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Your Turn / A blessed Lent
February 14, 2018, 02:40:17 AM
I commonly take a Lenten break from alpb, so I have no idea how this thread will turn out until Easter :-).  I pray that we all come to love God and neighbor more, and for a deepening of Christian unity.  Peace!
Your Turn / Religious freedom
June 02, 2017, 11:01:56 AM

"Stephen Tennes filed a lawsuit at a federal court on Wednesday (May 31), seeking his reinstatement.

In it, Tennes says he was prohibited from selling his products after his business, Country Mill Farms, refused to host a lesbian couple's wedding at its orchard in Charlotte, 22 miles outside the city and he stated on Facebook "his Catholic belief that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman.""
A beautiful and hopeful joint statement released from Pope Francis and Patriarch Tawadros II today:

Based on the 'cake story', the following story about St. Mary's Academy, a Catholic school in my own community which I have close ties to, is bound to be in the news for some time.

3 parent meetings are planned for tomorrow, I will try to attend one of them.

The mayor of Portland has already stated the following: (my emphasis):

"Portland is a city that embraces rights and opportunities for everyone. Those aren't just nice words. They are also the law," ...  "We believe St. Mary's Academy, and every other public, private and nonprofit organization in the city, should follow the letter and the spirit of the law, and our shared values."

Oddly, this is not the first time Oregon has tried to tell the school founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary to get in line.  See the following landmark Supreme Court case for religious schools.

"On November 7, 1922, the voters of Oregon passed an initiative amending Oregon Law Section 5259, the Compulsory Education Act. The citizens' initiative was primarily aimed at eliminating parochial schools, including Catholic schools"

There may be another thread this would fit into, but for those who are following the various challenges to 'the mandate', here is some news from the Little Sisters of the poor today:

Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2015 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Little Sisters of the Poor have reiterated their commitment to following their conscience as they care for the poor and dying, following a federal appeals court ruling that they must obey the federal contraception mandate.

"As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith," said Mother Provincial Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire.

"And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation's commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God's calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion."


Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties. In the case of the Little Sisters, the fines could amount to around $2.5 million a year, or about 40 percent of the $6 million the Sisters beg for annually to run their ministry.

24 DECEMBER 2014

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined" (Is 9:1). "An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them" (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the "great light". By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.

The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel (cf. Gen 4:8). As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples.

Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns.

Isaiah's prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:12). The "sign" is the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? "But I am searching for the Lord" – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant's presence is: do I allow God to love me?

More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!

The Christian response cannot be different from God's response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: "Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict".

Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Is 9:1). People who were unassuming, open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: "O Mary, show us Jesus!".
The following is a fascinating letter from a member of the faithful, to pastors:  "Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality", by Jean Lloyd, PhD
Your Turn / Pope Francis in Albania
September 21, 2014, 02:06:45 PM
Below are some snippets from Pope Francis' homily from Mass at Mother Theresa Square in Albania today.  I was not aware of the horribly oppressive recent history of Albania.  From the article:

"The activities of Church were hindered, school and seminaries closed, and bishops and priests were killed or arrested. When Albania was officially proclaimed an atheist state in 1967, more than 2,100 churches and mosques were closed. Out of seven bishops and 200 hundred priests and nuns active in Albania in 1945, just one bishop and 30 priests and nuns were alive when the communist regime collapsed in 1991"

From Pope Francis:

"Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, and laity paid for their fidelity with their lives,"

"Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken!"

"Through the ages, the message of peace brought by Jesus' messengers has not always been accepted; at times, the doors have been closed to them," ... "In the recent past, the doors of your country were also closed, locked by the chains of prohibitions and prescriptions of a system which denied God and impeded religious freedom."

"Today, the doors of Albania have been reopened and a season of new missionary vitality is growing for all of the members of the people of God: each baptized person has his or her role to fulfill in the Church and in society."

"Today, I have come to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts; to involve the young generations; to nourish yourselves assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ: his Gospel will show you the way!"

"In the spirit of communion among bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity, I encourage you to bring vitality to your pastoral activities and to continuously seek new ways of making the Church present in society: do not be afraid to respond generously to Christ who invites you to follow him."

"Being here with you today, dear brothers and sisters of Albania, in this Square dedicated to a humble and great daughter of this land, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes! May peace reign in your hearts! Peace in your country!"

