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Statement from U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace Committee on Nuclear Disarmament

WASHINGTON — The Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released the following statement on nuclear disarmament.

During the recent visit of Pope Francis to Japan, the Holy Father took the opportunity to speak forcefully on the subject of nuclear weapons and the threat that they represent to the world. Speaking at Nagasaki, he emphasized the need for a wide and deep solidarity to bring about security in a world not reliant on atomic weaponry, stating, “A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere. To make this ideal a reality calls for involvement on the part of all: individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organizations.” - Address of the Holy Father on Nuclear Weapons, Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park (Nagasaki) Sunday, 24 November 2019.

Later that same day, Pope Francis spoke in Hiroshima, the other Japanese city to have known the horror of a nuclear explosion. Addressing the moral implications of nuclear weaponry he stated, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral …” - Address of the Holy Father, Meeting for Peace, Peace Memorial (Hiroshima) Sunday, 24 November 2019.

The words of Pope Francis serve as a clarion call and a profound reminder to all that the status quo of international relations, resting on the threat of mutual destruction, must be changed. As Bishops of the United States, we have made similar appeals in the past when we stated, “the moral task is to proceed with deep cuts and ultimately to abolish these weapons entirely.” - The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace (1993).  

So too, has the international community recognized the need to move away from the threat of mutual destruction and toward genuine and universal disarmament, as reflected in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Article VI of that Treaty, which dates back to 1968, states each party of that accord will work in good faith for the end of the nuclear arms race by seeking nuclear disarmament based in “…a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Pope Francis has used his visit to Japan to remind the faithful and all actors, states or non-states, of the moral obligation to re-commit to the work of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and the threat that they pose. That obligation weighs on the consciences of all to find a means for complete and mutual disarmament based in a shared commitment and trust that needs to be fostered and deepened.

The Committee on International Justice and Peace is grateful to the Holy Father for this renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity. As such, we also call upon our own government to be part of and indeed renew its primary responsibility in that effort. The nations which have nuclear weapons must take the lead in mutual reduction of their weapons. The non-nuclear nations too must refrain from pursuing them if Article VI of the NPT is to be the effective instrument to bring about the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

“Come, Lord, for it is late, and where destruction has abounded, may hope also abound today that we can write and achieve a different future.” (Pope Francis, Hiroshima, November 24, 2019.)

Members of the Committee for International Justice and Peace:

 
Most Reverend David J. Malloy, Chairman
Bishop of Rockford

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton

Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services

Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane
Bishop of Venice

Most Reverend Michael Mulvey
Bishop of Corpus Christi

Most Reverend William F. Murphy
Bishop Emeritus of Rockville Centre

Most Reverend Alberto Rojas
Coadjutor Bishop of San Bernardino

Most Reverend Abdallah Elias Zaidan
Bishop of Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon

 

 

 
Bishop Consultants to the Committee for International Justice and Peace:

 
Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley
Archbishop of Oklahoma City
Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport
 

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Committee on International Justice and Peace, nuclear disarmament, Japan, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement on Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Querida Amazonia

WASHINGTON—Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement regarding the release today of Pope Francis’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Querida Amazonia. The exhortation follows upon the Special Synod of Bishops held in Rome from October 6-27, 2019 that focused on the Amazon region.

Archbishop Gomez’s statement follows:

“Today our Holy Father Pope Francis offers us a hopeful and challenging vision of the future of the Amazon region, one of the earth’s most sensitive and crucial ecosystems, and home to a rich diversity of cultures and peoples. The Pope reminds us that the Church serves humanity by proclaiming Jesus Christ and his Gospel of love, and he calls for an evangelization that respects the identities and histories of the Amazonian peoples and that is open to the ‘novelty of the Spirit, who is always able to create something new with the inexhaustible riches of Jesus Christ.’
 
“He also calls all of us in the Americas and throughout the West to examine our ‘style of life’ and to reflect on the consequences that our decisions have for the environment and for the poor. Along with my brother bishops here in the United States, I am grateful for the Holy Father’s wisdom and guidance and we pledge our continued commitment to evangelizing and building a world that is more just and fraternal and that respects the integrity of God’s creation.”

