Many more have died since the first of the year and over 500 people were murdered last year.
And again, those numbers are just for Chicago.
Where is the emotion over these deaths?
Where are the calls for justice over these murders?
Why isn't social media aflame over these killings?
The challenge ought to be obvious.
Take all the emotion, take all the calls for justice, take all the anger and all the head shaking in disgust and channel it all into attacking what I consider to be the root causes: moral apathy, fatherless families and a prevalent and violent thug culture.
I challenge Jesse Jackson. I challenge Al Sharpton. I challenge all civil rights leaders and all who are outraged today to apply all this energy toward seeking justice for the far too many that are being murdered in urban neighborhoods across the country.
Let's set aside the demagoguery, the political leveraging, the focus on that which divides and separates and instead do what is right so that evil can be conquered.
Lord, show us humility and grant us unity to get this done.
Mother Mary, pray for us, pray for peace, and point us all toward the Prince of peace.
Pope Francis has just released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, or “the light of faith.”
The first encyclical of a pope is always closely watched, because it frequently signals the way in which
he intends to govern the Church.
This new encyclical is even more intriguing because much of it was actually written by former Pope Benedict.
Here are 14 things you need to know . . .
1. What is an encyclical?
An encyclical is a kind of letter. Papal encyclicals usually deal with matters of Church teaching (doctrine). Popes write them when they feel they have something important to say about particular teachings.
Although they are not infallible, encyclicals are authoritative.
The word “encyclical” comes from the Greek word for “circle,” indicating that it is to be circulated among different people.
The encyclical Lumen Fidei is addressed to “the bishops, priests, and deacons, consecrated persons, and the lay faithful.” This indicates a broad audience.
The encyclical was originally begun by Pope Benedict in order to commemorate the Year of Faith and to complete a trilogy of encyclicals he had been writing on the three theological virtues—faith, hope, and charity.
The preceding two were Deus Caritas Est, on the theological virtue of charity, and Spe Salvi, on the virtue of hope.
Pope Benedict’s health did not allow him to remain in office, however, and so the draft of the encyclical was inherited by Pope Francis, who chose to complete it.
3. Has this ever happened before?
Yes. In fact, Pope Benedict’s first encyclical was based, in part, on an encyclical that John Paul II had begun preparing but had not finished.
4. Does Lumen Fidei acknowledge Pope Benedict’s role in its composition?
Yes. In it, Pope Francis writes:
These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own. [LF 7].
5. Does Lumen Fidei sound like Pope Benedict?
Much of it does. It includes many of the characteristic touches and themes of his writings.
For example, it contains many references to history, including early Christian history, Jewish history, and pagan history.
It contains references to the thought of historical figures, including the Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.
It also refers to the thought of recent intellectual figures, including the Catholic thinker Romano Guardini, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, the agnostic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
6. Do particular passages sound like Pope Francis?
This is harder to judge. He is mostly known for his speaking style, and his own voice for a document of this nature may take time to emerge.
One touch that is distinctly Pope Francis, though, is the way he signs the encyclical.
Normally popes give their name in Latin, followed by “PP” (a Latin abbreviation for “pope”) and followed by their number.
Pope Benedict, for example, signed Spe Salvi by writing “Benedictus PP XVI.”
Pope Francis, being the first pope to use this name, does not have a number, so you wouldn’t expect that in his signature.
He does, however, seem to prefer not to use the title “pope,” preferring “bishop of Rome,” instead.
Thus he leaves out the “PP” in his signature and simply signs the encyclical “Franciscus.”
7. How is the encyclical structured? The encyclical, which takes about two hours to read in full, is structured this way:
· Introduction (1-7)
· Chapter One: We Have Believed in Love (8-22)
· Chapter Two: Unless You Believe, You Will Not Understand (23-36)
· Chapter Three: I Delivered To You What I Also Received (37-49)
· Chapter Four: God Prepares a City for Them (50-60)
8. What does the introduction cover?
The introduction introduces the idea of “the light of faith” (Latin, lumen fidei) and the role it plays in our lives.
