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Laudato Si’ calls for an ecological conversion of everyone

Hands holding world creation


Woo_CarolynDr. Carolyn Woo, the CEO and President of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), was one of five presenters invited by the Vatican to speak at the June 18, 2015 press conference launching Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. Drawing on her 14 years as dean of the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame before coming to CRS in 2012, Woo spoke on the role of business in the issues raised by the encyclical. Here is a summary of Dr. Woo’s remarks:

The fundamental question posed by the Pope is, “What kind of world do we want to leave those who come after us, to the children who are now growing up”? I am a mother and someday I look forward to being a grandmother, and I think that question is completely relevant to each of us and, of course, to business.

The Pope calls for an ecological conversion that today begins with consciousness, which must lead us to conscience and from there to conviction and then to conduct, to what and how we will change. Pope Francis says, “What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts?” These are fundamental questions that businesses ask when they put together their mission statement. The Pope says that any answer must include a contribution to our common home.

While this encyclical points out major challenges and heartbreaking evidence of devastation and destruction from our collective action, I see it as a very hopeful document because it shows we have the potential to reverse the course and that business has the potential to do the right thing. It invites business to be part of the solution. It reminds us that business can be a noble vocation. A lot of people think of business as a necessary evil. This is an invitation to business to be a necessary good. The choice is up to us.

Carolyn Woo & Pope Francis

The Pope very clearly states that we have done great damage to our common home. He reminds us of the concept of “global commons,” the tangible and intangible assets that belong to all humankind — our water, our atmosphere, our forest, our fisheries, our genetic materials, even our biodiversity. Species are not just exploitable resources for humans, they have inherent value in and of themselves.  Each creature has its own purpose with a value that is not dependent on what men put on it. We have to have a different way of governing the global commons.

I find the encyclical to be extremely poetic, spiritually inspiring, but also very, very pragmatic. The Pope asks us not to rely just on market forces, or on technology. Both have their benefits, but they will not get us to where we need to be. They must be guided by moral energies and human values, with a commitment to serve all – not just some — people, to serve us as human beings and not just as consumers. The Pope also reminds us that the noblest calling of business — a “sacred trust” he calls it — is to create jobs. The right to work is fundamental, allowing people not just to achieve their dignity, but also to participate in co-creation with God. It gives us meaning, it gives us purpose. An over-reliance on markets and technology must not blind us to the fact that job creation is a fundamental role of business.

Francis Bartholomew embracing PhanarThe Pope warns us about is the dangers of short-term thinking which is self-defeating. If we stop investing in people in order to gain short-term financial gain, it is bad business for society and, if the Pope allows me to add one line, I would say it is actually bad business for business also. Particularly problematic, and we saw this illustrated in the recent financial crisis, is when the financial sector achieves — at all costs — its own financial gains while creating havoc for everybody else, including other businesses.

The encyclical makes clear that business must account for all costs involved in production, not just the financial cost which is a fraction of the total cost. There is a business concept called “externalities” — benefits and costs that accrue to a business as well as other people and other sectors of society. We all need to adopt a movement that has emerged in business over the last 20 years of the triple bottom line – the planet and people in addition to profits. The Pope makes clear the urgency of all adopting this accounting.

The encyclical also raises the importance of sustainable development in which economic growth is not the only metric of success. Unlimited growth at the cellular level causes cancer. Unlimited growth in economy and society will cause us to run into planetary boundaries, not only climate change, but also issues such as ocean acidification, de-forestation, chemical pollution, ozone depletion, land use constraints, depletion of water resources and such. We need to rethink the priority we give to unlimited growth, realizing that it eventually might lead not to growth but to unsustainable damage and harm.

The Pope is actually a forward-thinking business leader, understanding that investing in sustainability is a “win-win” opportunity for business, avoiding the costs that comes with catastrophic failures like coastal disasters and droughts. Such leaders recognize the benefits of reducing the use of resources and materials. So the Pope is absolutely right to remind us that investing in sustainability is not only a moral imperative, it is a prudent economic decision.