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Keywords: Pope Francis, apostolic exhortation, Querida Amazonia, Pan-Amazon, Synod of Bishops, Laudato Si’, encyclical, ecology, environment, Archbishop José H. Gomez, USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Media Contacts
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
(202) 541-3200

 

U.S. Bishops’ Annual Ash Wednesday Collection Supports the Catholic Church in Central and Eastern Europe

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has announced February 26 as this year’s date for the special collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. Dioceses may elect a different date to take up the collection to avoid conflicts with local activities. The funds collected support seminaries, youth ministry, social service programs, pastoral centers, church construction and renovation, and Catholic communications projects in 28 countries in the region.

In Baranovichi, Belarus, the parish of Divine Mercy and Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn was established in November 2013 to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful in the region. Through local efforts and funding from the collection, the dream of building a parish home for the growing number of Catholics in Baranovichi is now becoming a reality.

“The Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe provides critical witness to our hope in God and the Risen Christ in places where many people still confront obstacles to practicing their faith freely and fully,” said Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. “Thanks to the solidarity of Americans through the collection, their ministries are supported through both prayer and financial resources with assurances that they are not alone.”

On November 10, 2019, the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe awarded $1.6 million in funding for 100 projects in 22 countries in the region. Information about the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, including the 2018 annual report, may be found at www.usccb.org/ccee. Promotional resources in English and Spanish for use in dioceses and parishes can be found at http://www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/central-and-eastern-europe/index.cfm.

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton, National Collections.


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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

National Marriage Week and World Marriage Day Uphold Marriage as the Foundation of the Domestic Church

WASHINGTON—National Marriage Week will be observed from February 7-14, 2020, in the United States. World Marriage Day will be observed on Sunday, February 9; it is annually celebrated on the second Sunday of February.

Each year, National Marriage Week and World Marriage Day provide the opportunity to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting, promoting, and upholding marriage and the family.

The theme chosen by the USCCB to celebrate National Marriage Week, “Stories from the Domestic Church,” was announced by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth in a letter to his brother bishops. The theme was chosen to demonstrate how “spouses are consecrated and by means of a special grace build up the Body of Christ and form a domestic church” as Pope Francis reminded the faithful in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (n. 67).

Among the resources provided to dioceses for National Marriage Week to use in their parishes are a preaching aid for priests, a bulletin insert or flyer prayer intentions, and a seven-day virtual marriage retreat for married couples, available in English and Spanish. These resources are available for download at https://www.foryourmarriage.org/celebrate-national-marriage-week/ in English and Spanish.

This year’s retreat features testimonies of couples who live out the call of love and form “domestic churches” within their immediate and extended families. The term “domestic church” can be used to describe how “the Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion”. (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 21) The retreat, which runs from February 7 to14, offers married couples an opportunity to pray and reflect about marriage in God’s plan.

A rosary for married couples and families in need of healing will be live-streamed from the chapel at the USCCB in Washington on the Conference’s Facebook page on Wednesday, February 12 at 3:00 pm ET.

The USCCB offers resources to uphold marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman through its dedicated websites ForYourMarriage.org, PorTuMatrimonio.org, and MarriageUniqueForAReason.org.

National Marriage Week USA is a national movement promoting education about the benefits of marriage for reducing poverty and benefiting children. It was launched in 2010 as part of International Marriage Week, with 20 major countries around the world now mobilizing leaders and events to strengthen marriage in their countries. For information and resources, visit: NationalMarriageWeekUSA.org. World Marriage Day was started in 1983 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter as a marriage enrichment program.  

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, National Marriage Week USA, World Marriage Sunday, marriage, family, For Your Marriage, Marriage Unique for a Reason.
 
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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Education Committee Chairman for U.S. Bishops Applauds Administration’s Efforts to Expand Parental Choice in Education Inner City Philadelphia Catholic School Welcomes Vice President Pence

WASHINGTON - Today, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, expressed appreciation for the Administration’s commitment to parental choice in education following a visit by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to Saint Francis de Sales Catholic School in Philadelphia. The officials highlighted the success of parental choice programs across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Administration’s parental choice proposal, Education Freedom Scholarships. The two bishops issued the following joint statement:

“The right of parents to exercise freedom of choice in education is firmly rooted in the teachings of our Catholic faith. As our brother bishops wrote fifteen years ago in Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, ‘Advocacy is not just the responsibility of parents and teachers, but of all members of the Catholic community. As the primary educators of their children, parents have the right to choose the school best suited for their children. The entire Catholic community should be encouraged to advocate for parental school choice and personal and corporate tax credits, which will help parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children.’ We applaud the goals of Education Freedom Scholarships and hope to one day see the opportunity for all families to have the freedom to select a school according to their conscience.”

