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Prayer of St. Arnold Janssen

This song was composed for and sung during my profession of Perpetual Vows and dedicated to my two classmates who also professed with me, Thien Duc Nguyen, SVD and Hien Van Pham, SVD at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Techny, Illinois, USA on September 19, 2015.

The text is the famous prayer of the founder of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and Holy Spirit Missionary (SSpS) and Adoration (SSpSAP) Sisters, St. Arnold Janssen. I finished the song on September 7, 2015 and it was arranged for choir by Gianpaolo Eleria (singer on the right). The group that is singing is the Philippine American Choral project under the baton of Enrico Lagasca.

May the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish before the light of the Word and the Spirit of grace. 

And may the heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all. Amen.

— St. Arnold Janssen

Paul M. Aquino, SVD

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The Church’s Best Kept Secret

Mad Made Tree

When I was asked to write about an aspect of religious life that interested me, on thing came to mind.  For me, this one thing is perhaps the least understood aspect of religious life today.  The ironic thing is that this one thing is the very backbone of men’s religious life: the lay brotherhood.

When I first began to realize that I was being called to a religious vocation, I was at a loss.  I knew that I was not called to the priesthood and my only other understanding of vocation for a man was that of monastic life.  Like many people in the Church, I had no knowledge of there being something called the lay brother.  My understanding of holiness for a man was a priesthood or cloistered prayer.  When I discovered the lay brotherhood, however, everything made sense. I had a distinct sense that my vocation lay in that way of life.

Click here to continue reading this article on the Theophilus Journal page

David A. Hirt, O.F.M. Cap.

(Photo Credit: Skip, Flickr.com, Some Rights Reserved)

Mouse Traps, Tacos, Bad Plumbing, …and the Trinity?

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley, some rights reserved.

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley, some rights reserved.

What do mouse traps, tacos, and bad plumbing have to do with the Trinity?  For my husband and me, everything. But before I divulge, let me set the stage.

The doctrine of the Trinity tells us two very important things about its meaning. First: it is not about math; rather, it tells us that the Trinity is the symbol of God as relationship. Second: it tells us that the Trinity beckons our participation in the work of God.

From math to mutuality

The Trinity is more than a bad math equation. 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 is not a problem meant to be solved by means of calculator and pencil marks. Rather, the symbol of the Trinity is meant to evoke the intimacy of relationship, but not just any kind of relationship. In fact, the Councils of Nicea (325 ACE) and Constantinople (381 ACE) solidified that the nature of this relationship is not one of “power-over.” Rather, the doctrine of the Trinity reveals that the relations among the persons of the Trinity encompass hospitality, equality, mutuality and inclusion (1). Therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity suggests that we worship a God whose reality is radically mutual relationship. Simply put, the Trinity tells us God is relationship at its best.

Participating in the Trinity

We are also implicated in the relationship that is Trinity. It does nothing for our world to simply believe that God is Triune; one must participate in the work that the Trinity is already doing in the world (Fiddes, Participating in God).  We do this by engaging our relationship with God through engaging in our relationships with others. The word for this is orthopraxis (2).   Orthopraxis implies that our focus is no longer speaking about the triune God but rather acting out of relationship with the triune God. Orthopraxis literally means “right action.”  We are then left with the task of acting rightly by reflecting characteristics that embody hospitality, equality, mutuality and inclusion. Our charge then as trinitarian Christians is to ask ourselves: Do our lives reflect the relationship-centered Trinity? Does our church? What about our society?

When we take this ancient doctrine of the Trinity seriously, seeds take root. We are flung into a life of discipleship centered around a unique goal: building equal, hospitable relationships, attending to the wounds of those who have been slighted of relationship and forging relationship where it does not already exist. We are brought to places we never expected as we nurture these seeds that get planted by participating in the Trinity.   And this is where the mouse traps, tacos, and bad plumbing come in to play for my husband and me.

