Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pope Francis, the radical in the Vatican

Pope Francis continues to delight and surprise as he pursues his radical pilgrimage across the global psyche — inspiring with his humility while also sending shock waves with his subversive spirit. Yes, make no mistake, this humble man from Argentina who describes himself first as a sinner and prefers simplicity to the opulence afforded by his station is, like Jesus Christ himself, a radical. He washes the feet of the poor while eschewing the ruby papal slippers for his own holy feet. He lives in humble quarters among colleagues rather than in the isolation of the Vatican suites where his predecessors have slept. He immerses himself in humanity while urging a greater pastoral role for the church and a de-emphasis on the harsh judgments of institutional authority.
In a world where greed and pride hold hands in the dark, Francis appears like a brilliant apparition of — say it, brother — hope and change. He is a paradoxical mix of friend and foe wrapped in a happy package of tough love: friend of the poor, downtrodden and marginalized; foe of the purveyors of a status quo that worships money and throws away the young and old. He is, in other words, a problem for the world and poses special anxiety for pious politicians both inside and outside the church walls.
As such, he has a unique, transformative opportunity unseen in our time, not only for the Catholic Church, which could use a good purgative, but also for the larger world.  The anti-politician, he is fearless, provocative and willing to call out the weasels — not so much by their names as by their actions. He has special criticism for globalization, which, he says, has created a culture in which the weakest suffer most and those on the fringes, the elderly and the young, “fall away.” In such a money culture, “we throw away grandparents and we throw away young people.”  In other, less orderly times, Francis would be hustled out of town on a donkey. In today’s universal media world, word gets around and there’s no hushing a brave man with a message millions long to hear. “Truth will out,” goes the saying, but Francis gives truth a nudge at the door.
In a recent interview for the Jesuit publication America, the Vicar of Christ implored the church to not overemphasize the issues that social conservatives hold so dear. He didn’t go so far as to suggest that the church change its core beliefs on subjects such as abortion and traditional marriage, but he urged a reordering of priorities and a less harsh approach. The hungry need food before they can hear a lecture about nutrition. More love, less judgment is the seed he is planting, a worthy bumper sticker these days. In a judgmental era that sometimes rivals darker ages, Francis’s words tumble into the human conversation like an uninvited guest. This humble, radiant man doesn’t sprinkle rose petals and platitudes to amuse and beguile. He drops “daisy cutters” of truth and social justice smack into the punch bowl.  Talk about a splash. And all the while, he smiles.
But Francis says he doesn’t wish to be known as the smiling “cordial manager of the church” who “comes here and says to you ‘have courage,’” as he recently told a crowd of unemployed workers in Italy. Rather, he wants to be the brave one, the man who reaches deep inside his own well of humanness with all its frailties and limitations and finds the will “to do everything I can as a pastor and a man.” Telling the crowd to “fight for work,” he said the economic system that created the “idol which is called money” is not a local problem but a “world choice.”
In his short time at the Vatican, Francis also has tackled one of the worst scourges on the planet — the explosion in human trafficking, including child labor, forced domestic work and prostitution. Not content to bemoan this sorry state of affairs, he has called on the Vatican to study the problem and, during a conference he has scheduled for November, develop an action plan. In the parlance of the street that Francis seems to know better than most, he walks the walk. It is not his style to, if you’ll pardon the expression, pontificate. His soul may be aimed for heaven, but his heart and feet are firmly planted in the earth.
May his roots bear fruit.

By Kathleen Parker, Washington Post (September 24, 2013)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We Have Life Together

How many people do you know who occasionally wear the Tau? How many people do you know who sometimes jot “0 ES” after their names? I’m going to hazard a guess that the answer to the first question is greater than the answer to the second.
It is a bit of puzzle to speak about vocation to the Secular Franciscan Order within a wider Franciscan context. This is not because such a vocation is difficult to describe. It is because the call to this way of life exists within such a rich multiplicity of possibilities for those who are attracted to the charism but are not called to religious life.
Here and there, all over the planet, we find women and men who take the Franciscan movement seriously, who allow the Gospel to shape their lives, and who work with the Spirit that stirred Francis and Clare. Many of them are Secular Franciscans, but many are not. The truth (and it is a great blessing) is that there are many ways for people to live a Franciscan-inspired life. So we might reasonably ask: among all the possibilities for affiliation and identification with the Franciscan family, what does it mean to have a vocation as a secular person in the family’s Third Order?

Vocation and Formation/Space and Time

As I give this question a bit of thought from my own tiny corner of the world, St. Elizabeth Fraternity in the Blessed Junipero Serra Region in the western United States, it occurs to me there are so many things about Secular Franciscan vocation I cannot speak to with any certainty at all. For example, I do not know what it is like to practice this life in China, Malawi, Indonesia or Kazakhstan. The accounts I receive through the order’s international leadership tell me that all over the world Seculars live and serve, as they always have, a long- side their First, Second and Third Order Religious spiritual siblings.
They live the Gospel in circumstances I can only imagine, following our Lord Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit’s gifts each day. What vocation might mean to them, or how formation happens, I would not dare to say, but I know that their stories are shaping my own vision of what Franciscan life might be.
Neither do I have the decades of faithful witness experienced by so many of my OFS brothers and sisters in my own part of the world. For the most part, the people who nurtured my own vocation, the ones who spotted some vague spiritual family resemblance between me and Francis of Assisi, made their own profession long before I came along. My formation in the order was to some extent in the hands of those who professed under the Third Order Rule promulgated by Pope Leo XIII more than one hundred years ago.
These good lay Franciscans have remained in fraternity to assimilate the changes, hopes and expectations of the Second Vatican Council. They have undertaken life under the 1978 Rule promulgated by Paul VI. Like those who have remained in religious life over the last few decades, some Seculars have not only persisted in their vocations, but have actually allowed themselves to be converted over and over again. Along these lines, I have come to greatly appreciate the patience of my formation director, Hermina Weir, OFS, who taught me many things, including how to pray the office and the Crown Rosary, and who made me learn the Rule and the Constitutions of the Order. I keep in mind that it was also Hermina who insisted I read Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes so that I might, as she put it, “understand the church you claim to belong to.”
These sisters and brothers appear to me to have received and acted on this exhortation of St. Paul’s:

