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PRAYING WITH ICONS

ST. ANTHONY Messenger

A New Look at

Miracles The Challenges of Adult Children The Wait of Advent Christmas Tips for Empty Nesters Make Room to Give

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CONTENTS

ST. ANTHONY Messenger

❘ DECEMBER 2016 ❘ VOLUME 124/NUMBER 7

ON THE COVE R

26 A New Look at Miracles

Miracles are not magical events but, rather, examples of the mystery of God.

They remind us that God is present in all things. By Michael Dennin

Composite by Jeanne Kortekamp: Madonna © Dan Brandenburg/ iStockphoto, star © realcg/Fotosearch

F E AT U R E S

D E PA R T M E N T S

14 Praying with Icons

2 Dear Reader

This ancient practice can lead you into a deep encounter with God. By Stephen J. Binz

3 From Our Readers 4 Followers of St. Francis Benjamin Vail, OFS

20 When Children Become Adults

6 Reel Time

A parent’s journey never ends; it just changes. By Susan Vogt

32 Wait for It!

Hacksaw Ridge

14

Man with a Plan

Advent is a time to embrace anticipation. Here is a path through the season. By Carolyn Ancell

10 Church in the News 25 Editorial Syrians on the Run

36 Christmas without Kids

31 Year of Mercy

For empty nesters, the holidays can feel, well, empty. Here are six ways to fill yours with cheer. By Caroline Rock

38 Make Room to Give

8 Channel Surfing

Life over Death in Caloocan City

45 At Home on Earth

20

Sometimes the best advice comes from an unlikely place. By G.A. Hernandez

The Fullness of Life in Nature

46 Ask a Franciscan Is God Listening to My Prayers?

40 Fiction: Another Chance

48 Book Corner The Pilgrim Journey

Was it time to say good-bye? By Ruth Bowley

50 A Catholic Mom Speaks A Christmas Wake-Up Call

52 Backstory

32


DEAR READER

ST. ANTHONY M essenger

Greccio

Publisher Daniel Kroger, OFM

It’s always Christmas in Greccio! Groups are allowed to celebrate Christmas year-round at the place where St. Francis had a live nativity for Christmas 1223. He also celebrated Easter there, offering his brothers a lesson in poverty. Francis first visited this village in 1217; Giovanni di Velita built the friars a hermitage outside the city. The Chapel of St. Luke is located in a cave; a larger church nearby displays a permanent Nativity set. According to Thomas of Celano, at the Christmas 1223 celebration, “simplicity was honored, poverty was exalted, humility was commended, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem” (First Life, 85). Celano also notes that by the working of God’s grace the Child Jesus “was brought to life again [for those present] through his servant St. Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory” (86). Brothers Leo, Angelo, and Rufino were living there in 1246 when they wrote down their memories of Francis’ earliest days with the friars.

President Kelly McCracken Editor in Chief John Feister Art Director Jeanne Kortekamp Franciscan Editor Pat McCloskey, OFM Managing Editor Susan Hines-Brigger Assistant Editors Daniel Imwalle Kathleen M. Carroll Digital Editor Christopher Heffron Editorial Assistant Sharon Lape

Click the button on the left to hear Father Pat’s further reflections on Greccio and an at-home pilgrimage to Franciscan places in Italy.

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(U.S.P.S. PUBLICATION #007956 CANADA PUBLICATION #PM40036350) Volume 124, Number 7, is published monthly for $39.00 a year by the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-6498. Phone (513) 241-5615. Periodicals postage paid at Cincinnati, Ohio, and additional entry offices. U.S. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: St. Anthony Messenger, P.O. Box 189, Congers, NY 109200189. CANADA RETURN ADDRESS: c/o AIM, 7289 Torbram Rd., Mississauga, ON, Canada L4T 1G8. To subscribe, write to the above address or call (866) 543-6870. Yearly subscription price: $39.00 in the United States; $69.00 in Canada and other countries. Single copy price: $3.95. For change of address, four weeks’ notice is necessary. See FranciscanMedia.org/subscription-services for information on your digital edition. Writer’s guidelines can be found at Franciscan Media.org/writers-guide/. The publishers are not responsible for manuscripts or photos lost or damaged in transit. Names in fiction do not refer to living or dead persons. Member of the Catholic Press Association Published with ecclesiastical approval Copyright ©2016. All rights reserved.