The seed

Our seed was planted back in November when Tom and I attended our first meeting as board members on the Port Ministries’ Young Professional Advisory Board. The Port Ministries is an organization that provides a variety of services to the Chicago’s notorious Back of the Yards neighborhood. Ministries of the Port include a free clinic, after school programming, GED classes, and the Bread Truck which provides meals all throughout the neighborhood. The evening of the board meeting, one of the Port’s directors, David, took us on a tour of the Port. Although we had been bringing college students to volunteer at the Port’s various services, we had never actually been inside the Port’s third largest building, which used to be an old rectory. David escorted us through many bedrooms, a kitchen, and even a small chapel. The Holy Spirit must have been must have been jumping up and down and waving at us frantically during that tour in order to get us to see beyond the dank, disheveled, dusty appearance of the house. Her song and dance worked, though. The seed took root. The moment Tom and I stepped outside, we looked at each other and smiled. Tom said to me, “Should I just tell David that we will move in there?”

It turns out, this same seed planted within Tom and me was also simultaneously being planted for a young woman, Molly, who was working as a nurse in Iowa. For the next few months, together with David and Molly, we dreamed and planned and wondered if something like this would really be a possibility: an intentional community that asks very little rent, and in return, community members would provide volunteer service to the Port. In February our plans were approved. In April, we started packing. At the beginning of May, we painted the two rooms that we would inhabit. And then, we moved in! Within the first week, we found one of Chicago’s best taco places in the back of an unassuming supermercado. Week two we had to set down mouse traps in our kitchen. Going on our third week, we have made a routine out of jumping from one bathroom where only the toilet works, to the bathroom across the hall where only the sink works.

The relationships

And through all of us, we find ourselves building relationships. From the helpful man who owns the pest store on Ashland, to the family who serves Chicago’s best tacos at La Internacional Tacos Y Supermercado, to the Port’s board members who are graciously helping us fundraise to fix our plumbing. And the list goes on . . . . We walk our dog a few times a day around Cornell Square Park where we meet moms who drop their kids off at the school nearby and push their little ones on the swings. We are beginning to recognize kids who regularly play soccer on the turf in the evenings. We often hear small children shout, “Mirra! El perro!” (Admittedly, he is kind of funny looking.) In fact, our dog has even befriended a German shepherd whose young owner has agreed to meet us every Friday so the two dogs can play together.

The prayer

So what do mouse traps, tacos and bad plumbing have to do with the Trinity? For us, they are signs of relationships that have begun to grow as a result of the seed that the triune God planted in our lives. This seed that called us to move into a neglected neighborhood, create a community, and grow relationships, is a result of taking the Trinity seriously.  Ultimately, our prayer is that God might create something good in a neighborhood that faces so much pain. As we “Go, therefore, and make [ourselves] disciples…” we can be assured that our triune God “is with us always” (MT 28:16-20).

**Originally published on Daily Theology.**

Dannis Matteson has served the Catholic Common Ground Initiative since October of 2014.  She recently received her M.A. in Systematic Theology from Catholic Theological Union as a Bernardin Scholar and is excited and honored to continue the legacy of Cardinal Bernardin at CCGI.  In addition to her work at CCGI, Dannis teaches theology as an adjunct professor at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. Dannis and her husband Thomas Cook (newly named Associate Director of Spiritual Formation for Lay Students at CTU) have lived in the Hope House at the Port since the beginning of May, 2015, alongside their community member, Molly. They hope to continue to attract people who wish to serve the Back of the Yards and live out their faith in community. Dannis’ theological interests include Trinitarian theology, political theology and eco-feminist theology.  Aside from ministry, Dannis and Tom spend their time taking care of their puppy, Paulie, biking on the Chicago lakefront, and living the lifestyle of discipleship.

Newcomers Adapt to Hyde Park, Chicago

David Bowles, CTU MA Student, shares this blog with us via his journalism class at CTU’s partner school, DePaul University.

JustStory

ellen 2 YES Ellen Salmi’s recycling demonstrates her affinity for her new, Hyde Park community. (Photo by David Bowles)

Four students attending Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park share first impressions and adjustments after recent transition.

By David Bowles

“Hyde Park has lots of gems,” Nick Mullarkey exclaimed on a recent Friday afternoon.

The “gem” he most talked about was Powell’s Bookstore on 57th street. Nick, originally from Des Moines, Iowa, moved to Hyde Park five months ago and is both a student at Catholic Theological Union (CTU), and a member of the Augustinian religious community. While living in a busy community house, the bookstore provides a quiet place for his introverted side.