It discusses the inadequacy of pagan, pre-Christian faiths and the neglect of faith in our own time. It also stresses the need to rediscover the role that the light of the Christian faith can and should play in our lives and in society.
A favorite quote, right from the beginning of the encyclical is this:
The pagan world, which hungered for light, had seen the growth of the cult of the sun god, Sol Invictus, invoked each day at sunrise.
Yet though the sun was born anew each morning, it was clearly incapable of casting its light on all of human existence.
The sun does not illumine all reality; its rays cannot penetrate to the shadow of death, the place where men’s eyes are closed to its light.
"No one — Saint Justin Martyr writes — has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun" [LF 1].
Of course there's more and it's most interesting and educational. Check it out.
And check out The Anchoress, who links to a roundup that includes the poignant observation that the encyclical is "a heartfelt attempt to speak to anyone still searching for God.”
“For transmitting a purely doctrinal content, an idea might suffice, or perhaps a book, or the repetition of a spoken message. But what is communicated in the Church, what is handed down in her living Tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the true God, a light which touches us at the core of our being and engages our minds, wills and emotions, opening us to relationships lived in communion. There is a special means for passing down this fullness, a means capable of engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships with others. It is the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy.”
After the nation’s bicentennial, a monument to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence was dedicated near the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool. Carved in stone are replicas of each signature, along with the signer’s name, occupation and hometown and state. These men represented all walks of life and backgrounds. They were lawyers, merchants, physicians, farm owners and surveyors. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was a printer and scientist. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a Marylander and the only Catholic signer of the Declaration, was a merchant and farmer. Lyman Hall of Georgia was a physician and Congregationalist minister.
These signers professed many different faiths. They were Catholic, Congregationalist, Deist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Quaker and Unitarian. From many different backgrounds, representing many religions, they stood united for liberty.
Over the centuries since that decision to lock the Brick Chapel, our struggle for liberty, the Declaration of Independence and our Revolutionary War, we have all recognized the importance of religious faith in a free and democratic society.
Even today in the context of a secular world, the quiet, soft and gentle voice of the Spirit has not been stilled. It continues to speak to human hearts. Not by bread alone do we live.
The second reading for today taken from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians reminds us that we must not “grieve the Holy Spirit of God with which you were sealed.” We must always be open to the promptings of the Spirit. Our commitment to religious liberty, to human freedom, to our faith, does not rest on our individual resolve or limited resources. The First Letter of Saint Peter reminds us, “You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and the abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23).
The celebration of the unlocking of the Brick Chapel is the recognition of the place of values — moral, ethical and religious — in life and in the society of which we are a formative part.
As the key turned in the lock and the doors swung open, we were all provided an opportunity to reflect that sadly there are still those who think that the best way to deal with opposing opinions, differing views, moral perspectives and ethical imperatives is through force. Closer to our day, we see another tactic. The Church is denounced as prejudiced, narrow-minded or even un-American simply because her teaching respects human life, upholds marriage and calls for health care for the most needy in our country.
In March, just across town, we witnessed an example of the new intolerance, the new form of locking doors. At George Washington University an effort was made to silence the Catholic chaplain and to “lockout” his ministry to Catholic students and faculty just because he taught those who freely came to Mass what Jesus said about marriage. And so, here we are.
The idea that the pastor of a parish today or the chaplain of a religious community or campus ministry today should simply be silenced because he faithfully announces the Gospel of Jesus Christ — that he should not be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture, even in a place that is dedicated to the free and diverse expression of ideas — may seem somewhat radical today, but you have to remember there have always been those who try to force their views on all of us. There have always been those who want to lock doors so the voice of the Gospel cannot be heard.
When we talk about marriage, when we speak about the dignity of human life, when we teach about the natural moral order, we are lifting up elements that we find deeply rooted in the consciousness of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Just because someone wants to change all of that today does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society.