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one body one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call. — Eph 1:1849; 4:1-4

This perhaps does not sound like much of a call “bearing with one another in love” until you try to live it.
So I bumble along in my vocation, considering all that our loving and gracious God reveals to each of us within our own place and time, and I grow in gratitude. I come to love this (by no means the only, or perhaps even the best) way of Franciscan life. While there is so much I do not know about following Christ in a “Franciscan” way, and it is clear that so many people who are not Seculars live the Gospel more faithfully than I do, perhaps I can identify a couple of distinct OFS tendencies worth describing here. This may help us to understand the place OFS vocation might hold in the Franciscan world today.
Of course these tendencies appear within the much larger Franciscan spiritual and intellectual tradition. Therefore, as they are presented, you can and should assume that every Incarnational-Trinitarian-Bonaventurean-Scotist inclination shared by the rest of the family lurks behind them. The tendencies I would like to highlight show up in the form of two related commitments: to the fraternity and to the church. I have come to feel that, among many contemplative and active Franciscan ways of being, this dual commitment to particular community and universal belonging help make the Secular Franciscan vocation what it is. And like the words of Paul above, the tenacious tendencies in this branch of the family don’t look like much until you begin to unpack them.

Life in Fraternal Communion

When it comes right down to it, this is it: the vocation of the Secular Franciscan “is a vocation to live the Gospel in fraternal communion” (OFS Constitutions, 3.3). With very rare exceptions, there’s no such thing as an isolated professed lay Franciscan. Life outside of fraternity doesn’t make any sense. At this point, we might observe: “So the OFS vocation is a matter of life lived in familial terms. So what? That’s hardly unique within the larger tradition.” However, the commitment a lay person makes to a particular fraternity shapes, nurtures and challenges spiritual growth in some fairly strong and often countercultural ways.
To live in actual (not idealized) fraternal communion means that my notion of what it is to follow Jesus will always be brushing up against the expectations of my brothers and sisters in the fraternity, month after month, for the rest of my life. While the utter uniqueness of each person is a matter of respect and delight, Secular Franciscan community might not be a happy place for someone who greatly values rugged individualism. It may also hold many surprises for the person handle on what Francis and Clare “really” meant.
In the Seculars, we don’t live together. In my limited experience, the year-to-year reality of “fraternal communion” is either attractive or repellent to those considering profession as a Secular, and the significant blessings and challenges presented by this kind of Franciscan community should not be overlooked. This insistence on some kind of life together is, of course, shared by our religious brothers and sisters, and the monthly fraternity meetings, be they ever so humble, are simply our way of interpreting the words of Francis in his Testament — namely, that we grow spiritually with the brothers and sisters that the Lord has given us. If some brothers and sisters are no longer able to actively serve, they are no less treasured. If we disagree over which ministry the group should undertake, we must work it out. The countless ways we disappoint each other must be met with humility, gentleness, patience and love. It turns out to be the work of a lifetime.
I offer this innate tendency to value particular community as one small example of what identifies OFS life today. If it sounds a bit settled for true Franciscan life, bear in mind how very scattered our relationships can be nowadays. The act of being physically present to one another every month is its own kind of Christian witness. So many of our families are separated by economic necessity, immigration policies, or by choice. Very few of us are completely untouched by some form of itinerancy. When the Seculars insist on fraternal life in the midst of much movement, they offer something authentic and perhaps, in some small way, healing to the rest of the world.

Living Members of the Church

Another aspect of this vocation also turns out to be a bit distinctive when we consider the wonderful variety of Franciscan-hearted people. I introduce it here because it is clearly not necessary for many people who are otherwise drawn to the charism. The Secular Franciscan vocation is one located within the church universal. It is by no means the only path open to the lay person called to follow the Poverello’s example. There are Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and other vibrant forms of committed Franciscan life. However the vocation I know and live is the one sustained and constrained by a pretty clear understanding of being an order (“lay” but “real” as a few of our popes have put it) in the Catholic Church. This means that the OFS way of life has the freedom that comes of belonging to a much larger body. It also means that ecclesial structures and complexities are part and parcel of this calling. In their life today, Seculars profess to having
been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words. — OFS Rule, 6

Well and good, perhaps, but have you noticed lately that being a “living member of the Church” calls for some very well-developed relational skills? A Secular Franciscan approach to being church might look something like an inclination to fraternity. While not denying the real need for ongoing conversion and growth in holiness, in someone who identifies as “OFS,” we would hope to find at least something of the humility, gentleness, patience and love that scripture, Francis and Clare all name for us.
In the matter of “going forth” mentioned above: to whom shall we go these days as “witnesses and instruments”? Here Seculars need not look far at all — our very families have become as spiritually diverse as any official interfaith gathering. Many of us find ourselves proclaiming Christ in a thousand unspoken ways to our children, in-laws and grandchildren. This may be the gentle, subtle task Seculars and other Christians are given today. That lovely icon of Francis and the Sultan embracing? That’s not an image from 800 years ago, that’s your next family reunion.
Like life in fraternity, life in the church is not uncomplicated, but it can be beautiful and oh-so-joyful. For those who have this vocation, taking a break from the church and all the associated human shortcomings is not really an option. Since the OFS Rule tells us we are called “like Francis to rebuild the Church,” a clear-eyed, faithful, Gospel-based response is always the expectation, if not the accomplishment, of our lives.

Gospel to Life, Life to Gospel

The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and center of his life with God and people. — OFS Rule, 4

With these musings of merely one lay Franciscan, I have tried to describe just a couple of tendencies around the idea of fraternity and church that might mark an OFS vocation in relationship to the larger Franciscan movement. I’ve done so, I hope, without idealizing this branch of the family I love. From their earliest days as part of a multifaceted European penitential movement (and yes, I know the history is not uncontested), it seems to me that Secular Franciscans have always been odd ducks, even in a church loaded with flocks of peculiar birds.
Through the centuries, the Secular Franciscans have accompanied the friars on some of their wildest adventures, yet they have the reputation of being rather tame and pious. Their documents stress the secular quality of their vocation, yet their profession ritual looks and sounds like a rite for the religious. It’s an interesting way of being Franciscan — not for everyone, to be sure — but a way I believe is open to God’s goodness in the world.

