Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 9, 2016

"He fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." -- Luke 17:16

“He fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” — Luke 17:16

 

Oct. 9, Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 2 Kings 5:14-17

      Psalm 98:1-4

      2) 2 Timothy 2:8-13

      Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

I am terrible at sending thank-you notes. If I don’t do it right away it usually doesn’t get done. It is not that I am not thankful; I am truly grateful for the service or gift I have received. I am just forgetful, especially when the next day is filled with more activity and soon the thought of thanking the individual slips from my radar.

My negligence in sending thanks in a note is much like my neglecting to give thanks in my prayer life.

When I teach about how to pray I use an acrostic for the word “pray”:

Praise and thank God.

Repent for your sins.

Ask for what you and those you love need.

Yield to God’s will in your life.

This can be used as a prayer formula or just as a guide to make sure you are, at least from time to time, including all the basic aspects of communication with God in your life of prayer.

I am pretty good at the asking part, and through music, Scripture and Mass I regularly praise God. The examination of conscience and sacrament of reconciliation help me repent of my sins, and I try to always end my petitions with the prayer: “God grant me all of these things, or in your wisdom give me something even better.” This is my way of yielding to the Lord’s right of way in my life.

What I too often miss is thanking God for all he has given me and for answered prayers. Things often play out as they do in this week’s Gospel.

I beg God for help and when he comes through for me, I am happy and go along my merry way glad to have my prayer answered. I tend to be like the nine lepers that do not return to thank God for the blessings that have been showered upon me.

It is not so much that God needs our thanks, but more that we need to thank God to complete the initial request. Just as it is the right thing to do to send a thank-you note to a friend, so it is right to send a thank-you prayer to God for the gifts he has given us.

QUESTIONS:

What are you most thankful to God for? How do you express your gratitude to God?

Seeking migrant justice in Guatemala

Editor’s Note: Judith Sudilovsky is participating in an Egan Fellowship awarded by Catholic Relief Services.

By Judith Sudilovsky

GUATEMALA CITY — The plane landed at the Guatemalan Air Force airfield behind Guatemala City’s commercial airport and its weary-eyed passengers disembarked onto the tarmac in a straight, organized line.

Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Scalabrini Missionaries’ Migrant Shelter, confers with staff as they wait for the planeload of recently deported migrants to be processed and released from the immigration hall. (CNS/Judith Sudilovsky)

Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Scalabrini Missionaries’ Migrant Shelter, confers with staff as they wait for the planeload of recently deported migrants to be processed and released from the immigration hall. (CNS/Judith Sudilovsky)

One by one, these 200 mostly young men recently deported from the U.S. filed into the receiving hall past us — three journalists participating in a Catholic Relief Services Egan Fellowship to Guatemala and Honduras to learn about the push factors for migration; one feisty Brazilian Scalabrini priest who directs a shelter for migrants; and Lucrecia Oliva, a CRS consultant on migration issues.

As each person entered they were registered by Guatemalan immigration officials before they could leave. Oliva greeted them with a polite “Good afternoon.” She had met with groups of expelled migrants before, but she had not seen them as they first returned.

Now she blinked heavily to keep back the tears.

This time it was different. She saw their individual faces. They were tired and scared. A few were, at least temporarily, jubilant and brash.

Four days a week, three times each day, flights arrive full of migrants deported from the U.S. For many of the young men it was not their first return trip home.

One man, 27, who had lived in New York for 11 years, said he might try to take the perilous journey across Mexico again as soon as the next day.

Though most people we spoke with agree that violence in Guatemala is not as serious as in neighboring El Salvador and Honduras, it does exist. Some of the youth may have been escaping gang or drug violence; others came seeking work to support their families in a country where half of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

A new government has been in power for less than a year, after the former president, vice president, and half of their cabinet were forced from office and are now serving prison terms for financial corruption. The new leaders have promised to tackle some of Guatemala’s pressing needs, but assert that it will take time to correct even the smallest of the ills of their predecessors who left the national till empty. People are waiting to see what actually gets done.

guatemala-2016-318Oliva said she can understand the need Americans feel after 9/11 for security and caution about who enters their country. However, she realizes that the times have changed since she was given generous assistance when she landed in the states years ago and how it seems that Americans have forgotten their history as a land of immigrants.

