Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Antorcha Guadalupana arrives in New York

by Angélica Peña (English translation by Rebel Girl)

NEW YORK -- After 70 days and a 5,000 kilometer journey the pilgrimage of the Antorcha Guadalupana which left the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City arrived in St. Patrick's Cathedral in this city.

The "light of hope" left Mexico on October 3rd and went through dozens of towns before arriving in downtown Manhattan, gathering about 700 runners who joined in the relay that went from the state of New Jersey over the Washington Bridge into New York State.

The runners reached Central Park where they were received by local authorities and representatives of the Mexican government in New York.

Later, the torch was carried with groups of Mexican folk dancers through the streets of downtown Manhattan in low temperatures.

The fervor of faith was reflected in the expressions of those who surrounded the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego.

After the arrival of the torch and the images, a more than two hour long Mass began in which some 6,000 people participated, according to the coordinators of the event.

"Millions of Mexicans and devotees of the brown virgin are celebrating Her feast today, thousand of pilgrims have come to Her shrine in homage to Her, and millions of Catholics and non-Catholics are hearing about the miracles of the Mother," said Josu Iriando, bishop for the Bronx, who presided at the Mass.

Among the prayers offered during the ceremony, one stood out that was for immigrants who have lost their work and are going through difficult times because of the recession so that their faith will strengthen them to resist and overcome their situation.

The "Amen" in the church was unanimous after one of the petitions to the Virgin that referred to legislators in this country approving immigration reform soon.

Cristina Robinson, who lives in Houston and accompanied the entire journey of the torch, said that for seven years she has been part of the pilgrimage and that her motive is the struggle for immigration reform.

"We are seeking reform and for the families to be united. If our countrymen cannot go to see the Virgin, we bring Her to them," said Robinson.

Sandra Silva, the 20-year old captain of the relay, said that the hardest part was watching the people cry every time the Virgin left to continue Her trek, "I am sad too after being with Her for 40 days. I have a lot of faith in Her," she added.

The Tepeyac Association began the torch relay at a local level in 1998 and in 2002 decided to involve the communities of devotees both in Mexico and in the United States to create a pilgrimage that unites the two countries of the north.

"I am praying for us to have work and fair wages. I am sure that the Virgin will give us Her protection and help us to accomplish our goals," said Raul Parra who came from the town of Laguna Seca, in the Mexican state of Guerrero four years ago.

In the middle of the ceremony, dozens of children, mostly dressed as Juan Diego or the Virgin Mary, were blessed by the bishops.

After the Mass, the images and dancers walked several blocks to the front of the United Nations Headquarters where they danced in honor of the Virgin and from which dozens of lights of hope from the torch departed to different parishes in the city.

María de Guadalupe

This article is by Manuel Gómez Granados of the Instituto Mexicano de Doctrina Social Cristiana (12/12/2009). English translation by Rebel Girl.

We know little about Mary. The gospels don't tell us who her parents were, where she was born, how old she has been the artists, novelists, filmmakers, popular religion, the apocryphal gospels and the Church itself which have forged the image of Mary as a quiet, submissive and selfless woman.

The gospels, however, say something else. When the Angel announces to her that she will conceive a son, she shows herself to be mouthy: "How can this be since I have not known man?" (Luke 1:34)

Mary studied liberation theology, or at least it would appear so considering her option for the poor: "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty handed. (Luke 1:52-53)

Mary, always according to the gospel, was a woman of service and solidarity. In today's terms she would be a volunteer. When she realized her cousin Elizabeth was going to be a mother, she left everything and went to help her. (Luke 1:39-40)

Later, when Jesus was lost in the temple, Mary and Joseph "thinking that he was in the caravan, journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him." (Luke 2:44-45). Mary scolds her Son, while Joseph remains quiet and like a spectator, which shows that Mary was the leader of her household. Just like many Mexican mothers!

And what can we say about the wedding at Cana (John 2). She and Jesus were at a feast in which there was dancing, singing, drinking...they were happy! They sang, they danced! And Mary who was attentive to the needs of others says to Her Son: their wine has run out, help them.

Mary was brave. When they killed her Son because they considered Him to be dangerous to society and the government, She stayed near the Cross accompanied by the women and John (John 19). The other disciples were in hiding.

Mary revealed Herself to Mexicans as Guadalupe -- "She has not done anything similar with any other nation" -- our loving Mother, but with a firm, prayerful, hardworking, supportive character and with complete confidence in God. As She says to Juan Diego: "Am I not here who am your Mother? Do you need anything else?" She doesn't call Juan Diego to mere contemplation much less to laziness, but rather invites him to trust in God and do everything he is supposed to do: “a Dios rogando y con el mazo dando” ("praying to God and striking with the stick").

Today we celebrate Mary of Guadalupe, and beyond any arguments about whether She appeared or not, whether the cloak is painted or not, whether Juan Diego existed or not...the miracle of Mary of Guadalupe is that She continues to be a source of unity for all Mexicans and the base on which our hope rests. We can only celebrate Guadalupe by loving Her Son Jesus Christ and being in solidarity with the poor, but let us not fool ourselves -- solidarity is measured by reaching into our pockets.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Videos 12: Mañanitas a la Virgen

I'm imagining what it must be like today at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I've never been there (it's one dream that has yet to be fulfilled) and so my impressions come from this video of the 2007 celebration. What I like about this video is that you see priests, celebrities and just regular folks lucky enough to get inside the packed sanctuary all singing Las Mañanitas to our Mother on her feast day, the only distinction being that the professional singers get the microphones. Some day, I'll be among them...ojalá!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sr. Teresa Forcades and the H1N1 flu vaccine: The Comic Version

TV3's "Polónia" comedy show has produced a very funny skit about the arguments between Sr. Teresa and the Minister of Health over the safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine. I almost didn't post this video out of respect, but then I decided that you haven't really arrived as a cultural icon until people start lampooning you. And the actress who plays Sr. Teresa Forcades has clearly been studying videos of her because she has her hand gestures down pat.

Here is the official description of the video: "The Minister for Health, Marina Geli, holds a debate with the doctor and Benedictine nun Teresa Forcades about the safety of the Influenza A vaccine. Josep Cuní must make peace between them both." Enjoy!