Remember after someone says you cannot speak here, then comes the sentence, “And you do not belong here.” Our response must be the response of Jesus Christ, the response of his Church, a response rooted in love.
The Gospel chosen for today reminds us that Jesus calls us to follow his invitation to love one another and to accept this challenge as the norm for our way of living. When others use force, there will always be the temptation to respond in kind. But we must respond out of who we are. We are followers of Jesus Christ. We speak the truth in love.
Again, in the second reading, Saint Paul tells us, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.”
To speak out against any form of discrimination, social injustice or the redefinition of marriage, marital relations, or threats to the dignity of life is not to force values upon our society, but rather to call our society to its own, long-accepted moral principles and commitment to defend basic human rights.
The celebration at historic Saint Mary’s City was a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and the ultimate victory of truth. But it was also a reminder that there are always those with a key ready to close us out of the public forum and our rightful and legitimate place in the debates over what is good public policy. The beautiful fall afternoon ceremony of the unlocking of the Brick Chapel was not just a revisiting of history but, in fact, a study of current events.
In January 2012, Pope Benedict XVI explained to United States bishops in Rome the challenge to our culture of a “radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.” He went on to highlight “of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion…The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.”
The Holy Father’s answer to this “radical secularism” and “denial of rights” is, as he explained, “an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism.” And here you are! Your faith is a remedy for what ails our society. The mission of all of us, but particularly of the laity is to engage the culture with the Good News that only comes from Jesus Christ.
This may seem daunting, but remember, we are a people of hope. It is why Blessed John Paul II called for the New Evangelization and why Pope Benedict XVI carried this call into the new millennium, and why Pope Francis is such an example of living faith with courage and serenity. We know that while we must still defend our freedom, Christ has already won the final victory.
In a moment, we will celebrate Holy Mass. At each Mass, we remember and celebrate who we are as Catholics. We gather around the table of the Lord to receive the gift of the Eucharist, just as the Apostles gathered around Jesus at the Last Supper. The Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death on the cross and Resurrection is made real to us, here and now, and then we go out to the world to share that gift of Jesus’ new life and his love.
That new life in Christ, that living out of our faith, is reflected not only in our worship and in our personal acts of charity, but in our Church’s educational, health care and social ministry outreach. Those works, those acts of faith, are threatened whenever our religious freedom is eroded.
Before I elevate the consecrated host and the chalice of Jesus’ blood, we are all on our knees together. Let us thank our Lord for the gift of life and for the freedom to love and worship our God. Pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit we may be his witnesses.
In the presence of our Lord we will kneel. There is a time to be on one’s knees. There is also a time when we need to stand — to stand up.
Some time ago I was invited to give an invocation at a public event attended by hundreds and hundreds of people. The prayer was to follow the presentation of the flag and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.
From behind the curtain on stage where I stood, I could see the young man who sat with a console on his lap controlling the light and sound mechanisms for the hall. He also had in his hand the script to tell him when to dim the lights and what microphones to turn on.
As the flag was brought in and the singer intoned the Star Spangled Banner, all of the people in the audience stood. Behind the curtain and seen by no one but me, the young man, trying to balance the console, the lights, the sound system and his script, attempted to stand. Clearly, even though no one saw him, the national anthem meant enough to him that he wanted to stand up.
Pray also for the courage boldly and joyfully to stand in protection of our freedom so that we may continue to live out our faith and transform the world in which we live.
Today there are things that should mean enough to all of us, including our religious liberty, that we simply need to stand — to stand up for what is right, to stand up for what is ours, to stand up for freedom of religion.
Let us thank God for the call, the freedom and the courage to stand up for religious liberty.
Perhaps you've felt a tug in your spirit, a yearning to engage and fuel your faith.
I don't think it to be coincidental.
I agree with the Cardinal, society is ailing and needs some medicine. Your faith, however small or large, is what the Good Doctor is ordering.