By Donna Foley, OFS, a member of the St. Elizabeth Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. She has served the Secular Franciscans in a broad range of ministerial roles on both the local and the regional level. A graduate of the Franciscan School of Theology, she is currently director of spiritual formation for the school.

Pearls of Wisdom

  1. I was in the six item express lane at the store quietly fuming. Completely ignoring the sign, the woman ahead of me had slipped into the check-out line pushing a cart piled high with groceries. Imagine my delight when the cashier beckoned the woman to come forward looked into the cart and asked sweetly, "So which six items would you like to buy?"
  2. Because they had no reservations at a busy restaurant, my elderly neighbor and his wife were told there would be a 45 minute wait for a table. "Young man, we're both 90 years old," the husband said. "We may not have 45 minutes." They were seated immediately.
  3. The reason Politicians try so hard to get re-elected is that they would "hate" to have to make a living under the laws they have just passed.
  4. All eyes were on the radiant bride as her father escorted her down the aisle. They reached the altar and the waiting groom. The bride kissed her father and placed something in his hand. The guests in the front pews responded with ripples of laughter. Even the priest smiled broadly. As her father gave her away in marriage, the bride gave him back his credit card.
  5. Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.
  6. Three friends from the local congregation were asked, "When you're in your casket, and friends and congregation members are mourning over you, what would you like them to say?" Artie said, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, and a great family man."  Eugene commented, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful teacher and servant of God who made a huge difference in people's lives.” Al said, "I'd like them to say, 'Look, he's moving!'"
  7. Smith climbs to the top of Mt.  Sinai to get close enough to talk to God. Looking up, he asks the Lord. "God, what does a million years mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A minute." Smith asks, "And what does a million dollars mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A penny." Smith asks, "Can I have a penny?" The Lord replies, "In a minute."
  8. A man goes to a shrink and says, "Doctor, my wife is unfaithful to me. Every evening, she goes to Larry's bar and picks up men. In fact, she sleeps with anybody who asks her! I'm going crazy. What do you think I should do?" "Relax," says the Doctor, "take a deep breath and calm down. Now, tell me, exactly where is Larry's bar?"
  9. John was on his deathbed and gasped pitifully, "Give me one last request, dear," he said. "Of course, John," his wife said softly. "Six months after I die," John said, "I want you to marry Bob." "But I thought you hated Bob," she said. With his last breath John said, "I do!"
  10. A man goes to see the Rabbi. "Rabbi, something terrible is happening and I have to talk to you about it." The Rabbi asked, "What's wrong?" The man replied, "My wife is going to poison me." The Rabbi, very surprised by this, asks, "How can that be?" The man then pleads, "I'm telling you, I'm certain she's going to poison me. What should I do?" The Rabbi then offers, "Tell you what. Let me talk to her, I'll see what I can find out and I'll let you know." A week later the Rabbi calls the man and says, "I spoke to your wife on the phone for three hours. You want my advice? The man said, "Yes" and the Rabbi replied, "Take the poison."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pope Francis Decries Idolatry Of Money Over Man

CAGLIARI, SARDINIA Pope Francis denounced what he called big business's idolatry of money over man as he traveled Sunday to one of Italy's poorest regions to offer hope to the unemployed and entrepreneurs struggling to hang on.
Francis left aside his prepared remarks and spoke off the cuff to thousands of people in Sardinia's capital, telling them he knew well what it was like to suffer from financial crisis. He recalled that his Italian parents, who immigrated to Argentina before he was born, spoke about it often at home. "My young father went to Argentina full of illusions of making it in America," a somber Francis told the crowd at the start of a daylong visit to the island. "And he suffered the terrible crisis of the 1930s. They lost everything. There was no work."
 He said it's easy for a priest to come and tell the poor to have courage, but that he really meant it. Amid shouts of "Lavoro! Lavoro!" (Work! Work!), Francis called for a dignified work for all. "Excuse me these are strong words, but I speak the truth," Francis said. "Where there is no work, there is no dignity."
Sardinia, known for its pristine beaches and swank vacation homes, has been particularly hard-hit by Italy's economic crisis, with factories closing and more and more of the island's families forced to seek charity. The island's desperation made headlines last year when a coal miner, participating in an underground sit-in to protest the planned closure of the mine, slashed his wrists on television. Unemployment in Italy is at 12 percent, with youth unemployment a staggering 39.5 percent. In Sardinia and the rest of Italy's south and islands, the figures are even worse: Unemployment is nearing 20 percent with youth unemployment at 50 percent.
Francis told the crowd, many of whom wore hardhats from their defunct factory jobs, that the problems in Sardinia weren't the islands alone. He said the problems were the result of a global economic system "that has at its center an idol called money."  Francis has made reaching out to the poor and most marginal the priority of his pontificate. This is only his second visit to an Italian city outside Rome; the first was to the isolated island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants come ashore each year.
Francis noted the similarity, saying both islands were places of immense suffering but also hope. "It's easy to say `don't lose hope,"' he said. "But to all of you who have work, and to those who don't, let me tell you: Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope." Later, Francis celebrated Mass in the piazza outside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria, the island's patron and namesake of Francis' native Buenos Aires. The pope is particularly devoted to the Madonna and wanted to make a pilgrimage to the shrine.
After Mass, Francis had a full day planned: He was to meet with the poor and some prisoners in the capital's cathedral, deliver a speech at the island's Catholic university and finally meet with young Sardinians before leaving for the hour-long flight back to Rome.