Virgin of Guadalupe Videos 11: Maria de Guadalupe

The 11th song comes from the famous Chilean folk group Los Huasos de Algarrobal. The song says that through our baptism, we are all brothers and sisters and together are the Temple of God. It says that the promises of God for the poor and the hungry will be fulfilled.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pray for the Church in Colombia

At this time when we should be celebrating the coming of the Prince of Peace and when the Church is busier than ever with preparations for Christmas, we have received the sad news that the auxilliary bishop of Medellin Víctor Manuel Ochoa Cadavid (photo) has been forced to go into hiding as a result of having received a death threat. The threat came in the form of a "Christmas present" that included a picture of the bishop, bullets, and a threatening note that made reference to the assassination of another Colombian prelate, Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino of Cali back in 2002.

Mons. Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo, the Archbishop of Medellin, asked for prayers for Bishop Ochoa and his family and said that "we reject these acts and call on the authors of this threat to correct their way of thinking and change their way of acting." He added that "we continue to pray that we might experience a peaceful Christmas, with a true sense of respect for the life of every one of the inhabitants of this area of Colombia."

Another article in Milenio about the case reports that in the last 25 years, 68 priests and two bishops have been assassinated by various parties in the ongoing armed conflict in that country.

Jon Sobrino receives honorary doctorate from the University of Deusto

El Mundo

Theologian Jon Sobrino has defended the rights of "the crucified peoples", who anonymously suffer from poverty, lack of freedom and injustice in a "capitalist world based on egoism."

Speaking after being awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Deusto, Jon Sobrino, dedicated the honor he received to his six colleagues from the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), among whom was its rector Ignacio Ellacuría, and who were murdered in 1989 by the Salvadoran military along with two women.

These killings show, on the Day which commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "the expression of an inhuman world," denounced Sobrino.

The six Jesuits who were shot, "were murdered precisely for defending the crucified peoples" and demanding justice for them, and the two women who died with them represented "the innocence of those who have done nothing to deserve death," he reflected.

That mother and daughter who worked in the UCA, he argued, symbolized those who, like so many millions of people today who are poor and "bear the sin" of the injustice of a world that "annihilates them in life" and who after "an entire lifetime of suffering," die "cruelly and anonymously".

Therefore, Sobrino has claimed those two women as the personification of the most radical violation of human rights, that "reproduces Christ's Passion."

Sobrino reported that "among the perpetrators who ordered these executions, there were Christians and Democrats" so he said "I hope the Church and democracies are falling over themselves to give dignity to the majority who have borne the cross, as Christ did."

Thus, he defended "the utopia of the civilization of poverty" for which his companion Ellacuría advocated, to "try to overcome the present civilization of wealth", which is "the root of the injustice of this world, based in the accumulation of capital."

"A civilization of selfishness" exported "in the tradition of the United States" and that Sobrino has rejected, calling for the "universal satisfaction of basic needs as the principle of development and growth in shared solidarity."

He also warned of the fallacy of the "subliminal" use of the term "globalization" used from the United States to define an apparently equidistant global process, "when in reality that equidistance does not exist because the world is divided into oppressors and oppressed."

The Basque theologian called for reversing this situation and defending the rights of the "crucified peoples" but wondered who is defending these millions of anonymous poor around the globe today and "who is risking taking them down from the Cross", to confront the most powerful people and countries.

Jon Sobrino was born in Barcelona during the Civil War, but soon moved to live in Bilbao where he grew up and became a novice in the Society of Jesus.

In 1957 he was transferred to El Salvador and, after studying Philosophy, Masters degrees in Civil Engineering and Theology at prestigious universities in the United States and Germany, he continued his work in Latin America to date.

A collaborator with Monseñor Romero until his assassination, he tried to keep his voice alive, and has been a great promoter of liberation theology in his enormous work which includes more than thirty books, hundreds of articles and lectures in which the poor and disadvantaged are always his protagonists.

Advent Reflection 2: The Voice Crying in the Desert

I wish I lived in Springfield, VA so I could hear Rev. Luis Fernando Franco more often. He is the Colombian pastor for the Hispanic community at St. Bernadette's Catholic Church and is someone who hits the right notes more often than not. This is an English translation of his Advent reflection from the Boletin Interparroquial of 12/6/2009.

On the second Sunday of Advent, Luke begins the text of the gospel by reminding us that John the Baptist appeared at a specific moment in human history, the historical-geographical framework in which he developed. God's salvation is not something that happens on the margin of history, of daily life, of the problems, worries, hopes and joys of people. We have to prepare the way in our history today for the God who comes with the gift of salvation.

The Word of God is not addressed to the powerful of the earth. The Tiberiuses, Pilates, Herods are not qualified to receive it. Nor is the Word of God addressed to the men who live in the Temple, who don't live for God, but off of God. They are religious merchants. They speak about God but they don't listen to Him.

The Word, addressed to everyone, comes upon the one who doesn't belong to any hierarchy, who has neither money nor power, who gives witness to austerity and humility and who doesn't block its way. It comes in the desert, a place of silence, of reflexion, of a friendly encounter with God. The one who listens to the Word feels impelled to proclaim it, to spread the Good News. He can't keep it to himself.

John's words invite us to conversion, to a change of direction, to renew our faith, stretch our hearts, expand our hope, and to a commitment to build a better world for all. He announces a baptism of conversion which is not just a rite, but a real change of life.

Preparing the way is a program for us. Preparation is equalizing human relationships that must go from inequality to equality, from injustice to justice. Where there are mountains of arrogance, selfishness and injustice, let us put humility, solidarity and charity. Where there are hills of vanity, ambition and envy, let us put kindness, sincerity and forgiveness.

Do we make it possible for God to pass through our personal, family, work, religious and social lives? The salvation Jesus brings us is for everyone. To be able to receive it we must prepare the way and ask ourselves what things still have to be "smoothed out", "filled in", "made low", "straightened out", "leveled" our personal and communal paths.

Jesus brings you love, peace, freedom. You will see the salvation, you will be filled with salvation, you will feel saved. And now, what do you have to do? Well, become God's salvation for others! Smooth, straighten, and even out the scandalous inequalities that exist in the world.

God bless you.

Virgin of Guadalupe Videos 10: Señora Del Tepeyac

Another video by Takillakkta, the Peruvian choir whose name in Quechua means "song of the people". The singers commit themselves to Mary and ask that they be transformed to be more like Christ.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Feast of San Juan Diego

Today is the feast of San Juan Diego, the poor man to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared at Tepeyac. In honor of this day, here is a video of the two smallest members of Los Hermanos Mora-Arriaga singing "Juan Dieguito" at a Mass celebrated last year by Msgr. Agustín Román and Msgr. Pedro García at the Misión Santa Ana in Homestead, FL. The mission serves migrant farm workers in that part of Florida.

