Making the DREAM a Reality

By , November 30, 2010 4:21 am

Want to imagine a difficult situation?  Consider a 12-year-old Mexican kid whose parents brought him to this country illegally when he was a small baby.  Because of the family’s lack of legal status, this little kid faces very real obstacles in the future.  Now we have a wonderful suggestion for removing those barriers and permitting these young people to pursue a promising future through education and military service.

Naturally, there are conditions.  The person must have entered the United States before the age of 16, lived here for five continuous years, graduated from high school or gained admission to an institute of higher learning, not guilty of any crimes and have good moral character.

The DREAM act has always had strong bipartisan support and the U.S. bishops have themselves been long standing supporters.  However, we are in the last days of Congress.  The bill could come up within the next week or so.  It could easily die during these jammed days in the congressional calendar.  Letters and calls from all of us could really make a difference.  Why don’t you take five minutes, call your representative or senator, and ask them to support the DREAM act?

U.S. Senate:                                    (202) 224-3121
House of Representatives:            (202) 225-3121

Make the dream real.

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An Excommunicated Saint!!

By , November 29, 2010 7:04 am

In our wonderful and mysterious Church, anything can happen!  On October 17th, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI canonized Mother Mary MacKillop, the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Australia. She is the very first Australian saint, in fact.  Canonizing important religious leaders in the story of the Church is nothing new, but canonizing one who had once been formally excommunicated is really unusual.

Mother Mary MacKillop was an extraordinary person and was recognized for her sanctity long before she died, but both she and her community angered some priests and the local bishop because the sisters pointed to a case of serious abuse by a local priest.  While the excommunication was later lifted, it certainly slowed down Sister Mary MacKillop’s canonization process.

All of this reminds me of the recent excommunication of Sister Mary Margaret McBride for having participated in the complex decision to terminate a pregnancy threatening the life of the mother.  It occurred in St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Phoenix.  I was encouraged to see an excellent article by Father Kevin O’Rourke, OP in the November 15th issue of America magazine, which views the case in the light of Church tradition regarding “double effect.”  Father O’Rourke is one of the most respected moral theologians in the United States and is currently professor of bioethics at the Neiswanger Institute of Bioethics and Public Policy, Stritch School of Medicine, at Loyola University Chicago.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if Sister Mary Margaret McBride was canonized fifty or sixty years from now?  She certainly has the reputation of an extraordinarily good person and a holy and dedicated religious.

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Happy New Year!

By , November 27, 2010 4:27 am

Do you think my timing is off?  Here we go again…launching as we are this wonderful spiritual journey that we call the liturgical year. Starting with Advent makes great sense in my opinion, because anticipation and hope are two qualities deeply imbedded in almost all of us. We look ahead expectantly. We look ahead into the future, praying that things will work out. Advent is happy, because we know the outcome.

These four weeks symbolize the time brtween the begininning of the human family and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s a quick trip, but important symbolically. We are urged to be more thoughtful, prayerful, and do something EACH DAY to prepare for a meaningful celebration of the Lord’s birth.

Everybody is busy preparing for Christmas, but our energy is frequently misspent.

Christmas means JESUS, not gift-wrapping!

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Can Peace in the Sudan be Maintained?

By , November 26, 2010 5:01 am

For over twenty years, the Sudan has been racked by terrible civil warfare and bloodshed.  The problems of the country are monumental and they are far from being resolved.  Basically, the country is divided into two major sections, the north and the south (why is it always the north and the south?)  The north is overwhelmingly Muslim and the south is racially black and Christian and animist in religion.

About two years ago, a peace treaty was brokered by the United Nations and both sides agreed to consider the possibility of partition with Sudan dividing itself into two independent countries.  The south is all for that.  The north is opposed primarily because while Sudan has great oil resources underground, they are, for the most part, in the southern part of the country.  Can an election resolve this complicated and dangerous situation?

