Last winter, I happened to be seatmates on a flight to Colorado with a woman physician who was going skiiing. She mentioned that she had retired early to work on a campaign against a new attempt to legalize euthanasia in Washington State. I was very interested. being a native Washingtonian, and having worked on an oncology unit during the last such campaign in Washington State.
My unit was filled with former Catholics (i used to think that 12 years of Catholic school ending in total abandonment of the faith was a pre-requisite for getting hired there) but there was one remnant of their Catholic upbringing. Surrounded by patients who were likely going to die soon, these nurses were against euthanasia.
I remember a nurse telling me at that time: "I'm against it because I know who is going to have to actually do the deed - and it won't be doctors. It will be nurses."
As Susan Harmon, director of No Assisted Suicide writes:
We know this because the supporters of the measure have labeled the campaign “Oregon Plus One.” Despite losing in 25 other states (including here in Washington in 1991), the proponents believe that if only one state besides Oregon would legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS), the rest of the states will fall like dominoes.
Washington is a very liberal state. It is the only state in the union to have legalized abortion by a vote of the people prior to Roe v Wade. And the same arguments are being used to support I-1000. They claim that it is a matter of “choice”. And for the predominantly wealthy white men who advocate this, it may well be.
Yet there is word from Oregon that some of those who asked for the lethal dose of pills were being manipulated by adult children wanting their inheritance sooner. Not one of those requesting PAS was evaluated for depression in the latest 2007 statistics. And as to the rest, who knows--the Oregon law does not allow investigation of assisted suicide cases and requires the destruction of all records within a year, so it is nearly impossible to track who is requesting PAS and how people actually died.
I-1000 goes even farther. It actually re-writes the definition of suicide. It will require physicians to lie about the cause of death--they must ascribe it to the terminal illness that the patients did not have the chance to die from. Tracking use of PAS will be impossible. Neither will surviving families be able to sue unscrupulous doctors for malpractice;
I-1000 gives doctors prescribing PAS immunity from law suit. How is this good for consumers?
Even worse, families will not be notified if a loved one requests PAS. And as in Oregon, those who suffer from depression may not be evaluated first and treated. Anyone over 18 who is diagnosed as being 6 months from dying can request this--no questions asked.
Nor are there any safeguards to protect the poor from exploitation by heartless insurers. In Oregon, coverage of end of life treatment has been slashed while lethal prescriptions are covered as “pain management.”
What happens in places which have legalized PAS? Recently the London Telegraph reported on new legislation introduced in Belgium where PAS was legalized several years ago. The proposed legislation would allow teenagers to request PAS for themselves and for parents of handicapped children to ask for PAS for their minor dependents.
In Holland, which is the pioneer of the pro-euthanasia movement, doctors euthanize patients without permission. One physician told how he had killed an elderly nun because he knew that her religious scruples would never have allowed her to request this herself--so he did it for her.
In Oregon, people who voted for PAS are now getting nervous, contacting the pro-life physicians group to find out if their doctor is one of those who prescribes death pills. Pro-life doctors now hang signs in their waiting rooms which are meant to reassure patients that they will only pursue life-affirming therapies.
What happens in Washington state this year will affect all of us and our children and grandchildren.
"The Prophet Ezekiel says" " The land now desolate will be tilled instead of lying waste for every passerby to see. Everyone will say that this land which was waste has become a Garden of Eden." (Ezekiel 36: 34-35)
The miraculous yield that the good soil produces flows not from simple intellectual assent to what Jesus reveals, but from remaining in him – relating to and with him throughout the day; asking for guidance, putting his word into action, doing his will, praying to him, expecting him to respond, thanking him when he does. The miraculous yield is part of the life of a disciple. This is the life each of us is invited to live, with the help of God's grace and the Holy Spirit.
Busy. Beside all the stuff we already had going, we got two interesting requests this week. One archdiocese wants us to help them make their parishes "missional" (very much an emergent Protestant term - this is the first that a diocese has adopted it as a goal that I'm aware of.) And another archdiocese in another country wants to incorporate Called & Gifted into their diaconate candidate discernment process.
Most of our "crisis" these days are prompted by the need to respond meaningful to the requests we are getting.
Whatever time and energy I have left goes into the garden. Finished mulching the yard and cleaning up the path after our large scale planting of bushes. So even though there is more to do, it looks increasingly garden-like.