Welcome to Blogsphere, Fr. Allan!

Fr. Allan Deck, SJ, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church for the USCCB, and part of the Jesuit team who celebrate the Spanish language Mass at St. Ann's has just started a blog.

Today, he's inviting everyone to register for the 2010 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering at which he will be speaking. The gathering will take place February 7-10, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If you register online by December 15, you can get the "early bird" rate of $260/week. After the 15th, the cost goes up to $310. This does not include hotel accommodations. Early registration is an act of faith since, according to the Web site, the full conference program will not be available until January...

Immigration News Roundup - December 9, 2009

1. All of us count in God's eyes: This is one of the two religious-themed posters in Spanish being circulated to encourage Hispanic faithful to participate in the 2010 Census. The posters direct viewers to the bilingual Ya Es Hora Web site, which has information on the Census, registering to vote, and becoming a U.S. citizen. You can download these posters in PDF format for use in your ministry:

2. National Migration Week: The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Migration Week (en español) on January 3-9, 2010. The theme this year will again be “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice,” although the focus will be migrant and refugee children, following the lead of the Pope Benedict XVI, who has chosen the theme “Minor Migrants and Refugees” for the 2010 World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The National Migration Week Web site has a number of resources including:

3. Coverage Without Borders: Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, has written an op ed piece in this Monday's New York Times supporting extending health care to undocumented immigrants. Says Cardinal Mahony:

...It makes no sense to deny this large population necessary health care services. It certainly does not help Americans as a whole to remain healthy when millions of people, including schoolchildren, cannot get basic preventive care like immunizations and medications.

When undocumented immigrants are intentionally excluded from health care coverage, they are forced to go to the only place where they will be accepted for care: trauma centers and emergency rooms — the most expensive health care delivery systems in the country. What a foolish waste of money, particularly in a time of economic stress for everyone.

Using their own money, undocumented immigrants could receive basic health services through less expensive community clinics and doctors’ offices. Studies have shown that immigrants are generally younger and healthier than citizens, and use health care facilities and resources less frequently. Giving them access to less costly preventive care would help keep them that way. And by paying into the system, immigrants would make health care less pricey for all by spreading the risks and costs among a larger pool of participants...

4. An Undesirable Inheritance: An article in today's Washington Post cites a study finding that forty percent -- or 3.3 million of U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants -- have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant, mostly from Mexico or Central America. "The most immediate result has been a substantial increase in the number of American children growing up in poverty. Partly because illegal immigrants tend to have low levels of education and partly because their immigration status makes it harder to move up the job ladder, their U.S.-born children are almost twice as likely to be poor as the children of legal immigrants or native parents, the Pew Hispanic Center found."

5. Denver University report says legalizing undocumented immigrants beneficial to US: The Associated Press reports that a University of Denver study argues that legalizing as many of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants as possible could strengthen the economy and national security. But it should come with conditions, such as requiring new immigrants to learn English, pass criminal and medical background checks, and pay any taxes that they owe, the document states.

The 20-member panel that produced the study, Architecture for Immigration Reform: Fitting the Pieces of Public Policy, met with more than 30 experts in law enforcement, labor union leadership, governance, academics and business. Speakers included immigration experts; Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and former Govs. Dick Lamm and Bill Owens; a state attorney general; a U.S. attorney; and leaders in venture capital, education and health care. Its extensive policy recommendations are being sent to the Legislature and members of Congress. "In my opinion it is absolutely critical that we bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows," said Polly Baca, a panel member and former Colorado state senator. "That to me is the most important part of the report."

Virgin of Guadalupe Videos 9: Mi Morenita

A singer-songwriter from Cancun, Jorge "El Pelón" Correa is also the author of Niños de Guerra "Un Grito a la Libertad". His first CD, De Pura Suerte (La Chicharra Music, 2008) includes a special song devoted to firefighters, "Casta de Valientes". El Pelón's song, "Mi Morenita", speaks to a Mary who makes no distinctions of social class, but who is the ultimate recourse of the poor against the violence that plagues their lives. The video has a technical flaw, a slight pause in it. Wait through it; it's worth it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A conversation on Benedictine spirituality and prayer with Sr. Teresa Forcades

This is an English translation of an interview in Catalan with Sr. Teresa Forcades, "Si no et coneixes a tu, Déu no et troba a casa, Déu te l'inventes": Conversa amb Teresa Forcades, which appeared in the Franciscan publication Recerca, no. 44, 2009, pp. 14-28.

Teresa Forcades i Vila (Barcelona, 1966) is a doctor, theologian and nun. Bachelor’s in Medicine (1990); went to the United States to pursue medical studies and also studied Theology for a Master’s of Divinity at Harvard (1997). She also has a Bachelor’s in Fundamental Theology from the Institute of Fundamental Theology of Sant Cugat. She devoted her PhD thesis in Public Health to alternative medicine and undergraduate thesis in Theology to the Trinity. She entered the Monastery of St. Benedict of Montserrat in 1997 and made her solemn profession in 2003. She combines monastic life with medical research, conferences, seminars and courses in her specialty, feminist theology.

She recently defended her doctoral thesis titled: “Being a person today: a study of the concept of "person" in classical Trinitarian theology and its relation to the modern notion of freedom”.

In a really calm setting amid the mountains of Montserrat, the Monastery of St. Benedict appears. It’s already evening and the cool air and enveloping silence really invite one to pray, to contemplate…Vespers is approaching and it is a while before we find Teresa: a warm welcome, introductions…In the chapter room , we begin the conversation, which reveals both the simplicity and the wisdom of our speaker…and the Benedictine peace…

Teresa, for you, is the spiritual experience sudden? And if not, how can it be promoted? How do you discern whether an experience is from God?

