Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Feb. 28, 2016

"Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness." -- Psalm 103:8

“Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” — Psalm 103:8


Feb. 28, Third Sunday of Lent

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15

      Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11

      2) 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12

      Gospel: Luke 13:1-9


By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

In the reading from Exodus, God speaks of his intention to come down and rescue his people from the tyranny of the Egyptians, revealing that his mercy is not merely felt, but results in action.

The psalm response, too, speaks repeatedly of the mercy of God toward us, his people. We are to remember that he pardons our sins and redeems our lives from destruction. God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness toward those who fear him, the psalmist tells us.

In the Gospel, Jesus gets to the core of our response to God’s mercy in his reference to the barren fig tree. The owner comes and finds it without fruit for the third year in a row and instructs the gardener to cut it down. No, the gardener contends, “leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.”

Lent is a special time for us to consider how we can respond to God’s generosity by showing mercy and performing acts of charity and justice toward others.

Thinking about my friends who were already showing the mercy of God in their actions, I came up with too many to list. They varied in age, race, gender and social status. Some were collectively engaged in mission work extending from Latin America to Russia, from Africa to Indonesia. Others were kind and good to their neighbors and families — to those close to them.

All shared joy and a sense of purpose and mission in what they did. They knew that their connection to God, their obligation to live out the love of God poured into their hearts was what kept them going.

My lesson for Lent will be to see how I can imitate their acts of goodness in my own life and in my own contacts with others, so that when the gardener checks on me, he might find me fruitful right where I’ve been planted.


How is God calling you to become more fruitful in mercy and good works?

Notes on peace and justice

Archivist for Dorothy Day papers guilty of trespassing at drone base

Phil Runkel, left, walks with others Aug. 25 toward Volk Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin to voice concern with U.S. drone policy. (Courtesy Voices for Creative Nonviolence)

Phil Runkel, left, walks with others Aug. 25 toward Volk Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin to voice concern with U.S. drone policy. (Courtesy Voices for Creative Nonviolence)

Phil Runkel, archivist for the papers of Dorothy Day at Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries, is among the most recent people found guilty of a crime for protesting the United States’ use of military drones.

The conviction on a trespassing charge came Feb.19 during a brief trial in Juneau County Circuit Court. Runkel was arrested Aug. 25 at an entrance of Volk Field Air National Guard Base in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, where he joined a group of Catholic Workers and other activists concerned that the use of drones for extrajudicial killings constitutes a war crime.

Runkel attempted to tell the court during his trial that he entered the air base grounds under the belief that citizens have the legal privilege under international law to act in a nonviolent manner to halt the commission of a war crime. However, District Attorney Mike Solovey objected, saying there was nothing about intent in the law, according to courtroom observers.

Judge Paul Curran upheld the objection, quickly found Runkel guilty and issued a $232 fine.

Runkel was the most recent of the 14 people arrested for trespassing at Volk in August to be found guilty in a trial. The last trial is set for Feb. 25.

Similar nonviolent actions by Catholic Workers and others have been occurring at air bases around the country in an effort to call attention to drone warfare.


Lenten fast for climate justice

Catholics around the world again are fasting during Lent for climate justice in response to Pope Francis’ call to care for creation during the month of February.

Coordinated by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the fast finds people in 57 countries taking a day to fast from food or perhaps even from expending nonrenewable energy and to pray in a special way for the environment.

The climate movement’s website has posted Pope Francis’ video message in which he calls on all people to “take good care of creation — a gift freely given — cultivating and protecting it for future generations.”

“The relationship between poverty and the fragility of the planet requires another way of managing the economy and measuring progress, conceiving a new way of living. Because we need a change that unites us all. Free from the slavery of consumerism,” the pope says in the brief video.

The rolling fast reaches a different country each day during Lent. It comes to the U.S. today. (But organizers say anyone can fast on any day or several days.) On Good Friday, all are called to fast for the health of the planet.