Your Turn / Evangelii Gaudium
December 06, 2013, 11:13:31 AM
Pope Francis recently released his first official document written entirely by himself, Evangelii Gaudium.  I have not finished it yet, it is about 50k words.  As with many things the pope has said, it is getting a lot of media commentary, from all over the spectrum.  Christopher Stefanick has a great reflection on EG and the media's response to it.  This is the beginning of his reflection:

"Pope Francis has laid out his plans for the Church in Evangelii Gaudium (EG). Rush Limbaugh read it and has concluded he's a Marxist. Politically conservative evangelicals fear they've lost an ally in the Catholic Church. The pro-gay marriage lobby and Planned Parenthood are disillusioned after reading paragraphs 66 and 213, and rightly so. Pius X Society sympathizers are on edge after reading 108. "Left-leaning" Catholics who were hoping for a female priesthood are deflated after reading paragraph 104. Mainstream media labels him a progressive. Whose side is this man on anyway?

That he's getting the entire world's attention is undeniable. (I was recently interviewed on Al Jazeera TV about him. That's a first for me!) But I think most of the world, from Rush to HuffPost to Al Jazeera, has absolutely no idea how to read him. That's because most of the world is examining the 265th successor of Peter through the wrong lens.

The Church has never fit the hyper-politicized lens the Western World has come to see all things through. We're "right of center" on abortion and gay marriage. We're "left of center" on immigration and the need to care for the poor. Maybe that's because our "center" is Jesus Christ."

He goes on the share a snippet from Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier, taken from a letter from him to St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits).  St Francis writes from India to St. Ignatius:

"Many, many people...are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: 'What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!'"

This was in the office of readings for Dec 3rd, his feast day.  I believe we have a pope who is deeply missionary at heart who is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, as well as fellow Jesuit St. Francis Xavier.

The following is another great discussion on EG and the media coverage of it by Mark Shea:

I offer these two reflections from thoughtful catholic voices (laypeople) to balance the many voices outside the church who are talking about it (NYT, Rush, CNN, Huff post, Fox News, ...)

From the poster of the video:

"While photographing this event, I witnessed a growing anger from some of the crowd, towards the preachers. All of a sudden a few members in the crowd attacked the street preachers. I switched to video to document the incident. I DO NOT condone what the attackers did. While I don;t agree with these preachers, it is their Constitutional right to be in public and preach. I think it is tragic that some of the people who justifiably want tolerance in their life, deny that same tolerance to others. I commend the responding Seattle PD Officers for the professional way they handled this situation. The main aggressor was arrested."

As near as I can tell, the preachers were behaving well, and the signs they held, from what I could read, were simply calling people to repentance, and against multiple forms of 'idolatry'.  This did not look like the Westboro type protesters to me.
Your Turn / 2013 March/walk/rally for life
January 20, 2013, 01:12:40 AM
Tomorrow at 2:30 PM in downtown Portland OR, the annual Portland Rally for life will take place.  It will be an ecumenical event, with local church leaders, including our Archbishop John Vlazny giving addresses.  Later in the week (Sat), the West Coast Walk for life (San Francisco), and the DC March for life (Fri) will take place. 

This thread is to share experiences and news about these and other events which will occur around our country this week as we remember the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade.  In the past, the major media outlets have all but ignored the ever growing crowds who gather in peaceful, prayerful solidarity with the voiceless, and with the countless women and men whose lives have been forever touched by the experience of abortion.  Our Portland media also does its best to ignore the event even though it draws thousands of people into the same space (Pioneer courthouse square) where almost any smaller gathering for various other social justice causes will make the front page.

Do you have any plans to attend an event in your area, or do you plan to do anything special to raise awareness this week of the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade and the subsequent loss of more than 55 million lives?