There are spiritual experiences that are sudden and ones that are not. Sometimes what I feel is that there is something that has been gestating within me. I somehow have the notion of "something" that opens up, but which I can not put a name or face to and, as such, I can’t say in the end if it is imaginary or something real. But the experience is there, as an interior process, then in a moment of prayer, sometimes it manifests itself, it is born, it is a sort of part within where you say: "I already knew that ...!”. I have experienced this continuity and I think it is part of the way God is manifested. But other times – you were speaking about sudden experience – the experience I've had is of something that has surprised me, that seems to me like it is coming from outside. Then I say: "God said to me, Jesus said to me." That does not mean I have heard words like those I am now pronouncing, but an interior impact or an inner softness united to the conviction that God speaks to you, such as the moment when they told me that I could not to do a doctorate in theology because I had studied at a Protestant university and they were not going to validate it and I had to start from scratch. When that happened to me it was hard because I was in a sensitive period in my monastic training and I had not yet found my place. The experience of prayer in that context was as if Jesus were telling me: “Don’t cry, nothing is happening. If you can’t do the doctorate in Theology, do it in Medicine.” And I was thinking: “This is a monastery. I can’t do a doctorate in Medicine in a monastery." Then I went to talk with the abbess, but not with the intention to put it forward, but simply because it is very good if you are able to express things of the spirit to another person. This is for me a very useful and simple criterion of spiritual discernment : express what you feel to someone else, and suddenly, the other no longer needs to tell you anything. The very fact of expressing what you are bearing inside dilutes it. It was like an inner ghost, something that when put into words and expressed to someone else loses substance and then the other is there to listen and you tell them "well, really, I now see that…” Other times it's not like that and what you had inside gains strength when it is expressed. When I spoke to the abbess about the possibility of a doctorate in Medicine, she said to me: "Fantastic! And what are you going to do it on?”

Another criterion of spiritual discernment is openness; I think St. Ignatius has said: the evil spirit is always compulsive. It imposes itself, it is violent, rigid. Of course it may be true, but I’m suspicious when someone says: "God grabbed me by the hair and took me to the monastery!” God calls us and His call may have great strength and great urgency -- I had experienced it like this; but even in the force and urgency, God is always gentle. I can experience that God is dragging me violently and that God could allow me to experience it that way, because there is a pedagogy that respects my freedom. There is a process. The spiritual experience of another cannot be judged. But from my experience, I would highlight God’s gentleness, which can also make us ignore Him: "Look, I'm at the door and knocking, if anyone listens and opens the door to Me, I will come into their home and eat with them…”

And if I don’t listen to you? Then I’m not going to come in or eat. Why? Don’t You have the power? I have all the power, but what sense is there in exerting it if it’s not through love, what sense does love have if it is not coresponsible, not reciprocal? It’s a dialogue, isn’t it? I’ve already put in my part but ... and you? The key that opens the door to the heart is inside. And this is always a sudden experience, because many times it leaves you in doubt. You say: “Yes, but does that mean that this is what God wants?” I think that doubt makes us human, because it makes you realize your vulnerability and it makes you realize that you may be wrong, that you don’t know it all. And this, experienced confidently, puts you in a life space where you breathe and those around you too. And it is not incompatible with prophecy, because in the testimonies of prophecy in the Bible itself there is already a struggle, a kind of saying: “What do you want of me? I can’t…I am not the one…” It is a Biblical language that can translate this inner feeling: “Does this mean that we are on the right track here?” I don’t see this as a weakness but as a humanization, because it humanizes us to the extent that we open ourselves in trust. In that sense there would be yet another criterion for me: intercession. The experience of God could lead you to speak a word, to express a difficult subject in the community itself; this should always be done from an inner desire for everyone to emerge as a winner, even though you might make decisions that are painful for you or for others that are inspired by God, but the way you live them out cannot be negative or vengeful. However, the human psyche can make you see it as magnificent and it even appears in the Bible as a good thing: “the vengeance of God.” But the prophets, who are the great denouncers, are also those who know how to say: “No, wait!” or like Jesus: “Don’t uproot the fig tree.” The crushed reed: We don’t break it! However, the most practical is to break it and go find another…But what characterized the Spirit of God is this spirit of recycling; what seems weak is perhaps the strongest, a crushed reed perhaps has more resilience and resistance than the one that has never been crushed.

I came to St. Benedict’s loaded with medical books and I settled into one of the cells in the inn to study. When the bells rang for going to Vespers, already on the first day, I felt an emotion within me that I couldn’t define. Those bells called out to me in a surprisingly personal way. I came down for Vespers and Compline, then Matins the next day (which are at 6 in the morning), Lauds, Mass, Sext…What was happening to me? I looked at the nuns in the choir (…) “Do you imagine yourself living like that?” When the nuns left the choir, I stayed a long time looking at the Christ in the large window without saying anything, without thinking anything, without feeling anything (…) Once this had been going on for two weeks, I decided to climb up to Montserrat (the sanctuary) to buy myself the Rule of Saint Benedict, to see what it said. I read it straight through and I discovered to my great surprise and astonishment that I had a Benedictine vocation (…)

I don’t know how but, little by little, a great trust in God was growing in me and a feeling of radical freedom that I had never experienced before. A great surprise, a great liberation and a feeling of wanting to pour out my whole present, past and future at the feet of the One who loves so much. I don’t know, it’s hard to express. It’s like a need to adore, to remain in awe for all eternity…(*)

Tell us about aridity during prayer. What do you do when you pray? How do you pray?

I do what I can. I can share an experience that has been important. Something I started to do when I felt…, the minutes went by, an hour and a half of Lectio became an eternity…What do I do? So something came out of me spontaneously that I later saw had an official name: focusing. It is a more psychological than spiritual technique developed by a psychiatrist from Chicago and there are courses on it. When I read about it in a book, I said: “It seems to me that I do that!” Independently of the name, I discovered that I tended to fill this aridity with mental investigations, a sort of examination of conscience, a closed circuit that makes you nervous and is not experienced as anything that has to do with the joy of the Spirit, the transformation of the heart; it was heavy, closed in, it even burdened the mind. So the thing is decanted by starting the prayer session by asking myself: “How am I?” And that presupposes that I don’t know how I am – you're supposed to know it – but you really don’t know it; the truth is that I have no idea, I can be sad and not know it, I can be anxious and not realize it, others might have noticed, but me…

Before entering the monastery I thought I liked to pray a lot. Whenever I went on retreat I always felt caught up in the experience of God and I felt a deep and quiet yearning for silence and solitude, I saw an unattainable space within myself and I felt called to immerse myself ever more freely (…) After entering, things changed a bit. The expectations were not met. Instead I felt my own emptiness, the seeming absurdity of praying when one doesn’t feel like it and not being able to distract oneself with anything until the end of an hour and a half that seemed eternal. (*)

The interview is interrupted because the bells ring. And we find ourselves at Vespers, a time to share prayer with all the sisters, an insistent psalmody from the choir to the great window that is long, wide and deep, of an angular Christ, the somber cut of rocks, pine trees and four stars that gaze upon us…

And in the chapter room, we take up the conversation with Teresa again …Now she tells us about personal mystical experience during liturgy…

I had experienced participating in liturgical prayer and having an experience of God during communal liturgy here in my monastery and something happened to me similar to Focusing: this summer, in Germany, I read Matilde de Hackeborn, a medieval Cistercian mystic who explains her prayer life and talks about her experiences of God during community celebrations. The commentator on the book, a Spanish Benedictine, says that experiencing God in the midst of liturgy is characteristic of Benedictine spirituality.