AP/ September 22, 2013, 7:27 AM

Pope Says Migrants Not 'Pawns On Chessboard Of Humanity'

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Tuesday called on countries to protect migrants, condemning the treatment of refugees as mere "pawns on the chessboard of humanity".  Countries should cooperate on "the broad adoption of policies and rules aimed at protecting and promoting the human person", he said in a message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.  "Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity," he said in the message titled "Towards a Better World". "They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes."
He slammed situations in which migration is propelled by human trafficking and enslavement, warning: "Nowadays, 'slave labor' is common coin." The Argentine pontiff has made defense of the poor and vulnerable a keystone of his papacy.  His first trip outside of Rome earlier this year was to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants regularly wash up in pitiful states after hazardous crossings from Africa. Some are then coerced into the sex trade or forced labor by criminal gangs.
A recent UN report found that Italy must do more to tackle the problem of human trafficking; saying the situation in the country was worsening. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that some 800,000 people may be trafficked across international borders annually, with many more trafficked within the borders of their own countries. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees is not until January 19, but the Vatican sends out papal messages on such subjects well in advance to provide guidance to pastors around the world.
In the message, the pontiff also urged government leaders to "confront socioeconomic imbalances and an unregulated globalization, which are among some of the causes of migration movements in which individuals are more victims than protagonists."  "No country can single-handedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon, which is now so widespread that it affects every continent in the twofold movement of immigration and emigration," he said. Fleeing "situations of extreme poverty or persecution, millions of persons choose to migrate." "Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity," he added.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pope Seeks Nonviolent Solution to Syrian War

At a time when the international community continues to grapple with the civil war in Syria, 100,000 faithful joined Pope Francis on Sept. 7 at St. Peter’s Square in Rome — with countless others joining along at home — for a day of prayer and fasting for peace.
The Syrian conflict has already claimed more than 100,000 lives since March 2011 and threatens to spark a regional war. According to recent AP reports, more than 2 million Syrians have been driven from their homes and pose a grave humanitarian problem to surrounding countries. Pope Francis called upon Catholics and all people of goodwill to join him in an intense four-hour vigil. In his homily, the pontiff did not specifically speak to the Syrian situation, but used biblical imagery to call upon the world’s leaders not to rupture the beauty and harmony of God’s creation with war, selfishness and violence.
“Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace?” he asked. “Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: ‘Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone!’”
Outside of Rome, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem held a holy hour at the Basilica of Gethsemane, just outside of Jerusalem, to pray for peace in the Middle East. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., celebrated a special Mass for Peace and Justice at the Basilica of the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception, and other dioceses and parishes across the globe marked the day with Masses, prayer vigils and adoration.

Calls for dialogue
The day of fasting and prayer punctuated calls by the Holy See and other Church leaders for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian civil war and a halt to possible strikes against the government of Bashar Assad by the United States. The Assad regime has been accused of using chemical weapons against the rebel forces and civilians in an Aug. 21 attack that killed 1,429 people — including 426 children — in a suburb of Damascus.
Amplifying Church voices in the Middle East, the Vatican has made pleas from the beginning of the strife in Syria for an end to the violence, renewed dialogue among the warring parties, maintaining Syria’s unity and territorial integrity and protection for the country’s minorities, especially the Christians who comprise some 10 percent of the population of 22.5 million. Most Syrian Christians are Greek Orthodox, along with members of the Assyrian Church of the East and around 420,000 Catholics. Ironically, the Christian population has increased over the last years as Christians fled the bloodshed and persecution in Iraq for what was believed to be a safe haven in Syria.

Peaceful resolution
Pope Francis has been particularly vocal in opposing potential plans of President Barack Obama’s administration to strike against the Assad regime. On Sept. 5, the pope sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, chair of the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the start of the gathering.
The letter implored “a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.”
The leaders left the meeting undecided as to the next steps to take in the crisis. But as of press time Sept. 10, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in a statement, according to Russian news agency Interfax that Syria is willing to agree to a Russian-backed initiative and disclose the location of its chemical weapons, as well as halt production and place the remainder under international control.
In response, President Obama asked Senate Democrats to delay their vote on whether or not to take military action as diplomatic channels are worked.
Prior to Sept. 10, the Obama administration worked aggressively to secure congressional approval for military action. A Sept. 9 CNN poll found that only 43 percent of Americans favor U.S. military action in Syria; 55 percent are opposed, with 2 percent unsure.

Threats to Christians
Papal opposition to military action by the West is distinctly reminiscent of the effort by the Vatican and Pope Blessed John Paul II to halt the invasion of Iraq by a coalition headed by the United States in 2003. The subsequent agony faced by the Iraqi people is used by Vatican diplomats to point to the unexpected problems that can arise from such interventions.
One of the greatest concerns for Church officials is that Syrian Christians will face the same catastrophe that has struck in Iraq and Egypt — brutal violence against the traditional Christian populations and the further flight of Christians out of the Middle East. A century ago, Christians comprised some 20 percent of the population in the Middle East. Today, they make up less than 5 percent.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war, Christian villages have been attacked and burned, and more than 300 Christians have been killed, mostly by rebel forces. Emblematic of the situation was the kidnapping in April of two Orthodox bishops, Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Youhanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Boulos al-Yaziji, while they were driving to Aleppo. Their driver was shot to death, and their fate remains unknown.
Priests have also been targeted, including Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who disappeared July 29 and whose fate remains unknown, and Father Fran├žois Murad, 49, who was shot to death June 23 in the town of Gassanieh. Father Murad was reportedly killed by members of Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant Islamic group of the rebel alliance with reported ties to al-Qaida. Elements of that group also attacked the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, in western Syria this month.
Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem of the Melkites, told Asia News, “We must listen to the pope’s appeal for peace in Syria. If western countries want to create true democracy then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between Christians and Muslims, not with weapons.”

By Matthew Bunson - senior correspondent for OSV Newsweekly, 9/22/2013 

Subtitle:  “As Obama administration weighs military options, pontiff leads faithful in prayers, fasting for peace.”

Sidebar:        “When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid (see Gn 3: 10), he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh (cf. v. 12); he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to “disharmony”? No, there is no such thing as “disharmony”; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear. ...”

— excerpt from Pope Francis’ Sept. 7 homily at the St. Peter’s Square prayer vigil for peace.