She was an undocumented migrant, fleeing her homeland when Guatemala’s military dictatorship ravaged the country, killing those who dared to speak out demanding justice and equality. As young idealistic university students, she and her husband decided to leave for the U.S.. They left behind their young daughter who eventually joined them. Oliva also gave birth to another daughter.

She spent 18 years in Chicago where a family welcomed her and initially gave her work as a nanny for their baby daughter, eager for her to teach the girl Spanish. Oliva became an active member of church in a Mexican neighborhood, helping migrants even less fortunate than she was.

She never felt she was doing enough though.

In 1986 she was able to gain legal residency in the U.S., but in 1998 her heart told her to return to Guatemala and contribute to improving life in the country she loves.

“I was so young, and when I came to the United States people were so good to me, they helped me, I had that gift, and now I saw how these people were so rejected and that hurt me,” she explained. “Maybe they were not escaping violence, but they were escaping for a reason and now their dreams are shattered. It pained me that they were returning to their same reality.”

Though the story of migrating people who are seeking brighter horizons is not a new phenomenon, she said, it has become more public because of social media and the internet. As long as Guatemalan society does nothing to improve the social and economic inequalities or increase job opportunities for rural communities, migration will always remain an option, she said.

“We are wasting the lives of these youth and people. We are turning our backs on them. We are pushing them to leave because we as a country are not offering them a quality of life to reach their dreams and the ability to have land, human rights, education, and proper health care among others,” Oliva said.

“This is not acceptable. If we as a country are not capable of providing them with their rights, if we are not capable of protecting our citizens, we are accomplices in pushing them into the street defenseless. I feel responsible.”

So she is taking responsibility. Next week she also will begin working with the Scalabrini Missionaries’ Migrant Shelter with whom CRS works to facilitate job placements for returning migrants.

How you can help emergency response to Hurricane Matthew

A woman walks on a highway blocked by rocks Oct. 5 after Hurricane Matthew swept through Guantanamo province in Cuba. The powerful hurricane left serious damage at the eastern end of the island, with landslides, toppling electricity poles and cutting off roads by flooding. (CNS photo/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters)

A woman walks on a highway blocked by rocks Oct. 5 after Hurricane Matthew swept through Guantanamo province in Cuba. The powerful hurricane left serious damage at the eastern end of the island, with landslides, toppling electricity poles and cutting off roads by flooding. (CNS photo/Alexandre Meneghini, Reuters)

With slow-moving Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the East Coast, aid organizations were responding to emergency needs from flooding, winds and landslides in Cuba and Haiti.

Meteorologists said 24-30 inches of rain had fallen in some regions of Haiti, with devastating winds affecting much of the central Caribbean region.

A man wades through floodwaters Oct. 4 in Fonds Parisiens, Haiti. (CNS photo/Orlando Barria, EPA)

A man wades through floodwaters Oct. 4 in Fonds Parisiens, Haiti. (CNS photo/Orlando Barria, EPA)

Donations are being sought to meet emergency and long-term responses to the storm.

Among those accepting cash donations are:

— Catholic Relief Services. Donations can be made online; via mail to P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Maryland, 21297-0303 and indicate Hurricane Matthew in the memo; or call toll-free 877-435-7277 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

— Catholic Medical Mission Board online.

— Malteser International, Order of Malta Worldwide Relief organization online.

Development and Peace/Caritas Canada online.

Salesian Missions online.

St. Boniface Haiti Foundation online.

Catholic News Service will list other agencies accepting donations for hurricane response as they are received.

Mass on a stud farm, near a Triple Crown winner

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., raises the Eucharist during Mass on Sept. 21 at Ashford Stud Farm. On the left, 2015 Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah watches Mass from his stall. The Mass was part of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Manz's pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22, 2016. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., raises the Eucharist during Mass on Sept. 21 at Ashford Stud Farm. On the left, 2015 Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah watches Mass from his stall. The Mass was part of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Manz’s pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22, 2016. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

By Joyce Duriga

LEXINGTON, Ky. — “American Pharoah is on this farm,” Karen said.