2 ❘ De cember 2016

St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


FROM OUR READERS

A Missed Opportunity Jeannette De Beauvoir’s article from the October issue of St. Anthony Messenger, “Why We Pray the Rosary,” missed the boat. After reading the article, I was left with the impression that it would be nice to pray the rosary, but certainly it did not strongly encourage me to pray the rosary. Two things were missing in the article. The first was the role the rosary played in history. The rosary was instrumental in the victory at Lepanto in 1571 and in the battle to defend Vienna in 1683. The former was so significant that Pope Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7 because of that victory. That is why the rosary is called the spiritual sword from heaven. We need this weapon for our country right now. The second thing that was missing

What’s on Your Mind? Letters that are published do not necessarily represent the views of the Franciscan friars or the editors. We do not publish slander or libel. Please include your name and postal address. Letters may be edited for clarity and space. Mail Letters, St. Anthony Messenger 28 W. Liberty St. Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498 Fax 513-241-0399

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was the insistence by our Blessed Mother Mary in her many apparitions that we pray the rosary. The article only used words like Mary “encouraged” the children to say the rosary at Fatima and “emphasized” the importance of the rosary at Rwanda. This only scratches the surface as Mary insisted that all of us pray the rosary, and she did this at many of her appearances. That means you and I should be praying the rosary often. Deacon Dominic DiOrio Bristol, Rhode Island

Saving the Best for Last I have been a subscriber for a long time and read your magazine from cover to cover every month. As a special treat, I save the fiction selection for last. “The Guest List,” Kathleen Auth’s fiction piece in the October issue, was one of the best ever. I’m so touched, I can’t stop the tears. Yvonne Cosgrove San Antonio, Texas

Right on the Mark Thank you for a wonderful, refreshing editorial by Kathleen Carroll in the October 2016 issue, “Minding What Matters,” which discussed the inequality in this country depending on the color of one’s skin. The statistics are mind-boggling, be it the rate at which black people die at the hands of police (two to one), the percentage of black children enrolled in predominantly white schools, or the median income of a white household compared to a black household (14 times as much). As the editorial points out, a majority of white respondents do not believe that racism is a problem. Most white adults would say, “I am not a racist,” and believe it! And yet, they ignore the inequality or suggest that it is not something they can be

bothered with. Unnerving them with this kind of editorial is a beginning of awareness. The last paragraph is especially telling, emphasizing inequality rather than equality, by asking us to “have a different conversation. Instead of asking who has more, let’s ask: Who has less than we do? Why? How can we help?” Ben Rice Centerville, Ohio

Unpleasantly Surprised I was very angry after I read the editorial “Minding What Matters” by Kathleen Carroll! In particular, I was offended by the way the police were portrayed. The vast majority of law enforcement officers in this country are doing their job as they should, protecting and serving all citizens. Michael Brown was found to be guilty of attempting to take the officer’s gun, so the officer shot him in self-defense. The officer made a simple request to Brown: that he please get out of the middle of the street, which he was walking on with another man. What about the officer losing his job with the police because of this shooting? If a black person is shot by a white officer, it absolutely must be thoroughly investigated and the final outcome be determined justly and fairly for both sides. Janet M. Kennedy Schaumberg, Illinois Corrections: On page 17 of the October issue, in Jeannette De Beauvoir’s article “Why We Pray the Rosary,” we overlooked an erroneous biblical reference under the glorious mysteries. “Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth” should have referred to Rev 12:1-2, not 2 Tm 2:12. In our November issue, we inadvertently described Sister Blandina Segale, SC, as “wielding a gun.” Billy the Kid, not Sister Blandina, wielded the gun. December 2016 ❘ 3


F O L L O W E R S O F S T. F R A N C I S

Making Right with God, Nature

T

he rugged beauty of the windswept Maine coastline instilled a keen sense of care for creation in Benjamin Vail, OFS. Growing up in Brunswick, Maine, Vail says he found himself “surrounded by the ocean, forests, and farmland.” One could imagine St. Francis himself praising God in such a place. But it would take years for Vail to respond to the call to conversion and the Secular Franciscan Order. Vail’s family is of a Protestant background, but he describes his upbringing as mainly nonreligious. St. Francis of Assisi was an inspiration for him early on. “For me, he was a role model of faith, simplicity, humility, self-sacrifice, and love for God and others,” Vail remarks. He spent some years as a Quaker, embracing values such as peacemaking, voluntary simplicity, and respect for all people (which Franciscans espouse, too). After studying history in college, he obtained a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he met his wife, Renata. They married in 2002 and moved to her homeland of the Czech Republic in 2004. Vail would go on to complete a doctorate in sociology and envi-