For me the experience happens with a sudden awareness during the Eucharist or other moments of prayer in the choir: “Ah! God is here.” The community exists, I am here and here God is speaking to me in as specific and personal a way as if I were experiencing God in solitude, but it is in the midst of liturgy and the community and it doesn’t alienate you from the celebration or make you want to walk away; on the contrary, you want the celebration to last forever. Suddenly a bit of Gospel or some other text from the Scriptures is proclaimed that you have heard a thousand times and it is useful to you, it fills you, touches you. Sometimes it’s just a word: heaven, kindness, forgiveness, glory…You receive it in the midst of the community, with those who are present, those who are absent, and all of Creation. It’s a foretaste of a heaven that is even better than the sky up there. And it has nothing to do with the formal perfection of the celebration. Sometimes it can happen on the day when the top singers aren’t there and everything is just going along as it can and they are even out of tune.

And that interesting point you started to explain to us about “how am I”?...

To ask myself “how am I?” presupposes and exposes my own ignorance of my inner state and the little value of what I can think or deduce through logic. It’s not about developing a satisfactory response at the intellectual level, but looking for a response in physicality, in the physical body, describing bodily sensations. How am I? Sometimes languidness, sadness emerge in you…But where is that?...In the belly, the chest, the legs?...What color is it? How is it shaped? Is it pointed, is it round?...The feeling was that this spontaneous thing that was coming out of me led to an inner dialogue capable of breaking the closed mental circuits and establishing new associations. Then, through these images, the whole analogical part of the brain is stimulated -- I’m theorizing now – that is different from the logical one. Ideas can be preconceptions that block, because you have things that you understand, but you are much more than what you know. St. Augustine says that the mystery is not just God, it is that we are a mystery to ourselves. I think this kind of inner dialogue with my own body helps me to stimulate, to open up; first I identify or perceive a sensation of inner malaise and when I approach it through the colors or shapes, I no longer have to ask myself the meaning of what I am doing because I experience something new, alive. This exploration of one’s own inner state can be related to the passage in the Gospel where Jesus meets Zacchaeus and says to him: “Today I am coming to your house.” Well then, God always comes looking for us in our home but we ourselves are not at home. So how do you want us to meet? It’s that God doesn’t come, we complain. No, you’re the one who doesn’t come!...You are not at home. You are…I don’t know where you are…You are not in yourself. You are not in your moment. And God is always there in your moment. I am with you always, God says, “I will be with you, day after day, until the end of time.”…It’s you who has gone away and I don’t know where you are!....

It’s what St. Augustine says: “I looked for you outside and you were within…” He says it in the Confessions: “O Beauty so ancient and so new, I found you late. I sought You outside and You were within me, but I was not in me.” This technique I was talking about – it must be one among thousands – since no one told me about it but I found it, has been especially interesting to me, a sort of scientific investigation or adventure; I lost the tedium of saying “God is good…God is here…” This is magnificent but it can be awful if you are experiencing it from outside. The best phrases, the best expressions can be absolutely dead letters…

When you get to the place of pain, what happens there…?

It’s not always the same, but there can be an emotional reaction of liberation, the discomfort disappears with a sort of crying, all in all rather brief but it can be intense, and it gives way to a different inner feeling that allows one to breathe more deeply, then a prayer of thanksgiving, a tenderness, the place of love for God and others emerge. As you listen to this living interiority, it no longer seems that you are talking to the wall but that there is a Presence there but that, obviously, it has happened through entering into a specific emotional state and the answer emerges from this entering into the body. For example, a sister looked at me wrong or said something to me and I had not wanted to answer or it didn’t come out of me and I stayed annoyed. This might have happened this morning but I have gone on with my life and at the moment of prayer in the evening, I don’t remember it consciously. Then, when I do this kind of exercise, I discover a pain in the neck, I concentrate on the color…the shape; it’s a real dialogue with a physical part…and it is accompanied by a bit of illusion, cognitive illumination. I see the face of the sister and the word that didn’t come out of me in the morning now comes out and it can lead you to talk to that sister. Now we are touching a living part. And this is explaining it rapidly, but it goes little by little and each time it’s different.

Prayer is not repeating phrases but it’s like a discovery, a real dialogue that brings something new and this can often be the starting point for me, and then the texts of the day which, supposedly, are what we have to do, but it is nothing rigid. I find looking at the readings very rich. Normally I do those for the next day, since we do Lectio after Vespers (an hour and a half) and, as such, the next day’s Mass is what I prepare. And it is good for me to do these daily readings in other languages, because they repeat themselves and this is what happens with formulas: you feel the most marvelous thing, but you no longer read it; you know it by heart and when you start, you are already at the end and you lose the nuances and all…So, since I am studying German – because I am spending some time in Germany – doing it in that language or in the original languages is good for me. It’s what St. Ignatius says too, that when you find an image, something that resonates, you stay there. It’s not about doing duties but staying with what resonates in you. The monastic tradition talks about lectio, meditatio, and contemplatio. Lectio is relaxed reading, letting it in, letting yourself be affected; meditatio is when you stop and try to delve deeper cognitively into some aspect of what you have read; and contemplatio is when you let it strike your heart. In contemplatio you don’t read (lectio) or think (meditatio). You do what St. Teresa says: love and let yourself be loved. For me contemplatio has to do with novelty, the novelty of having let yourself be affected by the gentleness of God, His kindness, His truth, His Presence.

