Unique & United: Church’s Diversity Testifies to Truth

Can you imagine John Williams’ Star Wars orchestral scores, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, or George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue performed with only one type of instrument? Or even more impossible: one scale… or one note?

An orchestra’s beauty and power derives from the diversity of instruments, sounds, musicians, notes, and many other factors—all playing various parts toward communicating one piece of music.

God works similarly!

Within the Roman Catholic Church, we see a wide variety of gifts from God called charisms, manifested in diverse spiritualities. Even further, most Roman Catholics here have no idea that Roman Catholicism is just one of many expressions of the Catholic faith.

Let’s reflect on how God is working through both types of diversity.

In San Antonio alone, we see a wide variety of religious orders—Franciscans, Oblates, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Claretians, Jesuits, Salesians, and more. One might ask: Why are there so many? Don’t they all believe the same thing? Don’t they all do similar work?

Each person who has ever existed, has been gifted with a unique set of experiences, characteristics, talents, etc. Just so, the saints who founded each religious order, lived within different cultural, historical, and personal circumstances. While every religious order professes the same faith, their charisms are unique.

For example, the Carmelite community trace their origin to the Prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel, and emphasize listening to God’s voice interiorly. Their charism is contemplation, and they wear distinctive uniforms or habits. Whereas, the Marianists were founded during the French Revolution and grew among small faith-sharing communities. They emphasize inclusive social outreach, and wear clothing similar to the people they are serving. Side-by-side, these communities look very different, but they compliment each other and work toward the common goal of union with God and love of neighbor.

In San Antonio, we are also blessed to have Catholic communities other than Roman Catholics. These include the Maronite, Byzantine, and Syro-Malabar Catholics. Walk into any of their gatherings for Sunday worship, and you’ll not only hear different languages spoken or sung, but you’ll also notice different forms of our sit-stand, bow-kneel Catholic calisthenics. You’ll see different ways of receiving the sacraments—which may even have different names. For example, what Roman Catholics call the Sacrament of Matrimony, some eastern Catholic Churches call the Mystery of Crowning.

How did this happen? When the first apostles were sent forth and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they went to many peoples and cultures to spread faith in Christ. Today under Pope Francis, there are different hierarchies of leadership for many Catholic Churches.

At the same time, we are all one Church, one Body of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that there are diverse histories, symbolism, theologies, forms of holiness… “The mystery celebrated in the liturgy is one, but the forms of its celebration are diverse.” (cf. 1200, 1202)

In other words, our Catholic family is the most beautiful orchestra. When we profess during Mass that the church is “one” and “catholic” (universal), this is what we mean.

“From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. […] The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church’s unity.” (CCC 814)

This is beautiful, good news in an increasingly divided world. How can so many different people, languages, cultures, histories, theologies, and missions be united? God shows us how; in the Church. Let’s embrace this good news and share it with others. We need to be witnesses for God through unity.

I encourage and challenge you to learn more about the various expressions of our one faith. Do not be afraid of differences; the unity among these unique expressions will help us all together testify to the living God among us!


Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. Read the column monthly in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Love or hate?

As human beings, we have a real capacity to hurt one another very deeply. Sometimes the things we experience can change the course of our lives and have a profound effect on how we see our self and others. There is no excuse for the terrible things that people do to each other, but no act of violence has the power to destroy our potential for peace and happiness unless we give ourselves over to hate, which consumes our spirit. Can you think of anything that one person could do to another that would not have to be forgiven?

Josephine Bakhita was born in the region of the Sudan around 1869. Seven years later she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and forced to walk barefoot 600 miles to a slave market. For the next twelve years she was bought and sold more than a dozen times and treated with extreme cruelty, beaten severely and mutilated. Eventually she found her way to a convent of sisters in Venice where she was baptized and formed in the faith. Her new life in Christ brought her so much joy that she said:

If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for it that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today…The Lord has loved me so much; we must be compassionate.

She joined the religious community as a sister in 1896 and was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II on October 1st, 2000.

There are thousands of stories of individuals who have overcome terrible injustices and have been able to forgive the ones who hurt them because they discovered a love greater than their hurt. God is the source of all love and everything good and when we humbly approach him with our brokenness, he will gradually make us whole if we persevere with our prayers and trust in him. He promises that he will be with us if we come to him.

