Getting it Right for a Change!

By , September 30, 2011 5:19 am

In the last half century, tension would erupt in Detroit every four years as the United Automobile Workers and the Big Three car companies attempted to work out a new contract. Thankfully, that is not the case in 2011.

Led by General Motors and supported by Chrysler and Ford, GM has stepped up efforts to devise a competitive cost structure that both the companies and the union can live with for the next four years. This would include increasing entry level wages and establishing a new profit-sharing formula for workers at all three Detroit car companies.

Since its beginning in the late 19th century, Catholic social theology has always stressed the need for trust, cooperation and justice in the economic system and when these virtues are present both sides will see that it is to everyone’s advantage to cooperate and to produce a smooth running economic machine that will provide the best for everyone.

This country desperately needs jobs – jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs. A crucial component of improved employment is a spirit of cooperation and trust developing from both sides of the economic equation. If we could function in that manner, the whole country would benefit tremendously and as goes the United States, so goes the world. There is so much at risk. Let’s pray for success.

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It’s About Time! (For Christian Unity)

By , September 29, 2011 5:33 am

It’s four centuries since the Christian West was split asunder by the Reformation. That initial tragedy would lead to religious wars that would last for another two centuries. Religious wars calmed down in the 19th century and in the 20th century. With the Second Vatican Council, we have seen a solid movement across Christianity to somehow bring about the restoration of Christian unity. No one, however, has a clear idea on exactly what form the Church would have after the restoration of unity.

Now another step forward. Cardinal Kurt Koch, of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has announced that the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation are planning a joint declaration on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2016. “Without joint recollection, joint purification and without an admission of guilt on both sides, an honest commemoration will not be possible,” Cardinal Koch told the Austrian Catholic Press Agency. This is a wonderful new step and may carry us forward towards evermore unity and solidarity. Certainly, we can all pray for that.

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Conflict Continues in the Austrian Church

By , September 29, 2011 4:08 am

Late in June, a group of 300 priests in the Republic of Austria signed a joint declaration calling for disobedience by parish priests on matters such as priestly celibacy and communion for remarried divorcees. Vienna’s Cardinal Schönborn ordered them to back down or leave the Church. Four priests did withdraw but 86 more have joined and now more than 400 priests, roughly one in ten in the nation, continue their call for change and adaptation.

New players on the scene are the Conference of Religious Superiors in Austria. Austria has about 40 abbots and half of all parishes are served by religious priests. The head of the Conference, Abbot Maximilian Fürnsinn, said that a Church summit is called for. “This can no longer be solved by the Cardinal alone. Everyone – bishops, abbots, religious and representatives of the Austrian Priests Initiative – must sit down and discuss the problems together.”

Over the last thirty years, there has been tremendous increase in tension in the Church as this group or that group searches for change in this area or that area. Obviously, the concerns of the Austrian priests are over many of those issues that are discussed worldwide. However, the stance of Church leadership has been simply to refuse to even discuss it. Remember that an Australian bishop was removed from office because he wrote a letter to his people saying that maybe it was the time to discuss these conflicted issues. Rome has ignored that one bishop but it might have a hard time ignoring 400 Austrian priests. We shall see how this develops over the next few months.

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Women to the Rescue!

By , September 28, 2011 5:30 am

Major fighting has come to an end in Libya and the Libya’s transitional government is in charge of most of the country. Last week, the leader of the new government, Mustafa Abdeljalid, made his first national speech on martyr’s square in the capital. He issued a call for reconciliation throughout the country. This is a wonderful beginning. There is always danger after a revolution that new forms of civil strife will develop as various factions fight for leadership in the new situation. Reconciliation is going to be the key to the new democratic Libya and maybe the key to that key will be the women of the country. Libyan women were extraordinarily active during the revolution serving heroically in many different capacities. They are now struggling to keep a share in the power that comes with freedom and that they helped to secure.

After so many years of oppression, it is only natural that some people, filled with hatred, would seek vengeance. Let’s hope and pray that the women of Libya, who instinctively know the advantages of peace and harmony, will be major players in helping to lead the country into a new and beautiful chapter.

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Guatemala Still Suffers

By , September 27, 2011 4:24 am

I have had a strong interest in the Republic of Guatemala for over half a century. A close friend and high school classmate was a Maryknoll Missioner down there until he was murdered in 1976 courtesy of the Guatemalan generals. The CIA overthrew an elected government in the early ‘50’s and the country suffered unending conflict from that date until 1996 when peace accords were finally achieved. Since then, however, the country has suffered from constant internal strife and a tragic increase in crime.

A runoff election is currently underway between a wealthy businessman and a general whose political symbol is the clinched fist. The current election is less marred than the last one in 2007. Nevertheless, dozens of local and legislative candidates and party leaders have been killed during the campaign. Spending on the campaigns have soared because Mexican drug cartels have moved in and are now financing candidates. So much of Guatemala has been suffering over the last half century and at least partially caused by actions and policies emanating from the United States.

I try to pray for Guatemala everyday, praying that this battered little country will at last achieve peace and prosperity.

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Holy Oils in the Catholic Church

By , September 26, 2011 5:48 am

Catholics who studied their catechism before the Second Vatican Council all knew the names of the seven sacraments and for some of them the name of the last one was a little difficult.  It was called “extreme unction,” literally meaning, “the last anointing.”  Today, we usually refer to this sacrament as simply “the last rites.”