Pope’s Remarks Challenge Bishops

NEW YORK — In recent years, many American bishops have drawn a harder line with parishioners on what could be considered truly Roman Catholic, adopting a more aggressive style of correction and telling abortion rights supporters to stay away from the sacrament of Communion.
Liberal-minded Catholics derided the approach as tone-deaf. Church leaders said they had no choice given what was happening around them:  growing secularism, increasing acceptance of gay marriage, and a broader culture they considered more and more hostile to Christianity. They felt they were following the lead of the pontiffs who elevated them.
But in blunt terms, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals, the new pope, Francis called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away. Now, the U.S. bishops face a challenge to rethink a strategy many considered essential for preserving the faith. “I don’t see how the pope’s remarks can be interpreted in any other way than arguing that the church’s rhetoric on the so-balled culture war issues needs to be toned down,” said John Green, a religion specialist at the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “I think his language calls for less stridency on these issues.”

Francis not a culture warrior

The leadership of the American church is composed of men who were appointed by Popes John Paul II or Benedict XVI, who made a priority of defending doctrinal orthodoxy. Over the last decade or so, the bishops have been working to reassert their moral authority, in public life and over the less obedient within their flock.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned Catholics that voting for abortion-rights supporters could endanger their souls. Church leaders in Minnesota, Maine and elsewhere took prominent roles in opposing legal recognition for same-sex marriage. Bishops censured some theologians and prompted a Vatican-directed takeover of the largest association for American nuns by bringing complaints to Rome that the sisters strayed from church teaching and paid too little attention to abortion.
Terrence Tilley, a theologian at Fordham University, said Francis wasn’t silencing discussion of abortion or gay marriage, but indicating those issues should be less central, for the sake of evangelizing. But he noted that bishops have independence to decide how they should handle local political issues.
“Although Francis is sending a clear signal that he’s not a culture warrior, that doesn’t mean the bishops will follow in lockstep,” Tilley said.

Bishops not changing

Few of the U.S. bishops who have commented so far on Francis’ interview indicated they planned to change. Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, head of the bishops’ religious liberty committee, said in a phone interview, “Issues do arise and we cannot always control the timing.” However, he added, “Every time I make a statement about one of these things I will certainly take another look at it and ask, ‘Does this really lead people back to the heart of the Gospel?’
“That’s what he’s asking us to do. I think that’s a fair question.” Lori said he expected no changes in the bishops’ push for broader religious exemptions from the contraception coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act.
Archbishop Salvatore Cord4eone of San Francisco, head of the bishops’ defense-of-marriage committee, said in a brief statement, “We must address key issues and if key issues are in the minds of those who are talking with us we will address them.”
“In San Francisco, these issues are very relevant to daily life for the people of this archdiocese,” said Christine Mugridge, a spokeswoman for Cordileone. “As long as the people of the archdiocese have particular talking points that are pressing upon them, the archbishop will respond to those talking points.”
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the bishops’ conference, said he thought the pope was telling everyone — inside and outside the church — to focus less on polarizing debates on sex and morals.
“I don’t know if it’s just the church that seems obsessed with those issues. It seems to be culture and society,” Dolan said on CBS This Morning,” what I think he’s saying is, ‘Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way.’ If we keep kind of a negative, finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive.”

By Rachel Zoll, Associated Press (The Enquirer 9/22/2013 Page A7)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Holy Humor

People of all faiths should remember these four great religious truths:
1. Muslims do not recognize Jews as God's Chosen People.
2. Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
3. Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian world.
4. Baptists do not recognize each other at the liquor store.

A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan.
She asked the class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and
Bleeding, what would you do?"
A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."

A Sunday school teacher asked, "Johnny, do you think Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark ?"
"No," replied Johnny. "How could he, with just two worms.

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible - Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the chapter. Little Rick was excited about the task - but he just couldn't remember the Psalm. After much practice, he could barely get past the first line.
On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Ricky was so nervous. When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, "The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's all I need to know.

The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why.
"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages. "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon." "How come He doesn't answer it?" she asked.

A Rabbi said to a precocious six-year-old boy, "So your mother says your prayers for you each night? That's very commendable. What does she say?"
The little boy replied, "Thank God he's in bed!"

When my daughter, Kelli, said her bedtime prayers, she would bless every family member, every friend, and every animal (current and past). For several weeks, after we had finished the nightly prayer, Kelli would say, "And all girls."
This soon became part of her nightly routine, to include this closing. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked her, "Kelli, why do you always add the part about all girls?"
Her response, "Because everybody always finish their prayers by saying 'All Men'!

Little Johnny and his family were having Sunday dinner at his Grandmother's house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When Little Johnny received his plate, he started eating right away.
"Johnny! Please wait until we say our prayer." said his mother.
"I don't need to," the boy replied.
"Of course, you do" his mother insisted. "We always say a prayer before eating at our house."
"That's at our house." Johnny explained. "But this is Grandma's house and she knows how to cook.”

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Did She Tell Her Oldest Girl About the Courage Women Call On