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers two scholarship tax credit programs for low income families to gain access to the school that best fits their child’s educational needs. The first program was enacted nearly twenty years ago in 2001, and today there are currently hundreds of scholarship organizations in Pennsylvania whose donors receive a state tax credit of up to 90 percent of their donation. In Philadelphia, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS) is the state’s largest scholarship program raising over $25 million last year and offering over 16,000 scholarships to low income families. In the 2017-2018 school year, over 50,000 children received scholarships across Pennsylvania.

During his visit, Vice President Pence discussed expanding this successful state model to the federal level with the administration’s Education Freedom Scholarships proposal. The proposal would provide for a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.


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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Michael C. Barber, Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, Catholic schools, Education Freedom Scholarships, BLOCS.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Repent and Believe: The Call to Metanoia

By Father Dave Pivonka, TOR

“This is the time of fulfillment.”

Those are the first words Jesus speaks to us in the Gospel of Mark. For 14 verses, he says nothing. He meets John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and he faces temptation in the wilderness. But through it all, he doesn’t say a word. Then, finally, Jesus speaks: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

The temptation, for most of us, is to hear those words in the past tense. We hear them as something Jesus said long ago to Jewish people in Roman-occupied Galilee.

But that’s not how the Scriptures work. They’re not simply a record of things that were said 2,000 years ago. They’re not a collection of history books like we find at our local library. They are “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

This means Scripture speaks to us today. Jesus speaks to us today. Right here. Right now. This is the time of fulfillment. This is the time Jesus invites us to know him and follow him and encounter the Kingdom of Heaven. But he doesn’t just invite us. In Mark 1:15, he also tells us how we answer that invitation: “Repent, and believe.”

The Greek word used there for “repent and believe” is metanoia. It implies a turning or a change of mind. So, what Jesus says is, “Turn away from sin, and turn toward me. Change your focus—from sin, from the world, from a culture of distraction—and focus on me instead.” Ultimately, he issues a call to conversion, a call to a new way of thinking and a new way of living. And he issues that call, not just to Peter, James, John, and the rest of the 12, but to you and me.

Which means the question for us is: how do we answer that call? How, here and now, do we repent and believe? How do we experience metanoia?

Last year, the team from 4PM Media and I attempted to answer that question, when we spent 17 days in the Holy Land, filming Metanoia, a new 10-part video series on conversion and discipleship.

But the trip turned out to be much more than that.

Shot on location in some of our faith’s most sacred places, including the Sea of Galilee, the River Jordan, and the desert of temptations, Metanoia invites viewers to an encounter with Christ in both Scripture and history. It also invites each of us to look deep into our hearts, so we can hear how Christ is calling us to conversion.

For many Catholics, it’s tempting to think of conversion as a once and done event. It’s equally tempting to think of it as something other people need: that Jesus is calling other people to repent and believe—“those bishops and priests” or “those people who are in serious sin”—but not us. No, we think, it’s those people who need conversion. Never us. But in reality, it is always us.

Every one of us struggles in some way to live the Gospel. Every one of us has some area of our life that we have not handed over to Jesus. Every one of us, to some extent, bears some responsibility for the problems in the Church and world today.

That’s why conversion is a process each and every one of us must continually enter into. It’s a lifelong journey of being transformed by Christ and conformed to Christ. It’s never done. At least, not until we see Jesus face to face and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

And so, over the course of 10 weeks, Metanoia will invite Catholics to become the witness the world needs us to be and the disciples Jesus calls us to be. It does that by asking us to look at different areas of our life and faith—from our understanding of who Christ is and what it means to pray, to how we approach the Church’s more challenging teachings. It then invites us to think and pray about how Jesus calls us to conversion in those areas.

The whole series is really one big invitation to let God into every aspect of our life and transform it all.

Metanoia launches on Monday, February 3. Episodes will be available to watch at wildgoose.tv. I hope you join us. Because this is the time of fulfillment. Jesus is here. He has something for us right now. But we will never experience it if we don’t repent and believe. We will never experience it without metanoia.

Developments in Washington

By Maureen Ferguson

One can be forgiven for thinking all of Washington, D.C., has been consumed by impeachment frenzy these past weeks. Look closer, though, and you’ll see that while Trump administration lawyers have been tied down by the Senate trial, other administration officials have been engaged in a flurry of policy making. These new policies have gone largely unnoticed, but they are of crucial – and positive – importance to all people of faith.   

