Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 9


I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the development of social media; reparation for lost or compromised vocations to the consecrated life due to excessive or inappropriate use of media.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (2 Cor 4:15 ):
Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as “closeness”. The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.

Reflection:
The Letter to the Romans lists dozens of men and women who crossed Paul's path or collaborated with him. Paul used the media available to him to stay in touch with the people he had met during his missionary journeys, and to put them in contact with each other.
While media can help us meet people around the world, we can also use communications technologies to keep people at a distance. One way of doing this is overindulgence in entertainment media. This creates a simple circuit between myself and the screen, effectively sealing me off from the inconvenience of noticing and responding to others.
Do I escape into technology to avoid uncomfortable (but necessary) personal communication? How can I monitor my use of media so that people never take second place to technology?

Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus, invoking light, love and mercy for all men and women, to be communicated in my life and through all the ways in which I use media today. Through the intercession of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, I invoke heavenly grace upon all those who today will create new media productions: artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, editors, producers, advertisers. May their work uplift people and society by highlighting truth, beauty and goodness. And may I not fail to support and encourage media professionals who are committed to the good.

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 8


I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the invention of mobile phones; reparation for the divisive use of communications media in the name of religion.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (Rom 1:11-12):
I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2014:
Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 47th World Communications Day, 2013). We need but recall the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. We have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate, who died and rose to free us from sin and death. We are challenged to be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert. To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute. 
May the image of the Good Samaritan who tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them be our inspiration. Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts. May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbors” to those wounded and left on the side of the road.

Reflection:
The Letter to the Romans is Paul's masterpiece. In it, he carefully (and prudently!) engages with questions he knew were vital to that community with so many Jewish believers who had already suffered exile for the sake of Christ. He spoke respectfully of the patriarchs, of the rite of circumcision, and of the Exodus, and even said that he would willingly be "anathema" himself if it helped more of his "kinsmen" come to faith in Christ.
What are the signs that a person is genuinely communicating through media? Have I ever felt that someone had all the words right, but failed to reach me in a meaningful way? What can I learn from this?

Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus, that, nourished with your Word, I might live Christ and give Christ to the world through genuine communication by means of media.

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 7


I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the invention of television; reparation for the failure to evangelize, or for leaving evangelization to others.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (2 Tim 4:7-8):
I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the “holy ground” of our encounter with the one who speaks to me (cf. Ex 3:5). Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.

Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks. I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, “may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). The internet can help us to be better citizens. Access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbor whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected. The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.


Reflection:
Paul sought to bring the Gospel especially to those places where the name of Christ had never before been spoken. He knew that his message sounded like "foolishness to the Greeks" (1 Cor 1:23), but even so he went to the great Areopagus, the marketplace of ideas, so that Christ would be proclaimed to those who counted themselves wise. Although the majority scoffed, several of his hearers were touched to the heart and entered into a "meaningful discussion" about what they had heard. Paul did not establish a Christian community in Athens, but by his preaching he left disciples there who would continue the rough work of preparing that stubborn field for those who would come later to sow the seeds.
What expectations do I bring to social media that sometimes compromise the good outcome I hope for? What temptations do I face when engaging with others online? What do I need to do to increase my ability to listen to others and respond to them where they are?


Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus that the undertakings of Catholics in all forms of media may increase, so that by more effectively promoting genuine human and Christian values, they will silence the voices that spread error and evil.

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 6


I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the invention of radio; reparation for Internet bullying in all its forms, including threats of retribution organized through social media against persons who post  messages unwelcome to special interest groups.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (1 Cor 15:10):
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God [that is] with me.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
Some feel that a vision of society rooted in mercy is hopelessly idealistic or excessively indulgent. But let us try and recall our first experience of relationships, within our families. Our parents loved us and valued us for who we are more than for our abilities and achievements. Parents naturally want the best for their children, but that love is never dependent on their meeting certain conditions. The family home is one place where we are always welcome (cf. Lk 15:11-32). I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.
For this to happen, we must first listen. Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.