When the first student said it, I was taken back. “I want to be like Ortolana, Clare’s mother.”  I often ask undergraduates in the theology course on Clare of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola at Santa Clara University what each will take from the class. At least one woman will say, “I want to be like Ortolana.”  Why Clare’s mother? After all, we had been discussing two spiritual giants, St. Clare and St. Ignatius. But these young women, coming of age, caught another light.
In Assisi, winding cobbled lanes lead past old houses of pink stone hewn from the nearby Mt. Subasio to the piazza of the Cattedrale di San Rufino di Assisi. In one of the buildings on this square, the girl who was to become St. Clare was born in 1193 and lived until age eighteen, when she ran away to join Francis and the brothers.
Clare was the child of Ortolana and Favarone of the Offreduccio house, whose marriage would have been arranged by their noble families to strengthen the power and wealth of each at a time of political and economic turmoil. Clare’s uncle, Monaldo, was probably the eldest of the Offreduccio family, followed by Favarone and the other brothers, each of whom had his own estate, wife and children, and servants. From 1198 to 1210, the landed aristocracy in Assisi was under siege by the growing alliance of merchants and artisans, peasants and commoners.
The historical record tells little of Favarone, so researchers have concluded that he was often absent from home. It appears Ortolana played a dominant role in the household, managing the residence, three daughters, servants and domestic life. She was respected among the women who had houses in the piazza, and enjoyed a circle of friendships that were to endure through her entire life.
Ortolana means “gardener” in Italian, and it suited Clare’s mother. She nurtured in her daughters the values of courtly culture and holiness, expressed in courage, fervent prayer and mercy to the poor. In The Legend of St. C/are (completed in 1255), Clare’s early biographer writes of Ortolana, “The richness of the divine generosity preceded in the root, so that an abundance of holiness would follow in the branch.”
Two months after Clare’s death, Pope Innocent IV, who wanted to gather evidence for her sainthood, commissioned the bishop of Spoleto to interview, under oath, sisters in the San Damiano Monastery and citizens in Assisi who knew Clare as a child or knew of her miracles. This compilation, The Acts in the Process of Canonization (1253), contains first-person accounts of women and men who knew the living Clare.
Ortolana’s importance in the life of her daughter caught the attention of my students as they investigated this extraordinary document. They read of the two pilgrimages that Ortolana undertook, most likely with her servants, friends and women who had houses in the same piazza of San Rufino. According to her companion, Lady Pacifica, she traveled “beyond the sea for reasons of prayer and devotion” to the Holy Land. Not long after, while pregnant, she walked some 200 miles from Assisi to the shrine of St. Michael at Mt. Gargano, on Italy’s eastern shore, again with Lady Pacifica.
The undergraduates recognized the courage of this medieval lady who took leave of her husband’s household to set out on a pilgrimage; they were impressed by her arduous journey on foot, particularly when expecting a child. But when some students read of another experience of Ortolana’s, which took place in a church (and was later recounted in testimony by two of the sisters of San Damiano Monastery), they were absolutely stunned.
“Standing before the cross and actually praying for God to help and protect her during the danger of childbirth, she said she heard a voice telling her, ‘You will give birth to a light that will shine brilliantly in the world,’” Sister Filippa testified. Sister Cecilia affirmed that Ortolana had also told her of this voice and its message. Ortolana went on to name her newborn daughter Chiara, the clear or bright one. Clare.
Lately I have come to realize that ever since I started teaching Clare’s story, one of my students invariably chooses the relationship between Ortolana and Clare as a research topic. For whatever reason, these young women of the twenty-first century are drawn to these two women, mother and daughter, who lived eight hundred years ago. As one student put it, “Ortolana’s life of faith and love, her pilgrimages and deep connection with her daughter shaped who Clare became.”
“Though I’ve learned about the miracles Clare performed, the privilege of poverty she chose, the fasting she undertook and community of mutual love she built, I became interested in a completely different, but not any less meaningful, aspect of Clare’s life,” wrote Natassia, “ I found myself wondering how Clare and Ortolana’s relationship affected each other’s lives.”
“The communication skills and experiences in relationships one has as a child affect and shape the relationships one forms as an adult,” still another student, Melissa, wrote. “A prime example of this theory can be seen in Ortolana and Clare. Within her womb, Ortolana was able to communicate with Clare in such a way that the child exited Ortolana’s womb already full of grace.”
“The unconditional love that Ortolana gave to Clare as a child,” wrote Natassia, “helped to shape the relationships that Clare had in her life, and Clare helped to perfect her mother’s relationship with God.”
Today’s young adults are growing up in a very different culture than that of twelfth-century Assisi in the Umbrian valley. What is it about these two women, mother and daughter, that resonates with them? Part of the answer may lie in what they found in the poem “The Gardener” by Sister Kate Martin, OSC, of the Monastery of St. Clare in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In the garden, when they sat spinning, and the coarse wool slipped through their fluent fingers, did she tell her oldest girl about the courage women call on when they hear the sound of horses stamping in the courtyard, the clank of heavy armor, as men ride out to war and violence? Did she comb and comb her daughter’s golden hair and talk of past journeys, to exotic ports where the sun blazed on minarets and fiery voices cried out prayers to God all-merciful? Did she ever try, choosing her words carefully, to tell this favored child the reason why she’d gone on pilgrimage — what made her set out, brave as any knight, for the unknown and its grace?

At the age of eighteen Clare fled undercover of night to join Francis and the brothers at the Portiuncula, and rejected the world for the love of Christ. What chaos must have erupted in the Offreduccio household when they found Clare was a runaway? Days later, her furious uncle Monaldo and his brothers stormed the Benedictine monastery where Clare was taking refuge, intending to take her home by force. What desperate fear must have gripped her mother, wondering how her daughter would fare with her uncles? Behind the pink stone walls in the house off the cathedral piazza, did Ortolana find comfort in the words she had heard at the shrine of St. Michael about the child she was to bear? Was it easier to let Clare go, knowing the message of the cross?
With Francis, Ortolana’s daughter founded the Poor Ladies at the small church of San Damiano. Women of Assisi and Perugia, including her two sisters, and then others “from many parts and provinces,” joined her. Over time they transformed themselves into “the polished collection of living stones for the restoration of the heavenly house,” according to Clare’s early biography The Legend of St. Clare.
At San Damiano, Clare learned with her sisters the spirituality of mutual respect and equality in which contemplation, loving service to one another and reconciliation were at the core. She clung tenaciously to this way of life. Defying enormous forces that tried for almost three decades to discourage her, she insisted before her sisters, the brothers and those in official positions of the church on the pursuit of the Gospel poverty inspired by Francis and on the dependence on the Lesser Brothers. Clare became the first woman in Christianity to write a Form of Life for women, the constitution of a religious community.
How might Ortolana’s interior passion, determination and trust in the Unknown have shaped Clare’s own pilgrimage? How might Ortolana’s cultivation of her daughters and of the friendships with the women of the piazza have influenced Clare’s concern for the women of San Damiano, for the brothers, and for the sick who came to the monastery for healing?
In her writings, Clare addresses the women in her community as “my daughters, my dearest sisters” and “my most beloved sisters.” For their part, the sisters of San Damiano referred to Clare in their testimonies in the Acts as “Lady Clare” or “holy mother Clare.” The daughter thus becomes a mother. Students find it quite amazing that even today, eight hundred years later 20,000 women in seventy- five countries who live this Form of Life continue to call Ortolana’s daughter “Mother Clare.”
At one point in class discussion, the theme of generativity between mothers and daughters took center stage. Students found in the concluding lines of Sister Kate’s poem echoes of Ortolana’s own courage in her daughter Clare.
Did Clare remember all her life those glimpses of her mother’s soul? Did the old stories in her mother’s voice rise within her as she sought strength for her own life’s course? Did she recall those sweet domestic hours and know herself to be, yes, the plant of Francis, but equally the flowering of Ortolana’s life?

