Should Martyrs be Automatically Made Saints?

I know of nobody more deserving of sainthood than the El Salvador Martyrs namely: Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Jesuit Martyrs from Central American University and the Nuns and lay workers killed in El Salvador as well.

These folks recently have been talked about as being made saints because of their heroic martyrdom. Face it, they died for the faith and that in and of itself speaks volumes to the rest of the world.

However, the controversy comes in when factions start to question just what kind of faith did they die for? Should the church celebrate their brand of liberation theology which even in Central America has come under some controversy. Was this brand of theology to closely aligned with Communism or Marxism? That seems to be the operative question. More traditional elements of the church seem to be trying to jump onto the social justice bandwagon as well. Regnum Christi has a major initiative in El Salvador these days that works with the poor and gives them starter homes that they will eventually own provided that they hold down a job. That might be speculative depending on the El Salvadorian economy and the corruption in government that keeps poor people poor.

And there lies the issue. The concept of helping the poor is not a debate. Everyone realizes that our faith demands us to help the poor and even to provide charity. The larger question and one that Glenn Beck raised recently is whether we have a demand to change infrastructures that keep people poor and more importantly, what should that look like?

“When I give people food, they say I am a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” – attributed to an El Salvadorian Priest

That indeed seems to be the larger question. And my take is that we indeed are called to change those inherent, immoral, corrupt structures that keep people in poverty.

I liken this to the scripture reading about the speck of sawdust that we point out that is in our brother’s eye when there is a giant log in our own. When we treat the poor with band-aid approaches the disease continues to fester. When we ignore our own roles in economic systems we fail to see our own failing in systemically working for change.

When we ignore the fact that people died because corrupt governments wanted them to shut up so much that they killed them we bring shame upon not only our church, but upon all the saints who clearly have welcomed them into the kingdom of God.

So today on the 30th anniversary of Oscar Romero’s death, may we not only be able to recognize saints, but may we be able to recognize what keeps people from being truly free.

Pope Attack Video

American Papist has this exclusive:

Papist goes on to say:

“[The pope] was down for about 30 seconds total, and he appeared to be just fine when he got up. A guy yelled “Viva il Papa!” and everybody started cheering and clapping, and the Holy Father continued up to the altar and proceeded with Mass. Some of the people near us seemed a little shaken, but the Pope sure didn’t.”

A terrible incident to be sure and how the woman gets so close is beyond me especially when she made a similar attempt in the past. We should pray not only for the Pope but for this woman who suffers dreadfully with mental illness.

I hope that security gets tighter for our Pontiff but not to the point where he seems distant from his flock.

Christmas Makes Bethlehem a “City-Symbol of Peace”

To all those praying for peace in the world but especially in the Middle East, the Pope’s words today have rich meaning.

From Zenit:

Noting the prophecies regarding the town of Judea in the Book of Micah, which foretell a “mysterious birth,” the Holy Father spoke of the “divine plan that includes and explains the times and places of the coming of the Son of God into the world.”

“It is a plan of peace,” the Pontiff noted, adding that it makes Bethlehem a “city-symbol of peace in the Holy Land and in the whole world.”

“Unfortunately,” he explained, “Bethlehem does not represent an achieved and stable peace, but rather a peace that is laboriously sought and awaited.

“God, however, never resigns himself to this state of affairs. So, once again this year in Bethlehem and in the entire world, he will renew in the Church the mystery of Christmas, the prophecy of peace for all mankind.”

“Christmas is not a fairytale for children,” Benedict XVI continued, “but rather God’s answer to the drama of humanity in search of peace.”

“We are expected to throw open the doors to welcome him,” the Pope said, referring to the Messiah. “Let us put ourselves at the service of God’s plan with faith.

“Even if we do not fully understand it, let us entrust ourselves to his wisdom and goodness. Let us first seek the Kingdom of God and Providence will help us.”

Unfriending Facebook? A Spiritual Challenge

I can’t really understand the point here:

From Today’s NY Times:

Facebook, the popular networking site, has 350 million members worldwide who, collectively, spend 10 billion minutes there every day, checking in with friends, writing on people’s electronic walls, clicking through photos and generally keeping pace with the drift of their social world.

Make that 9.9 billion and change. Recently, Halley Lamberson, 17, and Monica Reed, 16, juniors at San Francisco University High School, made a pact to help each other resist the lure of the login. Their status might as well now read, “I can’t be bothered.”