Benjamin Vail, OFS

ronmental studies at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. “Throughout all these years, environmental concern was central to my life—studying environmental problems in Scandinavia, working for the US Forest Service as a researcher, writing as a journalist for an environmental news service in Washington, DC, and managing a beach water quality program for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, for instance,” Vail recalls. But something was missing. Vail knew that the spiritual dimension to care for creation was crucial to his mission to protect Mother Earth. He converted to Catholicism in 2009 and made his permanent profession in the Secular Franciscan Order in 2013. Vail describes the decision to move to the Czech Republic as a “leap of faith. Despite massive culture shock, we managed to settle down and make a life in our new home.” Though it’s one of the least religious countries in the world, Vail notes that the Franciscans are highly visible in Brno. “Where I live there are three monasteries (of the Friars Minor, Friars Minor Conventual, and Friars Minor Capuchin) and a Poor

STORIES FROM OUR READERS Learn more about Catholic saints and their feast days by going to FranciscanMedia.org/ source/saint-of-theday.

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Boundless Faith in St. Anthony

4 ❘ Dec ember 2016

My hearing aid broke recently, rendering me completely deaf. I’ve been partially deaf since birth. Consequently, my hearing is dependent on my hearing aid functioning properly. Last month, it went completely dead, so I thought I needed to change its battery. I tried several new batteries—no sound. After having my aid for eight years, I thought it must be broken and needed repair. As a Secular Franciscan, my faith in St. Anthony is boundless. Therefore, the next day I fervently prayed to St. Anthony, indicating that I needed his help in fixing my hearing aid. I tried once more to put a new battery in my aid, inserted it in my ear, and it worked! I’m so grateful for this miracle from St. Anthony of Padua. —Jeannette Bernadette Williams, Utica, New York

St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA

Overcoming Adversity According to Anthony, “It is only in adversity that we come to know whether we have made real progress in virtue.” It is easy to be kind to people who return our kindness. Generous people tend to attract our generosity. Real virtue, however, is always more than convenience. Anthony certainly embraced this saying from the Letter to the Hebrews, “Because he [Jesus] himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”–P.M.

COSIMO TURA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Clare convent,” he observes. After teaching environmental sociology at the university level for 10 years, Vail now teaches high school English. He’s eager to offer a seminar on environmental issues next year. Care for creation, in Vail’s mind, is concretely a justice issue. “Justice is a virtue having to do with the proper treatment of things. The choices we make affect other people and the biophysical world around us, not just today but also for future generations,” he explains. “We are part of an economic and social system that is not oriented toward God.” Despite that, we are not powerless. “The least anyone can do is examine and take responsibility for his or her choices within that system,” Vail offers. Vail draws inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi’s simple, yet sincere, relationship with nature. “Birds were attracted to him because of his peace and love, the wolf trusted him because of his respect; St. Francis saw that God’s creation is good and saw the hand of God in all created things,” he says. “If we are right with God, we will be right with nature, God’s creation.” —Daniel Imwalle

To learn more about Franciscan saints, visit FranciscanMedia.org/source/saint-of-the-day.

S T. A N T H O N Y B R E A D

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Send all postal communication to: St. Anthony Bread 1615 Vine St. Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498

December 2016 ❘ 5

PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFM

The National Shrine of St. Anthony is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Consecrated in 1889, it includes a first-class relic of St. Anthony and serves as a center for daily prayer and contemplation. The Franciscan friars minister from the shrine. To help them in their work among the poor, you may send a monetary offering called St. Anthony Bread. Make checks or money orders payable to “Franciscans” and mail to the address below. Every Tuesday, a Mass is offered for benefactors and petitioners at the shrine. To seek St. Anthony’s intercession, mail your petition to the address below. Petitions are taken to the shrine each week. To post your petition online, please visit stanthony.org, where you can also request to have a candle lit or a Mass offered; or you may make a donation to the Franciscans or sign up to receive a novena booklet.


REEL TIME

W I T H S I S T E R R O S E PA C AT T E , F S P

Hacksaw Ridge

PHOTO BY MARK ROGERS/CROSS CREEK PICTURES

New on DVD The Innocents Ben-Hur Finding Dory Florence Foster Jenkins Hunt for the Wilderpeople

6 ❘

December 2016

Andrew Garfield gives a nuanced performance as a conflicted soldier in the World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge. Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia as a Seventh-day Adventist. His father, Tom (Hugo Weaving), a veteran of World War I, suffers from what we now call PTSD. He often drinks, and he beats his wife, Bertha (Rachel Griffiths). One day, Doss confronts his father to protect his mother. When he realizes that he nearly killed Tom, Doss turns from violence and vows to God never to touch a gun again. Doss volunteers as a medic during World War II because, though he is a patriot, he is a conscientious objector. By mistake, he is assigned to a combat unit. At first, the other soldiers welcome Doss, but turn on him because they think he will not protect them. He is court-martialed for refusing to fire a rifle, but is eventually reinstated as a medic. Before they ship out for the Pacific, Doss marries his sweetheart, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer).