Reflection:
Peter and Paul had very different perspectives on an important matter for the early Church: the relationship between Jewish and Gentile believers. Seeking to calm those who were unsettled at seeing Jewish and Gentile Christians eat together (possibly this refers also to celebrating a common Eucharistic offering), Peter joined the Jewish believers and pulled away from fellowship with the Gentiles. Paul had the courage to confront him honestly on what this did to the Church, that it divided Jewish and Gentile believers. And Peter listened. An ancient tradition holds that Peter and Paul remained so united in their love for Christ and their devotion to the Gospel that they died as martyrs on the same day, exchanging a final kiss of peace on the Ostian Way in Rome.
How do I respond on social media to opinions or posts that I believe erroneous or harmful? Is there an attractive way to present the truth, without resorting to harshness or pressure tactics?

Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus that Christian media professionals may grow in wisdom and  uprightness. living and spreading worthy human and Christian values.

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 5


I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the invention of audio recording; reparation for pornography (in all its many forms) and for all the harm done to its victims, from the addicted users and their families, to the abused children and women who appear in it, to the young people who are growing up in a porn-saturated environment.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (2 Cor 12:9):
[Christ] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
How I wish that our own way of communicating, as well as our service as pastors of the Church, may never suggest a prideful and triumphant superiority over an enemy, or demean those whom the world considers lost and easily discarded. Mercy can help mitigate life’s troubles and offer warmth to those who have known only the coldness of judgment. May our way of communicating help to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous. We can and we must judge situations of sin – such as violence, corruption and exploitation – but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts. It is our task to admonish those who err and to denounce the evil and injustice of certain ways of acting, for the sake of setting victims free and raising up those who have fallen. The Gospel of John tells us that “the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice. Our primary task is to uphold the truth with love (cf. Eph 4:15). Only words spoken with love and accompanied by meekness and mercy can touch our sinful hearts. Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.

Reflection:
Pope Francis warns us against looking down on those whose sins may not be as subtle as our own; whose weakness and failure are manifest. With pornography so easily available (an American child's first exposure to porn usually takes place age age 11 or younger), many fall almost unawares into this dehumanizing trap. Pornography takes a beautiful and holy reality, the human body designed for self-giving love, and twists it into an object for use and disposal. When children are its victims, it is a crime that calls to Heaven for vengeance.
Do I indulge in pornography, including exaggeratedly steamy novels? What steps can I take to consecrate my eyes and my mind to Christ, refusing to make Jesus a partner in my sin (see 1 Cor 6:5)?
If I have avoided or been delivered from exposure to porn, how can I personally use communications technology to promote "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, excellent and praiseworthy" (Phil 4:8)?


Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus for the conversion of those who have spread error, violence, or disregard for the dignity of the person by using wrongly media and rejecting the teaching of Christ and his Church.


Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Reading: Dead Wake

As I mentioned last week, my summer reading wasn't all churchy stuff. I read one and a half history books and two biographies. And summer, need I remind you, has only just begun.

Besides the surprising Church of Spies (which is a history book, too, but I'm counting it as "churchy stuff" since it demonstrates the participation of Pope Pius XII in the efforts to remove Hitler from power by whatever means necessary), I read Erik Larson's Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

Larson positions us well to witness the sinking of the Lusitania. We are first introduced to Captain Turner, a dedicated and professional seaman, and to the duties of a passenger ship captain at the beginning of the 20th century. We learn the back stories of a number of passengers; why they booked passage on the luxurious liner for that May voyage in a time of hostilities in Europe. (It was 1915.) Indeed, the German embassy had placed a warning in the New York papers that vessels sailing under the British flag were at risk.

We are taken behind the scenes in Washington DC where there was little enthusiasm for getting involved in what was seen as a European conflict, and where the President was crushed with personal grief (and later, unexpected personal consolation). We read over the shoulders of German submarine captains as they slip through the seas, taking note of threats and tallying the tonnage sunk by their torpedos. And we also enter the Admiralty's War Room in London where British intelligence is gathered and acted upon. Recently the German's submarine communications had been intercepted and decoded. While this was a decided advantage for the British, they were reluctant to act too quickly on what they learned for fear that the enemy would recognize the breach and change tactics.