 

The last weeks alone have witnessed sweeping developments on prayer in public schools, discrimination against religious organizations, mandatory abortion coverage in health insurance plans, and government funding of programs encouraging childbirth over abortion. Additionally, the president himself attended the March for Life, and Vice President Pence held a significant meeting with Pope Francis.

 

On school prayer, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued guidance clarifying that students do not compromise their right to pray because they attend a public school or university. The DeVos directive also ensures that religious student groups remain on equal footing with secular student groups. This is a critical response to the recent trend of universities’ disallowing any and all religious expression or association at public institutions of higher education. As DeVos stated, "Too many misinterpret a separation of church and state as an invitation for government to separate people from their faith."

 

Public colleges and universities won’t be able to get away with this any longer, thanks to the Trump Administration. The DeVos directive reaffirms the First Amendment right of students to express religious beliefs in their schoolwork as well as to gather to pray at appropriate times. This sends a strong message to school bureaucrats inclined to ban students from praying before high school football games or to defund Christian student groups at public universities.

 

The administration also issued far-reaching rules stating that religious and non-religious charities must be treated equally in the federal grant process. Team Trump has leveled the playing field. Religious charities will now be free to compete for federal grants to serve their fellow Americans. Not only is this a huge win for religious freedom, but it’s also a huge win for the poor and vulnerable. Because, as we know, Catholic and other religious charities are highly regarded as among best in the field of adoption and foster care, caring for victims of human trafficking, providing for the elderly and the poor, and working with refugees and other vulnerable immigrant populations. Nine federal agencies participated in this rule making. The new rule applies across the entire federal government, removing discriminatory regulatory burdens that push religious entities out of the public square – and out of public service. In short, our nation’s social safety net just got stronger.

 

Another significant announcement is that the administration will vigorously enforce the Weldon Amendment, a longstanding law protecting conscience rights. California has been flagrantly violating this law by forcing all health insurance plans in the state, including Catholic health plans, to cover and pay for elective abortions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the policy “abhorrent, unjust and illegal… [a] supreme injustice.” The bishops welcomed the Trump administration’s action as “extraordinarily good news for the right to life, conscientious objection, religious freedom, and the rule of law.”

 

Moreover, the Department of Health and Human Services just came down squarely in support of state healthcare programs that recognize the sanctity of life. Texas had decided years ago that its Medicaid program would support pregnant women and their unborn children, but not abortion-promoting groups like Planned Parenthood. The Obama administration went after Texas but the Trump Administration just granted the necessary waiver supporting Texas’ pro-life policy.

 

That’s all policy, but it’s worth noting again what President Trump and Vice President Pence have been doing themselves. Trump addressed the March for Life rally in person, something no other president has done. Ever. The vice president also spoke to the pro-life March via video from St. Peter’s square at the Vatican, where Pence also had an hour-long private meeting with Pope Francis. The pope and vice president reportedly had a very warm meeting in which they agreed that the cause of life is the “most pressing moral issue of our time.” They also shared their commitment to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Pence talked of how proud he is that the United States has partnered with the Knight of Columbus to help rebuild Christian communities once decimated by ISIS in the Nineveh plain.

 

So while the media obsesses over Bolton bombshells and the McConnell vs. Schumer showdown, hardworking policy makers across the administration, empowered by the president to act, have made a significant difference in the lives of people of faith – and the children of God they serve.

Thinking a Wrong Is Right

By Father Dave Pivonka, TOR

In 1973, after the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in America, my dad—a doctor—was interviewed by the local paper about the ruling. One of his quotes became the story’s headline: “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s right.”

I’ve never forgotten those words. Even as a second grader, they left a deep impression on me. I was only 8 years old, but I understood that no law could make what’s wrong right. No law could take away the dignity of the human person or make it okay to kill an unborn child.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize at the time is that while laws can’t make a wrong right, they can make people think a wrong is right. The law is teacher, and the law Roe v. Wade established has taught three generations of Americans that human persons are disposable. Along with the rest of what St. John Paul II called “the culture of death,” that ruling has tricked millions into believing that we can get rid of human beings when they inconvenience us or burden us.

This attitude puts countless lives in danger—not just the unborn, but also the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the poor, and the stranger. It also puts our entire culture in danger.