The encyclical makes clear that economic development must be inclusive, that everyone should gain from it, not just some people, and particularly not at a cost to others.

Francis Day of Prayer for CreationThere are so many people who hear and agree with the Pope’s message. Businesses should recognize the opportunity as these customers strive to become virtuous consumers. At every step of design and production, businesses can recycle and reuse, they can use sustainable energy sources, they can treat people and communities in the supply chain with dignity and respect. Such actions can resonate in the marketplace.

None of this will be possible unless government, business and the public work together. Talk is not enough, just saying all these good things for the sake of marketing and branding. In the end, businesses’ authenticity and depth of our commitment is what will really make a difference. Remember, business is not just an economic undertaking, it is a human enterprise. Because it is a human enterprise, business must be by the people and for the people. If it is just business as usual, none of us will be around to enjoy any benefits.

Mom Made Me Do It

Rosemary-Azu

Rosemary Azu is hard to miss in a crowd. She has a natural presence that draws people to her. The fact that she is usually dressed in brightly coloured traditional Nigerian dresses also makes her stand out. That natural confidence in her own identity has helped her build her own successful mortgage and real estate business, and raise three sons. But Azu’s face really lights up when she talks about the women at her parish and her Catholic Women’s Leauge council. “Catholic women are different…Catholic women are gifted, and we have to be proud of that!” she says.

It is hard to believe that she almost did not join the CWL and had to be convinced by other women every time she was asked to take on greater responsibility within her council.

Azu moved to Coquitlam, British Columbia in 1993 and looked for a parish to join. At that first parish she heard an announcement that the CWL council was holding a meeting. “In Nigeria the Catholic women’s organization is open to all married women, you don’t need to join or sign up,” she explained. Adding that in her native country when a Catholic woman marries the other married women of the parish present her with the uniform of the Catholic women’s organization.

Her first experience with the CWL in Canada was definitely a very different experience. “I showed up at the announced time and had to knock on the door [of the meeting room]. They opened the door, let me in, and continued with the meeting,” Azu recalls. She sat at the back of the meeting room for two hours listening to the members “all of whom were over 80 years old” discuss council business. At the end of the meeting Azu said the group prayed. “No one asked me why I was there. No one talked to me. I left that meeting and never went back,” she said.

Time passed. Azu discovered that based on where she lived she actually should have been attending All Saints parish in Coquitlam. She began attending that parish and things changed. Azu made friends there and became an active member of the parish community. One of those friends was the woman who served as Organization Chair for the parish’s CWL council. Azu recalls “she kept telling me I should join but after that first experience at my previous parish I said ‘no way, not for me.’”

Azu might have gotten away with saying “no” had her father not been visiting. As fathers do, he encouraged his daughter to put aside her idea of the CWL and try again. He also relayed the story to Azu’s mother who was back in Nigeria. That was the decisive factor. Her mother urged her to get involved. Azu joined the parish CWL and quietly participated in the council’s various activities as much as she could. At the time she had three young sons, was working full time, and planning to start her own business.

In 2006, while her mother was visiting from Nigeria, a friend from Azu’s CWL council asked if she would let her name stand in the upcoming elections for council executives. Azu hesitated but her mother urged her to “be more involved with the women.” A week later the same friend called back to say Azu had been elected council treasurer. She went on to serve two consecutive two year terms as treasurer, followed by a two year term as as Christian Life Chair. “Then I decided I was going to sit on the backbench for awhile,” she said..    

That was not to be. A trusted friend and mentor in the parish, who was also a CWL member, asked Azu to stand for Organizational Chair. Out of sheer respect for this fellow CWL member Azu agreed to let her name to stand. She was elected and served a two year term. Again, at the end of the two year term Azu intended to step aside and let someone else get involved. Again the same friend approached and asked her to let her name stand for election once more. Thinking she would end up serving another two years as Organizational Chair Azu agreed. Instead she was elected Council President. Azu’s mother was overjoyed. Azu says all she could think was “I have two full time jobs, I have no time!”