The most practical and striking aspect of the liturgy for me as we experience it in the monastery is its frequency (…) Halfway through an article or halfway through a paragraph: ding, dong, ding, dong…the bells ring. Sometimes they annoy me, but most of the time, even though I leave in the middle of fascinating work, they are liberating for me – they free me from my own passions or an excessive identification with the work I am doing; they make me lighten up, they tell me that my efforts don’t have the last word (…) they invite me to linger, to open a free space within myself, at a distance from what I have in my hands (…) But it isn’t just a free space, but rather – as liturgy always is – a place of solidarity, of communion. It is not an empty space into which I retreat to rest, but rather a space that opens me to others (*)

And how is the fraternal relationship involved in your prayer? What is the relationship between God, the sisters, and prayer?

It’s what I said about the knots in the throat…In that sense, this would be another example: One day when I was praying at the hour of lectio, I read Jn. 17, Jesus’ farewell speech, and I lingered on the verse that says: “Father, I want them to be where I am.” Jesus is asking that all the disciples – who are about to betray Him (He already knows this, and in the earlier paragraph has already said “how long will I have to endure you?”) – be where He is. I suddenly thought: is this what I’m asking for? Do I really want my sisters to be where I am? Do I really want them to be in the middle of my relationship with God?

Then I realized that I was experiencing a way of relating to God that was: “Well, I’ve now done the duties. I have supported the sisters and now comes the prize which is the relationship with God.” But…it’s not that…the “prize” – intimacy with God – should also include them. What are you saying now? I’m going to have to be with them in eternal life? I remembered chapter 72 of the Rule of St. Benedict which says “let the monks endure one another’s infirmities, both physical and moral, with great patience.” That bit I already knew, but then it occurred to me that Chapter 72 continues “and may God bring us all together to life everlasting.” That is God’s promise and our faith: that God is love means that by living with this one and that one and the other one…an ever more loving relationship ever freer in the Spirit of God, you experience the greatest happiness, the greatest fulfillment…It’s clear that it is forever! But this “forever” doesn’t have the negative connotation of “this difficult and painful life together today is for all of eternity.” It’s the other way round: “The fullness of Heaven is already in some way here among us.” It means that God’s love is already in these specific sisters and in you in spite of your defects and theirs…the plenitude of the beyond that begins here. Relationships are always a challenge and when you acknowledge the difficulties before God, when you are praying, each difficulty can make you discover an aspect of yourself, it can put you before God at a point that is more truthful – one’s self-knowledge grows, which cannot be separated from the knowledge of God. If you don’t know yourself, God doesn’t find you at home, you are inventing God.

Speaking of fraternal or communal relationships, I was thinking of the model you propose in Trinitarian anthropology…How does this model fit in and what problems are there in applying it to these relationships you experience in community?

Viewing a person in a Trinitarian key is equivalent to believing that there is no excuse not to love. In the person of the Spirit I experience love as reciprocity. I give to you, you give to me. It is joyful love. But what happens if I give to you and you don’t give to me? Then Love is not so happy now, but you can also experience it in the figure of the Father who is pure gift.

Pure gift only has meaning if lived in a spirit of reciprocity. If you give and you fence yourself off from receiving, it isn’t love.

But there are times when, being at the point of reciprocity, you receive nothing – this is the love of pure gift and it is kept in the Father’s breast until it finds its fulfillment some day. The same thing happens if you receive without giving, without giving of yourself or returning Love: this is not very happy Love either, if you don’t give because of stinginess, because you don’t want to, you don’t love; but sometimes you don’t give or you don’t give of yourself because you can’t, because you don’t know better; that is the Love of poverty, the Love of pure receiving which stays in the breast of the Son -- who identified Himself with the poor --until it finds fulfillment one day. The commandment to love is forever, not just for Sundays or feast days…it’s for every day and every situation. Without exception. You extend your hand, if the other doesn’t take it: pure donation; you continue to extend it, if the other takes it: reciprocity of love! And if it’s you who can’t make the gesture of extending the hand? Accepting this poverty contributes to Love more than you think. Pure receiving is what disturbs us the most because we think: Love is always “giving”. Always? And the act of asking for forgiveness? Is asking for forgiveness love? You tell me! To ask forgiveness, if it is sincere, is an act of love, but it is not an act of giving something. You, when you ask forgiveness, are going to receive, like a poor person, with empty hands, saying: “I don’t have what you have and I will only have it if you give it to me (your forgiveness). We can always do this. Even though you say “I have nothing to give”…well then, receive, but receive in the sense of opening yourself to your poverty, acknowledge your poverty…Sometimes I use the older sisters in the house as an example, like Maria Nativitat, who died at 100 and when I would help put her to bed she would say to me: “This body no longer heeds me in anything, it’s as if it weren’t mine, but it is mine and I love it!” M. Nativitat experienced her helplessness from a place that made her luminous. I still remember it today and that was five years ago now and I will always remember it.

I think that the Love of pure receiving is the most interesting. It’s what Jesus came to reveal to us. Jesus came to call the sick, the sinners, the poor. I think this is the challenge, the secret, the hidden pearl for which it is worth selling everything: to be able to live from this core of filial trust. To learn to receive, to be poor.

We say: But what if I don’t have anything…I have nothing…Don’t worry, if you don’t have anything, open yourself to the gift. And what if the gift doesn’t come? Woman of little faith! If you only knew what God wants to give you! That is faith, which always comes to the body and goes through the body, through the specific. The coming of the Spirit is guaranteed, God gives it to us by the handful, but the plenitude of the Spirit -- as in the case of Jesus and many saints -- may coexist with a life journey that appears to be a failure. The gift of the Spirit means God’s Providence. To have faith is to believe that in any circumstance in your life you can make a gesture of love and nothing more is asked of you. And that is possible because you believe in Providence. I can, because God promised me I could, because I trust in something we call Providence, which means that God will never abandon you and, if He does not abandon you, it means that at any moment His life that is His spirit will be present in you, and you will have the option to stifle it (1 Te 5:19: “Don’t stifle the spirit”) or let it express itself.

If you let it express itself, love will express itself because God is Love, the Spirit is love, and through Love there will be freedom and the feeling that you are the one who is living your life.