At sea some civilians (including a small number of Americans) had already perished because of German attacks, and British military craft rushing to the scene of a torpedo incident had been lost, too, to the waiting submarine. New policy forbade military vessels from going to the site of any future incidents. Then, too, there was the political value of a ship like the Lusitania. Setting out from New York, it carried almost two thousand souls, many of them Americans. Loss of a significant number of American lives would surely, English strategists predicted, bring the US into the war as an ally against Germany.

And so it was. Through a series of incidents that well could have remained innocuous, the grand ocean liner found itself in the path of a submarine that was already heading back to Germany. An immense but dull explosion got everyone's attention and the ship began to lean to one side. As the force traveled through the ship, other explosions followed. A single torpedo had struck an unexpectedly vulnerable part of the ship (the Admiralty would later insist that there were two torpedos, but the German captain's log lists only one).

As passengers attempted to secure a spot in the lifeboats and strap on their newly designed life vests, the radio man repeatedly sent out distress calls. The starboard list of the stricken ship left ranks of lifeboats unavailable, while other boats got tangled in their own ropes and dangled vertically, uselessly toward the sea. The only crew who had trained for the launching of lifeboats were already dead or trapped below. Only six lifeboats would actually set off. In addition, few people could figure out how to put the life vests on properly. (Bodies would be found wearing the vest in a way that forced the head below the surface of the water.) The sinking of the Lusitania was witnessed on shore (just ten miles away) and available craft in the port towns began setting out. The warship Juno  was among them. It was ordered back.

1,198 people died.

Late in the day on which I finished this riveting and meticulously researched read (57 pages of notes!), I saw the posts on social media about the Orlando shooting. It crossed my mind that the two events, a hundred years apart, had something very sad in common. Old school warfare took place on actual battlefields, with ranks of militiamen. Civilians were kept as much as possible out of harm's way. But the sinking of the Lusitania set a new precedent. It was an act of war in which civilians were treated as fair game. I'm no historian, but it seems to me that this may have been the beginning of the kind of warfare that has become almost commonplace; a war not limited to the military (whether the armed forces of a nation or those new self-appointed groups like Boko Haram or IS); a war where anyone, in any public place, may suddenly find him or herself a sudden and unwilling participant.

German submarine policy does not bear all the responsibility for the enormous number of lives lost in the sinking of the Lusitania. It seems that the political advantage of securing US involvement in the war played at least some part in the drama, particularly as Lusitania approached the war zone and received only vague warnings about submarine activity across an immense stretch of sea. (The British government unsuccessfully tried to blame the loss on Captain Turner, who survived despite being on deck as the ship went down. He was exonerated.)

Does this still happen? It would be naive to deny that ordinary people are often recruits in a war they know nothing about, and have nothing at stake in. It can take real faith to believe that beyond all the human and political machinations, God is still in charge of this world, somehow "making all things work together for good" (Rom 8:28).





Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I received a review copy of the book mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I am committed to giving as honest a review as possible, as part of my community's mission of putting media at the service of the truth. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Novena of Reparation, Day 4

I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the invention of motion pictures; reparation for way media are used in "ideological colonization*" which, by manipulation and social, political, or financial pressure imposes false values on other culturess.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (2 Cor 11:23):
Are they ministers of Christ? (I am talking like an insane person.) I am still more, with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope. I ask those with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion, to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes. It is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred. Instead, courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation. It is precisely such positive and creative boldness which offers real solutions to ancient conflicts and the opportunity to build lasting peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:7-9).

Reflection:
The development and spread of social media puts people of many different cultures in contact with each other. It can be tempting to look down on people whose cultural background does not match our own. Instead, we are called to become like Paul, making ourselves "all things to all people" (1 Cor 9:22) for the sake of witnessing to Jesus, who made himself "like us in all things but sin" (Heb 4:15).


Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus to acknowledge and to make known that Jesus alone, the Word Incarnate, is the perfect Teacher and trustworthy Way who leads to knowledge of you, Father, and to participation in your life.

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.