“We decided we spent way too much time obsessing over Facebook and it would be better if we took a break from it,” Halley said.

By mutual agreement, the two friends now allow themselves to log on to Facebook on the first Saturday of every month — and only on that day.

In my world, Facebook actually makes my time on the internet “shorter.” I go on maybe 3 times a day by leaving the tab open for most of the day and taking a 10 minute break once an hour to check in on friends and colleagues. It’s been the source of finding out about a friend’s car accident and the illness of a colleague’s father. I scored tickets to a ballgame and was able to catch up with a friend who happened to be in town and hadn’t realized that I had moved.

Most importantly, Facebook makes me a trusted source to literally over a thousand people who call me (albeit loosely) friend. People are able to see the short posts (or not so short, some days) that I blog here through the notes application. I often ask my network “questions” to get a quick straw poll or to quickly get an honest opinion from people that I trust quickly. Facebook has led me to chance meetings with friends of friends and most of the speaking engagements I’ve gotten lately have come from and are planned on facebook. In fact, one of my colleagues convinced me to come to Buffalo during a chat on facebook!

Facebook is about connection and being open to that possibility of being connected to someone who needs some advice or information–perhaps at times on mundane subjects, but that is nothing new. People have always gotten advice from other people, as opposed to institutional sources. There’s more legitimacy in a friends using Tide and recommending it than the advertisers telling you that it gets your clothes clean. Becoming a trusted source is why sales teams are able to make that last sale happen and what keeps a congregation from leaving their church when they can’t stomach the latest hate message from a group that comes from someone speaking in the name of Jesus and claiming they speak for an institution.

And that today, all happens faster. Instantaneously. We have an opportunity to be in connection with those who doubt, question or simply need someone in a moments notice. And while that can lead others to compulsion, the eschewing of the technology is not the answer. Learning to control those compulsions are. For some using Facebook once a month might be al they can stomach, but I think that might be the exception rather than the rule. For the rest of us, using facebook with better intentions might be what we are called to do.

And so: today’s challenge: For one week, Christmas week, can we more mindfully use our status updates to not only spread the good news of Christ at his birth, but also try to reach out to others who may not often hear from us or to send a message of support to those who need it. Maybe we can use facebook to find a source we need to help another or to spread the news of someone else’s good work just a bit farther.

Whatever the case might be, sharing and responding to the mundane might not need capture our attentions. Instead weeding out that insignificance to respond to what truly moves our hearts and attracts our souls can indeed be something we spiritual social networkers might more intentionally be mindful of this final week of Advent.

Is Your Christmas Tree Up Yet?

The Pope loves Christmas Trees…thus sayeth Zenit

The Christmas tree — with its journey from a dark forest to the brilliance of decorative lights — represents every Christian, called to share the message that the Light of the world has become man.

This was a comparison made by Benedict XVI today when he addressed a delegation from Belgium, which provided the Christmas tree for St. Peter’s Square this year.

“In the forest,” the Holy Father said, “the trees are close together and each one of them contributes to making the forest a shadowy, sometimes dark, place.”

“But here,” he continued, “chosen from among this multitude, the majestic tree that you offered us is today lit up and covered with brilliant decorations that are like so many marvelous fruits.”

“Leaving aside its dark garments for a brilliant explosion, it has been transfigured, becoming a beacon of light that is not its own, but rather gives testimony to the true Light that comes to this world,” the Pope suggested.

A lovely reflection and very true. We have a dog and don’t like the smell of Chihuahua urine…so we get a small plant-like Christmas tree that we put our favorite ornaments on each year. I’m also afraid he’ll pull down a larger tree. Sigh, the things I do for this dog! But the tree, small though it might be brings me much joy–just like the dog does for that matter. I’m off to get it today in fact.

What do you do for your Christmas tree? What Christmas tree traditions do you have?

You Are Going To Die…Perhaps in the Pulpit…

…if this guy keeps this up.

This video really sickened me because of the arrogance of the preacher. I like the fact that he at least pointed the finger at himself time and again, but I think this called for a gentler hand. Sitting in front of you is a family that has lost a loved one and you choose to concentrate on their sinfulness and berate them for not attending mass?

