimed the Gospel and addressed the modern world’s questions and needs. In doing so they followed the path of their predecessors, of course, but most closely Pius XI. Born Achille Ratti and elected the 259th successor of St. Peter in February 1922, Pius XI reigned exactly seventeen years when he died in 1939. Thus his pontificate witnessed almost the entire period between the last century’s two World Wars. Like the Polish pope, Ratti was an avid hiker and mountain climber. Some video footage exists of his election and funeral, alluding to the future spectacles that Vatican II, St. John Paul II, and Pope Francis routinely display. Like his papal namesakes Piuses IX and X, Pius XI made ample use of encyclicals. Here the dimensions of his pontificate’s legacy become fully known.

When elected, Pius XI took as his motto: Pax Christi in Regno Christi (Christ’s peace within Christ’s Reign).   To the extent that he is remembered, Pius XI’s legacy rests on three encyclicals: Casti Connubii (1930), a discussion of marriage; Quadragesimo Anno (1931), a commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and itself a statement of Christian social reconstruction; and Mit Brennender Sorge (1937), an explicit condemnation of the Nazi agenda. Each merits its own consideration, because each fulfills in some way Pius XI’s own motto. Our earthly lives don’t truly make sense until they stand ordered under Christ. A certain Augustinian/Anselmnian vision pervades Pius’s legacy: we must believe in order to understand. In like fashion, we must believe in order to act and live appropriately.

This trajectory began with Pius XI’s first encyclical: Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio (December 23, 1922). Devoted to explaining his own papal motto, the encyclical recounts the destruction wrought by the Great War. While decrying assaults on the Church itself, Pius does not stop with mere Catholic boosterism. The war’s catastrophic violence denigrated human dignity (see #21) and only through faith do people fully recover a sense of this (see #38). Thus the foundational principle of Catholic social thought is established in the aftermath of the First, not Second, World War. Throughout his pontificate Pius XI wrote encyclicals extolling Catholic intellectual leaders. In 1923, he began with St. Francis De Sales (Rerum Omnium Perturbationem) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Studorium Ducem). Across two weeks in May 1925, he canonized St. Therese de Lisieux, St. Madeline Sophie Barat, and St. Peter Canisius. These new saints illuminated the spiritual path Achille Ratti had taken himself, one of quiet, conscientious commitment to one’s faith and the Church. We know now, of course, that the Great War’s end only suspended tragic military and civilian deaths. The world would soon again experience the consequences of secular hubris.

Pius XI himself recognized the shift later in 1925 with his encyclical Quas Primas. Released on December 11, 1925, the encyclical established the Feast of Christ the King, now celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year. In so doing Pius XI returned to his papal motto and asserted Christ’s spiritual and temporal authority (see #s 15 & 17). Christian faith is necessarily embodied, and thus the Church stands in the world, but free from control by the secular state (see #31). The laity especially stand to benefit from meditation upon Christ’s kingship. If Christ died for all, then, Pius concludes, “it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire” (#33). Christ must reign in our minds, wills, hearts, and bodies. Each faculty contributes to both spiritual sanctification and social justice, and serves, Pius XI prays, as evangelical examples to all non-Catholics. The peace that passes understanding, if authentic, moves beyond the individual to include others, not just Catholics but all peoples. After all, each person possesses intrinsic dignity given by God alone.

So when Pope Francis tells us “Confess Jesus. If we [the Church] don’t do that, we will be a pitiful NGO”, his words recall his Petrine predecessor almost one hundred years earlier.   Social justice requires more than just spirituality, but actual orthodox faith. After all, Christ reigns our minds, hearts, and wills as well as our bodies. And in like fashion, that faith must not remain merely mental or spiritual. Our bodies put faith into action, and both Pius XI and Francis repeatedly ask that we do just that. Neither one of them suffered under the illusion that doing so would be easy.

Guest blogger Jeffrey Marlett blogs at Spiritual Diabetes.

Watching

Open WaterThe contingencies of world history create the present cultural moment for orthodox Christian believers. A new evangelization is in order, but its cultural ressourcement, not aggiornamento, must be broad and deep. Catholicism is an ocean with depths, dead spots, hurricanes and typhoons, rip tides, shallows and shoals, bays, maelstroms and calms, icebergs, polluted waters, and tides going out and coming in. Evangelization must occur from the depth of the ocean, a stillness centered on Christ. We should find that point and anchor over it. In God’s wisdom and grace, in this secular culture, this grace is not given. We must work where and when we are: in this culture and in this time. As preachers of the good news we can hope that the tide of Dover Beach returns. Regardless, we evangelize a culture that finds the good news implausible. In terms of Lonergan’s precepts; our task is to be as attentive, to be as intelligent, to be as reasonable, and to be as responsible as we possibly can in this culture. After that, it is in God’s hands and we watch.

