Tag Archives: Pope Emeritus Benedict

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Blessed Betrayers

‘In the Church, Jesus entrusts Himself to those who betray Him over and over.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

As we proceed with Jesus to Calvary, we linger at the Last Supper where we witness St. Peter dining comfortably with Jesus, curious of who Jesus’ betrayer might be and confident that it is not himself (JN 13:21-38).

Perhaps the purpose of Lent and Holy Week is to challenge such confidence by inviting us into the desert in order to spotlight our denials. No better lesson than St. Peter’s: after a holy meal surrounded by friends, he steps out alone into the klieg light where he strives to save his life rather than lose it for Jesus (JN 18: 15-27). I am less surprised by his and our unwillingness to be true to Jesus than by our lack of self-awareness. Only faithful? We deceive ourselves.

The seven virtues we looked at this Lent expose gaps; they highlight self-illusions. We whose hope masks unresolved grief, whose faith caves to fear in a second, and whose love dares not conflict—the desert lays us bare. In the heat and the hunger, we who champion global justice and enslave love ones, who exercise fortitude in consuming multiple episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Walking Dead’ but cannot abide with Jesus for 10 minutes, and while viewing divide our souls with more graphic violence, sex and words than our grandparents experienced in their lifetimes—that is the unchaste mess we are in.

At least Peter’s three denials were obvious. Ours are not. This Lent, I am grateful for a renewed awareness of my denial of wisdom, the truth of how things really are. I would rather frame reality as pleasant in order to please myself and sleep peacefully. I am subject to the spirit of the Israelites who implored the wise: ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel’ (IS 30: 10, 11)!

Like St. Peter, we want to honor Jesus but refuse to be personally dishonored. Peter refused a good foot-washing (JN 13:6-8). Yet he like us needed cleansing at core. We need love to engulf our clubfeet, scour the dirt and stench, and transform our moral disabilities into something pleasing to God. He sees all and summons us to give Him all this Maundy Thursday. Hobble to the altar with expectancy. Take heart: ‘The burning sand will become a pool’ (IS 35: 7).

 

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Prodigal Pope

Prodigal Pope Embraces the Family (and this family man)

Francis’ long awaited report on marriage and family is good news, a hearty hug of a document that encompasses the best of what marital love can be.

I consumed the 256 page exhortation—Love in the Family—as a hungry man. Pressures on my own marriage and family life had been mounting in the days leading up its release; I needed release from my clouded capacity to be a ‘good-enough’ gift for wife and kids. Like a father embracing his confused son who knew only to turn in the general direction of home, Pope Francis met me; his intention to reclaim and renew the value of marriage nourished me like an empanada thick with meat and vegetables. ‘He set me at His banqueting table, and His banner over me is love’ (S of S 2:4) conveys well the impact of Pope Francis’ fatherly, at times folksy exhortation to this prodigal.

With characteristic tenderness, Francis champions marriage and family as the basic cell endowed with power to transform the world; at the same time, he realizes the anxieties and tensions faced by the modern family. He cites the impact of today’s extreme individualism, consumerism, social networking, and just plain narcissism that renders people immature and unable to see the ‘other’ beyond one’s own effort to find a ‘self’.

Drawing significantly on the ‘imago dei’ (humanity made in God’s image as male and female, Gen. 1: 26, 27) as parsed by his predecessors St. John Paul ll and Pope Emeritus Benedict, Francis summons our capacity as gendered, passionate people to be good gifts to another over the course of a lifespan, a commitment he claims can grow more beautiful over the course of a hard knock life. He melds expertly the ideological with the practical. An extended meditation on the ‘love’ chapter (1Cor. 13) goes hand-in-hand with tough words on why marriage must be ‘open to life’ then tempers the call to fruitfulness with wisdom about family planning, marital communication, and humane parenting. Uncle Francis indeed.

Most interesting to me are his limited references to homosexuality in the document. As you know, I had the privilege addressing some ‘Family Synod’ delegates in Rome last September as to convey an orthodox, merciful approach to persons with SSA. Those synod members wrote reports for Francis from which he created ‘Love in the Family.’