A vote on the issue is scheduled for mid-January and once again, the U.S. is working hard to avoid the resumption of hostilities.  Do you have room for another item on your prayer list?  Really pray that this enormous undeveloped country can walk into the future as two separate nations living in peace with each other and the rest of the world. The election is about two months away.  Keep it in your thoughts and prayers.

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Triumphant Ending and a New Beginning

By , November 25, 2010 11:54 am

Well, the cycle is almost complete.  The liturgical year, which is 52 Sundays centering on salvation history and the redeeming actions of Jesus Christ, is coming to an end.  Last Sunday we celebrated that Jesus Christ is the Lord of history realized by our very human expression “king.”  Next Sunday, we begin a new Church Year on the first Sunday of Advent and this season will, of course, remind us of the time between Adam and Eve and the coming of Jesus.  It was a time of preparation then and it should be a time of preparation for us as well as we anticipate the first great day in the liturgical year – Christmas.

The liturgical year is a great gift to all of us.  It evolved slowly over the centuries and while there is a certain simplicity in its design, centering as it does on the three great feasts of the year – the birth of the Lord, the Nativity; his resurrection, Easter Sunday; and the commission of the Church to bring the good news to the world, Pentecost Sunday – there are ups and down with Advent and Lent being serious times of prayer and meditation and Christmas and Easter being short periods of exaltation and celebration.  Ideally, in our own personal lives we should enter into those moods and create in our daily lives an atmosphere comparable to them; to think, pray and act in harmony with the Church.  When we do this, we should be conscious of the fact that we are thinking, praying and acting in harmony with our fellow Christians all over the world.

We are never alone on this journey. Happy Thanksgiving!

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How to Lessen Congressional Divisiveness

By , November 24, 2010 8:45 am

Gridlock!  Anger!  Lack of cooperation and lack of trust!

These are words used repeatedly to describe one or another aspect of the actions of our Congress.  The senators and the congressmen seem to have a very difficult time of working together with any degree of effectiveness.  This is tragic for our country and bad for the members themselves.

There are many issues but I would like to raise one that would surprise some people.  In my opinion, the problem is that both House and Senate members go back home too frequently.  Before jet travel, it was impossible for anyone other than a few congressmen from the greater Washington area to get home on weekends.  With jet travel and pressure in the home district to spend more time in their district, a large majority of the congressmen are out of Washington by Friday returning on Sunday night or Monday.  Gone are the weekend barbecues, gone are the long, relaxed conversations over a drink.  When they do get back to their families, however, many are so busy with the never-ending burden of raising money that they don’t even have the world’s best possible hours with their families.  This results in members who are tired, over-extended and do not know each other personally as well as they used to.

Hey, congressmen.  Give yourself a break and calmly stay in Washington for more weekends.  Get to know those people on the other side of the aisle as friends and develop relationships of trust that can enable our country to move forward effectively.

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A Miracle in South Austin

By , November 23, 2010 1:48 am

A person in my position is approached endlessly for donations to this cause or that cause.  I try to respond as generously as possible but even wealthy people, much less Catholic clergy, have the resources to respond in proportion to the need.  You have to choose!

I try to assist programs that provide emergency food, clothing and shelter and try to assist in scholarship programs but my favorite concern is St. Louise House in South Central Austin.

St. Louise House is a miracle (second class) that documents how hardworking, well-intentioned, visionaries with empathy for the poor can produce wonders.  About ten years ago, a group of parishioners from St. Austin’s Church in Austin saw a pressing need on the streets, namely homeless women with children.  Can you imagine a worse situation?  They went to work and today the organization called St. Louise House has no less than 48 apartments in which women from the street have landed with their children and are beginning to put their lives back together comfortably and safely.

I don’t think you could be involved in more meaningful work in assisting those around us than helping St. Louise House or comparable programs to grow stronger and expand.  St. Louise House can be contacted at 2026 Guadalupe Street, Austin, Texas 78705, (512) 302-0027, www.saintlouise-house.org.