Watching in faith may be the heart of the new evangelization. Newman affirmed this in his Advent sermon of December 3, 1837 on “Watching”:

Year passes after year silently; Christ’s coming is ever nearer than it was. O that, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven! O, my brethren, pray Him to give you the heart to seek Him in sincerity. Pray Him to make you in earnest. You have one work only, to bear your cross after Him. Resolve in His strength to do so. Resolve to be no longer beguiled by ‘shadows of religion,’ by words, or by disputing, or by notions, or by high professions, or by excuses, or by the world’s promises or threats. Pray Him to give you what Scripture calls ‘an honest and good heart,’ or ‘a perfect heart,’ and, without waiting, begin at once to obey Him with the best heart you have. . . May this be the portion of every one of us! It is hard to attain; but it is woeful to fail. Life is short; death is certain; and the world to come is everlasting.

Daniel Sheridan is Professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and former Director of the Online Theology Program.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us

Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pompeo Batoni

Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pompeo Batoni

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated each year by the Universal Church 19 days after Pentecost Sunday. This year, the feast day falls on June 27. Since June is traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us take some time this month to reflect on this wonderful gift given to the Church through the private revelation of Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque in the small village of Paray-le-Monial, France in 1673.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is not simply one devotion among many – it is the subject of all other devotions to Jesus Christ.

We know that private prayer is essential to growth in the spiritual life. Often, this includes particular devotions, whether to particular saints, to Our Lady in her many apparitions and with her many titles, or to the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. When we pray to Jesus, we might do so with particular devotion to Him as the Healer, the Miracle Worker, the King, or the Good Shepherd. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not simply one devotion among many – it is the subject of all other devotions to Jesus Christ. It is the person of Jesus Himself.

Many people came to Jesus during his earthly ministry, drawn to him by his immense love for them. He healed them, taught them, and showed his power over nature and over the evil that had entrapped them. When we encounter the Sacred Heart of Jesus in prayer, we encounter the person who heals, teaches, and conquers evil in his essential being as the person who, first and foremost, loves. He is able to heal, to teach, and to conquer only with the love that he willingly pours forth from His Sacred Heart. It is not a devotion to one aspect of Jesus’ ministry. The Sacred Heart is His very person.

Christ offers us an intimate union with his Sacred Heart through the sacramental life of the Church. By the grace of our baptism, we can love as Christ loves. We are capable of a love that is infinite, if only we cooperate with the sacramental graces to remain united to His Sacred Heart. Frequent confession and reverent reception of Holy Communion offer the most intimate of encounters with His Sacred Heart, which is truly the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.

The intimacy between Jesus and his priests is an intimate union of the heart.

Saint John Vianney, patron saint of priests, describes the priesthood as the “love of the heart of Jesus.” The object of devotion of the Sacred Heart is the real, physical heart of Jesus, which is sacramentally present, really and truly, in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ’s body and blood given for us on the cross, the body that contained His Sacred Heart.

For the priest, then, devotion to the Sacred Heart is a most certain meditation on his own identity, given to him on his ordination day. The intimacy between Jesus and his priest is an intimate union of the heart. The ontological change that occurs as a result of the sacrament is one of being – not of physical appearance or personality, but of the heart. This change in the heart gives it the capacity to love as Jesus loves, with an omnipotent love, because he is loving with the Eucharistic heart of Jesus.

The capacity for love and the way it manifests itself in ministry will reveal itself over and over again throughout a priest’s lifetime, and will often surprise him. The priest is called upon to minister in a wide variety of ways, but the one source of all these ministries is the heart. The priest teaches, heals, counsels, and absolves sin first and foremost as one who loves with the love of Jesus. He has a responsibility to be ever mindful of this heart he now has, and to be in constant and conscious relationship with this Sacred Heart of Jesus so he will remain aware of its capabilities and use them fully.

When people see a priest, they expect to meet Christ. If they don’t, they may move away from the Church, or feel justified that they already have. The priest must be an embodiment of the Sacred Heart. It is not by accident that the words of consecration and the words of absolution are in the first person. It is at these moments when the priest is most himself in his ontological being, in his heart. In these moments, he is Jesus saving souls with his omnipotent love, reuniting them to God the Father in heaven as the Sole Mediator.

We can bring this presence of Jesus into every aspect of our lives by being especially conscious of the presence of Jesus in His Sacred Heart and the means by which we encounter it. Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the home, the Nine Consecutive First Friday Masses, the Consecration to the Sacred Heart, and reception of Holy Communion in reparation for those who do not love Him, are but a few ways to show love to the Sacred Heart, who loves us so much, and whose love gives us life itself.

Carmina Chapp teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.