Now would be a good time to feed it if it's small or exercise it if it's large. Yes, now.
You're being called. Answer the call. There's a higher purpose, a larger need. Become part of the remedy.
Among the many things that work against those of us opposed to the redefinition of marriage are two in particular that are troubling, apathy and ignorance. One we can do nothing really about. It's largely the byproduct of a selfish mindset indicative of a serious lack of character. The other however can be overcome.
Coercion takes many forms. Banning religious symbols in the workplace lest they offend someone is no less than a gag order. Funny how we can do that to our own people while giving religious extremists
arms and support to slaughter Christians wholesale for opposing a government that would make the possession of a Bible or just being a Christian a capital offense. Here though we do no less. The fight for rights has been hard fought by many subgroups (including various Christian ones), and that fight was protected by the very constitution those now deemed politically correct seek to shred via legislation, in the hopes that the inevitable swing of the pendulum will not erase their gains. Hoping that by making it a hate crime, forbidden speech, or heavily punished speech that they will be able to subvert not only God’s plan, but the pendulum that allows some form of balance. Any historian can see the repeating pattern from the roaring 20′s to the tent revivals of the early 50′s – but this time we have allowed the game to change by criminalizing thoughts and words, not actions. Their idea seems to be to push the pendulum so far in one direction that it sticks.
Marriage is the purview of those churches who manage covenants between God and Man, civil unions are the purview of the state. I have no issue with civil unions regulated by the state, but the current ruling as I read it, is a small step onto a slippery slope which aims to turn churches into “hate groups” when they fail to marry some due to the sex of their chosen partner or partners. Never-mind that the Catholic Church already refuses marriage to divorcees, couples not intending offspring, and non-Catholics unless marrying a Catholic and agreeing to raise the children in the Catholic faith. Redefining marriage has opened a Pandora’s box of consequences, as if it can be redefined to include two women then why can it not be redefined to include two women and a man? Or two men and a woman? Why not three? Four? Five? More?
You see there is a difference between a marriage and a civil union, one is a sacrament of God and one is a legal construct of man. One is indissoluble by man and one is not. One is a sacred vow before and to God with specific promises between the man and woman exchanged just as he ordained, and one is not. The sacrament of marriage is unique in that husband and wife enter into a covenant with each other with God as their witness and in doing so are making a sacred promise to honor that covenant not just to each other but to God. For Catholics, matrimony or marriage is one of the seven sacraments on which our faith is grounded. Any erosion of those sacraments constitutes an erosion of the faith, and thereby a direct attack on the Church.
Retired Ravens center Matt Birk spoke out Thursday morning on Minnesota’s KFAN about his reason for declining an invitation from President Barack Obama to be at the White House during the team’s visit a
Birk, a six-time Pro Bowler who was on the Ravens’ 2013 Super Bowl team, said he has “great respect for the office of the Presidency” but decided against going with the team on Wednesday as part of an annual NFL tradition for Super Bowl winners. Birk said he based his decision on a comment the president recently made in which he applauded Planned Parenthood, a leading health care provider of reproductive and sexual health:
“I wasn’t there. I would say this, I would say that I have great respect for the office of the Presidency but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood…’
Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year. I am Catholic, I am active in the Pro-Life movement and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way…I’m very confused by [the President's] statement. For God to bless a place where they’re ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend.”
Mr Blair, the former prime minister, used a column in the Mail on Sunday to call on the Government to “be honest” and admit that there is a widespread problem with the religion.
In a major intervention following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby, Mr Blair said "the seeds of future
fanaticism and terror" were being sown and that children in the UK and abroad must be educated about the place of religion in society.
Mr Blair said: "There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain will be horrified at Lee Rigby's murder.
"But there is a problem within Islam - from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it."
He said "at the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists" but "by and large we don't admit it".
Mr Blair added: “The seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown. We have to help sow seeds of reconciliation and peace. But clearing the ground for peace is not always peaceful."