4 large shrubs and 9 vines yet to be planted. Irrigation system to finish. Fence posts to erect somehow in hardpan that makes diamonds look soft. And the large project: planting another 400 sf bed - this time with wild grasses which is relatively easy. A truck full of topsoil sits on top of that bed at the moment. So the worst is over - for this summer.
My scarlet penstemons are just beginning to bloom and I had my first visit from a humming bird this morning as a result. The California poppies (pictured above) in their hundreds have been my glory and joy for weeks now.
Mark & Jan Shea sent me a lovely gift for my birthday: Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening by Vigen Guroian, an Armenian Orthodox theologian who teaches at Loyola College in Baltimore. The book is a series of four essays that Guroian wrote in the mid 90's for The Christian Century.
I'll share good bits as I read. But I must begin with this:
A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot! Rose plot, Fringed pool, Ferned grot - The veriest school of peace: and yet the fool Contends that God is not - Not God! In garden! When eve is cool? Nay. But I have a sign. 'Tis very sure God walks in mine.
Thomas Edward Brown, "My Garden"
Brown was one of the great, brilliant, loveably eccentric English school masters - and a gardener.
I get nauseous on swings and merry-go-rounds. There's something about the repetitive motion, or perhaps the sensation of motion without really going anywhere that makes my body revolt. Truth be told, parish life can be similar: lots of activity, but little progress regarding the mission of the Church. And that mission is twofold: to help every person in the parish (Catholic or not) have a living encounter with the risen Jesus, and to help change the structures and institutions in the parish boundaries so they reflect what's truly human and promote the common good.
Each of us who have been baptized share in Jesus' three-fold office of priest, prophet and king. When I was ordained, my sharing in priesthood was directed towards the Church itself as a minister of the sacraments; my prophetic ministry fulfilled as I proclaim the Gospel and teach. Most priests (myself included before I began working with the Institute) do not know that our royal office focuses on calling forth and celebrating the spiritual gifts (charisms) of the laity and coordinating them so that our mission described above can be fulfilled. Administration of the parish is actually a small – and much less interesting – part of my royal office.
Having a knowledge of and an ability to help others discern their charisms, having a vision of how they might work together or be useful in pastoral initiatives is a crucial skill set for a priest, and is actually imperative if any aspect of my ministry is to be effective, because, in the words of Pope John Paul II, "the three [powers] of teaching, sanctifying and ruling are clearly inseparable and interpenetrating." and "directed both to gathering the flock in the visible unity of a single profession of faith lived in the sacramental communion of the Church and to guiding that flock, in the diversity of its gifts and callings, towards a common goal: the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth." ad limina address of Pope John Paul II to the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, September 11, 2004.
Tears came to my eyes as I watched. Especially the overhead shots of the 2 million pilgrims at World Youth Day and most poignant of all: A frail John Paul closing the great bronze doors to mark the end of the Jubilee.
It was his inspiration that birthed WYD: a stunningly powerful evangelizing moment that has an Olympic-sized impact on its host nation, on the Church, and innumerable others who witness it via the internet or television.
Anyway - the video brought back a lot of memories. Take a look.
One of the chief opportunities for evangelization and formation is the homily during the Mass. It is in the homily that most Catholics will receive their formation and those who may not be intentional disciples have an opportunity to hear the "ardent proclamation" that Jesus is Lord and that a personal relationship with him is possible. However, it is my experience that many homilists fall into a standard homiletic pattern in which the Word-upon which the homilist is charged with commenting-is not given priority, but only becomes a tool for illuminating or commenting upon experience.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that "It (the homily) should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners."
Richard Lischer, a well-known Lutheran preacher and professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School says that many prefer
...to build the sermon on the authority of the needs, capacities, and experiences of the listener.... The common solution appears to be: Scratch deeply enough into the postmodern psyche and you will hit a vein of genuine spirituality. One way to tap into it is to tell stories whose religious dimension is recognizable and acceptable to all, and then to correlate the experience generated by these stories with the Christian message, e.g., "grace." When done successfully, the presence of Christ radiates as a spiritual dimension of everyday life. When the reliance on experience dominates the sermon, the gospel becomes an illustration of a greater truth.