*The term "ideological colonization" is frequently used by Pope Francis with reference to pressures on non-Western peoples to conform to "First World" expectations in areas such as marriage, contraception, abortion ("reproductive freedom"), gay rights, etc.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 3

I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the invention of printing; reparation for uncontrolled media consumption (especially when it harms family life) and for the failure of some parents to guide their children in the discerning use of media.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (Gal 2:8):
[T]he one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised worked also in me for the Gentiles.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
I would like to invite all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. All of us know how many ways ancient wounds and lingering resentments can entrap individuals and stand in the way of communication and reconciliation. The same holds true for relationships between peoples. In every case, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue. Shakespeare put it eloquently when he said: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes” (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

Reflection:
Paul realized early on that he and Peter had different audiences. It seems to have been a major problem (even in his own lifetime!) that Paul's words would be taken out of context. Paul's message frequently unsettled Jewish believers because it was not tailored to them; it did not answer their questions or respond to their needs.
How do I ensure that I interpret posts and other media messages "in context," aware of the author's aim and primary audience? How can I address my own media messages to the audience that is best disposed to dialogue with me?

Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus that we may follow him alone whom you, Father, sent to the world in your boundless love, saying, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him."

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 2

I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the invention of written language, the first of all communications technologies; reparation for the organized use of communications to marginalize, ridicule, threaten or divide people.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (Acts 9:4-5):

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony. Words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples. This is possible both in the material world and the digital world. Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.

Reflection:
Saul had an agenda. There was never any doubt: he would do whatever it took to achieve his goal. Many times we find the same dynamic in social media. The more noble the stated cause, the greater the risk of misusing the powerful means of communication through manipulation, ridicule, false representation of differing viewpoints, suppression of the truth, even veiled (or overt) threats. It can be maddening to see the deception behind many stock formulas in social media; sincere people seem to be taken in by slogans that subtly undermine the Gospel.
How can I avoid the temptation to adopt similarly dehumanizing ways of communicating? How can I engage in conversation about important Christian truths and values, without denigrating persons who may have been led astray or deceived by slickly packaged ideologies?

Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus to call down your mercy upon those who have been deceived or manipulated by the misuse of the media, and led away from your fatherly love.

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Novena of Reparation, Day 1

I invite you to join in our community novena to St Paul (we celebrate a special feast in his honor on June 30). This year's theme is reparation for misuse of the media.

Intentions for the Day: Thanksgiving for the gifts of music and theater; reparation for the spread of violence, persecution and terrorism incited by means of communications media.

Opening Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Scripture (Acts 8:3):
Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.

From Pope Francis' Message for World Communications Day 2016:
The Holy Year of Mercy invites all of us to reflect on the relationship between communication and mercy. The Church, in union with Christ, the living incarnation of the Father of Mercies, is called to practice mercy as the distinctive trait of all that she is and does. What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.
As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church’s words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people’s hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the “spark” which gives them life.

Reflection:
Saul did not hesitate to recruit others to his campaign of persecution. He brandished official documentation, perhaps pulling it out for the wavering to convince them to cooperate with him. It is almost impossible today to be a passive "recipient" of media messages; at the least we might respond with a "like" or a brief comment. Social media especially encourage us almost by default to get involved in what we see or read.
How do I respond to media messages that I find unsettling or provocative? How my use of the media express the mercy that inspires others to openness and sharing?

Daily Offering:
Father,
In union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic memorial of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, I offer myself with Jesus in reparation for errors and scandal spread throughout the world by the misuse of the media of communication.

Closing Antiphon:
O St Paul the Apostle, Preacher of Truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Novena of Reparation: An Invitation

From our Provincial Superior, Sister Mary Leonora:

All of us have been affected by the horrific events that took place in Orlando last week and how this has been played out in the media. We are confronted with the misuse of the media on a regular basis and in many different areas and each time it is a reminder of our vocation to make reparation for the sins of the media. Information is certainly a good thing and we want to be informed by the media, but there are those who are using this event to incite hate and spread fear or promote personal agendas. Even the Orlando killer was not s "self" radicalized (as if in a social vacuum); instead, he was radicalized by means of media wrongly used.