There is so much more I could tell you about the program, but let me encourage you to go directly to their website, http://www.saintlouisehouse.org/ where you can learn more and get involved TODAY!

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Empathy – a Much-needed Virtue

By , November 22, 2010 1:43 am

Over the last several months, there has been a great deal of publicity about young people committing suicide.  They frequently leave behind messages indicating that they were driven to this disastrous end because of bullying.  The problem of bullying seems to be more acute among gay and lesbian teens.  Catholics need to be especially sensitive on this issue because a recent poll states that two-thirds of us believe that the attitude of churches contribute to the suicide among people who are gay.

In my opinion, the gift of the virtue of empathy is one of the most important qualities needed in normal development.  It does not seem to be transferred to us by our genes nor is it taught in any effective way in most of our schools.  This must change.  The dictionary tells us that empathy is “the ability to share in another’s emotions or feelings.”  If we develop the habit of empathy, it means that when we see a difficult situation of a person being bullied or teased, that we have the capacity to understand the pain that they are going through and thus we would avoid participating in those actions and certainly not be a lead actor.

I have dealt with schools that say that bullying is just part of a process that young people have to go through.  I strongly disagree.  Bullying is a cowardly act that can have disastrous results and everyone involved in the formation of young people – parents, churches, schools, etc. – need to take a firm stand against it.  We may never eradicate it but we can certainly lessen its damage.

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Jesus: More Shepherd than King

By , November 20, 2010 5:06 am

Tomorrow the Church across the world will celebrate the glorious feast of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. In preparation for this, I began the subject last week, pointing out that although we use the word KING, we don’t mean that the Kingship of Christ is anything like the military or political leader as we have ordinarily seen on this planet. What the expression is trying to say is that Jesus of Nazareth, as the Son of God, has universal jurisdiction over all creation.

However, I would like to skip the term. Let’s go to the first reading, from the book of Ezekiel, in which the prophet describes the Lord God as a shepherd. A shepherd that takes direct care and for the sheep. We are those sheep, and our Shepherd cares for each one of us with infinite loving care. I feel confident that when I am face to face with God on judgement day I’ll be much more comfortable if He is standing there with a shepherd’s crook and not a king’s scepter!

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A Tale of Horror; a Cause for Shame

By , November 19, 2010 4:37 am

In the second half of the 20th century, we saw so many mass movements of people that our sensibilities to the subject have been dulled.  You know how inconvenient it is when you suddenly take a quick three-day trip and on the road realize that you forgot this and forgot that.  Imagine pulling up stakes and leaving everything behind and going into a new situation – no resources, frequently alone and badly battered by the causes that caused you to move.

While we usually associate such mass movement of peoples with Asia and Africa, there was a major migration here in the United States but most of the country paid very little if any attention to it.  Between 1920 and the mid-1970’s about six billion black Americans partook in a mass movement out of the South and move into areas of the North and Midwest parts of the country where they would be closer to the freedom promised them by the Declaration of Independence.  Isabel Wilkerson, a professor of journalism at Boston University, has just written a much-needed book on the subject.  It is entitled, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.”  The book is painful reading.  It documents not only the daily humiliations of African Americans in the South, but also the continuation of agonizing violence.  Someone was hanged or burned alive on average every four days in the first quarter of the 20th century.  Upcoming lynches were publicized in the newspapers and were festive events where thousands of white citizens would gather to watch and celebrate.  May God forgive us.  The author lists a number of well-known Americans whose lives would have been very different if their parents and grandparents had not left the oppression of the South.  This list includes Michelle Obama, Diana Ross, Bill Cosby, Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey.

The unimaginable horror of slavery went on in this country for two hundred years and massive oppression of black Americans continued from the end of the Civil War until the early 1960’s.  Let’s not kid ourselves, however.  The results of those sinful years are very much with us, and people of good will should do everything possible to improve race relations today and to atone for our sins of the past.

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