Richard Lischer, "Resurrection and Rhetoric." In Marks of the Body of Christ, ed. by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, 13-24. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
Of course, the problem is clear: the gospel is neither a mere "illustration" nor an indicator of some deeper, more transcendent truth that is really the heart of what we preach, rather it is itself the very content of our preaching and the "power of God for salvation." (Romans 1.16)
By now most of you have heard that Pope Benedict has designated Madrid, Spain as the host city for World Youth Day 2011. Early reports from the Spanish Episcopal Conference are that the event is slated for August 15-21, 2011. If that report is true, those dates could pose some problems for Americans wishing to go, since many schools and universities in this country now start around that time. Also, I am sure that many are disappointed to hear that WYD '11 will be hosted yet again by a European city (the second time in Spain) even though WYD has never been held in Africa and it has been some time since it was held in Asia or South America. However, if we look closely at the situation of the Catholic Church in Spain and the increased antagonism towards the Church by the Zapatero government, not to mention the increasing secularism and embattled position of the Catholic Church and traditional Christian morality, WYD '11 has great potential to effect real progress in efforts to re-evangelize Spain.
In an interview with Zenit Nineteen year-old Paola Callas said:
"It's so necessary that Madrid may be able to experience a living Church as we have done here in Sydney over this week," said Callas.
"People don't associate the Church with relevance, joy or even fun over in Spain," added Ramírez. "We have a lot of political upheavals and secularism taking over the contemporary climate so it would be relevant for youth to experience the truths of the Church in a package like that of World Youth Day."
This announcement must mean a lot and be very encouraging for Spanish Catholics who have surely been discouraged by what has transpired in their country over the past several years.
"It will be remembered as one of the most exuberant weeks in Sydney's history: a celebration of faith and youth that breathed life into the city and charmed even the most cynical and secular residents."
And we have caught a tiny glimpse of all that God has and will do through this gathering in the days and years ahead.
"Goldie is the Roman Curia's human microchip memory on the development of the lay apostolate. One of her tasks (which include translating documents into English from Italian, French, Spanish and even Portuguese) is ordering the Laity Council's archives to make them accessible.
She is also completing a book on the development of the lay apostolate in the past 40 years. Presumably, it will recount how she was caught up in this work when it seemed she was destined to be an academic, and how, because she was the first woman to be an Under-Secretary of a Vatican office, she also became the first full-time woman teacher in a pontifical university in Rome, although without any formal qualifications in theology."
Goldie's memoir "From a Roman Window" was published in 1998. It seems to be out of print but I for one, would love to hunt around and find a copy.
"Traditionally, a pilgrimage has been understood as a journey that takes one progressively away from “the world,” towards a famed spiritual center – Lourdes, for example, or the Holy Land, or, as in Chaucer's case, Canterbury. That’s the sense in which people today still refer to a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, or to San Giovanni Rotondo, the principal shrine of Padre Pio in southern Italy.
In the beginning, World Youth Days were conceived as pilgrimages in this classic sense. The 1989 edition, for example, was held in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and in 1991 Catholic youth converged upon the famed Polish shrine of the Black Madonna in Cz?stochowa. Both have been traditional pilgrimage destinations for centuries.
Along the way, however, something unexpected happened. Turnout exceeded even high-end estimates, and the youthful passion of the pilgrims elicited strong media interest. As a result, World Youth Day went from being largely an inner-Catholic affair to a "happening" that captured the imagination of the broader culture.
In the wake of those experiences, church officials began to grasp that the value of World Youth Day lies not only in the spiritual formation it offers to young people, but also the evangelical witness those young people offer to the world.
One could date the emergence of World Youth Day as a model of "Evangelical Pilgrimage" to 1993. In that year, the event was held in Denver, Colorado, hardly anyone’s idea of a traditional pilgrimage center. In the years since, World Youth Days have been held in such disparate locales as Paris, Toronto, Cologne, and now Sydney. Some might be considered traditional pilgrimage destinations and some not, but that’s no longer the common term.
Rather, sites now seem to be chosen for World Youth Days not because they’re seen as reservoirs of spiritual energy, but rather because they’re suffering from spiritual drought. In other words, the aim is not to escape secularism, but rather to challenge it on its home turf.
By all accounts, Denver was the key to this paradigm shift. Prior to the event, staging World Youth Day in a city without a strong Catholic culture, and with a strongly secular ethos, was considered an enormous gamble. Behind the scenes, organizers and Vatican officials worried about low turnout and public indifference.