Joining the fighting on the island of Okinawa, the men must climb a high escarpment to engage the Japanese army, which is entrenched on the plain above. The fighting is terrible. Doss tends to the wounded, bringing soldier after soldier to the ridge to lower them via ropes to the medics below. Heroism is on full display. Hacksaw Ridge, based on a true story, inspires and repels at the same time. Garfield’s Doss is innocent, sweet, and brave beyond words. But director Mel Gibson, after a 10-year hiatus from Hollywood, returns with another film depicting such explicit violence that it was almost impossible for me to watch. For all the horror, however, Doss’ goodness shines. Garfield is truly brilliant as Private Doss. An award contender for sure, Hacksaw Ridge is intensely moving, edifying, and devastatingly realistic. Not yet rated, R ■ Explicit battlefield violence and gore, peril, partial nudity. St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g


LAURIE SPARHAM/BLEECKER STREET

Rachel Weisz stars as acclaimed writer and historian Deborah Lipstadt in Denial, a stirring drama based on a true story.

Denial

Rules Don’t Apply In 1958, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), a young Baptist beauty queen, arrives in HolFr anciscanMedia.org

PHOTO BY FRANCOIS DUHAMEL/TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is a published author and professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1994, David Irving (Timothy Spall), a pseudo-historian, confronts her at a lecture because she refuses to engage with Holocaust deniers. Because she called him a liar and falsifier of history in one of her books, he sues her and Penguin Books for libel in the United Kingdom. Lipstadt, who decides not to settle, is dismayed when she finds out that, in the United Kingdom, the burden of proof is on the accused in a civil suit—the exact opposite of US law. Lipstadt’s solicitor, Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), tells her the case is not really about her, but about something far greater. The legal team maneuvers to put Irving’s ego and motives on trial instead. The barrister, Richard Rampton (the always solid Tom Wilkinson), argues that Irving’s opinions are motivated by racism. It’s heartbreaking to see footage of how Irving denigrated Holocaust survivors in public. Lipstadt’s attorneys do not want the survivors or their client to take the stand because Irving will humiliate and victimize them again. Based on Lipstadt’s 2006 memoir, Denial is a brilliant drama in and out of the courtroom. The ensemble of actors gives compelling, riveting performances. A-3, PG-13 ■ Strong language, mature themes.

lywood with her mother, Lucy (Annette Bening). The driver, Methodist Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), explains the rules that the aging studio boss Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) has set down for him: drivers are not to talk to actresses and must be ready at Hughes’ beck and call. Many rules and value systems intersect and collide in this touching and original romance that was scripted, produced, and directed by Beatty. The film looks at the unwritten expectations for young actresses in Hollywood, bizarre contracts between employees and an employer who has no code, and the role that various churches play in the lives of young people and their families. Memories of his own life growing up as an evangelical in Virginia inspired Beatty’s script. The search for transcendent meaning underlies the story and provides a moment of deep sadness when the quirky billionaire, who has all the money in the world, realizes that he is alone. Not yet rated, PG-13 ■ Sexuality.

Lily Collins stars in the drama Rules Don’t Apply, from Academy Award-winning director Warren Beatty.

Catholic Cl assifications A-1 A-2 A-3 L O

General patronage Adults and adolescents Adults Limited adult audience Morally offensive

The Catholic News Service Media Review Office gives these ratings. See usccb.org/movies.

For additional film reviews, go to FranciscanMedia.org/movie-review.

December 2016 ❘

7


CHANNEL SURFING

WITH CHRISTOPHER HEFFRON

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Mondays, 8:30 p.m., CBS There’s a theory in pop culture circles that no cast member of the iconic show Friends will ever find a project to match its success. Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow—perhaps the strongest actors from the series—have come close, but no major player has been able to trap lightning in a bottle twice. Matt LeBlanc is the latest alum to try with the sitcom Man with a Plan. Whether this CBS series finds an audience remains to be seen. LeBlanc deftly plays Adam, a contractor who agrees to spend more time with his three children after his wife, played by the formidable Liza Snyder, goes back to work. Adam quickly realizes that his brood is not as perfectly behaved as he thought: they’re addicted to technology, they’re flippant, and they’re prone to wreaking havoc on the home. How Adam navigates his amplified parenting role is the heartbeat of the series, and, overall, it works. An all-too-common pitfall with sitcom families is that they fall short in reflecting real-life families. They’re too polished, too pretty. Man with a Plan is no exception, but channel surfers should give this series a shot because the role of the father—a television staple until the mid-’90s—is given center stage. And LeBlanc has both the comedic timing and dramatic prowess to carry it.