Azu’s mother convinced her to accept this new responsibility. “My mom told me ‘there is something these women see in you that you don’t see yourself.’” She took the leap and accepted her election as president. “I thought I was not ready, and it is true I was not. But you can’t be ready because God makes you ready,” Azu said recalling her experiences as council executive.

Her mother’s advice seems to have been accurate. During Azu’s time on the council’s executive committee, membership has grown. In the the last three years the council has gone from 163 members, to 165 to 175 members. In part it may be due to the fact that “I love to talk to people,” says Azu. She makes a special point of talking to the women of the parish. “We are all members of the Catholic Women’s League by virtue of the fact that we are all Catholic Women. I tell them the only thing they need to do is make it official by filling in the [membership] form.”

Of course one woman can not lead alone, nor can she lead a group that only has meetings but does not take action. “There are three past-presidents in our council, and I rely on them for support and advice. When I need help it is always there. That shows me that God is in this.” Azu said. Together Azu and the women of All Saint’s CWL council work to meet the needs of their parish community and the country.

Azu’s council collects clothing, food and money for the St. Vincent de Paul Society which provides support to people in need. To support education, the council gives out two bursaries each year: one to a student entering High School and one to a university student. Of course, to help foster a sense of community within the parish and provide parishioners a chance to get to know each other the council provides hospitality after Sunday Masses.

Although she says there are still days when she doesn’t know how she will balance the demands of her business, her family, and the CWL council, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I tell women don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. You can’t make a difference watching from the corner” she said..

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

Women’s Business

WomenBusiness

When one thinks of Prince Edward Island one tends to think of glowing sunsets over green fields, farms where animals roam free, small towns where everyone knows everyone else, and quaint green-gabled homes. One would not immediately think of the province as a place where 37 percent of people use the services of food banks to make ends meet. That’s more than twice the national average.

Low wages, a lack of full time jobs and high rates of seasonal work contribute to the disproportionately high rate of food bank use in P.E.I. Among those looking for help making ends meet are women. One of the things women using food banks often can not afford, but urgently need, are feminine hygiene products. This past spring the Catholic Women’s League in P.E.I. got in on a campaign to stock food bank shelves with those necessary, but often forgotten, products.

The “Taking Care of Women’s Business. Period.” Campaign was launched by a Tracey Comeau, a P.E.I woman who read about low income women feeling like their last shred of dignity was robbed when they could no longer afford feminine hygiene products. Comeau launched a 28 day campaign to collect women’s sanitary products and drop them off at local food banks.

The CWL Provincial Executive heard about the campaign and decided to get on board. Louise Doiron, the CWL Provincial President, sent an email to every CWL council on the island with details about the campaign.

“We told our members to buy whatever product they would normally buy, even soap and other items we know women need, and drop it off at their local food bank,” Doiron explained.

While Doiron does not know how many items were delivered by CWL members, the 28 day campaign launched by Comeau collected 1, 439 boxes of feminine hygiene products.

Inspired by the success of the campaign and the way CWL members, responded, Doiron says she is thinking of ways the league could get feminine hygiene products to even more women in need.

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

Getting things done as only women can

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In Abu Dabi in 1993, there was one Catholic Church. The work week in the Arab Emirate was Sunday to Thursday. For Jacqueline Nogier and her husband – both Catholic teachers who were working in Abu Dabi- that meant going to church after work on Sundays. This was Nogier’s life for two years. It taught her that it is possible to live one’s faith quietly and have it play a central role in one’s life. Still, when she returned to her home to Canada she couldn’t stop herself from jumping in feet first and getting involved in something that would allow to her live her faith openly, on a daily basis.

Home was Snow Lake, Manitoba, a town of just over 900 people located 684 kilometres north of Winnipeg, with an even smaller Catholic population.

Nogier says on the one Sunday a month when Mass is available, an average of 15 people attend. That means when something needs to be done “If everybody doesn’t help, nothing happens” she says. This sense of responsibility towards her community, and the need to live her faith in way she had not been able to while abroad resulted in Nogier taking some decisive action.