And then, St. Paul says: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” I don’t want what I called “me” to come back, says Paul, because I am more “me” now that it is not I who lives in me than when it was thought to be “me”. It is not a word game. Christification brings you to your core and at the same time it opens you to a deep relational dynamic that makes you say: Of course I am me! I am me more than ever! But, at the same time: You in me, I in You…Menein, that Greek verb that means “to remain” (he who remains in me): “Remain in the love I have for you” and “I am in the Father, I remain in the Father and the Father in Me…” Menein is the main verb in the Gospel of John, which is the gospel that reveals the Trinitarian perichoresis. This word “perichoresis” is used to express the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. It comes from the Greek word “choreio”, which means “to make room for” but the “peri” is also interesting, which means “around”; after all, isn’t love making room for the other within me? Of course it is! But it’s even lovelier to think that love is making room around the other: I love you when I let you be. I distance myself, not because I don’t want you to touch me or because I am frightened…but because I want you to be what you are called to be, whether I have a role to play in your unfolding or not…

It’s the same as when God created…

Ah….yes!...That’s why love has to do with freedom, because when you love and are loved you create spaces for freedom, not understood as separation but as “I’m letting you be yourself”, I don’t want to invade you, I don’t want to devour you. By making this gesture which makes us take a step back, we achieve the greatest intimacy; letting the other be, love that is no longer possessive, that is always discrete…Do you want to come?...

Gratuity is giving without demanding or contempt, it’s receiving without being able to give back and it’s sharing. It’s doing like the Father, the Son and the Spirit. It’s loving. And it includes freedom, it includes the best of freedom, the sense that no one can force you to give of yourself, to receive or share yourself (…) God could not oblige the Israelites to say Yes, in the same way as He cannot oblige us to love. We can live under the Law with thankfulness or we can live reluctantly, but we cannot choose the Law. We can live our reality as communitarian beings with thankfulness or reluctantly, but we cannot choose our reality. We are communion and only in giving, receiving and sharing do we find our happiness.(*)

(*) FORCADES i VILA, Teresa: Experiències de fe. La llibertat com a comunicació d’amor. Quadern 21, Espai Obert. Ed. Claret. Barcelona, 2006


- «Una perspectiva feminista dels orígens cristians», Espai Obert 2002)

- «La funció dels laics/ques a l’Església d’avui». Qüestions de vida cristiana (gener 2003)

- «Valors femenins emergents», Espai Obert, quadern 5 (Segona etapa). Ed. Claret, 2003.

- «La salut com a religió. La religió com a teràpia». Qüestions de vida cristiana, núm. 215. (Agost, 2004).

- «Evangeli i sagraments», Espai Obert. Ed. Claret, 2005.

- «La diversificación de la espiritualidad». Iglesia Viva, nº 222, Abril-Junio 2005.

- «Els crims de les grans companyies farmacèutiques». Quaderns Cristianisme i Justícia. Barcelona, 2006.

- La Trinitat, avui. Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat. Novembre, 2005.

- Experiències de fe. La llibertat com a comunicació d’amor, Espai Obert, quadern 21. Ed. Claret, Barcelona, 2006.

- La teologia feminista en la història. Ed. Fragmenta. Barcelona, 2007.

Advent Reflection 1: Christmas: God makes Himself known ...

Here is Dom Luiz Carlos Eccel's marvelous and simple Advent pastoral reflection, Natal: Deus se dá a conhecer..., in English:

God reveals Himself only to the little ones who have a pure and simple heart and who seek Him with a sincere heart.

Who could imagine that the Most High God Almighty, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, would choose this way to reveal Himself to His loved ones? It was in a cave in Bethlehem, where the animals were kept by the shepherds.

God is Love, says the Apostle and Evangelist St. John. And Francis of Assisi, the creator of the second manger -- because the first was in Bethlehem, about two thousand years ago -- says: "Love is creative." True love is creative and simple: The God of Love reveals Himself to His beloved in such a simple form that many people have difficulty accepting it. Only the simple and humble of heart can understand, recognize and accept it.

Moreover, the Eternal and Glorious God chose simple and humble people, but of great soul and pure heart, to pitch His tent among us.

His first tent was the womb of the Virgin Mary of Nazareth, His mother.

Then He chose the humble home in Nazareth, forming the Holy Family, made up of Himself, Mary and Joseph.

When he turned 30, His tent became all the families who welcomed Him.

Today His tent is the tabernacles in all churches and especially the living shrine that is the heart of people of faith.

His favorite tent will always be the humble and simple ones, the heart of the little ones as it is written in the Holy Gospel.

The Psalmist has also already said that God is revealed to the humble and simple ones who seek Him with a sincere heart, with whom He identifies, and that He looks away from the arrogant and the proud, who seek their own destruction through idolatry of possessions, power and pleasure.

Let's be collaborators of the God of Love, who revealed Himself in Jesus from the womb of Holy Mary, allowing our hearts to be simple and welcoming, tender and fraternal, supportive and warm as the cave in Bethlehem. In so doing, God will continue His mission of making Himself known to His loved ones, giving them His saving love.

All we have to do is love God above all things, as the first commandment of God's law teaches us. He is pure Love. Only when we love Him above everything and everyone can we love everything and everyone with His Holy love, that is true and therefore liberating. It is like receiving the teaching of Jesus: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be added unto you."

Only the love that unfolds in concrete acts of solidarity and fraternal sharing is what will create among us the Christmas that is life with dignity for all God's beloved and that will save the world. Help us in this mission of the first living temple of God -- Holy Mary and St. Joseph too.

Have a holy and merry Christmas and a New Year full of God's grace. Amen.

Virgin of Guadalupe Videos 8: La Inmaculada Concepción

This is not strictly speaking a Guadalupe video but we are taking a little break to honor the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and this video with a soundtrack of The Magnificat does a pretty good job of explaining the history of this dogma and devotion in Spanish.

There are a lot of miconceptions about what "Immaculate Conception" means so, before going to the video, we would like to include these paragraphs from Catholic Answers:

The Immaculate Conception

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.

When discussing the Immaculate Conception, an implicit reference may be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. The angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. It therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary.

The traditional translation, "full of grace," is better than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter." Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for "daughter"). The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind. Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning "to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present. So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit. In fact, Catholics hold, it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pope Celebrates 25 Years of Diss-ing Liberation Theology

This week Pope Benedict XVI met with the bishops of Regions 3 and 4 of Brazil during their ad limina visit to the Vatican. He used the opportunity to recall the 25th anniversary of the instruction on liberation theology, Libertatis nuntius, which he issued when he was still prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document, the Pope reminded the bishops, "highlights the danger involved in the uncritical absorption, by certain theologians, of theses and methodologies that come from Marxism." He warned that the “more or less visible” scars of Marxist liberation theology, such as “rebellion, division, dissent, offenses, anarchy, are still being felt, causing great suffering and a grave loss of dynamic strength in your diocesan communities.” He urged all those who in some way feel attracted or affected by “certain deceitful principles of liberation theology” to re-visit the instruction and be open to the light that it can shed on the subject.