If we persist in asking why the injustice happened, we are asking the wrong question. However, if our priority is to be made whole, God will do it. No matter how bad we have it on the worst day of our life, there will always be someone who has had it much worse and was able to experience forgiveness, peace and happiness because they approached our loving God. Love conquers hate!

A Dominican Priest wrote:

To Thee, and those who love Thee, nothing is impossible,
I can do all things in Thee who strengthens me to do them.


Living Catholicism is a monthly column originally appearing in Today’s Catholic newspaper. Deacon Tom Fox is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Mercy – Love’s Second Name

This Living Catholicism column was written for Today’s Catholic (4-26-19), the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio:

Divine Mercy Sunday is now either before us or just passed. This is the perfect time to dwell on God’s love and mercy so we might all yearn for it, be restored by it, and be more grateful for it.

As I am writing this article I am looking up at an image of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son (inspired by the parable from Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32) that hangs in my office. This painting has long captivated me and took on even greater meaning after I read Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.

My attention is always drawn to the hands’ of the father, holding the son, as if to say, “you are forgiven…everything is going to be okay.” It makes me think of all the hugs or abrazos shared over the years with family and friends, following an exchange of apologies over saying or doing something we regretted. By far, the most powerful and significant were the embraces shared with my parents. In these moments, I felt forgiven, loved, secure, and at peace.

Nouwen’s book enabled me to see that total surrender to God the Father is the key to truly being healed of past hurt and guilt. With that realization has come a greater appreciation for the sacrament of Reconciliation and for the Paschal Mystery. And also, for the Eucharist.

Total surrender is not an easy thing to do, because it involves giving up control and acknowledging our failures. Nouwen wrote, “one of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness.”

St. Pope John Paul II wrote his second Encyclical Letter Dives In Misericordia(Rich in Mercy), with St. Faustina Kowalska on his mind. This is a profound document which offers a new perspective on the theme of Divine Mercy:

  • God’s merciful love is his “most stupendous attribute.”
  • Christ came to make God present as love and mercy
  • When mercy is properly given, there is no humiliation, only gratitude
  • Love & Mercy in the world make conversion possible
  • Mercy is love’s second name

It was nineteen years ago on April 30, 2000 that John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and designated the Easter Octave – Divine Mercy Sunday. Faustina was given the message of Divine Mercy from Christ. In 1938 her journals were published as the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul.

As a result of the apparitions of Jesus to St. Faustina we were given four devotions:

  • The Divine Mercy Image
  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • The Novena of Divine Mercy
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (receiving Reconciliation and Holy Communion)

During this Easter season, as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection and in anticipation of Jesus sending forth the Holy Spirit, consider dedicating yourself to the devotion of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy throughout the year.

Not only can these prayers help to keep you focused on the Passion & Crucifixion of Christ, but they can also give you a greater appreciation of the Eucharistic offering.

Our staff at Pilgrim Center of Hope prays the Chaplet daily during the Hour of Mercy which begins at 3 pm, the hour of Our Lord’s death on the cross.

The opening prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet says it all:
O Blood & Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you(cf. Diary 84).

And then there is the call and response prayer that we repeat 50 times:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us & on the whole world (cf. Diary 475-476).

 Reading John Paul’s Dives In Misericordia and practicing the devotion of the Divine Mercy Chaplet has allowed me to recognize and give thanks for all the times I have been shown mercy. More importantly, I am more conscious of the need to be more merciful toward others.

Pope Francis put it this way, “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.”

In order to bring more hope into the world and restore people’s dignity and humanity, we need to remember love’s second name and show more mercy and forgiveness in our relationships.

It all begins with our appreciation and understanding of God’s Divine Mercy.

So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help(cf. Heb. 4:16).

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Robert V. Rodriguez is the Public Relations and Outreach Assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. PilgrimCenterofHope.org

Mindfulness in Living Catholicism

What are we Catholics to do when someone suggests we practice Mindfulness?

You see this word a lot lately, even Time Magazine recently had a whole issue dedicated to Mindfulness as a path to happiness.

Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Mindfulness defined this way was how a practicing and very faithful Catholic explained it to me. She shared that this technique has helped her with her obsessive tendencies that can send her emotions overboard. By making note of how a text, email or comment made her feel without judging herself, she is able to keep her emotions in check.