O.J.: Made in America

DARREN MICHAELS/CBS

Available on Netflix One of the finest documentaries in recent years, filmmaker Ezra Edelman’s blistering look at the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson should not be missed. Coproduced by ESPN Films, this 467-minute masterwork tells two parallel stories almost simultaneously: the trajectory of Simpson’s life; and the history of police corruption and racial injustice in Los Angeles. Unflinching, graphic at times, and brutally honest, O.J.: Made in America is as much an examination of the football legend as it is about our national preoccupation with race and fame. While the documentary thoroughly deconstructs the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman— for which Simpson was acquitted in 1995—it takes an even closer look at how racial disparity, the power of celebrity, and police misconduct played a role in that acquittal. Sensitive channel surfers beware: this seven-hour opus can be grueling to watch. Rough language and violent imagery pepper the narrative—particularly the middle portion. But the film’s true power lies in how uncomfortable the trial continues to make us, even decades after the verdict was rendered. Edelman, a bold voice in documentary filmmaking, proposes, without explicitly asking, if we as a fame-hungry culture built the pedestal on which O.J. Simpson stood for decades—even after he tore it down.

Matt LeBlanc shines as Adam, the gruff but lovable patriarch, in CBS’ funny, family-centric Man with a Plan. 8 ❘

December 2016

St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g

M. OSTERREICHER/COURTESY OF ESPN FILMS

Man with a Plan


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CHURCH IN THE NEWS

❘ BY SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER

Vatican Addresses Burial Issues faith and not only to his or her closest relatives. Placing the urn of the person’s ashes in a columbarium or tomb allows other believers to pray at the tomb.

CNS PHOTO/GREGORY A. SHEMITZ

Papal Nuncio Celebrates Mass at US-Mexico Border

During an October 25 news conference in Rome, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that while the Catholic Church continues to prefer burial in the ground, it accepts cremation as an option. While the Church accepts cremation, it forbids the scattering of ashes or keeping them in the home, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters on October 25. The instructions were contained in the document “Ad resurgendum cum Christo” (“To Rise with Christ”), which was created after several bishops’ conferences asked the congregation to provide guidance regarding exactly what should be done with cremains, reported Catholic News Service (CNS). The document was approved by Pope Francis after consultation with other Vatican offices and with bishops’ conferences and the Eastern Churches’ synods of bishops. In 1963, the congregation issued an instruction permitting cremation, as long as it was not done as a sign of denial of the basic Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead. The permission was incorporated into the 1 0 ❘ December 2016

Code of Canon Law in 1983 and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in 1990. It did not, however, provide specific guidelines for treatment of cremains, said Cardinal Muller. He said the Church still recommends continuing the “pious practice of burying the dead because it is considered one of the corporal works of mercy and mirrors the burial of Christ. The practice more clearly expresses hope in the resurrection when the person’s body and soul will be reunited.” He acknowledged, however, that “shortly, in many countries, cremation will be considered the ordinary way” to deal with the dead, including for Catholics. Regarding the issues of scattering a loved one’s ashes or keeping them in an urn at home, Cardinal Muller said that such practices fail to recognize the importance of the communion of saints and that the loved one belonged to the entire community of

As a sign of unity, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, presided at a Mass in Nogales, Arizona, on October 23 for people gathered on both sides of the border and offered prayers to break down the walls that separate people, reported CNS. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson and Bishop José Leopoldo González González of Mexico’s Diocese of Nogales, Sonora, concelebrated the liturgy, which was organized by Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of the dioceses of Nogales, Tucson, and Phoenix to work collaboratively on issues that affect the Church and people in the border region. Prior to the prayer of the faithful during Mass, Archbishop Pierre said, “Jesus, we come before you today as your disciples, sometimes filled with fear and doubt, even suspicion. We pray to dismantle the barriers within our hearts and minds that separate us, who are all members of your body.” Young people then offered prayers for “needed immigration reform,” for humane treatment of migrants who don’t have documents, and for “security and justice for all.” They prayed especially for migrant children, “who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” and for all who have died in border violence, including border patrol agents, immigrants, and innocent victims. St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


N E W S B R I E F S N AT I O N A L A N D I N T E R N AT I O N A L

CNS PHOTO/GIORGIO ONORATI, EPA

“Young people, faith, and vocational discernment” will be the theme of the 15th general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2018. According to the Vatican announcement, the synod will look at the best ways to accompany young people on their path toward maturity and provide a process of discernment so “they may discover their life plan and fulfill it with joy, opening themselves to an encounter with God and with men and women, and actively participating in the building of the Church and society.”