In 1997, shortly after returning to Canada, “I turned to my Mom and said let’s join the CWL (Catholic Women’s League) together” Nogier recalls.

“Mom” is Ella Nogier, a retired grade two teacher with a sharp wit, contagious smile, and abundant energy that she channels into whatever needs to be done.

Recalling how she joined the CWL Ella Nogier states, “there was a council in our parish, but many members didn’t go to meetings and the president ended up having meetings by herself. So my daughter and I decided we had to help her out.”

That might have been the catalyst, but joining the league gave Ella Nogier “something to do with my daughter” and fellowship with other Catholic women. “It is amazing to be with people that pray the same prayers as you. They know the Hail Mary. Not everyone [in Snow Lake] does.”

The female fellowship Ella and Jacqueline experienced in their council ignited a flame that kept growing. Jacqueline says “I didn’t want my growth and my learning to stop.” So Jacqueline accepted position on the provincial executive council, “and I pulled my mom along.”

Jacqueline also “pulled” her sister Melissa along into the league. “I found something cool and I wanted to share it with my Mom and my sister,” she recalls. And so it was that Melissa Nogier joined the CWL 15 years ago.

Her contact with the league went back to her teenage years when her mother signed her up to serve at the annual tea. Melissa says at a certain point “I realized I can’t expect women my mom’s age to continue [their work] forever.”

Her increasing exposure to the work of the CWL through her mother and sister’s involvement opened Melissa’s eyes to the needs that the league tries to respond to at the parish level. She joined the league, signing up in the same council as her mother and sister, and started taking on more and more responsibility.

Six years ago Melissa moved to Vita, Manitoba and discovered that her parish did not have a CWL council. She kept her membership active in her home parish in Snow Lake, and still helps out the council’s activities from afar. “I went home to visit and was handed four books of tickets of sell, so I did” she recalls.

Though all three Nogier women joined the CWL for different reasons, all three say they have found the league a source of spiritual and human fellowship. Melissa says “connecting with women of different ages who share one common belief” gives her a safe place to express her values, something “that doesn’t happen very often” outside the league.

Ella Nogier similarly speaks of the beauty of having the fellowship of other women, but with the added bonus that it gives her an extra connection to her two adult daughters. Meanwhile Jacqueline, who now serves as Resolutions Chair on the CWL National Executive, says her desire to keep growing and serving the work of the league has given her leadership skills and confidence she did not feel she had before. On a person note, it gave her “an extra layer of sisterhood” with her sister Melissa, and a vehicle to connect with her mother as an adult.  

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

Coast to Coast: August 9 to August 15

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Here is a look at some of what has been going on across Canada this week, church-wise. Also, the month of August brings us the feast of The Ascension and with it an assortment of Marian pilgrimages and celebrations.

First up, in Vancouver the Eparch Emeritus of the Ukrainian Eparchy of New Westminster (the Ukrainian Catholic diocese in Vancouver)  reflects on his 60 years of priestly ministry.

In Alberta, one woman shares how a yearly pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne healed her, though not in the way one might expect.

Since the release of the Papal Encyclical on Human Ecology, there has been a push to try to understand exactly what the pope’s teaching should mean in the daily lives of Catholics. Toronto’s Catholic Register offers this look.

August is the time for Marian pilgrimages. Here are some diocesan pilgrimages happening across the country over the next few weeks:

Out west, the Archdiocese of Vancouver is making pilgrimage to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Mission, B.C. Saturday August 15. If you are in the area, stop by between 10:00am and 4:00pm. Archbishop Michael Miller will celebrate Mass at 1pm.

In Alberta, the Skaro Shrine (also a replica Lourdes Grotto) hosts a weekend of activities beginning Friday, August 14 with a vespers service. On Saturday August 15 Mass will be celebrated at the grotto, followed by a Eucharistic procession.