Nick Mallarkey finds joy in the quiet of a local bookstore Nick Mullarkey finds joy in the quiet of a local bookstore. (Photo by David Bowles)

Another new student at CTU is Evelyn Brush. When asked where she lives, she stated. “Hyde Park,” then corrected herself and said, “East Hyde…

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Fifty Days and a Little Fire

A Poem by Marci Madary

Fifty days and a little fire-page-001

Marci Madary, CTU DMin. student, fell in love with poetry when she was a child and began writing poems during her teenage years.  In her undergraduate studies, she majored in English education.  Marci is currently an Affiliation Co-Minister with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, but still enjoys reading and writing poetry to express who she is as a woman, mother, and child of God.

The Call to be Prophetic Prisoners of Hope

This is an edited version of a talk given by Ernest J. Miller, FSC, to the Diversity Week Assembly at De La Salle High School in Concord, CA.

The Call to be Prophetic Prisoners of Hope

I am one humbly trying to fulfill my small role in the world as a Brother of the Christian Schools, as a teacher with a liberationist orientation, and assuredly as a Christian, because I don’t know how to be a Christian and not be concerned deeply about love, hope and justice.

I invite you to walk with me, to listen as well as you hear. I hope I say something that unsettles you, unnerves you, and even if for a moment, un-houses you.

I want to begin with Zechariah chapter 9 v. 11-12, to draw on its central theme as a frame for our reflection this morning.

And you, because of my blood covenant with you, I’ll release your prisoners from their hopeless cells. Come home, hope-filled prisoners! This very day I’m declaring a double bonus – everything you lost returned twice-over! (The Message)

I want to have a conversation with you about the call to be positioned as powerful prisoners of prophetic hope. The Book of Zechariah is a short, unfamiliar book to most, tuck away near the end of the Old Testament.

The prophet Zechariah’s message was addressed to those he described as prisoners of hope. These prisoners of hope had come up from slavery, the Babylonian exile, now back home struggling to complete rebuilding the Jewish temple. But obstacles were in their way, stopping them from completion.

The prophet, speaking for God, does not deny the challenges the people faced. He does not dance around their despair.

In verse 11, the prophet owns where they are: metaphorically describing their situation as hopeless cells, or in another version, waterless pits.

What Zechariah does is a crucial step to prophetic hope.  Publicly owning the despair.

You ask, “What does this scripture has to say to us today?”

Sisters and brothers, as individuals within community, you have the exhausting task to respond to Zechariah’s call to be prisoners of prophetic hope.

Publicly owning the trouble that comes from bigotry based another person’s gender, ethnicity, skin complexion, sexual orientation, income, or religion, indeed, owning all that disrespects the humanity, the dignity of other persons is a crucial step to prophetic hope. It opens us up to renewing the movement for community rooted in prophetic hope.

We are now living in a difficult moment in the history of the grand democratic experiment in the United States.

On child poverty, which affects a disproportionate number of brown and black children, the U.S. ranks 36 out of the top 41 wealthy nations in the world.

Something is wrong.

Protests following the grand jury decisions in the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner on Staten Island has largely died down. While each of these cases including Fruitvale represent a tragedy for all involved, the case that tears at my heart the most it is the death of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy with a toy gun in a Cleveland park, gun down by a police office in 2 seconds time.

But, as is often the case, there is still no full resolution or reconciliation in these cases. New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes: “The issue of police-community relations was raised but not solved. The memory of mistrust still wafts through the air like the smell of rot being carried by the breeze.”

Something is wrong.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 939 active hate groups all stripes in the U.S. A hate group is defined as having beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

hate map

Hate groups by state. http://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

Though it is a despairing moment in U.S. history because of the distance that still remains in achieving democracy, it is crucial that we continue to look for sources of light to sanctify our public life.

The Trappist monk and social activist Thomas Merton tells us:

Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things which [people] can do about the pain of disunion with other [persons]. They can love or they can hate.

That is why you and I must hear the call to be prophetic prisoners of hope.

We must help our nation develop the grand vision of public life, which is to say how we live with one another, that we see articulated in the elegant prose and poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Dorothy Day, and Maya Angelou, among others, in whose work we find a democratic vista.

The Athenian thinker and social critic, Socrates, expresses how vital self-criticism is when he pronounces in line 38a of Plato’s Apology, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Here, Plato’s Socrates is concerned with both the life of the individual as well as the community to which one belongs.

My hope is to urge you towards embracing criticism of self and society with a Socratic, jazz-infused democratic sensibility, wrestling with this fundamental question: whether the grand Christian and democratic traditions of “struggle for decency and dignity, the struggle for freedom and justice” can be both sustained and expanded across our city, our nation, and our world.