Following nearly a decade of renovation, the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo reopened this past October. The site is believed by ancient tradition to be where

The shrine of St. Thérèse in Juneau, Alaska, has been designated a national shrine by the US bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship. Overseen by the Diocese of Juneau, the 46-acre shrine ranks among the top Juneau attractions by online travel guide TripAdvisor, and is now among a list of some 70 Catholic national shrines.

CNS PHOTO/NANCY WIECHEC

Actor Mark Wahlberg sent a video greeting to those attending the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors held September 30– October 7 in Boston. Wahlberg told attendees, “My Catholic faith is the anchor that supports everything I do in life,” adding that he would be praying for the success of the conference and of the vocation directors. “We, the Catholic faithful, are counting on you to bring us good and holy priests,” he said. The video has since been posted to the Facebook page of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island’s vocations office.

Moses saw the Promised Land and died. A church and monastery are perched atop the 3,300-foot rugged mountain facing the northern end of the Dead Sea. It has drawn Christian pilgrims throughout the centuries and is considered one of the most important pilgrimage, tourist, and archaeological sites in Jordan and the Holy Land. Mount Nebo is also an active Franciscan monastery and the headquarters of the Franciscan Archaeological Institute. Excavations led by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which acquired the area in 1932, have uncovered significant remains of an early basilica—built in 597 on a fourth-century church foundation—and Byzantine mosaic pavements. However, a simple structure sheltering these important finds was crumbling and needed to be replaced to protect the treasures it housed.

For more Catholic news, visit FranciscanMedia.org/ catholic-news.

CNS PHOTO/NANCY WIECHEC

Bishop Kicanas said he was grateful for the nuncio’s presence, saying that it’s “a reminder of our Holy Father’s great love for those who are suffering, for those who are in need. So this was a very special celebration here in ‘ambos Nogales’ [‘both Nogaleses’] as we pray together across walls united in our prayer for one another.”

Gay, Transgender People Deserve Pastoral Care, Says Pope Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, blesses the congregation during Mass at the international border in Nogales, Arizona, October 23.

Catholics who are homosexual, confused about their sexuality, or conDecember 2016 ❘ 11

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is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option, and even to have a sex change, but it is another thing to teach this in schools, in order to change mentalities. This I call ideological colonization,” the pope said. He acknowledged that the issue of ministering to gay and transgender individuals is not an easy one. “I want to be clear. It is a moral problem. It is a problem. A human problem,” the pope said. “And it must be resolved the best one can—always with the mercy of God, with the truth,” and “always with an open heart.” Welcome the person, study the situation, accompany the person, and integrate him or her into the life of the community, the pope said. “This is what Jesus would do today.”

CNS GRAPHIC/LIZ AGBEY

Pope Calls Out ‘Hypocrisy’ of Some Christians

vinced they were born in the wrong body deserve the same attentive pastoral care as anyone else, Pope Francis told reporters October 2 on the return flight from a visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The statement came in response to a reporter’s question regarding how the pope would provide pastoral care to a person who felt his or her sexuality did not correspond to his or her biology, reported CNS. The previous day, the pope had referred to “gender theory” and what he described as “ideological colonization” as an enemy of marriage. The pope said that as a priest, a bishop, and even as pope he has 1 2 ❘ Dec ember 2016

“accompanied people with homosexual tendencies and even homosexual activity. I accompanied them; I helped them draw closer to the Lord, although some couldn’t. But I never abandoned them. “People must be accompanied like Jesus would accompany them,” he said. “When a person who has this situation arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, ‘Go away because you are homosexual.’ No.” What he was condemning, the pope said, was “indoctrination of gender theory”—teaching small children that no matter their biological sex, they can choose their gender. “It

During a meeting with a group of Catholic and Lutheran pilgrims at the Vatican on October 13, Pope Francis addressed “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions,” reported CNS. The pope made the statements in response to questions from young people in the group. The “sickness, or you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy,” the pope pointed out. “You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian. You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25,” which is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. Noting how he would be taking part in the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation at the end of October, the pope told the group that Christians must praise God that, in the past 50 years, Catholics and Lutherans have moved “from conflict to communion.” A St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


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Praying with This ancient practice can lead you into a deep encounter with God. BY STEPHEN J. BINZ

T

here are many ways to be attentive to the mysteries of God’s word. One way developed in the ancient Church is by listening to the Scriptures; another is by gazing at icons. The inspired texts and the holy icons . . . invite us to both listen and see deeply. The theologians and spiritual masters of the ancient Church teach us to ponder the Scriptures while asking God to illumine our minds and hearts. They urge us to study and pray the words of the sacred texts as a way of being formed by the word of God. These early teachers called this practice lectio divina (“sacred reading”). Visio divina [“divine seeing”] is the practice of attentively and receptively gazing upon an image so that the experience leads us to meditation and prayer. While contemplatively looking at the image, we trust that God will illumine our minds and hearts. And the purpose of both Scripture and icon is to make us present to the saving event.