As Daughters of St Paul, we are called to use the media for good, for the spread of the Gospel and Gospel values, but we are also called to pray for and make reparation for the misuse of the media. This is something we can all do, regardless of our state of health or our age. We can do it individually (and I know that many do), and we can do it as a community – and this year we invite you to join us in our community novena to St. Paul, whose feast day we celebrate on June 30. 

In an age where communication is defining our culture more than ever before, our mission of evangelization with the media and reparation for the misuse of the media is not optional, but essential. And we Daughters of St. Paul are called in a very particular way to embrace this world, accompany it, directing it to the Lord. But we need to help one another use these media as God intends us to use them: for His glory and the good of His people.

Thank you for praying with us for these nine days as we reflect on the gift of communications and intercede for those whose lives are profoundly affected by their own misuse of the media.

Summer Reading (UPDATED)

As my family visit wound down, I managed to fit in a few of the "must-do" New Orleans things. Before that, I was playing trucks and dinosaurs with my sister's three year old grandson. We had charbroiled oysters (and raw, for one of my sisters) for lunch: the haul included two grey pearls, one of them almost large enough to be strung. (I got another pearl in my gumbo!) At my sister's house her three-year-old grandchild kept asking to "kiss Jesus," meaning the crucifix at the end of my decade rosary. (Jesus got a lot of love from that little boy this week; I aimed to keep the kisses coming by giving the little guy a crucifix of his own.) My sisters and a couple of cousins scarfed down a beignet each before embarking on a French Quarter music tour with writer Chris Rose.

In between (and in the car), I was able to read the three books I had brought with me from Boston, plus part of one found at my Texan sister's house. I enjoyed all of them, and you might, too. Three of these books were gifts to me; I thank the donors again for all the enjoyment and inspiration I received through them.

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler (Mark Riebling) came to my attention by means of book reviews. This title dovetailed nicely with The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, which I read while in Rome last month, and with the books by or about people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Father Alfred Delp, and Dietrich Von Hildebrand that I had read over the past several years. Many of the protagonists of these books showed up in Church of Spies. However, during the first couple of chapters I was seriously doubtful I would actually enjoy the book or find it credible. I felt seriously betrayed by prominent reviewers whose recommendation I had based myself on in choosing the title. Author Riebling had opened the book by setting up a Da Vinci Code-esque environment with secret knowledge, secret chambers, secret codes and secret handshakes going all the way back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Thankfully, he let go of this conceit fairly soon and let history speak for itself. At that point, I couldn't put the book down. (Who needs fiction, anyway? You can't make this stuff up!)

According to Riebling's research, Pope Pius XII was himself the communications link between Germans plotting Hitler's overthrow and the governments of Great Britain and the US. The Pope was insistent that "the Vatican" as an institution not be involved, named or "credited" with this clearly non-neutral behavior; that it was something he was doing personally (through one or two of his aides). This is probably one of the reasons there is so little documentation (though there is a good bit, in the US and UK archives).  In fact, Riebling indicates that the Pope personally met with one of the German double agents on more than one occasion, and was moved to tears on seeing the man (an incredible Bavarian lawyer named Joseph Müller) after his release from the Nazi prison where he had been literally called away from the scaffold moments before his scheduled execution.  This amazing and creative lay Catholic is sometimes considered the "godfather of the Euro," because of his early (pre-WWII) conviction that a common European market would serve as a brake on dangerously nationalistic ideology.

My seven-year-old great niece kept looking incredulously at the page number I was on, comparing my progress through the book with hers (she's an avid reader). I think I convinced her that "epilogues" are worth reading.

Reading Church of Spies was like encountering heroes of indescribable stature and being challenged by their convictions--and their willingness to suffer and die (as many of them did) for truth and justice.  [Added June 23: Here's an interview with the author, Mark Riebling!]
Related titles:

Another book that challenged me to see truth and justice and act according to what I saw was Hope for the City: A Catholic Priest, a Suburban Housewife and Their Desperate Effort to Save Detroit. This book introduced me to Father Bill Cunningham, a real "Vatican II priest" (and I mean that in both the positive and less positive senses in which the term is used). Cunningham and his right-hand woman, Eleanor Josaitis, were the dynamic duo behind Focus:HOPE, which began as a small, grass-roots effort to get government-provided food aid to needy mothers and children and grew into a complex organization that aims to overcome the effects of racism in a thousand concrete, positive ways.