The goal of such Socratic questioning and critical exchange is democratic paideia—the cultivation of an active, informed citizenry—in order to preserve and deepen our democratic experiment.

Cornel West eloquently describes this Socratic, jazz-infused sensibility this way:

“The interplay of individuality and unity is not one of uniformity and unanimity imposed from above but rather of conflict among diverse groupings that reach a dynamic consensus subject to questioning and criticism.  As with a soloist in a jazz quartet, quintet or band, individuality is promoted in order to sustain and increase the creative tension with the group—a tension that yields higher levels of performance to achieve the aim of the collective project.”

Recognize the distinction between individualism and individuality—it is rooted in community, it seeks dialogue and engenders respect amidst the diversity that is humanity.

Theologian Shawn Copeland from Boston College in her theological work tries to

Shawn Copeland

unmask the thought-systems that would allow for the stigmatizing, identifying, and eradicating of whole groups of persons—persons deemed different, inferior, dangerous. Indeed, her theological vocation may be described as a defense of the vulnerable, not only from invisibility in society, but from evils that render them all-too-visible in the body public: that is, racism, sexism, and classism. (Pramuk, Horizons)

Merton offers this image: the human person as a body of broken bones. “As long as we are on earth,” Merton writes, “the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.

To reset this Body of broken bones, we must become prisoners of prophetic hope.

The unmasking of systemic colorism, classism, religious bias, homophobia, and sexism is a task that all us—black, white, yellow, red, and brown, gay and straight, rich and poor, of whatever religion, no matter bank account size—must shoulder together.

Each issue demands attention. For now, allow me permission to dwell on the question of “race” for a moment. I believe that “race” is arguably the most nettlesome of issues.

Copeland tells us: “The most mundane as well as the most significant tasks and engagements are racially charged—grocery shopping, banking, registering for school, inquiring about church membership, using public transportation, hailing a taxi- cab, even celebrating the Eucharist or seeking a spiritual director. We  see race. . . . We see and we interpret.”

So, what do we see when we see “race”? What do we see?

It’s about the color line. We’ve heard the experience of those who are perceived as too “white” or light-skinned by some in their brown and black communities. Look at black-oriented music videos and see colorism upfront.

This conundrum of “race” results from the fumes and odor of the Enlightenment discourse (beginning in the late 17th century) beginning with Rene Descartes.

Race is a social construct, an ideological, cultural construct.

Race has no biological element. To the degree there are those who believe race does have a biological dimension, it is because we have awarded it one. Over history race has taken geography, language, and vague impressions as its basis.

“Race,” writes the great historian Nell Irvin Painter, “is an idea, not a fact.” Indeed. Race does not need biology. Race only requires pseudo-science looking for a reason to fix certain people into categories to claim a false sense of superiority. (T. Coates, The Atlantic)

Yet, the paradox is race remains a phenomenon we must confront. Yes, it is a social construct but it’s institutionalized.

Copeland puts it succinctly: “The ability to read race accurately, to categorize people (black or white, red or brown) has become crucial for social behavior and comfort; the inability to identify accurately a person’s race incites a crisis.” (Horizons)

As I prepare to conclude, let me offer these final thoughts.

First and foremost, keep examining self and community.

Second, a Catholic school, especially a La Salle school must be a place where justice education is a priority. Listen to what Brother Alvaro Echeverria, FSC, former Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, writes:

Education for justice should not be merely a specific subject area but a common thread that runs through the whole
curriculum. This common thread should be reinforced by daily practice within the school. It is important to create a kind of micro-climate which offers an alternative, miniature model that does not support the anti-values which society often presents to us: … Otherwise the school runs the risk of duplicating the system and preparing students for a society of privileges … where there is no solidarity. It is precisely this situation which we have to try to avoid … (Pastoral Letter, 2003)

If education for justice is to truly take hold and diversity matters are justice issues, it must be a commitment of the whole educational community. It is not just for religious studies to consider. Education for justice cuts cross disciplines; it a concern for the whole academy.

Third, the great activist and historian W.E.B DuBois gives us two questions to consider, joining the mix of other questions we have:

What does honesty do in the face of deception? Deception defined as false, a fraud, a ruse.

What does decency do in the face of insult?