“Ortolana’s strength and Clare’s, especially as women in the early medieval times, extend past generations,” wrote Melissa, another of last year’s students. “Learning about Clare gives me confidence in my own sense of strength. She went against all odds when protecting the monastery from the Saracens, just as I am going against some odds by being a mechanical engineer in a field where the majority of students are men.”
Natassia reflected, “My mother and I have been deeply connected since the day I was born. Much like Clare gained her mother’s holiness and calling to the poor, I gained my mother’s sarcastic wit and desire to serve.” Natassia, who has worked on several week-long immersion trips to Tijuana, explained: “While at home, volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens are the ways my mother and I strengthen our relationship with each other and with God. In every hungry child we feed, we see a glimpse of God. I attribute this to my mother, for if she did not get me involved in volunteering, I am not sure I would be so passionate about it.”
Young contemporary women reach back eight centuries to an era portrayed in our culture as populated by damsels in distress being rescued by knights in shining armor. But they discover both worldly and spiritual power in Ortolana, a mother who nurtured a saint.
The little we can learn about Ortolana and Clare from so long ago is enough to inspire seekers, artists, young women, daughters, and perhaps mothers. “The relationship between Ortolana and Clare,” wrote Mackenzie, another student, “depicts the incredible bond between a mother and daughter that can provide a light for the rest of the world”
Ortolana ultimately joined her daughter at San Damiano Monastery, most likely after her husband Favarone died. There, as a sister to her daughters and to other women and men, she prayed and served for the rest of her life.

By Jean Molesky-Poz PhD, teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. She received her PhD. from the Graduate Theological Union and is author of Contemporary Maya Spirituality (2006). She can be reached at: jmoleskypoz@scuedu. Additional poems by Sister Kate Martin, OSC, of the Monastery of St. Clare in Minneapolis, Minnesota, may be accessed at website: [THE WAY OF ST. FRANCIS MAYJUNE 2013]

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

75 Years Since Minimum Wage Created, Workers Struggle

Seventy-five years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a national minimum wage, many workers still struggle to support themselves and their families living at or slightly above that pay.
Jobs that are paid minimum wage take a lot of physical effort. You’re on your feet; you’re moving and working quickly. Imagine working that hard and not feeling like you can provide for yourself and your family -- it is incredibly demoralizing,” said Judy Conti, an activist with National Employment Law Project.  The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour; had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation it would be at $10.74 per hour. Additionally, minimum wage for tipped workers hasn’t been raised in more than 20 years and remains at $2.13 an hour.
Chanting “we can’t survive on 7.25,” many fast-food workers have organized walkouts in cities like Chicago, Milwaukee and New York City. The movement in Chicago called “Fight for 15” held protests Aug. 1 and has encouraged others in the city and around America to fight for living wages.  “God bless these people,” said Conti. “They’ve got nothing to lose.” While she believes the federal minimum wage should be increased, she also champions the workers for dealing with the problem directly.  To her, raising low wages makes sense economically: “The more people you squeeze out of the middle class, the more no one has the money to buy your products. Good wages is a virtuous cycle; it fuels an economy that works.”
According to a poll by Rasmussen Reports, 61 percent of Americans favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10, the amount the Fair Wage Bill of 2013 proposes. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has introduced the bill, which would change the tipped wage to $3 an hour, gradually raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and thereafter leave the future of minimum wage rate up to Department of Labor. The bill has not yet left committee. Kali Radke, 31, works part time at $8.25 an hour, a dollar above the federal minimum wage, while going to school for nursing. While she had been living in a shelter, she and her 9-year-old daughter now live in Fort Meade, Md., in transitional housing at Sarah’s House, operated by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Because of the scarcity of full-time minimum wage jobs, many people she knows work multiple part-time jobs to support themselves. Even then, it’s easy to be let go if something like a child’s sickness prevents them from coming into work. “It’s an employer’s market,” Radke told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. Though she hopes to get a managerial position, and eventually a job in nursing, she realizes that not everyone has opportunities for a career change. “Some people can’t go to school, but if you’re willing to put in 40 hours a week, you should be able to afford a crappy apartment and it’s just not possible.”
Almost half of minimum wage workers, 47 percent, are full-time employees over the age of twenty. 24 percent are parents, and more than a third are minorities, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington. With an increase in the minimum wage “things would still be tight, but at least I’d be able to put a roof over our heads,” said Radke. Church teaching has long supported just wages and fair treatment of employees. For example, Pope Leo XIII issued his encyclical “Rerum Novarum” (1891) to address the difficulties faced by the working class in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. “Wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner,” he wrote.
Catholics also have been involved in furthering a just wage in America. “Msgr. John A. Ryan wrote one of the first pieces on (state minimum wage law),” said Michael Naughton from the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, part of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. “There was a grave concern for people to be able to achieve their needs with the wages that they make.” Brian Engelland, an economics professor at The Catholic University of America, fears that increasing the federal minimum wage may not be beneficial to the overall economy: “It’s rough and inexact when it’s done on a national basis because there such a great difference between costs of living between, say, Mississippi and D.C. Fair wages should e done more on a regional basis.”
However, he believes that local government as well as employees, employers, consumers and investors should actively promote and bargain for just wages that are realistic for their individual companies. “Because of the way we were created, we like to work and we’ll work whether we’re paid or not,” he said. “Consequently, humans do not do a good job in negotiations. We’ve gotta tip the scales toward human dignity so that the individual worker doesn’t get the short end of the stick.” “It wouldn’t be a bad idea” to have minimum wage laws legislated at a local level, “but the federal minimum should keep pace,” said Charlie Clark from St. John’s University in the New York borough of Queens.
The majority of minimum wage employers, corporations like Wal-Mart, Target and McDonald’s, can afford a wage hike, according to the National Employment Law Project. Two-thirds of those employing minimum wage workers are not mom-and-pop stores, but large corporations with more than 100 employees. Seventy-eight percent have been profitable every year for the past three years, and 63 percent of these companies are earning higher profits now than before the recession.  Much of that money is benefiting the higher- ups.  “If you look at the data of labor productivity until the mid-1970s, wages went up with productivity,” said Clark. “Productivity increases now go to owners.”
Still, debate on a higher minimum wage based on differing economic theories has prevented passage of any measure to raise it. Clark told CNS that for many years economists believed that raising the minimum wage would raise unemployment, “but then they started to empirically test it and there’s no evidence that unemployment goes up. Now economists are split about 50/50.”
Naughton believes that a just wage is part of right relationship between employees and employers. “The role of virtue should inform these wage relationships from a scriptural, Catholic perspective,” he said. “Are there ways I can dignify the work? How can you promote the growth of your co-worker versus seeing an employee as an eight- hour unit?” Conti believes she was called to help people to support themselves. “I was raised in all of the traditions of Catholic social justice, not just charity, not just handouts but real opportunities for people to better themselves.”