Starting shortly after he witnessed a destructive and deadly riot in Motor City, the visionary priest and the practical, steady-thinking housewife (with an incredibly generous husband!) started with food aid, but before long began putting together a series of educational and industrial projects that created "facts on the ground" to provide not just job training, but jobs--good, solid jobs in areas involving manufacturing and engineering so that families would not be dependent on the uncertain (and shrinking) free rations. They did it through a combination of fund-raising and grant-writing coupled with government and industry contracts (including work for GM and the Department of Defense). He answered critics like pacifist Bishop Thomas Gumbleton by saying that it was better for the DOD to put money toward training American workers than paying foreign factories to manufacture weapons, and that putting Americans to work was better than sending them off to war. (However, Cunningham's spun-off manufacturing company did manufacture weapons components.)

Recognizing that family needs led some of the parents in his program to quit their training and abandon the job prospects it offered, he launched a state of the art childcare and early education facility nearby. Parents could drop in an check on their children at any time. Cunningham worked with local, state and national politicians to achieve this and so many other projects, once commenting that it was easier for him to get grants from Republicans (who didn't know how to address social ills) than from Democrats (who thought they had the answers). As a sign of how bi-partisan his support was, Focus:HOPE received generous funding (and official visits) from Republican Vice-President George Bush and later from President Bill Clinton.

Cunningham was a post-Vatican II variety of what used to be called a "brick and mortar priest": a pastor who knew how to build--whether it was a church or school, or a high-tech training institute. He was also the kind of "Vatican II" priest who seems to have had a vague, even superficial understanding of the sacraments and sacramental regulations, exacerbated by the sort of clericalism that led him to take liberties with the liturgy. He tore the confessionals out of his parish church, rhetorically asking who was he to listen to and pardon people's sins (they could "do that for each other") and he officiated at a sacrilegious wedding service, using the sacramental ritual for a couple who were both divorced (one of them more than once), and giving the bride and groom the Eucharist. (His bishop publicly rebuked him and sent him for a two-week retreat for that.) Definitely not the sort of priest I appreciate for liturgy.

Despite his liturgical failings, Cunningham's commitment to the poor and his passion for racial justice called me to an examination of conscience. He was 100% given to and for his needy neighbors. He loved them with the love of a shepherd who cannot rest until all his sheep are adequately pastured. He was not content to meet the immediate needs he recognized, but sought to discover their root causes and address those. At the beginning of his Focus:HOPE work, he organized a thorough survey of food prices in and around Detroit, demonstrating that the higher prices being charged in the black communities contributed to the hunger and malnutrition that compromised children's ability to learn. He launched legal action against a major company that was moving its headquarters from Detroit to an all-white suburb--and proved from the company's own internal documents that the motive was racist. A lawsuit against the same company (again, launched by Cunningham) awarded damages and back pay to its black women employees for employment discrimination. Mostly, though, Cunningham was convinced that the most effective way to address the social breakdown he saw in the black communities in Detroit was to address their abysmal schooling (people were being given high school diplomas who were functionally illiterate) and the lack of job opportunities. Cunningham died in 1997, but the conditions in Detroit still give Focus:HOPE plenty to do.

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I didn't just read churchy books. I also managed to read Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania and a little over half of Stalag Luft III: The Secret Story(from my brother-in-law's library). After that it was Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (basis of the movie Unbroken) and now I am halfway through Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis (she finally gets a book of her own, and it is full very rewarding reading). More about these later.

For summer reading picks for kids and teens (and parents!), visit the Pauline summer reading page. One of the teen titles just won first place in the Teens and Young Adults category in the Catholic Press Association's book awards! If you haven't already read Oscar Romero: Prophet of Hope, that's an award-winner, too (from the Association of Catholic Publishers). (Here's my review of it.)