Finally, my sisters and brothers, you must possess courage. You have to be courageous to think critically, to cut against the grain. Professor West asserts: “Recognize that it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than for a solider to fight on the battlefield.”

Part of the challenge for this generation is that we have too many imitations, not enough originals—too many folks just trying to fit in because we hear that success and fitting is adjusting to the status quo. Be attentive to acquiring a Disneyland mentality where we perceive the sun is always shining and everybody is smiling. Be wary of a living in a culture of superficiality.

But Martin King and Dorothy Day and all those folks in that sculpture would say don’t be well adjusted to injustice; don’t be well adapted to indifference. Be like Martin and Dorothy and all those giants, maladjusted to bigotry and all forms of injustice.

Courage is the great enduring virtue that allows one to realize other virtues such as love, hope and faith. Courage requires knowledge that transforms who you are. The struggle for freedom and justice, for decency and dignity is a long-distance race. As Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaims, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”

It is up to you to say yes to committing yourself for the long haul to be prophetic prisoners of hope. It is a long-distance run.

 

Ernest J. Miller, FSC, CTU D. Min student, gave a version of this talk to the Diversity Week Assembly at De La Salle High School in Concord, CA.

Ernest J. Miller, FSC, a CTU D. Min student, gave a version of this talk to the Diversity Week Assembly at De La Salle High School in Concord, CA.

On Dying (a poem)

In honor of World Poetry Day, we'd like to share this poem by CTU Student, Neil Conlisk, Carmelite Pre-novice.

On Dying

I know this place
I’ve been here before,
It’s something about
The rug and the door.

I’m leaving this town,
My presence is fading,
Like handfuls of sand
Thrown to the wind.

My head’s underwater,
My nose on the ground,
But something inside me
Hears a sweet sound.

Punished by banquets
Of beauty and bliss,
And sweet berry wine,
And good angel’s kiss

Thank you, Neil, for sharing your poetry!

Thank you, Neil, for sharing your poetry!

 

And given this poem’s topic, Theophilus, along with the Student Representative Council (SRC), would like to extend a quick invite for at an upcoming lecture we’re hosting at CTU. Herbert Anderson, former professor at CTU, will speak on his new book, The Divine Art of Dying: How to Live Well While Dying on Wednesday, April 8th at 4pm. Save the date!

CTU_FLY_Anderson_2015_FNL

 

CTU_FLY_Anderson_2015_FNL

Artist Showcase and Cover Art Competition

As students of CTU, we at Theophilus seek to engage the voices and perspectives of our
academic community in the contemporary dialogues of theology and ministry through the annual
publication of an academic journal and our ongoing blog.

We also hope to promote the artistic endeavors of our diverse and talented community. This
artist showcase presents the creative work of a number of CTU students for our wider
community to enjoy. All students and alumni were welcome to submit two pieces for the
exhibition.

In addition to providing a forum for students to share their creativity, this event will help us to
select the cover art for the 2015 publication of Theophilus, The Student Journal of CTU.
All members of the community who come to see the show can vote for their favorite work by this Friday, March 13th! The winning work will be featured on our cover!

Not all works are presented here as some artists did not wish to have their work shared digitally.

Enjoy the creativity present in our CTU community!

J. Bernardo Ávila Borunda, M.Div./M.A. Student

Icon of Kateri Tekakwitha
egg tempera and gold leaf on panel
1 Avila Borunda kateri tekakwitha

Mother of Hope
acrylic guache gold leaf on pane
17 avila borunda mother of hope

Nhan Anh Bui, CPPS, M.Div. Student

Saint Gaspar’s Call
The Mission for Reconciliation in Vietnam
carved wood (digital photo of original work)
2 Bui Saint Gaspar

Ora et Labora
Prayer and work are inseparable in our missionary activities
carved wood (digital photo of original work)
3 Bui ora et labora

Sharon Dobbs, M.Div. Student

Sharon writes:
“I am a mother and an M.Div. student at CTU, and I am drawn to taking photos of children and women. The first photo is of children that do not have a mother, and are being cared for by a Catholic order of sisters in India: Handmaids of the Blessed Trinity.  The second photo was taken on a cycling trip in northern China.  We stopped along the way to rest, and during this stop in a small farm village were warmly welcomed by all including this beautiful mother and baby and their proud grandmothers.”

