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Pope Francis: Chiara Lubich, luminous exemplary life

CHIARA LUBICH PICTURED IN ROME IN 1997

Recently, Pope Francis announced the cause for Chiara Lubich’s canonization opened! Definitely cause for celebration!

Chiara, a young lay women, founded the movement when she was just 23 years old. Today Focolare or Work of Mary, present in 180 countries globally, is an international community of men and women that promotes unity and universal brotherhood. What started out as an experiment among friends in the war-torn city of Trent in 1943 has since borne extraordinary fruits. In the 70 years since its founding, the movement has already yielded a Blessed! To find out more about Focolare watch our Catholic Focus episodes, Focolare: The Work of Mary. We also recommend that you check out Fr. Thomas Rosica’s Witness Interview with Maria Voce, President of Focolare.

CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo

God’s Politics?

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What’s the old saying? Don’t mix politics and religion in polite conversation. Well, if the current state of world affairs tells us anything, it’s that polite conversation may be the only place where religion and politics don’t mix.

So, what then is God’s Politics?

The next Chesterton Debate aims to find out as two luminaries square off for this hot topic: Iain Benson, a Catholic legal philosopher and Leslie Rosenblood, founding member of the Canadian Secular Alliance will consider the role of religion in political life.

Who will take the day? Only you can tell.

Get your ticket here.

In the meantime, this document regarding the Participation of Catholics in the Political Life is worth a read.

You can listen to the previous Chesterton debate here.

The Chesterton Debate will air on S+L on March 19 at 9 pm ET (part 1) and March 21 at 9 pm ET (part 2).

 

Unsung Heros No More

communicating charism 2

It’s a familiar story, religious women doing exceptional works and for the most part going unnoticed.  But that’s about to change. Thanks to a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation. The Loyola Institute for Ministry will use the grant to help Catholic sisters in the U.S. and Africa build their social media presence.

This past week, Fr. Tom Rosica, CSB and I met with the recipients of the grant in New Orleans. Having spent some time with them, all I can say is that I was blown away.  It’s inspiring to hear about their work: from housing and educating HIV orphans, to preventing human trafficking, and educating young girls in the remotest parts of the world, these ‘Brides of Christ’ are magnificent examples of Christian discipleship.

One community even has two sisters making roads into the interior of Timor-Leste to minister to the needy.

I’m delighted that Salt+Light will work closely with the Sisters, and we’re looking forward to developing a series which will highlight the Sisters’ charisms.

As we progress through the stages of this project, I look forward to sharing with you the joys and I ask you pray for us as we undertake this significant endeavour.

Stay tuned.

communicating charism

 

Marie of the Incarnation: one badass saint

Portrait_de_Mère_Marie_de_l'Incarnation

badassery

[MASS NOUN] North American informal

Behaviourcharacteristics, or actions regarded as formidably impressive: few of us can attain her level of badassery

The other day I read an article that used the word ‘badassery’. I couldn’t believe it: had the word finally crossed the Rubicon and become a legitimate word? I checked the Oxford dictionary. Yup, there it was. That got me thinking: the word has some social heft.

It’s not a word that you toss out there for casual emphasis. No, ‘baddassery’ is a word that should be used to describe only the most substantial, the most impactful of characters.

Now, the article I read used the term in reference to an actor who had taken on some interesting roles – hardly badass, I thought.  You know who are ‘badass’?  The missionaries to New France. These men and women had courage. And there’s no one with more true grit than St. Marie of the Incarnation!

Let’s recount.

The Raw Deal

From a young age St Marie knew she had a religious calling but her parents couldn’t see their daughter being cloistered, so they married her off to a silk merchant instead.  Tragedy soon struck. Her husband died and left Mary Guyart a widow at nineteen with a six-month-old child. She also inherited a bankrupt business and lawsuits.

But this would be first opportunity for Marie to show what she was made of.

Ingenious Entrepreneur

Turns out she had a knack for business, and not only did she make the silk merchant business profitable, from there she went on to run her brother-in-law’s transport company.  She took care of everything: the inventory of goods, the drivers, even the 60 horses.

Again she wanted to enter the convent but her relatives thought her totally irrational.  Even after she entered they tried to persuade her to leave – her son went so far as to raid the convent!

And that’s just the beginning of her trials and tribulations.

Intrepid Missionary

Once she got permission to go to New France to be a missionary – and let’s be clear the closest analogy today would be if she decided to sign up for the Mars Mission – there’s the perilous voyage there, the work of setting up the mission and learning the native languages.

But get this, once she accomplishes all this, the whole convent burns down and she has to start again!  She’s in mounds of debt, without shelter, and its winter. Nevertheless she fights on and rebuilds.

Unswerving Servant of God

What’s so impressive about St. Marie of the Incarnation is despite the obstacles she faces she never loses faith. And because of this, God forges her into someone altogether exceptional.  She becomes a formidable woman. A saint!

Check out this badass CV:

  • Founder of Canada
  • First female missionary to North America
  • Founder of the Canadian Church
  • Fluent in Huron, Algonkian, Montagnais, and Iroquois
  • Authored first catechism in Iroquoi
  • Eminent historical source of Catholic, French, and Canadian history

All this is to say that although ‘few of us can attain her level of badassery, but with a little faith (and humility) nothing is impossible for God.