Your Turn / Religious Freedom and the recent HHS rule
February 01, 2012, 02:08:00 AM
By now you might have heard that the department of HHS has decided to go ahead with the new rule to require health insurance policies to cover contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization beginning next year.  Despite great efforts by bishops and others, the new rule provides no exemption for religious institutions (hospitals, universities, diocese, catholic social services agencies, ....) unless they are so narrowly defined that they hire and serve only members of their faith.  This has set off a major discussion, and it is not clear yet how the battle will play out.  There will most certainly be efforts to oppose and rescind this rule.  At the time of starting this post,  over 126 Catholic Bishops have spoken out publicly against the ruling, which as USCCB President, cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan put it, gives us one year to figure out how to violate our conscience (  The names on the list include progressive to conservative bishops, across the spectrum.  The list is being tracked here (including links to each statement):

There is a grass roots electronic petition on the White House web page to rescind this HHS rule, any petition receiving over 25,000 signatures will receive a direct response from the administration, so if you are concerned by this breach of the First Amendment, please consider signing the petition and spreading the word:!/petition/rescind-hhs-dept-mandate-requiring-catholic-employers-provide-contraceptivesabortifacients-their/lBxr7SdP

The purpose of this thread is to first of all raise awareness of the particular issue, and to discuss the question: what is the appropriate response from "the church", or an individual member of the church, when an attempt is made by "the state" to force them to act against their own conscience?   We have seen the same thing happening with religious adoption agencies which are being forced to abandon their missions or conform their conscience to fit the newly defined 'good' discerned by the state.

Are there similar concerns being raised for Lutheran affiliated hospitals, universities, schools?
Your Turn / Pope Benedict in Erfurt
September 23, 2011, 10:43:59 AM
Pope Benedict met today with representatives of the Lutheran Churches of Germany at the Convent in Erfurt. 

In his address, he opens with this about Luther:

"What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life's journey. "How do I receive the grace of God?": this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God."
Your Turn / Immaculate Conception
December 08, 2009, 06:51:26 PM
In Mass for the Children this morning, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Dave (and members of the 4th grade class) gave a beautiful homily on Mary as a model for all Christians.  The message?  Let her "Yes" to God's calling be our own.  Let her "Love" of Christ, our Lord, her Son and her Lord, be our own.  Let her "Service" to God be our own, and let us follow her in "Glorifying" God.

In short, let us follow her example in:  willingness, love, service, and glorifying God in all things.

Martin Luther seems to have retained his belief in the Immaculate Conception:

"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527  - )."

"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin-something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. (Personal "Little" Prayer Book, 1522)."

"Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are. For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy pure fruit, at once God and truly man, in one person."

Embarrassingly, The first time I came to understand that the Immaculate Conception was related to Mary's Conception, and not our Lord's, was in the middle of RCIA class in 2007 (Fr. John said this was a common misconception - (no pun intended)).  My first reaction to this?  "Catholics believe what? Wait a minute, no human being is without sin but our Lord.".   As I began to read to try understand how Catholics understood this, I realized:

 - This had been a part of the historic Tradition, and celebrated, since the earliest times.
 - Mary, the Blessed Virgin, played a unique role.  No other human being was called by God to directly cooperate
   in His Incarnation.  This is a belief we all share, as expressed in our creeds.  
 - If God chose her to cooperate in salvation history through the Incarnation (a gift indeed), why did my mind not
   want to allow me to believe that he also pre-granted her this gift of total sanctifying grace to protect her from
   all sin from the moment of her conception.  God could have chosen to bring about the Incarnation between two
   humans (or from one not 'full of grace' ,or a million other ways for that matter), but He did not, he chose Mary,
   who said 'Yes'.  
 - It was thorough no merits of Mary's own that she was granted this gift.  Neither was it through her own merits
   that she was chosen to cooperate in the Incarnation.
 - The Angel Gabriel said to her, (and to us) that she was 'full of grace'.  What does it mean to be 'full of grace'.  
   My understanding and experience is that we experience God's grace here on earth, but that it is only a partial grace,
   and a foretaste of the grace we will experience in heaven (when we are full of grace).  Not so with Mary, she was
   truly 'full of grace', when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed it, and the Catholic understanding from the earliest Father's
   has been that she was 'full of grace' from her conception.

Finally, I became very comfortably able to believe, accept, and  embrace that Mary was indeed granted this special grace, and that this detracted not one bit from Christ, by whose merits it was granted.  Of course this was formally recognized as something the Church had always held to be true by Pope Pius IX in 1854. In his words:

"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful."
   —Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854

The only difference I see between this Papal statement and the words of Martin Luther above, is that the statement makes it clear by whose merits this was accomplished:

   "in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ"

I think Dr. Martin would be please and wholly agree, but that is only my opinion.  The statement from Dr. Martin seems to focus on which person of the Holy Trinity granted her this gift (and Dr. Martin refers to 'that person' as a 'he' BTW):

   "but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her.....he warded off sin from her flesh and blood"
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