Italian Pax Christi bishops decry war

The five bishops who are members of Pax Christi Italy have called for action to end war and the violence that has wracked cities around the world, particularly the Middle East.

Citing “Gaudium et Spes,” the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the final document of the Second Vatican Council, which denounced war and the arms race, the bishops condemned armed violence in a statement released Feb. 18 in Florence

They also called on people of faith to prayer, fasting and acting on behalf of peace.

“(Wars) are only meant to use our arms and to enhance our powers and our supremacy. Therefore we strongly urge the end of all bombings. Instead, we strongly urge the use of politics and diplomacy, perhaps more strenuous but always respectful of human lives. All human beings need assistance not bombs, as Pope Francis has repeatedly said,” the bishops wrote.

The statement also quoted from the joint declaration from the pope and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill following their historic meeting Feb. 12 in Cuba in which the two religious leaders urged the international community to work quickly to end the violence against Christian communities in particular and to begin negotiations to return peace to the affected communities.

Issuing the statement were Bishop Giovanni Ricchiuti of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti, president of Pax Christi Italy; and four past presidents including retired Bishop Tomasso Valentinetti of Pescara-Penne, retired Bishop Giovanni Giudici of Pavia; retired Bishop Luigi Bettazzi of Ivrea; and retired Bishop Diego Bona of Saluzzo.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Feb. 21, 2016

"Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." -- Philippians 3:20

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Philippians 3:20


Feb. 21, Second Sunday of Lent

      Cycle C. Readings: 

      1) Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 

      Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14 

      2) Philippians 3:17-4:1 or Philippians 3:20-4:1 

      Gospel: Luke 9:28b-36


By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

I have a 2-year-old nephew who currently lives in Shanghai with his parents. He was born in China, but because my brother and his wife are U.S. citizens, their son received the full privileges and benefits of American citizenship even before his first glimpse of the United States; he only needed to obtain the necessary documentation.

When his parents’ residence in China ends, little Mateo, already the proud owner of a U.S. passport, will be welcomed into his “new” homeland and bound by its laws and obligations.

There’s a different kind of citizenship described in today’s readings, and we’re given a preview of it, beginning in Genesis. Abram, a sojourner and a foreigner, is promised more descendants than he can count and the possession of a land that is not his birthright.

Although no documents are signed, there is the solemn enactment of a covenant by which God binds himself to fulfill his promises. Before he even sees the land that God has given to him, Abram becomes its citizen.

In the Gospel, Peter, James and John saw the two great figures of their past, Moses and Elijah, on the mount of the Transfiguration. But Jesus also showed them a glimpse of their future citizenship. It was as if a curtain was pulled back and they were able to see a realm so glorious that they were overwhelmed, captivated, enthralled and frightened all at the same time.

St. Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven” and that “he will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” Although we haven’t earned its rights and privileges, our citizenship has already been accomplished by Jesus’ “exodus” in Jerusalem — his suffering and death on a cross.

We are invited to inhabit a promised realm we have yet to see, living under its obligations while we “wait for the Lord with courage.” Like the psalmist, we can assert, “I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.”

It’s a land we don’t need documentation to enter — only trust that the God who fulfilled his promise to Abram, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John will fulfill his promises to you and me.


When have you lived more like an “enemy of the cross of Christ” than a citizen of Christ’s kingdom? What is the greatest obstacle to seeing God’s promises fulfilled in you?

Catholic education, charities benefit from the Philanthropy 50

The Chronicle of Philanthropy this month focus on the most generous donors in America with short descriptions of the top 50 givers. The total the Philanthropy 50 gave in 2015 was an impressive $7 billion with the median gift being $91.1 million. That’s pretty generous.

In comparison, the annual budget last year for the state of Oklahoma  was $7. 2 billion. With a few more shekels, these guys could have funded the entire state last year.