Mr Blair said: "We resisted revolutionary communism by being resolute on security; but we defeated it by a better idea: Freedom.
"We can do the same with this. The better idea is a modern view of religion and its place in society and politics. There has to be respect and equality between people of different faiths. Religion must have a voice in the political system but not govern it.
"We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad," he said.
Mr Blair added: "Now, more than ever, we have to be strong and we have to be strategic."
Compare and contrast Mr. Blair's words with pretty much anything coming from the Obama administration on this issue.
Might more of the West's leaders exhibit the kind of courage put on display by the former prime minister. Particularly here in the United States.
They are all in their 80s now — these former POWs during the Korean War.
One recalls in rapid-fire bursts how Father Emil Kapaun sneaked out of the barracks at night, risking his life to bring back morsels of food for his fellow prisoners.
Another remembers seeing the young American priest use a rock and a piece of metal to form a pan and then collect water to wash the hands and faces of the wounded.
A third chokes up when he tells of being injured and having an enemy soldier standing over him, rifle pointed; Kapaun walked up, pushed aside the muzzle and carried off the wounded man.
The military chaplain did not carry a gun or grenades. He did not storm hills or take beaches. He picked lice off of men too weak to do it themselves and stole grain from the Korean and Chinese guards who took the American soldiers as prisoners of war in late 1950.
Kapaun did not survive the prisoner camps, dying in Pyoktong in 1951. The man originally from tiny Pilsen, Kan., has been declared a “servant of God” — often a precursor to sainthood in the Catholic Church. And on Thursday, President Obama will posthumously award Kapaun a Medal of Honor. On hand will be Mike Dowe, 85; Robert Wood, 86; and Herbert Miller, 86.
“People had lost a great deal of their civility,” Wood says of life in the POW compound. “We were stacking the bodies outside where they were frozen like cordwood and here is this one man — in all of this chaos — who has kept . . . principles.”
Kapaun (pronounced Ka-PAWN) was so beloved that U.S. prisoners of war who knew him began calling for him to receive the military’s highest honor on the day they were released from their North Korean POW camp 60 years ago.
“The first prisoners out of that camp are carrying a wooden crucifix, and they tell the story at length,” says Roy Wenzel, a reporter at the Wichita Eagle who wrote an eight-part series and a book about Kapaun. “He was internationally famous and made the front page of newspapers.”
But Kapaun’s story soon faded from all but the memories of the men whom he served and the small church in rural Kansas that he had pastored.
“POWs come and tell stories of him,” said Father John Hotze, who serves in Wichita, an hour south of Kapaun’s home town. “They talked about how they would never have been able to survive had it not been for Father Kapaun, who gave them hope and the courage to live.”
In the heart of the battle
In the memories of his comrades, the chaplain is stuck in time, 34 years old and slight, with an angular chin that jutted out from the helmet he wore pushed down over his ears. At the sound of gunfire, GIs saw Kapaun heading in the direction of front-line troops in the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, on an old bicycle, his only form of transportation after his Jeep was lost.
He spoke with a Midwestern lilt and shared the lessons he learned on the 80-acre central Kansas farm where he was raised in a community of Czech immigrants. Family members recall a story Kapaun’s mother loved to tell involving her son, an old bonnet and a cow. It was usually her chore to milk the family’s only cow — but on this day it fell to young Emil. The cow kicked and fidgeted and wouldn’t let him get near. That is, until Emil went back into the farmhouse and put on one of his mother’s bonnets and a dress. He walked back to the barn, mimicking his mother’s walk. The cow obliged, and the chore got done.
Kapaun grew up to be a quiet man and was ordained a priest when he was 24.
Soon after the news broke in the summer of 1950 that North Korea had invaded the Republic of Korea, Kapaun was among the 300,000 U.S. servicemen called to war. He was initially sent to the fighting on the Pusan perimeter and marched north with the troops, celebrating Mass from the hood of his Jeep.