“Shut. Up,” I said. “Really? Do you think they’ll let us see him?”

“Nah, he’s probably in a secure area,” she said.

Well, it turned out that not only did we get to see American Pharoah but we participated in the first Mass ever to be said next to his stall where he now lives at Ashford Stud Farm in Lexington.

If you don’t know, American Pharoah is a rock star horse who won the Triple Crown in 2015 — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Before American Pharoah, the last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. Only 12 horses have ever won the Triple Crown in the 147-year history of the three races.

We ended up at the Mass because Karen Callaway, photo editor for the Catholic New World, Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper, and I were covering Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz’s pastoral visit to migrant workers on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. Every year he makes a trip to some part of the country to meet with workers. This year’s trip focused on those who work in the horse racing industry.

Ashford Stallion Manager Richard Barry introduces American Pharoah to Bishop Manz on Sept. 21. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Ashford Stallion Manager Richard Barry introduces American Pharoah to Bishop Manz on Sept. 21. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

While the bishop did meet with the workers at Ashford, the visit to the stud farm was sort of a perk. The owners of Ashford are Catholic and often donate American Pharaoh’s halters to be auctioned off at Catholic school fundraisers. They, with other local Catholic farm owners, provide scholarships to students in Catholic schools that will follow them all the way through to high school.

So American Pharaoh is used to the attention. You can walk right up to his stall and talk to him. I had a moment with him by myself and I told him we were going to have Mass right there and Jesus would be made present in the Eucharist (Yes, I talk to animals.) His ears moved back and forth as he stared me down.

During Mass he kept sticking his head out of the stall, especially when we were singing, and he and the other two stallions in the pristine and gorgeous barn, whinnied several times. I was convinced the Triple Crown winner was moved by the service and by the Eucharist. Afterward I asked the stallion manager about it.

Nope, the manager said. He was just hungry because we were having Mass during his normal dinner time. Sigh. On the retelling some have said to me that he was hungry for the Eucharist. Maybe.

Workers from Ashford Stud farm joined the bishops for Mass. Auxiliary Bishop Jon Manz made a pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Workers from Ashford Stud farm joined the bishops for Mass. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Karen and I have retold our story of Mass with American Pharoah to many people and their reactions vary. We’ve received some glazed over looks and people asking, “Who?” To “No way!” One guy got so excited when I told him that he pleaded that I text him one of Karen’s photos from Mass. On my way out he put his arm around me and said I was his connection to American Pharaoh. He’s from the South, of course.

Karen, who has photographed major events like papal visits and World Youth Days, says this ranked up in her top three favorite assignments. Number one was shooting St. John Paul II in Central Park in 1995. I agree with Karen. While it doesn’t compare with the heavenly banquet, a barn with Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah was one of coolest settings for a Mass I’ve participated in so far.

– – –

Duriga is editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 2, 2016

"The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint." -- Habakkuk 2:3

“The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” — Habakkuk 2:3

Oct. 2, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

      Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9

      2) 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

      Gospel: Luke 17:5-10

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

When Jesus walked the face of the earth, the science of psychology hadn’t yet been invented. Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis wouldn’t come along for another 1,800 years. But this week’s Gospel shows Jesus way out on the cutting edge of what the psychological world calls the power of positive thinking. The spiritual world calls it faith.

Jesus tells his followers they can accomplish unimaginable feats “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed.” He uses a bit of hyperbole — being able to uproot a large tree by a simple voice command — to explain that faith can strengthen us to overcome normal human limitations when we face challenges in life.

Today, psychologists continue to examine the effects of positive attitude. For instance, much has been written about improved responses to medical treatment credited to the positive mindset of patients. In one article, noted author and medical doctor Deepak Chopra suggested the “placebo effect” (improvement in patients given a placebo when they believed they received a prescription drug) showed that positive thinking could produce a positive physical response.

“Expectations are powerful,” he pointed out. “If you think you’ve been given a drug that will make you better, often that is enough to make you better.”

Although he concedes that medical research has found no proof that positive thinking can actually cure disease, Chopra emphasizes, “The real point isn’t to rescue a dying patient but to maintain wellness.”

That’s the real point for Jesus, as well.