In Winnipeg the Marian celebration takes place on September 5 in Polonia, Manitoba. at St. Elizabeth Church. Archbishop Richard Gagnon will celebrate Mass with the faithful on that day.

In Toronto, a Marian celebration honouring Our Lady of Kibeho and St. Josephine Bakhita is being held August 21 at Midland Martyr’s Shrine.

And the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth celebrates the Feast of the Assumption in a very special way this year: with the ordination of a new priest. Archbishop Anthony Mancini ordains James O’Connor to the priesthood at 10:30 am on August 15 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  

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Health Food for the Soul

Bread from Heaven cropped

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – August 16, 2015

In chapter six of John’s Gospel (vv. 41-51), Jesus speaks of himself as “the living bread that came down from heaven” and invites his hearers to eat of this bread” — that is, to believe in him.

He promises that those who do so will have eternal life. Jesus compares himself to the manna that came down from heaven to sustain the people of Israel in the wilderness. It is a vivid image that certainly evokes important memories for the people of Israel.

Then in John 6:51, Jesus says, “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Then his hearers ask: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Did they respond in this way to give Jesus a chance to explain himself? Surely, they may have imagined, Jesus meant to say something else. After all, to eat someone’s flesh appears in the Bible as a metaphor for great hostility (Psalms 27:2; Zechariah 11:9). The drinking of blood was looked upon as an abomination forbidden by God’s law (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 3:17; Deuteronomy 12:23).

Yet Jesus responds to the question by further explaining his initial declaration with explicit terms: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day, for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

No observant Jew would consider eating human flesh.  We may ask ourselves: “Why couldn’t Jesus continue using such pleasant terms as “abiding,” “dwelling,” “living in me” terminology? Was he advocating pure cannibalism with such vivid imagery and language?

Flesh and blood

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses strong language to express the indissoluble union and inextricable participation of one life in another. Jesus uses sacrificial language. The Torah requires ritual sacrifice of animals, and specifies how they are to be prepared and how their flesh is to be used. Some flesh is to be burned on the altar and other flesh is to be eaten.

Jesus makes his sacrifice in behalf of the world — not just Israel (see also John 3:16-17). The Hebrew expression “flesh and blood” means the whole person. To receive the whole Jesus entails receiving his flesh and blood. To encounter Jesus means, in part, to encounter the flesh and blood of him.

For those who receive Jesus, the whole Jesus, his life clings to their bones and courses through their veins. He can no more be taken from a believer’s life than last Saturday’s dinner can be extricated from one’s body.

True reception of Jesus

In our cerebral approach to religion we often assume that what really matters is believing some important religious dogmas or truths. Receiving Jesus can be reduced to a matter of intellectual assent. There are times, however, when we can be particularly grateful that the presence of Christ is not something that can be recognized cerebrally, but can be received by other means as well.

The bread that Jesus used to feed the 5,000 on the mountaintop was something less than true bread, because it satisfied the people’s hunger only momentarily. By way of contrast, Jesus’ flesh and blood are true food because “whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (v. 51) — and “have eternal life” (v. 54).

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (v. 51a).  This “living bread” parallels the “living water” that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman (4:10).  To eat of this bread, in this context, means the once-and-for-all action of accepting or believing in Christ.

Historical background

It is important to be aware of two things that were happening at the time of the writing of this Gospel that might have influenced the John to emphasize the eating of Jesus flesh and the drinking of his blood.

The first was the influence of Docetic and Gnostic heresies, both of which considered flesh to be evil and denied that Christ could have a physical body. The second was Jewish discrimination against Christian believers. Christians who observed the Lord’s Supper were likely to be banned from synagogues.

The Eucharist fulfils the meaning hidden in the gift of manna. Jesus thus presents himself as the true and perfect fulfillment of what was symbolically foretold in the Old Covenant. Another of Moses’ Acts has a prophetic value: To quench the thirst of the people in the desert, he makes water flow from the rock. On the “feast of Tabernacles,” Jesus promises to quench humanity’s spiritual thirst: “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as Scripture says, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37-38).