Francis deflates any hope that he has joined the rainbow bandwagon. Twice he states emphatically that ‘there is no ground for considering homosexual unions even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ And he extols every child’s need for both a mother and father in order to mature into wholeness. He decries modern gender theory on the grounds that ‘it promotes a personal identity and emotional intimacy that is radically separate from the biological difference between male and female.’

Pope Francis upholds the most vulnerable—children–who before God deserve the most strenuous efforts of both a mother and a father to succeed at marriage.

At the same time, Francis cites the very real difference between biological gender and how we develop a gender identity. He is nuanced and graceful with this distinction, which leaves room for women to lead and for men to dance. Yes we need to make peace with the gender of our birth in submission to our Creator, says Francis, and yes, we must respect diverse expressions of male and female identity. Alleluia. What a pope.

In regards to persons with SSA, Pope Francis directs us back to the wellspring of life, the nuclear family. He instructs family members to love us well so that ‘we might understand and carry out God’s will for our lives.’

I would have appreciated a little more input on pastoral care of persons with SSA (grounds for next blog, perhaps.) Perhaps that is beside the point, or at least a secondary one. Love in the Family reminds me that I am more than a person seeking freedom from disordered desire. I am a husband and a father who possesses the freedom to love well and so leave a legacy of truth and mercy for persons I love most. Thank you, Pope Francis.

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His Body Broken, Bursting with Life

What the world needs today is the credible witness of people capable of opening hearts and minds to the desire for God and true life.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

The seed of God’s Life in us must be crushed in us and offered to Him in order for it to become fruitful (JN 12:24). Then we, like grain threshed and grapes stomped, become a meal for hungry ones.

I ate like a king at the Courage Conference in Chicago last week (Courage is the only recognized ministry in the Catholic Church for persons with SSA and their loved ones.)

I noticed Jill from a distance and remarked to myself how lovely she was: tender eyes as inclined to joy as sorrow, beautiful coloring, fragrant. I remarked to her that her womanhood was a gift to us at the conference. After years of walking with Jesus she could now receive that. ‘I marvel at how He keeps restoring me. I hated being a woman most of my life but now can accept the gift that I am.’

Riding the wave of a gay-affirming age, twenty-something Kevin recounted a series of ‘dating’ relationships with other men and the disintegrating effect they had on him and his family who looked on helplessly. His parting words were simple and epic: ‘Only Jesus can satisfy my longings. I will no longer look to mere men for what only God can give me.’

I sat down at table with a brawny man who alongside his wife looked uneasy. ‘I guess I‘d rather be somewhere else. But I am also glad. Our lives have changed since we discovered our son’s SSA. And I want to keep changing for the good so I can love him better.’ Another person at table, a mother, said this: ‘My daughter no longer practices her faith. But I have rediscovered mine. I now do all I can to help make my Church a merciful, truthful place for persons impacted by SSA.’

Courage helps us know Him more and serve His house better. Please pray for myself and other Courage delegates as we offer ourselves as witnesses of Jesus’ transforming love in preparation for the Catholic Synod on Family this fall.

Our goal is to influence powers-that-be who will make recommendations for pastoral care of persons impacted by SSA for the worldwide church.

Conference dates: August 10th-12th, Detroit Michigan; October 2nd, Rome Italy.

Suggested prayer: ‘Father, we thank you for the truth of how You made us and how You redeem us. Grant courage to the Catholic Church in her truth-bearing. May she not falter but carve a clear path of gender clarity and true chastity.’

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November 8, 2014: Beautiful Bride

‘Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person…’(CCC 2337)

When Jesus first looked upon His Samaritan ‘bride’, He saw a disintegrated woman, both sexually and spiritually. She was neither united in her worship of the true and living God, nor was she chaste. Many gods and lovers had fractured her integrity as a person.

Jesus saw her as she was but also what she could be. His gift of living water promised to quench her deepest thirst, to dissolve falsehood, and to unite her with the true source of her beauty, Jesus Christ.

Spiritual and sexual purity make us beautiful. You cannot separate them. The one is a sign of the other. Who one worships in Spirit and truth will be manifested in his or her sexual integrity. I will not soon forget a beautiful woman I witnessed worshipping the Lord with deep, sustained devotion. I soon discovered that she was a key leader of a ministry aimed at restoring sexual purity in the Church. She embodied that purity: fragrant, not seductive, she drew people to Jesus through her integrity of Spirit and flesh.