By Zoey Dl Mauro, Catholic News Service, Washington.  (The Catholic Telegraph, Sept 2013)

Smell, Noise, Mess & Crazy

Recently, in addition to the four classic marks of the church — one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, Pope Francis has offered four other traits for consideration and actualization — smelly, crazy, messy, and noisy. At first glance, for reasons of personal hygiene and social decorum, these “new” ones may surprise you. Yet, though not proclaimed every Sunday in the Creed, I think you’ll agree these marks have always been with the church and are essential if it is to thrive in the future.
Shortly after his papacy began, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Week with the church. At the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, when the sacramental oils used throughout the year are blessed, he called the church, priests in particular, to go to the margins of society. There, Pope Francis stated, one will encounter “suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters.”
They’ll also end up smelling. But, according to Pope Francis, this is a good thing. In anointing “the poor, prisoners and the sick, [those] ... who are sorrowing and alone,” priests and all those who enter into solidarity with the outcast will live with “the smell of the sheep.” That supposed smell is really the odor of holiness all of us are asked to embrace in light of our baptism.
Speaking to a group at World Youth Day, Pope Francis offered some up-ending and, for all those who teach adolescents, counter-intuitive advice: “Let me tell you what I hope will be the outcome of World Youth Day: I hope there will be noise. . ..I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses, I want the noise to go out, I want the church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves.”
The first translations that I read of the quote had Pope Francis encouraging persons “to make a mess,” Either way there is a call here for Christians to be a disruptive force for good. The status quo is not the Kingdom of God and, rightly, needs to be questioned, challenged, and, ultimately, changed.
If that wasn’t enough, Pope Francis seems to be comfortable with what most of seek to resist — the chaos and craziness of life. Returning home to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil, against the counsel of his advisors, Pope Francis held an impromptu press conference on the plane. One question dealt with the mob scene that ensued when his driver took a wrong turn and got stuck in traffic. This allowed literally thousands of people to rush his car, reach into it and take pictures of him.
In response Pope Francis said, “The climate [in Rio de Janeiro] was spontaneous ... I could be close to the people, greet them, embrace them, without armored cars. During the entire time, there wasn’t a single incident. I realize there’s always a risk of a crazy person, but having a bishop behind bulletproof glass is crazy, too. Between the two, I prefer the first kind of craziness.”
All of these traits suggest a person — Jesus. In the Incarnation, God, through His Son Jesus, embraced and blessed the smells, noises, messes, and craziness of the world. Rather than avoid them as places where God’s graces are not present, we’re invited to go and seek them aware that we’ll discover Jesus in the process. Somewhat ironically, as well, the church will see its oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity realized.
So, who wants to remain in this smelly, noisy, messy, and crazy tradition? I do. In fact, it’s what keeps me Catholic.

Daley is freelance writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School.  (The Catholic Telegraph, Sept 2013 Pg 24.)

Pope: Faith Not Ornamental, Means Making Tough Choices

Faith isn’t something decorative one adds to life, but is a commitment that involves making choices that may require sacrifice, Pope Francis said.
Faith “is not decorating your life with a bit of religion as if life were a cake that you decorate with cream,” the pope said Aug. 18 before reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.  Pope Francis’ Angelus address included an explanation of a passage from the day’s Gospel reading from Luke in which Jesus tells his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Jesus was telling his disciples that loving and serving God had t be the “basic criteria of life,”
Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered under the midday sun to pray with him. “Following Jesus means renouncing evil, selfishness and choosing goodness, truth and justice even when that requires sacrifice and renouncing our own interests.” Living a truly Christian life can lead to division, even within families, the pope said. “But attention: It’s not Jesus who divides. He sets out the criteria: Live for oneself or for God and others, ask to be served or serve; obey one’s ego or obey God -- it is in this sense that Jesus is a ‘sign of contradiction.”
When Jesus told his disciples he had come to “set the world on fire,” the pope said, "He was not authorizing the use of force to spread the faith." “Rather, it is the exact opposite: The true force of the Christian is the force of truth and love, which means renouncing the use of violence.” “Faith and violence are incompatible,” he said.
At the same time, Pope Francis said, “faith and strength go together. The Christian is not violent, but is strong. And with what strength? That of meekness -- the strength of meekness, the strength of love.”

Catholic News Service: VATICAN CITY (The Catholic Telegraph Sept 2013)