Two months after the war began, Kapaun was awarded a Bronze Star for running through enemy fire to drag wounded soldiers to safety. It was a brutal conflict with little information getting through to troops on the ground, some of whom did not know that the Chinese military had entered the war alongside North Korea.
“The Army was in terrible shape,” Wood said. “Our weapons didn’t work. Our men weren’t physically conditioned. We had malaria and dysentery. Father Kapaun was a constant example.”
On the front lines, the priest would “drop in a shallow hole beside a nervous rifleman, crack a joke or two, hand him a peach, say a little prayer with him and move on to the next hole,” Dowe recalled.
On Nov. 2, 1950, the 8th Cavalry was encircled by Chinese and North Korean troops at Unsan. The men had thought they would be home by Christmas. They did not have winter clothes, Wood said. Now they were prisoners.
On that day, Kapaun performed an act of heroism commemorated in a bronze sculpture that stands in front of the church in Pilsen. The other man in the statue, which depicts Kapaun helping a wounded soldier, is Herbert Miller.
Miller, a platoon leader, found himself standing under a small bridge in a dry creek encircled by enemy troops on a dark night.
“You could reach right out and touch them. The bullets was flying,” Miller recalled in an interview. “I moved 30 feet and I got hit with a hand grenade.”
The blast broke Miller’s ankle; he lay in the ditch until daylight, unable to escape. When he saw enemy troops coming up the nearby mountain, he tried to hide by pulling the body of a Korean soldier on top of him. But he was spotted and soon found himself being held at gunpoint.
“About that time, I saw this soldier coming across the road. He pushed that man’s rifle aside and he picked me up,” Miller said.
For a time, Kapaun carried Miller on his back.
That was the first time he met Kapaun. Both men began what would become known as the Tiger Death March, a trek of more than 80 miles to the North Korean POW camp.
Having just gone to confession after mass this morning, it was not my intention to get into a little
tiff with a media outlet on Twitter, but being who I am, I couldn’t let it go when I saw one of those lazy, thoughtless sneers cross my timeline, to the effect that Pope Francis (good guy) was refusing to stay in (bad guy) “Pope Benedict’s luxurious apartments.”
I needed to disabuse the writer of the notion that Pope Benedict owned anything, including a “luxurious apartment” but that the papal apartment in the Vatican was simply that — the apartment of whoever happens to be pope, used by every pope since 1906, until now. Francis has chosen not to use it, and that’s perfectly fine, but I find myself objecting strenuously when I see people trying to use Francis’ simple tastes as a kind of hammer against his predecessors. “See,” they imply, “he’s a good, humble pope who is united to the poor, not like all of those other wasteful, pampered popes who didn’t care about the poor, before him.”
They would pretend that before this month, the poor weren’t on the church’s radar, or the pope’s. To what purpose? Well, mostly to warp a narrative and foment the easiest sort of hate, which is hate rooted in empty cynicism and ignorance.
I asked some of those who engaged me on twitter whether they would soon be divesting themselves of all luxuries, since owning luxuries, or pretty things, or well-made things is insensitive to the poor.
No one answered.
Since they seemed to feel strongly that as long as the poor exist, a person in leadershipshould set his tent among them, resisting luxuries or comforts for himself, I asked whether they thought the American President should forego a round of golf, or an expensive dinner, or a “luxury” vacation, for as long as there are people in his country struggling to get by.
No one answered.
I didn’t bother asking whether — since simplicity is now admirable and finer things are not — they would be surrendering their Starbucks coffee for a humble cup of Folgers, each morning.
I didn’t ask because, being a coffee snob, myself, I already know the answer. In a world of rampant materialism and fading prosperity, Pope Francis’ example of simplicity is already challenging me in my own not-extravagant life, and he’s challenging others, too. Eventually, those carrying on about how admirable a model he is for the rest of us will — unless they have no consciences to prick — find themselves roiled by our pope’s humble tastes, because they’ll either have to address their own consumption or face a truth about themselves that they can currently hide beneath righteous moralizing.