The opposite is true too. Mark Sanford, the notorious state governor now congressman, claims to be a conservative Christian and champion of traditional marriage. His claims matter little since he left his wife and kids for a young woman. He announced his engagement to her at a press conference where his 8-year-old son was caught on camera; the boy’s look of painful disorientation said it all. One person’s disintegration leads to another’s.

Icons cracked and chaste: we do well to focus on Jesus’ beauty in uniting willing hearts with His purposes for the body. I marvel at our young intern Andrew Franklin and wife Jordyn whom Jesus redeemed from some fairly profound disintegration. His healing work and their chastity was evident in the way that the couple handled their first child’s difficult birth; they did so with a faith, humility, and discipline that revealed the best of man and woman together. Their son Will has parents united for his well-being.

Jesus offered Himself as a beautiful gift for a broken Samaritan woman. When we like her welcome His gift, we receive the foundation for a chaste life that frees us to become good gifts for each other. In turn, our gift-giving becomes a window through which others might catch a glimpse of His beauty.

‘The saint is the one who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by His perfect truth that he is progressively transformed by it.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Pacific Southwest Region, Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Don Sciortino – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Don Sciortino as well as existing groups in region.
  2. Torrents de Vie (LW France): For the Lord to continue to strengthen and protect the leaders Werner & Charlotte and their team and for more male leaders to be raised up.
  3. Courage International – Alberto, European Coordinator, Mili -Paris Coordinator: For good connections and strategies.

“Courage for Pope Francis, that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 8. 9. 10, 11

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October 27th: Icons

‘Adam and Eve saw the glory of God in the human body…because they saw the body not just as a physical object but as a transparent sign of the whole mystery of the other as “person” made in the divine image.’ Christopher West

Every human being is a window to the divine. Creatures testify to their Creator. I behold in my wife an embodiment of God’s glorious ‘mother heart’—soft and strong, welcoming and fruitful; in a best friend I behold God’s generative power in bodily design and psychological focus.

God is a genius, and that genius is reflected in humanity. We all believe this: we are united in our belief that God made humanity in His image (Gen. 1:26, 27). Yet we are perhaps too quick to distance ourselves from each other as to not get snagged on sin—the broken image–yours, mine and ours. But plastering over the window because of its dirt or crack seems extreme. Might we still see God through our fellows? In avoiding the potential for sin, are we avoiding God?

At Church I glimpse reminders of Jesus through His representation in the saints. I am surrounded there by blessedly imperfect bearers of the divine image. If I am looking I catch sight of God: the handsome father of two disabled kids whose main ministry is serving his family, a lovely woman who alone cares for her aging father and requests prayers for patience with a smile, the priest whose physical affliction makes it hard for him to walk but whose mind and voice is strong enough to convert a stadium full of seekers.

These ‘icons’ make God known through their bodies; I can ‘see’ through their ‘flesh’ the greater spiritual meaning they represent. I cannot divorce their bodily humanity from the Spirit that indwells them. God shines through a body.

In the theological tradition of the East, icons are holy insofar as they serve the sacramental purpose of making visible what is invisible. In other words, they are good to the degree that these created images point to the Creator. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict: ‘Icons lead us beyond the mere material level, awaken new senses in us, and teach us a new kind of seeing, which can see the Invisible in the visible.’ May God open our eyes to human windows of the divine.

Please join us as we pray for:

1. Pennsylvania, Jeff Comeaux, Coordinator: For strength and vision for Jeff, for existing groups and to see new groups established. Also, grace for preparations for RHN conference in Lancaster, 2015.

2. Aguas Vivas: Guadalajara, Mexico, Marisol, Coordinator: For wisdom as they meet to determine and plan for the start of the next Aguas Vivas group.

3. RHN: His Wonderful Works, Dee Barnes, Conyer, GA: Grace and blessing in series of educational outreach events. Carolina New Song, Bud Phaup, Columbia, SC: Life transitions and future of ministry.

“Courage for Pope Francis, that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 27, 28, 29, 30

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