In addition to this sacrament, the Church also uses oil at baptism, confirmation and ordination.  All three ceremonies set a person apart in their relationship to the Church and Jesus Christ.  When a person is baptized, he is marked and drawn into the family of faith.  Confirmation reflects recognition of a person’s maturity, growth in the faith and a willingness to assume responsibility to spread it.  In the priesthood, the man’s hands are anointed to mark the fact that in a very special way those hands are instruments in our Lord’s plan for keeping his presence among us until the end of time; namely, the celebration of the Eucharist.  Finally, in the last rites (extreme unction), we lift up the lives of the persons who are ill, present them to God and ask for his mercy and salvation.  Overall, these four sacraments together form a marvelous collage of religious life inside the family of the Church.

Don’t forget that YOU have been anointed! You have been marked. You are special because of the saving actions of Jesus Christ.

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A Joyful Obedience?

By , September 24, 2011 4:05 am

26th Sunday (September 25th)
The Church year is beginning to wind down. For many weeks, the Scripture texts presented for our consideration each Sunday morning have provided us with material for thought, self evaluation and, hopefully, self improvement. Occasionally, some of them jump out at us with really startling concepts. Today, is such a day.

The theme of today’s Mass is obedience and the Gospel narrative gives an excellent example of that, but the most important for me personally, is the second reading from the second chapter of St. Paul in which he talks about the obedience and humility of Jesus Christ. St. Paul is writing from prison to his friends and converts in the city of Philippi. The apostle urges them to be united in faith, not to quarrel or fight and pointing out that they can avoid conflict by being humble and generous to each other. Then he referred to Christ’s attitude in those areas.

Christ, “though he was by nature God, did not deem the equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself, took the form of a slave and born in the likeness of men.”

In his preaching, Paul frequently urges us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ – “For me to live as Christ.” He never asserted that it was going to be easy and in today’s world, such a path is truly challenging.

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Teasing: The McCarthy Rule Revisited

By , September 23, 2011 4:36 am

Today I’d like to revisit one of my pet peeves-teasing. Teasing by itself is not a bad thing. It depends on how it’s done, to whom it’s done, by whom it’s done and for what purpose it’s done. Teasing in and of itself is not evil. It CAN be evil, and it can be very, very destructive.

I have a seat of the pants rule about teasing that I’ve tried to live with, and that I’ve shared when I’ve given retreats or talks to young people, and I call it the McCarthy Rule. I also share it with older people who are responsible for raising the next generation. They ought to be sensitive to the potential seriousness of teasing and have a way to offer people the opportunity to tease without inflicting pain or real damage into the life of another person.
The McCarthy Rule is this:

You can tease people all you want in areas of their strengths and confidence.

You cannot tease people without running the risk of pain and destructiveness by teasing them in their areas of weaknesses or self-consciousness or limitations. So, here is an example I use: The star athlete is almost down to the goal line, and he reaches back to catch the pass that is delivered to him perfectly, and he drops it. You can tease him about that. He’s not going to enjoy the teasing, but he’s a terrific athlete, and he can handle that.

Teasing people who are clumsy in their ability to be a really good ball player, or teasing people who are not overly endowed with academic ability about doing poorly, or being the slowest member of the class-that’s cruel and destructive. If we can’t be sure of someone’s strengths, we’d probably be better off if we didn’t tease at all.

Each of us needs to examine our conscience and see if there is any teasing in our lives that really hurts people. Do we generate laughs when a crowd is around at other people’s expense? Do we make other people laugh by putting others on the verge of tears? An honest look might help.

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The Heaviest Load…a Grudge

By , September 22, 2011 6:25 am

How burdensome is the too common human failure of “carrying a grudge”? This load can drag you down as nothing else. Grudges typically flow from a single source that many of us experience. We have been hurt. Sometimes, when we are hurt, we tend to put the worst possible movitation on the person who generated that hurt.

The fact is that most of these little social mishaps are accidental or unintentional. Even if we know a person intended the slight, it’s usually not an important thing to us except that our overly sensitive ego reacts and our pride is hurt.

So what? Mistakes are made, left and right. Some generated by us; some by friends; and yes, some by enemies. Will it matter tomorrow? CHOOSE NOT TO LET IT MATTER.

Don’t let those grudges pull you down!

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The Blessing of Homes

By , September 21, 2011 3:11 am

Catholics are big on blessings! We bless ourselves before meals. We bless ourselves upon entering our churches. We bless our children. Sometimes, we get so upset that we have a hard time distinguishing between a blessing and a curse…which is because when we are very emotional, our minds turn towards God, success, joy, and occasionally, panic. Panic and joy can produce similar reactions in some of us.

One custom that is very common is to have a new home blessed. We usually ask our parish priest to come and do that, but the act of blessing is not restricted! Anyone who believes in God can turn to Him and in some sense, dedicate the object being blessed to His service.

When we bless something, mentally we lift it up towards Heaven. Everything we have is from God, so this house, this meal, this child, this car- are all things we have received from God. Giving these things a blessing is merely the external recognition of God as their source and at the same time, asking that in His infinite wisdom, they will be used prudently, effectively and joyfully.

I am happy to see that many of our Christian brothers and sisters are also beginning to use this simple, easy, down to earth acknowledgement of God in our lives as we go throughout the day, blessing Him and thanking Him for what we have received.

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