The largest gift — $758.9 million — came from the estate of Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mellon oil and banking heir, principally to his two family foundations.

Gonzaga University main building and statue of St. Aloysius Gonzaga S.J. in Spokane, Wash. (Gonzaga University photo)

Gonzaga University’s main building and statue of St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. The university received $55 million from Myrtle Woldson, a Spokane businesswoman who died in 2014. (Gonzaga University photo)

But others, such as the second largest — $605 million from the estate of Texan John Santikos, owner of a large theater chain — was one of the “big bets” for social change, in his case to the San Antonio Area Foundation.

Donor recipients included medical and engineering research to improve lives. A Seattle self-made businessman, Donald Sirkin, left a $125 million bequest to the San Francisco-based Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an organization that had never raised more than $2 million in any year. Mr. Sirkin was losing his sight, and he wanted to make a big impact in one place. The gift will help Lighthouse finish its new headquarters and partner with tech companies to create products the blind can easily use.

Journalism got a boost from donors Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest. They gave $20 million to the non-profit he created, the Institute for Journalism in New Media. Lenfest started the organization when he turned the holding company for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com over to it a while back. According to the Chronicle the gift will support the three media and award grants to others.

Universities and education were big beneficiaries. They received $2.1 billion in 2015. And Catholic institutions got windfalls. New York financier Stephen Schwarzman and wife Christine have the eighth largest gift — $40 million – to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund to pay for disadvantaged students to attend Catholic school in the city.

Businesswoman and savvy investor Myrtle Woldson, who died in 2014, gifted $55 million to Gonzaga University for a performing arts center and threw in another $1 million for Catholic Charities Spokane.

Real estate investor and University of Notre Dame alumnus Richard Corbett’s father played quarterback under the legendary Knute Rockne. Of the $35 million he gave to his alma mater, $10million  is set aside to endow the university’s head football coaching position.

Finally John Luth, founder of an aviation consulting business,  and Joanne Chouinard-Luth, a dentist and nutritionist, gave $32.6 million to the College of the Holy Cross to renovate the school’s badly aging athletics center and turn a filed house into a recreation center.

Find out more about these donors and the others in the Philanthropy 50 at philanthropy.com.

Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy, February 2016











Find out more about these donors and the others in the Philanthropy 50 at philanthropy.com.


Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy, February 2016









#PopeInJuarez: an unlikely and historically hilarious hashtag

By David Agren

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — In anticipation of Pope Francis’ Feb. 17 visit to this border city, an unlikely hashtag appeared: #PopeInJuarez.

The hashtag refers to Ciudad Juarez and the pope’s arrival in a city once considered “murder capital of the world.” It has seen a 92 percent drop in the homicide rate since the depth of its drug-related violence in 2010.

A painting of former President Benito Juarez of Mexico is seen in this 2004 file photo. (CNS photo/Mario Guzman, EPA)

A painting of former President Benito Juarez of Mexico is seen in this 2004 file photo. (CNS photo/Mario Guzman, EPA)

However, the city’s namesake, former President Benito Juarez, once feuded with the Catholic Church and authored the 1850s reform laws that stripped the church of its properties, power in legal matters and even prohibited priests and nuns from wearing their habits in public.

Pope Francis’ visit to the country and Ciudad Juarez demonstrate the distance church-state relations have moved in Mexico, which only established relations with the Vatican in 1992. Already in the papal trip, politicians in the states the pope has visited have been eager to appear in public with him and published photos of their encounters on social media and state-subsidized media outlets. That the hashtag would appear in its Spanish form, #PapaEnJuarez, would appear to show a lessening of the anti-clerical attitudes, too — though some of it could be attributed to ignorance. The English-language hashtag appeared to emanate from neighboring El Paso, Texas.