At least one observant journalist covering the audience did not believe that the Pope's words were coincidental. This person believes that His Holiness was specifically targeting Msgr. Luiz Carlos Eccel, the 57-year old bishop of Caçador, who has been an open and prominent defender of liberation theology. The author mentions in particular Bishop Eccel's Easter message to the faithful issued in March 2007 just before Aparecida:
Páscoa e teologia da libertação. We had never read this powerful pastoral letter and thank the anonymous author of the Religion en Libertad article for bringing it to our attention. Here is the English translation:

Easter and Liberation Theology

by Dom Luiz C. Eccel, Bishop of Caçador, Brasil, March 2007 (English translation by Rebel Girl)

I hear many people speak well and others not so well of liberation theology.

I don't own the truth, but from my experience I can state categorically that theology is liberating or it is not theology. Jesus became human to liberate humankind from all bondage. To deny liberation theology is to deny Jesus Christ, His gospel, His mission: "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all."

"He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.'" (Luke 4:14-19)

That is the foundation of the theology of liberation.

The true followers of Jesus do not have to ask themselves, in the mission, whether or not they are pleasing men, but rather God (cf. Gal 1:10).

"But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please human beings,but rather God, who judges our hearts." (1 Thess 2:4).

To evangelize means to do and teach as Jesus did and taught, putting our trust in Him.

Christianity, as Archbishop Oscar Romero said so well, is not a set of truths to be accepted or laws to be fulfilled. Christianity, above all, is a Person, Jesus Christ, who loves us and wants our love which should take the form of service to all people, but especially to the poor, the suffering and the excluded (Matt. 25:31 ff).

The theme of the Fifth CELAM is: "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus, so that all people may have life in Him."

Pope Benedict XVI was very happy to choose the theme, as Jesus said, "I came that they may have life." (Jn 10:10).

In Latin America, the Caribbean and in many other countries, a crowd of people live on the margins of the life that God wants for everyone and not only for the privileged few.

Thus it is more than logical that the Aparecida Conference will be faithful to Jesus Christ the Liberator, taking on an even greater commitment to being at the service of the favorites of God, the poor, who cry out for a life with dignity. The preferential option for the poor is an essential characteristic of our Church, especially the bishops' conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean. Who will have the courage to grieve the Spirit of God by distorting that which makes our Church noble?

Obviously no one wants to massacre the rich, but rather the sinful structures that create a privileged few at the expense of suffering and blood of an impoverished majority, that increase capital in the world, accumulated in the hands of a few. We are never on the side of poverty, but of the poor and with them, and with the certainty that the Lord is with us, we seek to do His Holy Will: Life for all people and not just for some individuals.

If we have risen with Christ we are new creatures, detached from all idolatry of possessions, power and pleasure, the source of death.

Risen with Christ, our mission is to commit ourselves like Him to the service of life, building a just and egalitarian society, without excluding anyone.

This task is urgent. Let us not run the risk of hearing the Lord say: "You were running well; who hindered you from following the truth?"(Galatians 5:7).

Let us assume the mission with courage so that on "that day" we will hear: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Mt 25:34).

It is clear that the task of fighting so that in Christ all people will have life goes beyond doctrines and laws, beyond the distribution of crumbs or purses ... It is to break definitively with the inequality that generates death and with the chains of injustice.

The fundamental reason that drives us to this mission comes from faith in the person of Jesus who conquered the world (Jn 16:33).

Early Vocations: Christmas toy ideas

It's never too early to get your child thinking about a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. Why not put the idea in their tiny minds before they have even made their first communion? has just the gift your little darling needs to shore up his/her commitment to the Catholic Church. Designed for ages 3-8 (according to the company Web site) are two huggable plush vocations dolls ($29.99 each). They come complete with booklets about their lives and must have been especially designed to encourage minority vocations. The priest doll is Fr. Juan Pablo (...he looks kinda like this Spanish priest who comes over every summer to give lectures in our diocese...) and the nun is a morenita named Sr. Mary Clara (in a traditional habit, of course!).

The same company produces a "Mass kit" ($76.49 on sale) for little boys who want to play priest (though no one says that you can't buy it for your daughters...hint, hint...) and next year they will be issuing the "My Quiet Church kit" which will eventually include "accessory kits for baptisms, weddings, first communions" and other sacraments. I am waiting for them to issue an ordination kit...

From the company's press release: "'Our hope is that by playing with the Vocation Dolls, children will grow in virtue with a deeper understanding of their Catholic faith,' says Steve Abdalla, co-founder of Wee Believers. 'We pray that the Holy Spirit will use these dolls to call more men and women to the consecrated religious life.'...children who play with toy mass kits and dolls which represent the consecrated life may have their hearts opened to God’s call to become a priest or a Religious Sister. Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, recently shared how a toy mass kit he was given as a young boy first inspired him to the priesthood..."

Well, considering the problems we have had over the years with Archbishop Burke and his extremely rigid brand of Catholicism, we wonder what will come next in the production line. Perhaps an "Inquisition kit"???

Virgin of Guadalupe Videos 7: La reina del cielo (Vives en mi corazon)

We continue our series of Guadalupe videos -- one every day December 1-12 -- a bouquet of "roses" in honor of Our Lady, with another video highlighting the Virgin of Guadalupe's role as protector of immigrants. The Mexican group Montéz de Durango sing a lot about the immigrant experience. Their latest video is El Llanto de un Ilegal. In this video the singer talks to Our Lady of Guadalupe and says that although he is far from his native Mexico, he has never forgotten Her, that She is in his heart and he wants to speak with Her on behalf of all of his immigrant brothers and sisters who are in the same situation, away from their loved ones and religious traditions.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe Videos 6: Reyna del Tepeyac

This video by Nelson Hidalgo, a singer/songwriter from Tetela de Ocampo (Mexico) now living in New York, is the first of a series asking for Our Lady of Guadalupe's protection for immigrants as they struggle to find a better life so far from their homeland.