Divine reno? 5 tips from a pro on becoming a missional parish

Have you ever sat in mass and prayed really hard – “please God, please. Let this be over soon!” Somewhere between the grumpy greeter, the off-key cantor, the lackluster homily and your own unenthusiastic recitation of the Creed, you realize that there’s something terribly wrong with this picture. I don’t want to be here!

Is there anything worse than a room full of people who are doing something only because they feel obligated to be there?

In Fr. Mallon’s latest book, Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish he offers a blueprint (with lots of proven practical ideas) on what it takes to turn the situation around.

Remembering Our Identity and Purpose

Fr. Mallon suggests that at the heart of every crisis, is an identity crisis.  Knowing who we are and why we exist is critical. Pope Francis reminds us that the Church exists for the sake of the Mission. And the mission is to follow Christ’s command “to go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28: 16-20)

But far too many of us have been crippled by a culture of maintenance, too content with serving ourselves. Fr. Mallon explores this at length but what it all boils down to is this:  are you making disciples?

I want things messy and stirred up in the church.  I want the church to take to the streets! Pope Francis

Clear Out the Junk

I know, this charge is a tough one – but it’s what we have to do.  Fr. Mallon reminds us when rebuilding a house there is always a certain amount of demolition that needs to happen.  Structures that no longer give life or serve the mission obviously need to be removed.

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.  Pope Francis

Lay down a Strong Foundation

Laying down a strong foundation has to do with transforming the culture inside the parish. The foundation of any human organization is its culture. Even though the Church is both human and divine, Fr. Mallon reminds us that that if the human foundation is not healthy then no matter how intense or sincere the spiritual commitment – the foundation will be fragile.

The way then of determining what the community actually values is not to assess what is says but what it does.

Look at how the parish spends its time and money.  If a parish says that evangelization is a priority, is that reflected in the budget? If a parish says it values adult formation, is there a budget and a person who oversees this initiative?

We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a church becomes like this, it grows sick. Pope Francis

Sacraments as our greatest pastoral opportunity

People who have little or no connection to the Church regularly come knocking when it comes time to receive the sacraments.  Administering the sacraments then, is our greatest pastoral challenge and… our greatest opportunity! Mallon reminds us that The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that liturgy and sacraments “must be preceded by evangelization, faith and conversion” (CCC, no. 1072). In other words, a weekend program is not going to cut it.  If we want to make disciples it begins with reevaluating the way that we “do” Church. Ask yourself: are our parish programs and various initiatives bringing about genuine encounters with Christ or are we just “getting the job done”?

We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. Pope Francis

Dream Big. Acquiring Vision

Being spiritual is not enough to bring about parish renewal. According to Mallon, leadership is key. He makes many good points, but one thing that definitely jumps out is the importance of vision. He notes that the primary job of a leader is to communicate a vision or “a picture of the future that produces passion in us…If a leader cannot do this, he will not lead anyone or anything.”

The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. Pope Francis

Filled with practical insights, anyone who has worked in parish ministry will find the material discussed in this book good ‘food for thought’.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Catholic Focus episode featuring Fr. James Mallon

CNS photo

A New Year’s resolution that will change your life

Teen prays during Mass at New York church

With New Year’s around the corner and another year ahead of us it’s about that time when we begin to mull over our New Year’s resolutions. Each year we set out to reform our lives in the hopes that next year will be happier than the last.

…And each year we struggle with trying to stay motivated. I don’t know about you, but the mere thought of reform makes me want to feast on Christmas candies. Don’t you just wish you could outsource the problem of “you” to someone else?

My suggestion is this, that’s exactly what you should do. And here’s how you should do it: Go to daily Mass (and at the risk of sounding like a cheesy TV commercial) I’m telling you it will change your life! The best part? All you have to do is show up.

Now, I’m not saying that we should abdicate responsibility for our lives – far from it.  God never makes it that easy.  However, the problem is not that we never desire to abdicate, but that we do too much or we just flat out don’t do the right thing. So here are 3 reasons why you should give this resolution some consideration.

Time Out

Whether its first thing in the morning, lunchtime or right after work – making time for Mass will always be a good way to step off the hamster wheel of the daily grind. This daily ‘time out’ is a time of restoration and rejuvenation so that next time that photocopier jams on you – you won’t feel the need to morph into Godzilla and smash it into oblivion.

Perspective

And that leads me into the second benefit of going to daily Mass, have you ever noticed how after you’ve been on vacation, or taken a trip to a foreign place that you return with a wonderful, fresh perspective on things? A renewed resolve ultimately comes when we gain some clarity on our situation. Mass is an easy way to gain that. Going to Mass is the equivalent of being transported to a place outside of time, reminding you of who you are and where you’re ultimately heading.

There is No Down Side

I’ll be frank, I’ve never been worse off having gone to daily Mass – in fact, it’s always been the exact opposite. I’ve had monumental shifts in my thinking during these daily timeouts. I found meaning and a renewed sense of purpose where I thought none existed. All this to say, that when you attend daily Mass you’re essentially supercharging your soul, so that you can embrace the vicissitudes of life graciously.

