Welcome the Stranger

Cardinal SeanThere has been a lot of reporting recently on the effects of the Attorney General Sessions order to have all immigrants attempting to enter the country illegally, to be arrested and jailed.  A part of that order is to separate any children from their immigrant parents, and hold them in separate facilities, pending placement in foster homes.  Some in the government have advanced the theory that it will deter immigrants from attempting to cross the border, at the cost of losing their children.

Many spokespersons of civil rights and religious organizations have spoken out sharply against this policy.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Florida have condemned the policy, and is discussing sending a delegation of bishops to the border to examine the conditions at these facilities, and the condition of the immigrants being held.  Here in Boston, MA, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston has issued a statement on the current immigration situation.

While our country has the right to control it’s borders, and who is be allowed into this country, humane policies should be implemented in enforcing immigration laws.  What we are beginning to see on our screens, and reading newspapers, shows a failure of empathy and charity by this government.  It is yet to be seen if the American public will voice it’s concern for the immigrant children, given the growing hostility towards illegal immigrants in general.

What is really upsetting many religious leaders is the attempt by Attorney General Sessions and Press Secretary Sanders to use Scripture to back the government immigration policies.  There are commentators who criticize  the use of Scripture passages out of context.

Well, I may about to do the same thing; but I close with this Scripture passage that always turn to when reflecting on the moral issues of immigration policies.  It is from the Book of Leviticus:

When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him.  You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.  I, the Lord, am your God.”  (Lv 19: 33-34, NAB)

We are citizens of a country of immigrants; we are all descendants of immigrants.  Those who come to our shores, approach our borders; need to be treated with dignity, care, and respect.

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Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

img_0635On this day, the Catholic Church, and especially members of the Franciscan family, celebrate the life of St. Anthony of Padua.

In many Franciscan parishes, chapels and shrines; the friars will be distributing “St. Anthony’s Bread.” It a practice of charity, harkening back to a time when bread was actually distributed to the poor and hungry. One legend has it that a French cloth merchant could not get into her shop, because of a broken lock. She asked for help and intercession of St. Anthony, promising to give bread to the poor, in return. The lock miraculously opened, the shop was in business, and woman made good on her promise.

Since that time, Franciscan friary distribute small, blessed loaves of bread to people, as a reminder that as they receive blessings from God, they are to share it with those in need, for the love of God.

Twilight

Twilight on the campus of Bridgewater State University, MA. Another day draws to a close; another academic year draws to a close. This week, the 2018 commencements will be held. For many students, the twilight of their academic life, and soon, the dawn of a brand new life; with joys and disappointments, uncertainties and hopes.

To the BSU Class of 2018:

May the Good Lord be with you!

May God the Father watch over you and protect you!

May God the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, walk with you on your journeys. May he give you strength and hope!

May God the Spirit, inspire you, guide you, comfort you.

May Almighty God bless you all, now and forever!

The Catholic Worker – 85th Anniversary!

CW

Dot and PeteOn May 1, in the year 1933, a Socialist group was holding a May Day demonstration in New York City. The Great Depression had the nation in it’s grip. The demonstrators were protesting very strongly against the bankers, and capitalists they blamed for this economic disaster. On the edges of the demonstration, a small group of men and women were selling copies of a newspaper, for a penny. It was “The Catholic Worker,” and it heralded the beginning of a Catholic social movement by the same name. Co-founded by Dorothy Day, a Catholic convert, single mother, reporter, author and socialist; and Peter Maurin, former religious brother, philosopher, and traveling vagabond. They introduced a radical way of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

They established “houses of hospitality,” where the poor would be received as friends, brothers and sisters, fed and given shelter. They spoke out for the poor, powerless and downtrodden. They and their followers, down through the years, have worked to make the world a place “where it was easier to be good.”

The Catholic Worker continues this work, through autonomous Houses of Hospitality scattered throughout the country and the world. They have a different measure of success. If only one person is welcomed, clothed, and fed, it has been a good day. If they have gathered together for prayer, to reflect and discuss what it means to radically love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it has been a good day.