In the end, the event was perceived as a huge success that energized the local church.
“Looking back, the church in northern Colorado is dramatically different” because of what happened at World Youth Day, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said in 2002. Among other things, Chaput said that Denver’s two seminaries were “literally running out of room for candidates,” one expression of a renewal that he traced to 1993."
It is hard to imagine a more powerful evangelical tool than WYD in the day of the internet and 24/7 streaming video.
It is interesting that Allen has just moved his family to Denver this summer, to escape the impossible cost of housing in New York. One of the most vibrant centers of "new Catholicism" in the country.
Pope Benedict XVI has used his keynote address at the closing Mass of World Youth Day to issue a plea to young Catholics to join the priesthood and consider life as a nun or brother in a Catholic religious order.
In his homily, the Pope asked the tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered: "'What will you leave to the next generation? What difference will you make?"
In Australia, as in the rest of the developed world, the Catholic Church is facing a severe shortage of priests, necessitating the twinning of parishes and forcing priests to travel vast distances to administer the Scaraments. The church needed the gifts of young people.
''I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life,'' the Pope said.
''Do not be afraid to say 'yes' to Jesus to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others.''
"POPE Benedict XVI urged 350,000 young pilgrims today to become prophets of a new age bringing renewed faith to a spiritually barren world.
The Pope's ringing challenge echoed over a vast sea of Catholics packing Sydney's Royal Randwick Racecourse at the concluding mass of week-long World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations, which at times attracted up to half a million pilgrims and well-wishers.
His message capped a triumphant first trip to Australia for the 81-year-old pontiff, who flies back to Rome tomorrow after a landmark visit that included a papal apology to victims of church sexual abuse.
Declaring the spirit of the church alive and well, the Pope told pilgrims from more than 170 countries he had shared an "unforgettable experience" in the great south land.
"Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is, 'charged' as the poet says, 'with the grandeur of God', filled with the glory of His creative love," he said.
Pope Benedict said a new generation of Christians was being called to help build a world in which God's gift of life was welcomed and love was not greedy or self-seeking but pure, faithful and genuinely free.
He spoke of a "new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships".
"The world needs this renewal,'' he said in a homily beamed to hundreds of millions of television viewers worldwide.
"In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.
"How many of our contemporaries have built broken cisterns in desperate search for meaning - the ultimate meaning that only love can give?"
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC television), which has been notorious for its negative coverage, didn't cover the content of the Pope's homily at all. They focused on stirring up a controversy over the numbers that showed up for the final Papal Mass. The organizers had predicted 500,000 and most people don't think that many were present. Being the biggest gathering in the history of Australia wasn't enough for them.
But even ABC had to call it "unforgettable".
Mebourne's The Age highlighted the Church's role in Australian history:
"Here in Australia, let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith which has come down to us like a treasure passed on from generation to generation in the communion of the church," Pope Benedict said today.
"Here in Oceania, let us give thanks in a special way for all those heroic missionaries, dedicated priests and religious, Christian parents and grandparents, teachers and catechists who built up the church in these lands - witnesses like Blessed Mary MacKillop, Saint Peter Chanel, Blessed Peter To Rot, and so many others.
"The power of the spirit revealed in their lives, is still at work in the good they left behind, in the society which they shaped and which is being handed on to you."
He asked the pilgrims what their legacy would be to future generations, posing the question: "Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure?"
Clara will be disappointed that the name of the remarkable lay apostle, Carolyn Chisholm, was not mentioned (but then Carolyn's cause is not formally underway yet.)
Who knows what future saints and apostles are beginning the long journey home today; their bodies exhausted and their spirits enflamed?
This little note just arrived from Fr. Anthony, our OP co-director dow under:
Just a quick note - just walked back from Randwick. I can't express the experience, especially Benedict's homily and his small reflection on Mary and the Holy Spirit for the Angelus. The graces from this are just mind blowing.
I have to tell you about 3 chinese (mainland) priests whom I talked with as well as a young Texan who was their mentor (he lives in China - he really must have missionary charism in a big way.
Sleep with the angels, Father! And Clara and all your family. And our whole CSI team. Strong work!
The whole of what God is doing in the lives of so many - not just those who were pilgrims - but millions of ordinary Australians and others around the world who witnessed it - will not be revealed until eternity.