Reading Icons We like art to be pretty, decorative, and undemanding. Our culture blasts us with images constantly, and many of them are designed to appeal to our desires so that we purchase products. But icons are not sweet, promotional, or

manipulative. We must read them with the mind as much as the emotions. And, as with Scripture, we must include our heart, imagination, will, and desires. Icons communicate Christian truth in visible form. They stand in opposition to theories of modern art in which those who look at a picture are encouraged to make up their own minds about what it means. The truth expressed through an icon is objective and precise. It depicts visually what the Church teaches verbally. It expresses truth that has been passed down through the ages by means of the Church’s tradition. Icons are not made for decoration or museums. Rather, they are created for divine liturgy and for prayerful devotion. Rather than standing back to objectively observe the scene, the icon becomes the mediator of a personal encounter between ourselves and the subjects depicted in the scene. Through the mediation of the holy icon, we meet Christ and the saints face-to-face. A This article is excerpted from the book Transformed by God’s Word: Discovering the Power of Lectio and Visio Divina (Ave Maria Press). Stephen J. Binz is a popular Catholic speaker and best-selling author of more than 40 books on biblical theology, commentary, and spirituality.

Icons written by Kaspar and Ruta Poikans, Atelier Saint Luc (ateliersaintluc.fr) for the Centre International Marie de Nazareth (cimdn.org) 14 ❘

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The Visitation Luke 1:39–49, 56

Lectio

Visio

Pregnancy is filled with anticipation. As you listen to this text, which focuses on two pregnant women, try to create a feeling of expectancy within yourself. Anticipate the transforming power that the Word of God offers for your life. Let yourself experience the joy that fills the sacred page as Mary and Elizabeth meet each other with the hope of God’s people in their wombs.

Gaze upon this image and let it draw you into an encounter with the four figures in the scene. Notice the faces and gestures of each person. Consider the relationship of the figures to the words of the biblical text. Let the embrace and the emotions expressed here move your heart with admiration for God’s saving plan.

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The baptism of jesus Matthew 3:1–2, 10–17

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Lectio

Visio

Read this Gospel text aloud, letting go of your own presumptions and listening to the words as if for the first time. Be aware of your breathing in and breathing out. Call upon the same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred evangelist to fill your heart and kindle in you the fire of divine love.

Let the icon of Jesus’ baptism renew within you the experience of your own Baptism. Relate the scene and its visual and auditory signs to the Gospel proclamation you have heard. Let the colors, faces, gestures, and symbols within the image lead you to a deep encounter with God.

December 2016

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Proclamation of god’s kingdom Mark 1:14–18, 4:35–41

Lectio

Visio

Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and heart as you prepare to listen to God’s inspired word. Prepare to place yourself in the scene with all its sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. Imaginatively enter the scene and participate in the narrative on the sea.

Fix your eyes on the serene face of Jesus. Let his sovereign authority over the wind and the waves draw you into this scene. Become a part of the community of disciples, letting Jesus lead you to confidence and trust. What do you fear? What do you hope?

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The agony of jesus Matthew 26:36–46

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Lectio

Visio

We all know what it feels like to be sleepy and unable to stay awake. Drowsiness can influence our discipleship and prevent us from being watchful and ready for the many aspects of Christ’s coming to us. Open your mind and heart to listen carefully to God’s voice speaking to you through the Gospel.

Gaze upon the icon as it invites you into the scene. Imaginatively enter into the space of the one open-eyed disciple. Consider what he is seeing, hearing, thinking, and feeling as Jesus alternately prays in agony and speaks to the disciples.

December 2016

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The Ascension Acts 1:8–11; Hebrews 9:24–28

Lectio

Visio

Approach these texts with expectant faith, trusting that God wishes to transform your heart with the power of his Word. Listen to them without prejudgment, hearing them in a new way, guided by God’s renewing Spirit.

Let the icon invite you in to ponder the scene. Place yourself among the confused and questioning disciples. Consider the mandate of Jesus for his Church and the words of the angels in white. Let the face of Mary offer you wisdom to comprehend the meaning of the mystery.