Juarez is one of modern Mexico’s most celebrated figures. His image appears on the 20-peso note, while streets across the country are named after him, along with the Mexico City international airport and even the presidential airplane. He is revered in Mexico for leading it through the French intervention of the 1860s, heading the factions of liberals battling conservative forces in the country and becoming the first indigenous president, although his track record on indigenous land issues is considered unfriendly to indigenous peoples, said Ilan Semo, political historian at the Jesuit-run Iberoamerican University.

The phrase, “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace,” is attributed to Juarez and commonly quoted.

A less-flattering phrase also attributed to Juarez, “For my friends, grace and justice, for my enemies, the law,” has come to sum up Mexico’s powerful presidency and lack of the rule of law.

Juarez was born into poverty in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca state, was orphaned at a young age, moved to Oaxaca City, was taken in by a lay Franciscan and studied in a seminary. He became a lawyer and later, a five-term president.

He’s best known for the Reform Laws, however, which were interpreted as an attack on the church.

“The state stopped being a religious state,” Semo said. “Previously, you had to be Catholic to a Mexican.”

Other historians say Juarez and the liberals acted without consulting the church.

“There was never dialogue,” said Father Manuel Olimon Nolasco, a priest in the Diocese of Tepic and professionally trained historian. “This is the big difference between Mexican liberalism and the liberalism of other countries. … In the other countries, there was a dialogue with the Vatican. That never happened in Mexico.”

The street leading to the Paso del Norte boring crossing is lined with posters welcoming Pope Francis in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

The street leading to the Paso del Norte border crossing is lined with posters welcoming Pope Francis in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Conservatives, backed by the church, proceeded in 1863 to invite Austrian Archduke Maximilian, backed by French forces, to serve as emperor. The times lent itself to such a scenario: The United States was stuck in the Civil War and unable to enforce the Monroe Doctrine of no European colonizing in the Americas.

With the end of the Civil War, French forces left Mexico, leaving Maximilian on his own. He was captured by forces led by Juarez and executed in 1867.

Parts of the Reform Laws remain intact, although the church is now allowed to own property, religious dress is permitted and the church enjoys more freedoms than before.

Ordinary people, Semo says, appear OK with the pope visiting Mexico, but still express discomfort with the church playing a large role in politics — suggesting the Juarez legacy still looms.

As for the church itself, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City tried to rehabilitate the relationship with Juarez in 2006, suggesting Mexico needed another figure like him for the presidency.

“Juarez was always Catholic, never ashamed of being Catholic, was a practicing Catholic. I hope another Juarez becomes (president,)” he said.

– – –

Follow Agren on Twitter: @el_reportero

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Feb. 14, 2016

"Jesus ... was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil." -- Luke 4:1-2

“Jesus … was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” — Luke 4:1-2


Feb. 14, First Sunday of Lent

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Deuteronomy 26:4-10

      Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15

      2) Romans 10:8-13

      Gospel: Luke 4:1-13


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

The most frequently asked question of Catholics at this time of year is, “What are you giving up for Lent?” Giving things up and doing extra things is definitely a big part of the Lenten season. I suppose another big question is how long will we keep firm in these intentions before totally failing at Lent.

I think one of the best reasons to give something up or do something extra in Lent is that it helps us grow in discipline. We are a culture that lets our emotions and feelings dictate our action or inaction.

Discipline can act as a balancing factor in our life. If we do what we do when we want to do it because we want to do it with no thought of self-control, we fall into the sin of gluttony or sloth. But if we can tame our passions with a little discipline, we can achieve greater heights of spiritual joy.

Strange as it may seem, there is more joy in discipline than in indulgence. One would think that giving in to temptation and enjoying the creature comforts would bring more satisfaction than denying ourselves or employing restraint, but this is not the case.

This week’s Gospel makes this abundantly clear when Jesus, in the middle of a 40-day fast, is tempted by the devil to give in to the moment and indulge his emotions. Yet, in the face of such temptation, Jesus reveals the truth that standing firm brings us closer to the will of God.