Listen for yourself…

Now my general opinion of this particular homily notwithstanding…the homily at a funeral I believe can serve the purpose of evangelization that I believe the preacher intended here. I wish I knew what the Gospel and the other readings were but here is a homily that I hope when I am ordained to the diaconate someday, I might get to deliver. Tell me what you think…

Funerals have a way of making us all think about our own mortality, don’t they? On Ash Wednesday we Catholics mark our heads with Ashes not to merely show others that we are Catholic but to remind ourselves–literally to impress on our brains–that we indeed have limited time to spend here on earth.

And we are reminded of that fact each and every time that someone whom we love dies.

We all talk about legacies, about what we will leave behind on this earth long after we are gone. And the hard truth is that most of us will be forgotten. I mean how many of us have any first-hand knowledge of our great-great grandparents or could even tell us a bit of their history? The traces we all leave behind us, fade with the decades that pass.

For now, I am the legacy that my father leaves behind. I’ve worked for my church most of my adult life and my father, an Irish immigrant and a simple school custodian with an 8th grade education gave his very life for his family. My mother would often yell at us that he would work a lot of overtime so that we might be able to do all the things that they dreamed for us…like attend college. Those dreams became a reality for my father, lived out in my own doing and being and in my sister’s years of teaching the poorest and the most destitute children.

Yes, these things were more than enough for my father. They weren’t haughty goals, nor did they provide riches for him in terms of monetary wealth. What they provided for him were opportunities for love. Over 60 years of love for him to love my mother–especially through years of illness. Over 50 years (sorry, Kathy) of loving my sister throughout her life and over 40 years of love for me.

And it is more than enough of a life for all of us.

My father also made sure that the church and God was a part of that love because my father knew what it meant to be loved by God. Often we are too busy to even notice the love that God offers us even though our holidays betray the very rhythms of God’s love for us. We see this at Christmas when we remember that God loves us enough to share in our humanity. God becomes one of us and experiences the full range of human emotion and experience. And later God cares enough to even experience our death. And because of that great sacrifice of sharing our life and our death, God shows us that love is what always defeats death. For when Jesus dies everything ends and begins anew. God’s sacrifice defeats death…this self-gift gains us a life eternal with God.

But it’s all too easy for any one of us not to appreciate all that God has done for us, isn’t it? I know I barely appreciated all that my father had done for me. And his gifts were very visibly tangible…I clearly have been gifted by him with education, love, and a very precious gift of his time–especially in caring for my mother for those many years.

So how much more have I forgotten about God’s gift of life? How much have we all forgotten about what has been offered for us and to us? Doesn’t this gift that God gives to us seem simply awesome?! Why aren’t we all shouting for joy at this and shouldn’t this make each one of us burst at the seems for the simply chance to say thanks to God each Sunday at the very least?

We indeed have limited time. And my father knew this. My father knew of his own limitations. And yet, my father spent most of his time loving and some of his time being mindful of the times that he too forgot to love. We call those times sinful and my father would be the first person here to admit that he was a sinful person at times. But he also would be amongst the first ones to rejoice in the fact that our God, the God of second chances offers us all the opportunity to try again–to get it right–to love more deeply and to appreciate what God has done for all of us.

We celebrate my father’s life, a life of love, a life of sacrifice and a life that we will miss today. But I am here today to tell you that while my father will one day be forgotten on this earth, our God will never forget a single one of us. The door is always open for God to welcome us home. We trust that God has mercy on all of our own hidden sins and on my father’s. Today let us pray that we have the trust that God indeed loves us, offers us His very life and that God’s life for us is more than enough to fulfill us while we are here and will continue to be all the love we will ever need.

A h/t to the good deacon on the bench.

The Green Pope

“How can one remain indifferent in the face of problems such as climate change, desertification, the degradation and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase in extreme weather, and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical areas?” he asked.

“How can one overlook the growing phenomenon of so-called ‘environmental refugees,’ meaning persons who, because of environmental degradation, have to leave – often together with their belongings – in a kind of forced movement, in order to escape the risks and the unknown? How can we not react to the conflicts already underway, as well as potential new ones, linked to access to natural resources?”

“These are all questions,” Benedict XVI said, “that have a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the rights to life, to food, to health and to development.”

– Pope Benedict XVI on the environment in his World Peace Day message.

’nuff said.