Just as positive thinking is a source of strength for someone battling illness, faith gives us strength and hope in the “wellness” of God’s spirit with us when we struggle.

Even more thousands of years before psychology, the prophet Habakkuk told us to seek God’s positive promise when we are troubled: Write down the vision clearly, so you can read it, he said. “[It] will not disappoint … it will surely come.”

Whoever relies on God’s vision, he added, “because of his faith, shall live.”

Faith, in fact, employs positive thinking. However, it is more. It opens our spirit to the vast possibilities of our life in God — where we will be rescued from dying.

QUESTIONS:

How do you describe the similarities of positive thinking and faith? How does your faith in Christ affect your response to difficult situations life throws at you?

A look at each film of Kieslowski’s “Dekalog” masterpiece

dekalogmoviepostertypeimageAll the films of the Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog” are set in contemporary Warsaw, Poland, a decade after the election of St. John Paul II as pope (he makes a cameo appearance in one installment via photographs), but still a communist-run nation as soulless apartment block after soulless apartment block fills the screen in each episode.

There are a handful of returning characters, mostly having to do with the post office and a university, but no character is a featured player in more than one installment. There is, though, a mute Greek chorus of sorts — Kieslowski himself? — who witnesses a pivotal moment in most, if not all (I hadn’t been looking for him early on) of the films. But with multiple pivotal moments in each episode, you can’t count on this fellow popping up each and every time.

Here is an overview of the plot of the “Dekalog” films, one for each of the Ten Commandments:

One: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me.” An agnostic (at best) university mathematics professor, so well off he has not one but two home computers — remember, this is 1988 — also has a bright and inquisitive son who is curious about God, aided and abetted by his Catholic aunt. The lad gets an early Christmas present of ice skates and he wants to try them out on the nearby pond. But, despite Dad’s computer calculations of ice thickness — plus a personal test — tragedy strikes, calling the meaning of virtually everything into question.

Two: “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” A woman whose husband is desperately ill in the hospital insists on a prognosis from his doctor. She’s carrying another man’s child, but will go through with the pregnancy only if her husband dies; otherwise, she will have an abortion. The woman makes the doctor swear to the veracity of his diagnosis once she revealed the truth of her situation.

Continue reading

A cinematic triumph returned and restored

It’s not often that something that made its debut on Polish television gets this kind of acclaim, but Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog”(“Decalogue” in English) merited precisely that acclaim — even now, 28 years after its debut.

Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. (Photo/Krzysztof Miller, Agenja Gazeta)

Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. (Photo/Krzysztof Miller, Agenja Gazeta)

Kieslowski was commissioned by Polish TV to make a series of hour-long dramas on each of the Ten Commandments. This being state television, there were no commercials or promotions for other programs to rob Kieslowski of precious minutes to tell his tales.

“Dekalog” was heralded as a sensation when viewers first caught sight of it. Eventually, it made its way to the United States. I recall going to a film festival in Washington in 1994 hoping to catch the first two installments. I was at the multiplex a good half-hour early to buy tickets, but it was already sold out. I had thought that if I’d missed the first two, then the remaining eight wouldn’t make much sense to me. So I let them all slip past. The following year, Kieslowski’s “Tricolor” trilogy, based on the French bleu-blanc-et-rouge flag, makes its way to the film-festival circuit. And I caught each of the three full-length films.

Fast-forward to 2016. I’m doing my typical pre-dawn walk up and down the main drag close to my neighborhood. In full view during my walk is the marquee of the Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. For a week, I pass by the marquee while the words “Dekalog: One and Two” or “Dekalog: Three and Four” roll by. I don’t make the connection, because in 1994 the series was being touted in English: “Decalogue.”

Then, one morning, I look at the marquee. I see five pairs of “Dekalog” encompassing 10 numbers. I realize that “Dekalog” is “Decalogue.” I make immediate plans to get out of work early to take in — well, the last eight. A phone conference commitment followed by a lunch commitment will force me to miss the first two installments yet again. Drat. At least this time, our online world can give me several days’ advance notice of screenings at the Silver, and “Dekalog: One and Two” will indeed play once more at a date and time I can slip out of the office yet again.

Continue reading