Choosing to love and care for the most vulnerable among us is not about politics. It’s not a prudential decision upon which people of good will can disagree. It is a moral imperative. Every other moral issue is related to recognizing the dignity of all human life. From the understanding that life is sacred and the human person is made in God’s image, every other action we call “good” flows.

Because of that, a culture that rejects the sacredness of life cannot endure. Everything that makes a culture healthy—honesty, trust, friendship, charity, kindness, courage—all of that hinges on the dignity of the human person. Take that away, and the rest will crumble. So will we.

Each of us faces the choice my father articulated back in 1973. Will we stand up for what is right, even when a law says we’re wrong? Or will we allow an unjust law to dictate what we believe and do?

On January 24, I will join hundreds of thousands of other Americans who are choosing to defend what is right, by participating in the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Every year, Franciscan University of Steubenville, which is both my alma mater and the school I serve as president, transports hundreds of students to the march. Together, we walk. Not because we expect one lone march to change things. But rather as a reminder to our culture that this isn’t an issue that will just go away.

No law legalizing abortion has settled the question. No law legalizing abortion ever will settle the question. Abortion is wrong, and people who recognize that are going to keep showing up and keep speaking up until the law recognizes that, too. Again, the law is a teacher, and our future as a nation depends upon it teaching what is right and true.

Despite what the media wants us to think, abortion is not a private matter. It wounds the women who believe they don’t have any other option. It wounds the families who lose babies to love. It wounds the health care workers, who buy into the lie of abortion. And it wounds our entire culture, choking the life out of it at its very roots.

The public devastation of abortion demands a public response. Yes, we must pray to end abortion. We must do everything we can to empower women to raise their children or place them in loving homes through adoption. But we also must continue to speak up. We must refuse to allow our faith in the dignity of human life to be pushed aside and kept out of public view. We must continue to march. When we do, we put the conscience of America on display. We remind people of what my dad always knew: Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s right.

Book Review: We are the Lord's

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer

Two years ago, I joined a Catholic women’s symposium that discusses the weighty matters affecting our Church and our culture. One member of our group recently told us that her elderly father was in his last days. She asked for prayers and any resources we might have to guide her and her siblings and mother in navigating weighty end-of-life issues she expected they would face. There was a flurry of supportive responses and commitments to pray, but it took a while before anyone could forward along any helpful material. For my part, I knew of nothing to suggest off-hand.

I won’t face this problem again, thanks to Father Jeffrey Kirby’s We are the Lord’s: A Catholic Guide to Difficult End-of-Life Questions. A copy of this excellent, straight-forward end-of-life book arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, though, alas, a few days after my colleague’s father passed away (a “happy death” with family around, she relayed) and the email thread ended. Kirby sets forth basic principles of discernment for answering some of the hardest – and most common – questions surrounding end-of-life medical care and treatment. He also addresses the challenging practical issues that face the dying and their family members at this time.

Father Kirby begins by confronting the great modern misunderstanding of the human condition and dying. “No person is a burden,” he writes. Yes, this may seem obvious to so many us, but it’s no less important a truth, because we live in a culture that is “intoxicated with utilitarianism” – the notion that “any inconvenience for another person, or any service that makes us uncomfortable, is unmerited.” Christian teaching, however, has “always asserted that the only response to a person is love.” Loving the dying – seeking their good, delighting in them – exposes, Kirby argues, the “selfishness that disguises as compassion.” For children of God, Kirby reminds us, “quality of life” is “matured by love and an openness to live with inconvenience, discomfort, imperfection and suffering.”

Kirby outlines three important principles of discernment to guide bioethical and end-of-life decisions. One, we must recognize God as our Creator and accept the existence of an objective order of moral truth that is beyond us. “Our personal will, or desire for autonomy, are not sovereign,” he writes. “These must be placed within our human dignity and the objective order of moral goodness.” Two, we must understand our particular vocation. That is, we have to consider our duties and responsibilities toward others, our talents and capabilities, as well as the state of our souls. Three, we must appreciate the difference between what is morally obligatory (ordinary care, in the medical context) and what is morally optional (extraordinary care).

My own parents recently told me that they have “all of their affairs in order.” One such affair is the advanced directive, a summary of a person’s wishes in various medical situations. Father Kirby notes, however, that while such planning is prudent, it does not completely resolve end-of-life questions. As bioethicists often say, “When you have one situation, you have one situation.” Advanced directives, therefore, must always should be understood as guidelines and, most importantly, never can betray moral truths in light of the unique set of circumstances a person faces.

