no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness

Forgiveness is in no way opposed to justice, as if to forgive meant to overlook the need to right the wrong done. It is rather the fullness of justice, leading to that tranquility of order which is much more than a fragile and temporary cessation of hostilities, involving as it does the deepest healing of the wounds which fester in human hearts. Justice and forgiveness are both essential to such healing….

No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy.

On this World Day of Peace, may a more intense prayer rise from the hearts of all believers for the victims of terrorism, for their families so tragically stricken, for all the peoples who continue to be hurt and convulsed by terrorism and war. May the light of our prayer extend even to those who gravely offend God and man by these pitiless acts, that they may look into their hearts, see the evil of what they do, abandon all violent intentions, and seek forgiveness. In these troubled times, may the whole human family find true and lasting peace, born of the marriage of justice and mercy!

Pope Saint John Paul II
Message for World Day of Peace 2002

laudato si

francis-iconThe latest encyclical by Pope Francis has been released today.

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. (Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 113-114.)

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

The full letter is available here.

the message of Fatima

FatimaOn May 13, 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the hills of Fatima, Portugal.

I had the chance to be in Fatima for the 75th anniversary of the apparitions, in 1992. (It was also the 11th anniversary of the assassination attempt on the life of Pope Saint John Paul II).

It was an amazing week. I was digging through my photo albums a while ago, and it gave me the idea of blogging about my overseas travel adventures: the semester I spent in Austria back in 1992, the summer I spent in England in 1993, and the travels in Europe and Israel during my seminary studies in the fall of 1996.

Today I’m posting a link to the document about Fatima published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the year 2000. It includes several elements about the secrets of Fatima and their interpretation. The theological commentary – which has a great discussion of the proper understanding of private versus public revelation – was written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Here’s a teaser from the end of his analysis:

What is the meaning of the “secret” of Fatima as a whole (in its three parts)? What does it say to us? First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: “… the events to which the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima refers now seem part of the past”. Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to the past. Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, just as Christian faith in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the “secret”: the exhortation to prayer as the path of “salvation for souls” and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.

I would like finally to mention another key expression of the “secret” which has become justly famous: “my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.

the church as mother, and the fruits of dialogue

This is a bit unusual as a Mother’s Day post, but since I recently offered a tribute to my mom on her birthday and the day of her burial, I’m writing about something slightly different today.

Via blogs, e-mail correspondence, and a few in-person meetings over lunch during the past ten years, Michael Bayly (presently of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN) and I have exchanged ideas and been engaged in an ongoing dialogue about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

The most famous of our exchanges was this:

The differences have been largely irreconcilable in the subsequent years.

Recently, after I sent him a link to a new online documentary called The Third Way, he replied, thanking me for forwarding him the link. And a day or two later, he sent me a friend request on Facebook.

In response, I wrote to him to explain why I didn’t think a friend request made sense at this point (excerpts below):

I received your Facebook friend request the other day. I wanted to wait until I had some time before replying.

There are, of course, all kinds of friends in life, such as friends from childhood, friends within one’s family, friends through one’s workplace or place of worship, or simply those who share a common interest or goal — fellow bloggers, etc.  Facebook friends may overlap any of those forms, depending on how one uses the platform.

I tend to be fairly liberal in who I friend on Facebook (although limiting it, in most cases, to those I have at least met in person).

I’m hesitating with your request for one reason, and one reason only. It’s not easy for me to bring this up, but I feel compelled to be candid with you about it.

I have a hard time trusting you, and trust is essential to friendship of any stripe.

The obstacle for me is not that you object to some of the Church’s moral teaching, but the way you have expressed it over the years through lobbying against the Church’s pastors.

While I can respect that you see things differently than I do, I cannot lie and say that it’s a matter of indifference to me that we disagree about essential matters of faith and morals. It’s been very painful to witness your persistent attacks on the church’s pastors and her teaching, and I can’t pretend otherwise.

For me, the church is a mother. Though I may not agree with one or other way that some of her ministers carry out her mission, I believe her teaching on faith and morals to be without error, and also feel the duty of a son not to cause her pain by publicly airing her dirty laundry. I desire to be a son who is both honest about what I perceive to be her shortcomings, and at the same time loyal to her as a person, and as my mother.  I have sought the same attitude to my earthly mother as well.

Returning to the original point: A basic foundation of trust is essential to friendship of any kind. I wish I felt I could trust you, but I’m not finding myself capable of that at present.

I am willing to carry on correspondence and discussion with you in the public forum, as we have in the past via our blogs and our occasional meetings, though at this point I don’t intend to initiate more of the same.

With my sincere best wishes, and my prayers.

Since our conversation in the past years has primarily taken place in a public forum, I wanted to mention the latest development here, as a kind of book-end to our ten year dialogue.

I have no regrets about the effort to engage with Michael on this matter; on the contrary, I am grateful to him for his willingness to engage, and I have appreciated the chance to get to know him, and to begin to understand him as a person, and not just as someone who carries along or broadcasts certain ideas. I believe that the real-life encounters we have had over the past ten years have grounded the dialogue, even though they have not produced much in the way of common ground.

In the letter that Pope Francis has prepared for World Communications Day 2014, he writes:

In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all. Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity. The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another. We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect. A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive. Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances. The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.” (source)

Through the conversation with Michael, I’ve learned something about what it means to grow in understanding and mutual respect. Agreement is not necessarily the fruit of every dialogue, nor friendship. But hopefully, at the very least, dialogue via the new means of social communication can help foster a climate of mutual respect, on the basis of authenticity and honesty.

communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter

pentecostThis year, World Communications Day takes place on June 1 (rather than May 1). I suspect this has something to do with the fact that Pentecost falls closer to June 1 than to May 1 this year, and the theme of communication in the Church is tied closely to the experience of Pentecost.

My observation is that  special days in the Church — such as the World Day of Peace and the World Day of Communications — often pass us by without making even a ripple in the Church or in the culture. It seems to me that we often do not make a proper preparation for the celebration of these days. And yet the Church does suggest a time of preparation; the Pope’s messages for these events are released months ahead of time.

With that in mind, for the month of May, and up through the feast of Pentecost on June 8, I’ve decided to dedicate my blog to the theme of this year’s World Communications Day: communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter.

In the coming weeks, I hope to examine Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day one paragraph at a time… with the hope that by soaking in it, slowly, it might be possible to really absorb the message and prepare for a fruitful celebration on June 1.

Here’s the opening paragraph, as a teaser:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we are living in a world which is growing ever “smaller” and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours.  Developments in travel and communications technology are bringing us closer together and making us more connected, even as globalization makes us increasingly interdependent.  Nonetheless, divisions, which are sometimes quite deep, continue to exist within our human family.  On the global level we see a scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor.  Often we need only walk the streets of a city to see the contrast between people living on the street and the brilliant lights of the store windows.  We have become so accustomed to these things that they no longer unsettle us.  Our world suffers from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty, to say nothing of conflicts born of a combination of economic, political, ideological, and, sadly, even religious motives. (click here to read the entire letter)