The ways we eat

Our eating style reflects and affects who and what we are. It identifies our approach to life. If we examine various societies and cultures, we see that each has its traditional foods and food rituals. “I am of Italian descent. I often eat spaghetti, lasagna, tortellini alla panna or pizza,” or “I am a real American. I eat hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, coke, and French fries.”

“I am Québecois. I feast on poutine and drink maple syrup.” The French eat crepes, Belgians eat waffles, Chinese eat rice, Palestinians and Israelis eat falafel, the Swiss eat chocolate, and Eskimos eat whale blubber. In short, the “way we eat” reveals how we identify ourselves. It reflects and often determines our worldview, our values, and our entire approach to life.

Foods are much more than just a collection of nutrients; they are a wealth of influences and connotations. Rare foods and spices are treasured as special culinary delights. Some foods are worshiped in various cultures as having an unusual holiness or are avoided altogether. The type of food we choose can affect our moods. Hot, spicy, or stimulating foods may influence many of us toward hot-temperedness or nervousness. Cooling foods can relax us and give us peace of mind. Foods can help us celebrate and can comfort us when we mourn. They are a sign of love and are a means of uniting people on many occasions.

The “ways we eat” are an important part of our heritage. The soul is not nourished by physical bread, as the body is. The food we eat is actually a combination of both a physical and a spiritual entity. The body is nourished by the physical aspects, or nutrients, contained in the foods we eat; the soul is nourished by the spiritual power which enlivens the physical substance of all matter, including food.

Catholic rather than catabolic?

The actual phrase “you are what you eat” didn’t emerge in the English language until the 1920s and 30s, when the nutritionist Victor Lindlahr, a strong believer in the idea that food controls health, developed the Catabolic Diet. In 1942, Lindlahr published “You Are What You Eat: How to Win and Keep Health With Diet.” From that moment onward, the phrase entered the public consciousness.

For all who seek the presence of Christ, Jesus’ teaching in John’s Gospel is good news indeed: “We are what we eat.” We become what receive in the Eucharist. This week, let us examine our spiritual diets and look at the things that truly give us life, and those things that are junk foods that don’t lead us to eternal life.

[The readings for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; and John 6:51-58]

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Deacon-structing life

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This is a reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, year B. The readings are Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 and Mark 5:21-43.

God did not make death. That’s what I kept thinking last Saturday. You see, I was in Poland and last Saturday I had the chance to spend the day at Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camps. All I kept thinking was, “God did not make death.” But there was a lot of death at Auschwitz.

Between 1940 and 1945, some 1.2 million men, women and children were brought to the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland. Of these, 90% were killed and of those who were killed, about 90% were Jews. People would be brought to Auschwitz in box cars (for cattle). When they arrived, they would be forced off the trains and separated by gender: men to one side and women to the other. Then they would be separated again: those who were deemed suitable for work and those not suitable for work. If you were found not suitable for work, you would be sent directly to the gas chamber. 75% of the people who arrived in Auschwitz never stayed there; they went straight from the train into the gas chamber. Among them, a Jewish woman converted to Catholicism by the name of Edith Stein and her sister Rosa. Edith Stein was a Carmelite Sister and is now known as St. Teresa Benedicta of Cross.

Of the 25% who were found suitable for work, the average stay was 3 months. The number one cause of death (besides gassing) was starvation. I don’t have to tell you the cruelty, horror and inhumanity that went on at Auschwitz and other camps. I don’t need to tell you all the horrible inhumanity and suffering that still goes on every day right here in our streets, but also in the Middle East because of ISIS and in Uganda because of Joseph Kony, and also in so many other places because of human cruelty.

Because of sin. God is not the author of death nor he delights in death.