Girls praying before dinner in Vasai India
digital photograph
4 Dobbs Girls praying

Family love in northern China Ningxia Province
digital photograph
5 Dobbs Family Love

Susan Francesconi

Susan writes:
“This is a botanical illustration of a rose hip in early fall. This particular rose hip came from a bush in my garden which at the time still had a few roses in bloom. However, none of those flowers could compete with this luminous, glossy rosehip that seemed to be telling me ‘the best is yet to come.’”

Susan has a BA in Fine Art and studied botanical illustration for a short time at the Morton Arboretum.

Fruit of the Rose, 2007
watercolor on paper (digital reproduction)
6 Francesconi Fruit of the Rose

 

Graham R. Golden, O. Praem., M.Div. Student

Untitled (crucifix in Sacred Heart Parish, Española, NM)
digital photograph
15 Golden Untitled Crucifix

Untitled (bell tower of San Francisco de Asís, Ranchos de taos, NM)
digital photograph
16 Golden Untitled Bell Tower

Ali Kenny, M.A. in Intercultural Ministry Student

Jerusalem
acrylic paint (digital reproduction)
sewing needle used as painting utensil (in lieu of traditional brush)
7 Kenny Jerusalem

Sarah Martz, OSF, M.A. Justice Ministry Student

Gift
acrylic on foam core
18 Martz Gifts

Steve Niskanen, CMF, D.Min. Student

Tree Burst
digital photograph
9 Niskanen Tree Burst

Autumn Path
digital photography
10 Niskanen Autumn Path

Mauro Pineda, M.Div. student, Romero Scholar

Mauro writes:
“I am… a parishioner at St. Gall Parish on Chicago’s Southwest Side.  I was born in Mexico and grew up in Chicago. I am passionate about the art of expression in any medium. Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso are the two artists that have been an inspiration.  I have admiration for the entire Renaissance, particularly Michaelangelo.  That motivated my leaning towards Fine Arts.”

Gavan Y Huaraches
charcoal on paper
This drawing was inspired by Luke 9:3, the New Testament image of the disciples being sent by Jesus to spread the Word, taking only the clothes on their back and sandals on their feet.
He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

11 Pineda Gavan y Huaraches

Resortera
prismacolor on paper
This drawing was inspired by 1 Samuel 17:49, the Old Testament image of David taking down Goliath with a mere sling shot.
David put his hand into the bag and took out a stone, hurled it with the sling, and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone embedded itself in his brow, and he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David triumphed over the Philistine with sling and stone; he struck the Philistine dead, and did it without a sword in his hand.
12 Pineda Resortera

Josh Van Cleef, M.A. Student

“Jesus was not crucified on a marble altar between two golden
candlesticks, but on a city garbage dump, outside the walls,
between two thieves”- George Macleod

Mary, Mother of God
acrylic and gold leaf on salvaged material
13 Van Cleef Mary mother of God

Jesus, Giver of Life
acrylic and gold leaf on salvaged material
 14 van cleef Jesus Giver of Life

Do we want Christ to come?: A Lessons and Carol Reflection

This is a reflection given at a Lessons and Carols service recently by a CTU student.

The Lessons and Carols Readings are:

Genesis 3:1-15
Isaiah 40:1-5
John Paul II Advent Sermon in 2008
Luke 1:26-38
Isaiah 9:1-6
John 1:1-18

Reflection:

Think of the last party you planned? How big was it? What was the occasion? What was involved in the preparation? Texting your friends to come and hang out on a Friday night at 10PM is “preparation,” but think bigger. What is needed for a successful party? A good location, food, beverages, the proper arrangement of furnishings, maybe a theme for dress and activities, but importantly awesome music? Overall, proper party planning takes a lot of work and energy.

Tonight, we have heard stories from our past. Some have been disappointing, others uplifting, some consoling, maybe one or two curious. But they are stories for us, actuality, they are stories about us. We easily understand the challenges of temptation seen in Adam and Eve. How our pride drives us to be something or someone we are not. How shame prevents forgiveness or admitting our weaknesses. We know our pitfalls and shortcomings.

And we know Isaiah’s story as well. When too we have been broken by stress and torn apart by trauma like Israel during the Exile. We know loneliness, we have felt forgotten. But even greater, but even greater, we too have experienced the power of God’s comfort.

“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” Think of the countless times God has spoken to us through our friends and family. In the pit of despair, how God has sent his angels as our loved ones who have pulled us out of the darkness and into his glorious light. How the Lord always manages to speaks the peace we long to hear.