__

There you have it. OK, aren’t you just a little curious to find out what God has in store for you this year?  What do you think might happen if you did make this resolution? I bet that whatever you imagine – God has something much better in store for you.

Happy New Year!

For those working in downtown Toronto, check out St. Stephen’s Chapel with several daily masses, daily confessions, Eucharistic adoration, devotions and much more there’s one reason to take this leap of faith.

CNS photo

Pope Francis to name new Cardinals – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, the Holy See Press Office announces that Pope Francis will name new Cardinals, bishops in the US condemn CIA torture practices and a look ahead at what’s coming up on Salt + Light.

On a Quest for Genius

 Always vary what you do, as it is better to make a mistake than to repeat yourself.

 Michelangelo

Michelangelo drew incessantly. Throughout his 77 year career he produced thousands of quick sketches and more detailed drawings. His finished works were so highly prized that it often created a buzz in Rome when it was made known he had finished a new piece – even the Popes were known to have sought after new works. However, contrary to what one might think, drawing for Michelangelo was not an end in itself;  it was a simply a “tool of the trade.”

Studies for the head of Leda (small)

Studies for the head of Leda, c. 1630

Michelangelo was first and foremost a sculptor and drawing was how his imagination found creative expression. As one of his contemporaries put it: “It is easier to change things in drawings than in finished works”.  And this was particularly true for Michelangelo whose drawings were often a preliminary study before sculpting in marble – an expensive and delicate process.  As such Michelangelo  guarded his drawings jealously, and shortly before his death tossed many in the fire to prevent others from stealing his ideas. Today only 600 of these precious works exist.

Study for Christ in Limbo

Study for Christ in Limbo, c. 1532-1533

These remnants offer a revealing portrait of the inner workings of Michelangelo’s mind.  As you can virtually see Il Divino (“the Divine One”) attempt to memorize forms, to experiment and to brainstorm. So even though Michelangelo never intended you to see his drawings the Art Galley of Ontario’s latest exhibitMichelangelo: Quest for Genius which features 30 rare drawings on loan from the Casa Buonarroti, offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness genius at work.

You can also watch Part of 1 of our special feature on Michelangelo: Quest for Genius here. View Part 2 of our special feature here.

Bishops are called to serve the Church – Perspectives Daily

INDIGENOUS FARMERS TAKE PART IN PROTEST IN GUATEMALA

Tonight on Perspectives: Pope Francis says that there is no room in the Church for a worldly mentality, especially among bishops.

John Paul II: A Saint for Canada

JPIICanoe

I once had a teacher who knew exactly how to keep her students focused during the day. She promised us that if we were very good, she would read us a few pages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. She would only have to give the gentlest reminder that we would not have time for The Hobbit and there would be a swift end to our cavorting and carrying-on. As you can imagine, she had us eating out of her hand.

My love for a great story has continued, and I’ve found that the best stories are always those “based on a true story.” At Salt + Light we have a storytelling ritual, you could say, and Fr. Thomas Rosica is one of the best storytellers I know. Whenever Fr. Rosica returns to the office from a trip, he gathers everyone to celebrate Mass, and following that it’s time for our meeting around the conference table. After we have prayed and he has given us all a little token from his travels -usually a prayer card, a spiritual booklet, or some chocolates- he settles down to tell us about everything that happened.  As I said, Fr. Tom Rosica is a masterful storyteller. By the time the meeting has concluded, we feel as if we have lived through it all – the highs and the lows: the lost luggage, the inevitable poor internet connection fiascos, the exceptional encounters, the developments and the messages of encouragement.

My favourite stories, however, are the ones where he tells us of his encounters with Pope John Paul II. These stories are an incredible source of insight.  Sure, there’s something to be learned from reading great encyclicals, but to know a person firsthand and to get a sense of who he was and why he did what he did – this can only be imparted through personal experience; anything else simply doesn’t have the same impact. Moreover, Fr. Rosica’s stories are always full of meaning. Significant dates in history have moods and feelings attached to them, and there’s always a deep sense of what these things mean for us and for the world. As a scripture scholar, Fr. Rosica’s biblical imagination imbues his commentary on events with a profound love of scriptural images and also a great sense of humour.

Not everyone has the opportunity to listen to these stories firsthand, but you will certainly feel as if you are sitting around the Salt + Light conference table when you pick up the new release  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada. It’s a short book that can be read at a leisurely pace in a few hours. Filled with Fr. Rosica’s personal reflections on Pope John Paul II,  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada is a delight that will leave you with a deep appreciation for this saint and what he means for us in Canada.

To get a taste of what you can expect, you’re invited to watch our latest Catholic FOCUS featuring John Paul II.

Photo description: Father Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, is pictured reading in a kayak in this photo dated from 1955. Three years later, he was on the water with friends when he learned he had been called to Warsaw for the announcement that he was to be made a bishop. He was canonized on April 27 with Pope John XXIII. (CNS photo)