On a most practical level, We are the Lord’s includes a chapter that addresses specific medical questions. It’s a quick reference for readers facing urgent decisions. One common medical concern, for instance, is the continued provision of nutrition and hydration. Kirby is unequivocal in explaining that unless a person’s body cannot assimilate them or it becomes harmful, at no point should a sick person be denied food or water.

The overarching lesson of We are the Lord’s is to abide, and encourage our loved ones to abide, in a spirit of abandonment to the will of God. In living. And dying. The book’s title – coming, as it does, from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans —reminds us how end-of-life decisions for ourselves or others should be faced: “For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

I’d not only recommend reading We are the Lord’s, I’d also suggest having a copy or two of Father Jeffrey Kirk’s handy guide available for the next time a friend, family member or colleague faces an end-of-life issue.

Waiting Well

By Father Dave Pivonka, TOR

I am not Scrooge. I want to get that out there before I write anything else. I love Christmas. I don’t want to “Bah! Humbug!” twinkle lights. And I plan on giving every employee of Franciscan University of Steubenville a week off to celebrate.

But (you knew the “but” was coming), it’s not yet Christmas.

Despite what the Hallmark Channel says, Christmas doesn’t start in October, or even on Thanksgiving Weekend. Nor is the holiday itself a celebration of perfectly decorated trees, sleigh rides, and snowman-building competitions. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christmas celebrates his coming, the miraculous entrance of God himself into human history. On Christmas morning, we rejoice in the wonder of the Incarnation, of God becoming a tiny human baby, born in a stable. And we rejoice at the merciful love that would lead that baby to Calvary, where he would open the gates to heaven once more.

Christmas morning, however, isn’t until December 25. Before then, for a period of roughly four weeks, we prepare for that morning. The Church calls this season of preparation “Advent.”

During Advent, we ready our hearts and homes for the coming of the Savior. We reflect. We pray. And we wait.

As the world waited through countless long centuries for God to send the redeemer promised to Adam and Eve, we wait.

As Israel waited for God to honor the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, we wait.

As Mary waited nine long months to hold her baby, we wait.

As Jesus waited to go to Jerusalem, where all would be fulfilled, we wait.

And as the Apostles waited in the Upper Room, first after Jesus’ Crucifixion and later after Jesus’ Ascension, we wait.

The story of salvation history, from first to last, is filled with accounts of God’s people waiting – waiting for a home, waiting for a spouse, waiting for a child, waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, and above all, waiting for redemption, waiting for Jesus. Waiting is a constant theme in Sacred Scripture, and that should clue us in to an important truth: learning to wait well matters. It is spiritually important.
 
Most of us, though, don’t wait well. We stand in front of the microwave and say, “Hurry up.” We wish our InstaPot were just a bit quicker. We skip the drive-through because the line is too long. We get frustrated when we pray and pray, but don’t get the answer we want right away.

As a people, we don’t wait well. And because we don’t wait well, we suffer. We lose hope. We despair. We miss out on the blessings of the moment, becoming so focused on what God isn’t giving us that we fail to see what he is giving us.

Advent, however, invites us to do things differently. It invites us to wait – to hold off, for just a little while, on the celebrating, so we can come to a deeper appreciation of the reason for the celebrating.

When we take Advent up on that invitation, we discover the secret to waiting well.

Waiting well is finding Jesus where we are, not only where we will be or want to be.

Waiting well is inviting God into the moment – this moment, right now, not some future moment.

Waiting well is not only looking at what will be, but also discovering God in what is.

Waiting well is trusting that God is faithful; it’s believing that regardless of whatever present darkness might surround us, light will come.

And waiting well means allowing God to slowly change our hearts in this time so when we once again find our God, lying in the crib, we can realize he was with us all along.

This Advent, don’t be in a hurry. Take it slow. Go ahead and prepare for Christmas – buy the gifts, ready your home, do your baking – but also wait. Wait to open the gifts. Maybe wait to do the final decorating until Christmas gets closer. Or even wait to eat all those cookies until Christmas Eve. Just save something about Christmas for Christmas, and trust that the wait will be worth it. It always is.


For more thoughts on Advent from Father Dave as well as inspirational videos, blogs, music, and other resources, visit Franciscan University’s ’Tis the Season Advent website.