And in the fullness of time, as the evangelist Luke and John proclaimed, God set his love in person. A love so great, so generous, so magnificent that the Creator would be become a creature to be with His creation that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us named Jesus. A love so tender desiring to walk with us once again like in garden so long ago. How beautiful, how loving.

And as Pope John Paul II said, Advent is not just about commemorating historical events. We do not just dwell in the stories of yesterday, we recall the past that we may see Christ walking with us today – in the present – in the garden of our hearts. For the promises of the past, are made manifest in the present that shows forth a guarantee toward the future.

Now think once again of the last party you planned? How big was it? What was the occasion? What was involved in the preparation? While, food and drink and location are important, what makes a party is who comes.

Who do you want to invite, who do want to be celebrating with you? Christ wants to be in your our lives. Regardless of our shortcoming, he dispels the darkness of loneliness and walks directly into our arms, pouring forth comfort and joy.

Advent is our party preparation. Advent allows us to reflect that Christ wants to be in our lives and Advent calls us to question, “Do we want Christ to come? Do we want to invite Christ into our daily lives, to transform us, to glorify us, to make us wholly human?” If so, let us cry out with the ancient command handed down through the ages, “Maranatha,” “Maranatha,” “Come, Lord Jesus!”

This is a reflection for a Lessons and Carols service by a CTU student who wishes to remain anonymous. The blog curator vouches that this student is in fact a CTU student. 

 

Bernardin’s Consistent Ethic of Life applied to Human Trafficking

Bernadin Scholar and MA Student, Susan Francois, CSJP, shares her reflections on Cardinal Bernadin and human trafficking. 
 
Cardinal Bernardin

Cardinal Bernadin

I have had the amazing opportunity these past 2+ years to study at Catholic Theological Union as a Bernardin Scholar. This has given me an opportunity–and responsibility–to learn more about Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and the great contributions he made to our church and Catholic social thought.  Perhaps his greatest and most far reaching contribution was his development of the Consistent Ethic of Life.

I am presently beginning work writing my masters thesis on human trafficking as social sin. One aspect of the trafficking experience is the commodification and dehumanization of the trafficked person. As I was writing the section on dehumanization, I thought I would look at what Cardinal Bernardin wrote about human dignity and see if I could weave it in. I vaguely remembered reading something he wrote which would apply, and happily just found it.

It’s an address he gave in 1984 to the National Consultation on Obscenity, Pornography, and Indecency. Here’s just a bit:

The theological foundation of our opposition to obscenity, pornography, and indecency is the dignity of the human person. …

It is clearly simply inadequate simply to say that human life is sacred and to explain why this is so. It is also necessary to examine and respond to the challenges to the unique dignity and sacredness of human life today. Human life has always been sacred, and there have always been threats to it. However, we live in a period of history when we have produced, sometimes with the best of intentions, a technology and a capacity to threaten and diminish human life which previous generations could not even imagine.

In the first instance, there are life-threatening issues such as genetics, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare, and euthanasia. These assaults on life cannot be collapsed into one problem; they are all distinct, enormously complicated, and deserving of individual treatment. ….

That is why I have argued frequently during the past year for the need of developing a ‘consistent ethic of life’ that seeks to build a bridge of common interest and common insight on a range of social and moral questions. Successful resolution on any of these issues is dependent upon the broader attitude within society regarding overall respect for life. …

In the second instance, there are life-diminishing issues, such as prostitution, pornography, sexism, and racism. Again, each is a distinct problem, enormously complex, worthy of individual attention and action. Nonetheless, understanding that they all contribute in some way to a diminishment of human dignity provides a theological foundation for more specific reflection and concrete action.

Keep in mind, he wrote these words in 1984. Decades before human trafficking became a public policy issue on the national and international stage.  However, it is not really a stretch to expand his observations about the dehumanizing effects of prostitution and pornography—which can be considered trafficking when force, fraud, or coercion is involved—to other forms of human trafficking, such as forced labor, where the creative capacities of the human person are exploited for profit and ill-gotten gain.

Ultimately, Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life helps us focus our attention on the human part of human trafficking. When we realize that what is at stake is the inherent human dignity of persons deserving respect, hopefully we are spurred to “more specific reflection and concrete action.”

Pray for us, Cardinal Bernardin.

 

This post first appeared on her blog, At the Corner of Susan and St. Joseph.