There was a lot of death at Auschwitz, but God did not make death. That is why Jesus consistently fought against sickness and death. I used to think that it’s not possible that Jesus healed everyone he met. We only hear those stories in the Gospels, but Jesus didn’t heal everyone. I don’t think that anymore. We only hear stories of people being healed in the Gospels because Jesus healed everyone! Everyone who comes to Jesus and touches the hem of his garment or pleads to him for their sick child receives a healing. Everyone who meets Jesus is healed. But it’s not always easy to see the healing and not everyone gets healed physically. That’s because God in his wisdom and awesome majesty is working to get us to Heaven. This life is but a rest stop; we are but pilgrims on a journey. God is healing us so that we can have eternal life. We believe that death is a consequence of sin, but our Faith also teaches that death is a solution to sin – because once we die to this life and we are finally home with the Father, we will sin no more. That’s our faith.

But still, walking through Auschwitz last Saturday, it was hard not to question faith. Nazi extermination camps didn’t just kill 6 million Jews; they also killed some 7 million non-Jews, including almost two million Polish Catholics, some three million Soviet Prisoners of war; over 1 million Gipsies, 200,000 people with disabilities and thousands of people from other ethnic and religious minorities including thousands of Catholic priests and religious. What’s worse is that for many, places like Auschwitz killed God, because it killed faith. Walking through Auschwitz last Saturday, it was hard not to wonder where God was.

God did not make death. God is the God who takes on our suffering. Where was God at Auschwitz? He was on the train, herded like cattle. He was there holding the hand of a little girl as they were taken into the extermination chamber. Where was God? He was on the Cross. God did not make death. God is the God who takes our sickness and our death. He dies so that death can be no more. St. Paul tells us that death has no victory (1 Cor 15:55) and that the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor 15:26). Well, the battle has been won. Death is no more. Jesus Christ has destroyed death. #LoveWins

God is not the author of death. God is the author of life. God is present in every moment of life. Where was God at Auschwitz? He was there in the small act of kindness; the encouraging smile; the strengthening word. He was there in that small piece of smuggled dried bread so that someone could eat. God was present in every heroic act of love, the least of which was the final act of St. Maximilian Kolbe who offered to take the place of a man, a stranger, condemned to death by starvation so he could have the opportunity to one day go home and be with his wife and children. St. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life and that man did survive to go home to be with his wife and children.

God is not the author of death. God is the author of life and we too are called to be authors of life. In everything we do and say, we must always give life. We go to Mass to receive the Author of Life in the Eucharist so we can go out there and give life to others. At the end of the day when you do your Examen, ask yourself two questions: “Who did I give life to today?” and “How did I give life today?” We are called to give life in everything we say and do; St. Paul tells the Corinthians that if they can, they should support the Church in Jerusalem (1 Cor 8). That’s a way to give life. Last week Pope Francis released an encyclical, Laudato Si, on the care of our common home; it’s about caring for creation. It’s about giving life. It’s not just about trees and whales or protecting lakes and the ozone layer, although that is important. Laudato Si is about respecting all creation.

This week’s episode of Creation is titled Respect. If our call to care for the environment begins with a sense of wonder (as we learned in Episode 1) and humans have a special place in the created world (as we learned in episode 2), what does it mean to “respect” creation? I’d like you to watch episode 3, but I will give you a hint: Respect means recognizing the inherent dignity of all creation. That means that when we respect, we give life. [Watch Creation: Respect, this Tuesday, June 30th at 8:30pm ET.)

Giving respect means giving life. It means defending and protecting all human life from conception to natural death. It means defending and protecting marriage and family. It means working for social justice and for the dignity of all workers; for the poor and those in the peripheries. We are called to work for life because God is the God of life.

God did not make death. Everything that comes from God is life. There is a song by Christian singer/songwriter Laura Story called Blessings. In it she sings:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home.

This is not our home because there is death in this life and we belong with God who did not make death. Our home is with God, the Author of Life.


Photo credit: The main gate at the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Michel Zacharz AKA Grippenn[1] – Own work.


pedro_edit_edit_editEvery week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

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We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

Canadian Delegates Approved for Synod – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis approves Canada’s delegates to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, the Holy See Press Office hits out at a leak and Catholic News Service looks at growing number of Catholics running for President.