The word “disciple,” not coincidentally, has the same root as “discipline.” A disciple is one who follows the teachings of another person. When we discipline ourselves, we allow another’s teaching to guide and direct our paths. To be sure, disciplining ourselves is not easy. It takes, well, discipline.

So, when week two of Lent comes and we are tempted to abandon our resolve — eat the piece of cake or skip that daily Mass — let us be disciples of Jesus who disciplined himself in the desert and did not give in to temptation.

May this be our constant prayer: Jesus, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil!


How do you avoid giving in to temptation? What are ways you can be a better disciple of Jesus this Lent?

CCHD honors interfaith group for efforts to improve workers’ lives

Father Gerry Souza, Catholic Chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Massachusetts, speaks at a Massachusetts Communities Action Network rally in September at the facility before sending leaders on a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Communities Action Network)

Iolanda Silva de Miranda, left, listens to Father Gerry Souza, Catholic chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Massachusetts, at a Massachusetts Communities Action Network rally in September. (Photos courtesy of Massachusetts Communities Action Network)

Leaders from Brockton Interfaith Community hold boxes of petition signatures for the minimum wage and earned sick time campaigns in 2014, preparing to present the signatures to state election officials.

Leaders from Brockton Interfaith Community hold boxes of signed petitions for minimum wage and earned sick time campaigns in 2014.

Iolanda Silva de Miranda believes the Gospel calls people to act when injustice is present.

Massachusetts Communities Action Network, a congregation-based community organization, came to her parish, St. Edith Stein in Brockton, to talk about the need to raise the state’s minimum wage, Silva de Miranda knew she had to step up.

After hearing how some people work two or three jobs to make ends meet and feed their families, she got involved.

“That’s what God calls us to,” the native of Cape Verde said. “Mary was about to have Jesus and all the doors were closed. Nobody wanted to let her in to have a baby. Sometimes we don’t see those (people). We close the door to the people. We close the door to the more needy and we exclude people.”

It has been a few years since Silva de Miranda, 52, joined the Brockton Interfaith Community, a member of MCAN. She now is co-president of BIC and serves on the MCAN board.

MCAN, an affiliate of the PICO National Network founded in 1972 by Jesuit Father John Baumann, spearheaded the statewide initiative to raise Massachusetts’ minimum wage. It took time to organize, educate, seek signatures on petitions and seek endorsements, like the one from the Massachusetts Catholic Conference representing the state’s bishops.

But Miranda de Silva said the work was worthwhile, especially when voters approved the minimum wage ballot measure in November 2014. By January Massachusetts will have the highest minimum wage in the country at $11 an hour.

For its minimum wage campaign and efforts to gain medical leave for low-income workers, MCAN received the Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development during the recent snowbound Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.

MCAN, a recipient of CCHD national level grants, has worked for more than 30 years to better the lives of low-income people in Massachusetts through congregational organizing and education, said Lew Finfer, the organization’s director.

Early in its history MCAN focused on affordable housing, gang violence and improving conditions in schools. As the economy faltered, especially during the Great Recession, basic family concerns such as hunger, jobs and wages rose in importance. There are also efforts afoot related to reforms in immigration law and criminal justice sentencing.

The minimum wage campaign reached beyond congregations to include tens of thousands of people in neighborhood organizations and labor unions. If the coalition had not been built, Finfer said, the initiative would have failed.

The end result: More than 300,000 people are benefiting.

MCAN affiliates include Catholic parishes in the Boston Archdiocese and the Fall River, Springfield and Worcester dioceses.

Silva de Miranda said the work is important coming from people of faith.

“You know what’s going on in the community. You learn the pain and suffering the families and the people are living. And sometimes you live the pain,” she said. “Being part of this is healing yourself and you’re helping others understand what’s going on.

“You are with them in the change. You are suffering with them. Maybe you show them (policymakers) a part of society is not right, people are not being treated equally of fairly.”


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