Mindfulness is also defined as a Buddhist spirituality in which one meditates in order to empty oneself and in the practice of it, achieve self-awareness. This is incompatible with the Catholic faith which calls us instead to place ourselves in the Presence of God so as to grow in awareness of who our loving Creator and Father has created us to be.

When my Catholic friend initially brought up mindfulness, I dismissed it quickly as New Age, but that was wrong of me. Her explanation opened my understanding of not only the multiple definitions of mindfulness, but also how we should not judge a meaning based simply on a word.

This experience reminded me that as a Catholic, I am not to just accept what is being offered nor am I to dismiss without consideration. Instead, I am to listen and discern.

The Apostle, St. Paul, is a master of discernment and can teach us much in how to differentiate between New Age, other spiritualities and the Fullness of Truth; which is Jesus Christ as revealed through His Catholic Church. St. Paul teaches us to, “Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil,” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

We test everything by discerning the source; is it human, a spirit, or is it God? St. Paul teaches, “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity, bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power,” (Colossians 2:8-11).

If, as with my Catholic friend, we are using mindfulness as a tool to remain in the present moment, this is good. Ignatian Spirituality, a time-honored practice of the Church, tells us that the present moment is where God is and where his grace exists for us to receive. If in this present moment we praise God for who He is and for who He has created us to be, this is Divine and worthy of our attention.

If, however, we discover in listening that we are being advised to consider a mindfulness spirituality that calls us to look inward, focus on self and empty ourselves, we should instead use this as an opportunity to evangelize. Often it is out of ignorance and a hope for inner peace that we fall into deceptions. We are not to judge the person, but certainly admonish in kindness so he or she does not continue to be misguided. The best way is to ask lots of questions as this draws the person into discernment as words are put to thought. With your questions, you have a wonderful opportunity to guide them from what they may think is a path to happiness on to the Way, our Lord Jesus Christ, The Path to Happiness.

God has placed each of us in this time and in this culture for a reason and we do not have any reason to be afraid. Living Catholicism means to grow in faith as we try and live it out in the people we encounter and in the circumstances we find ourselves. In these moments and in all moments, we are to remain open to the work of the Holy Spirit and as our Lord Jesus tells us, “…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say” (Matthew 10:19).

Nan Balfour is Events Coordinator at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate in Today’s Catholic newspaper. Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

What Are You Looking For?

Whether we realize it or not, that is a question that stirs in the heart of every one of us. The dilemma is that many people don’t know what they are looking for or how to bring meaning to their life.

Join Mary Jane Fox for steps to direct your search, which involve growing spiritually and in relationship to Jesus.

Message of Hope
When we draw near to Jesus, we too see once more the light which enables us to look to the future with confidence. We find anew the strength and the courage to set out on the way. – Pope Francis, Liturgy at St. Peter’s, 3-5-16

Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org/Living for more information.

Spiritual Six Pack

 

Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. – Pope John XXIII

Spiritually-speaking, this is the mindset we all should have as we march into 2019.

As a way to encourage you to start or add to your faith life, consider this multi-faceted “Spiritual Six-Pack” of suggestions on how to build up your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Every year, I personally use this as a checklist to take inventory of my spiritual development. First, I ask myself if I’ve been living this “spiritual six-pack,” and then I make a list of how I am going to improve in these areas in the year ahead.

RECOGNIZE YOUR VALUE IN GOD’S SIGHT

To illustrate this point, St. John of the Cross wrote an allegory that describes how God gave creation as a bride to His Son and how Christ as the Bridegroom of our Souls, paid the ultimate price in order to save us all from slavery.

I will go and find my bride; I will take upon my shoulders her sufferings and weariness; I will die, so that she may live, and so I will lead her back to my Father. – St. John of the Cross

SEEK UNION WITH EACH PERSON OF THE BLESSED TRINITY

By the grace of God, our soul becomes, first, the child of the eternal Father; second, the spouse of Jesus Christ; third, the temple of the Holy Spirit. – St. Bonaventure

LET CHRIST DWELL WITHIN YOU

St. Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Christ is the life of all those who truly live.” The more we become one with Christ, the more Christ will shine through us.

Not to live in Christ is to gradually lose the spirit of prayer, the love of virtue, the taste of devotion, and the zeal for salvation. Like a branch separated from a vine, we wither and die.