The Catholic Worker continues, inspired by the words of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. May we all be inspired by them.

Communion in the Hand – An Issue Again?

Communion in the handCardinal Robert Sarah, who is the senior Vatican official responsible for the liturgical practices of the Roman Catholic Church, has stirred things up in the Catholic blogosphere.  In a forward he wrote for a book on Eucharistic theology, he stated his belief that reception of Holy Communion in the hand, and standing, not kneeling and on the tongue, is a desecration of the Sacrament.  He states that the practice helps Satanic powers disrupt the work of the Church.

Now, keep in mind, Catholics  have been allowed to receive Communion on either the tongue, or in the hand since the 1960’s.  What is important is the disposition of one’s mind and soul.  I have received in the hand, since it was allowed in this country since the 1970’s.  I have helped distribute Holy Communion, as both an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister, and as a Deacon.  I have witnessed people of faith come up and reverently receive the Body of Christ, some on their tongue and consuming it, or in their cupped hand, and then consuming it.

What amazes me, is that after all this time, this is still an issue!  Looking back, I found a 2015 post I wrote, covering basically the same ground.  I have hoped that we had learned to accept that both approaches are valid, are holy, and expresses our love and devotion for our Savior.

Happy Birthday, Father Louis

MertonWednesday, January 31st, was the birthday of a Trappist monk and mystic, Father Louis, who was born in 1915.  Most of the world will know him as Thomas Merton.  Born to a New Zealander father and an American mother; he would eventually take up residence in the United States.  While attending college in New York, he had a conversion experience, that would eventually lead him to the Abbey of Gethsemane, in Kentucky.  In 1947, he became a professed member of the Trappist community; he was ordained a priest on May 26, 1949.  The year before, 1948, he published his autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain,”  which became the most popular book in American Catholic literature.

To be honest, I have never read the book; to the best of my recollection, my earliest encounter with his writings was either his history of the Trappist order, “The Waters of Siloe,” or one of his journals, “The Sign of Jonas.”  Since then I have acquired a good size collection of his books.  He had a talent for the making what it means to be a contemplative understandable; and more importantly, achievable by us ordinary folks.  His writings continue to inspire me to at least try to deepen my prayer life.  Some attempts have been more successful than others.

There have dry periods; sometimes very long dry periods.  But when I pick up one of his books and read, I get inspired again, and try once more to live contemplatively in my daily life.  And I am not alone, hundreds, if not thousands of individuals, both Christian and non-Christian, have taken up the journey, with Merton as our guide.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary – Patroness of Secular Franciscans

St. Elizabeth of HungaryToday, November 17th, Franciscans around the world, but especially Secular Franciscans, will celebrate the memory of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.  With St. Louis IX of France, she is Co-Patron Saint of the Secular Franciscan Order.

Born in Hungary, in 1207, she went to the German territory of Thuringia, to become the wife of its ruler, Louis.  Together they would have four children.  She would become well known for her acts of charity to the poor, establishing a hospital for the ill; and food for her poor subjects. Her husband would die from illness, while he was traveling to join an Imperial Crusade to the Holy Land. Court intrigue forced Elizabeth, with some of her children, to abandon the capital city, and flee. In a smaller, poorer city, she took residence and continued her service to the poor. Influenced by the recent arrival of Franciscan friars, she took one of them as her spiritual advisor. She would eventually become a Franciscan penitent. She would also eventually die relatively young.

St. Elizabeth can be, in fact, is a counter cultural example for our modern times. With our fascination with the rich and famous. With a minority of people controlling the majority of wealth in our country; to hear of a young, energetic woman willingly give up her riches for the poor, should shake our complacency. How best can we answer Christ’s command to feed the hungry; shelter the homeless; welcome the stranger. And what opportunities have we missed to do so?

Through the intercession of St. Elizabeth, may our eyes and hearts be open to those in need.