FIND UNION WITH JESUS IN YOUR WORK

The sanctification of ordinary work is a living seed, able to yield fruits of holiness in an immense number of souls. Sanctity, for the vast majority of people, implies sanctifying their work, sanctifying themselves in it, and sanctifying others through it.  – St. Josemaria Escriva

SEE JESUS IN YOUR NEIGHBOR

If Mark 12:31 isn’t clear enough, how about these words from St. John the Apostle:

In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the Devil: whosoever is not just is not of God, nor he that loveth not his brother (1 John 3:10).

Let us see in every one of our neighbors, whatever his state may be, an image of Jesus Christ, and serve each one in our Lord, and our Lord in each one.  – St. Vincent de Paul

GIVE THANKS TO GOD

When we are grateful, we love.  – St. Augustine

St. John Chrysostom says, because man so often fails in this obligation of gratitude, the Son of God puts Himself in our place and takes from His own treasures all that is necessary to do for us what we can never do ourselves.

It almost goes without saying, that daily prayer, receiving Communion frequently, going to Confession at least once a month, and keeping God’s commandments should form the foundation of our lives as Catholics.

By regularly meditating on the six aspects of your life listed above, don’t be surprised if you experience the following benefits:

  • Interior Peace
  • Spiritual Joy
  • Light
  • Consolation
  • Strength

If you are feeling compelled to regularly reflect on the “spiritual six-pack,” I want to make one final suggestion, and that is to call upon the Virgin Mary as your guide, intercessor, and protector.

…under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach your goal. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

As a gift to you, here is the Totus Tuus prayer written by St. Pope John Paul II. This prayer is at the heart of my devotion to Our Blessed Mother:

Immaculate Conception, Mary my Mother;
Live in me, Act in me, Speak in me and through me,
Think your thoughts in my mind, Love through my heart,
Give me your dispositions and feelings, Teach, lead me and guide me to Jesus,
Correct, enlighten and expand my thoughts and behavior;
Possess my soul, Take-over my entire personality and life, replace it with Yourself,
Incline me to constant adoration, Pray in me and through me,
Let me live in you and keep me in this union always, Amen.

Robert V. Rodriguez is the Public Relations and Outreach Assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of Pilgrim Center of Hope appearing in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Healing of the Family

What are the serious issues facing nuclear and extended families today?

Join Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI and Fr. John Francis Bentley, BBD as they talk about the wounds facing families in today’s society. As part of their discussion, they will look at how certain kinds of sin can pass down generationally and affect not just the physical parts but also the psychological and spiritual parts of our being.

Also learn about the programs available to heal family relationships, physical and mental illnesses, and addictions.

Message of Hope
Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.  – Pope St. John XXIII

 

Living Your Baptism

When is the last time you thought about your Baptism? Are you living your Baptism?

Beyond the renewal of our baptismal vows during the Easter Vigil, there are lots of ways we can live out our baptismal promises each and every day.

Join Angela Sealana and Robert Rodriguez as they discuss baptism as the gateway to a life in the Spirit. The program will present practical ways to be reminded of and inspired by our baptism. We will also share some spiritual reflections related to our being sons and daughters of God.

Message of Hope
Baptism is not the work of man but of Christ, and this sacrament is so holy that it would not be defiled, even if the minister were a murderer.
– St. Isidore, Doctor of the Church

Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org/Living for more information.

The Meaning of Advent

Did you know that Advent signals the start of a new Liturgical Year?

Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI and his guest Dan Duet will talk about how to be more spiritually prepared for the celebration of the Lord’s birth. They will also discuss the origins and traditions of the Advent season, as well as provide suggestions on how to become more focused on our need for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ – not only during Advent, but throughout the year and throughout our lives.

Message of Hope
Always have hope , cling to God and leave all the rest to Him. He will not let you perish. Your soul is very dear to Him; He wishes to save it.                         – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Three Steps to A More Thankful Attitude

Is the build up to Thanksgiving and Christmas stressing you out? Do you find it difficult to maintain a spirit of gratitude during the holidays and throughout the year?

This episode of Living Catholicism will focus on three simple ways to remind you of the many blessings, gifts, and good things you have received or experienced during the past year and throughout your lifetime. There is joy, spiritual enrichment, and health benefits that come from showing gratitude and saying “thank you” to God and those around you.

We will also discuss how to remember that “God was there,” even in the ‘not so good moments’ that we experience in life.