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When

Children Become Adults A parent’s journey never ends; it just changes. BY SUSAN VOGT

I

T’S CHRISTMAS, a family reunion, a funeral—or any other time the different generations of your family will meet up again. Whether happy or sad, the mixing of parents with adult children can be, well, complicated. When parents and adult children interact, the roles and rules have changed since parenting a toddler or teen. Both generations need to make adjustments. Neither side should need to sacrifice integrity or faith, but both need to reach for a deeper understanding of the love and history that bonds them together. This article is addressed to the older generation. Why bother? you might ask. Many parents feel confused and distressed as their children forge lives independent of them. Many generation Xers to millennials feel uncertain or frustrated about their emerging relationships with their parents once they leave home, start supporting themselves, get married, or have a child—not necessarily in that order. What role does faith play? Will they happily continue to embrace the faith of their upbringing or not? If not, how does this impact the relationship between the generations?

© URBANLIGHT/FOTOSEARCH

An Ongoing Journey My own story started over 20 years ago, when I wrote the book Raising Kids Who Will Make a Difference. Our own children ranged in age from 6 to 21. I still believe that the values and advice in that book are solid. When I wrote Fr anciscanMedia.org

it, though, I had not tested them personally, over the long haul. Would the family meetings, religious practices both at church and home, and immersion in the works of mercy really make any difference once they were on their own? My husband and I thought so. We hoped so, but we didn’t know so. I decided to follow up. About five years ago, in discussions with family-ministry colleagues, I started to hear a familiar refrain. It went like this: “I’m proud of my young adults. They are loving, generous people who care about making this world a better place, but they no longer go to church.” My own family was also mixed in terms of practice of their faith. This led to my surveying over 600 parents and young adults, plus self-reflection on my own 40-plus years of parenting. The followup book is Parenting Your Adult Child: Keeping the Faith (And Your Sanity). Following are some things I learned when using eyes of faith and love rather than just worrying or wondering if I was a good enough parent. From a parent’s point of view, watching your adult child struggle with the faith of his or her upbringing—or ignore it—may bring on despair, or you may feel like a personal failure. It might seem as if the secular culture has captured our youth and they’ve lost their grounding. Did I do enough to nurture their faith? Should I have sent them to Catholic schools? Should I have prayed with them more at home and sent them on youth retreats? December 2016 ❘

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Wait! Maybe you did all those things and still have an offspring who is searching or doesn’t care. The biggest insight I can offer is to consider that this is the way God is now acting in your life. Your adult child’s search may be a call to you to deepen your own relationship with God. It may mean deepening your prayer life— not just going to Mass more often or saying more memorized prayers, but really seeking to listen to God speaking to you through the circumstances and people placed before you. It may mean doing some serious theological reflection, taking a class, expanding your reading on faith. Reverse the attitude of woe to an attitude of opportunity. Become a person of deeper, not superficial, faith. It may not visibly change your child today, but it will be good for you. For many parents, learning about the stages of spiritual development can lessen guilt and increase your own growth.

Helpful Virtues There are some virtues for elders that seem especially relevant when mixing generational viewpoints. For example, mindfulness of words can alert us to when to talk and when to shut up. This includes things like “talking shorter.”

© CREATISTA/FOTOSEARCH

Attentive listening can sometimes be more important than giving answers or opinions.

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Ask yourself, “Have I said this before? Can my actions speak louder?” Another dimension of this is “talking smarter.” Share your struggles, not just your certainty. Is there a way that humor, a movie, or someone else can make a point better than I can? An often neglected corollary is that attentive listening can sometimes be more important than giving answers or opinions— no matter how short or smart. But remember, listening is not the same as just being quiet. Show that you understand. All of this takes the self-discipline of patient restraint. It’s tempting to want to pour out all your hard-won life’s wisdom into your adult children. You may want to give them a leg up, save them from your own mistakes, or rescue them from an action you see as folly. Restrain yourself. Patience, prayer, and pondering will hopefully remind you that some lessons only stick when earned through trial and error. Learn to wait. Emotions can both motivate and incapacitate us. Joy and peacefulness are beautiful, but it is the negative emotions of worry, sadness, disappointment, fear, and anger that often block the love that we want to flow from one generation to another. It’s easy to see God working in the happy emotions, and we are grateful. The negative emotions take more depth of faith. Thus, mindfulness of emotions starts with identifying the emotion that’s blocking my love, acknowledging its validity, and then moving through it. Virtuous actions might include reserving judgment on what seems to be a negative behavior, forcing yourself to see the good in your child despite him or her taking a path different than what you had hoped, forgiving your adult child, forgiving yourself. Jesus showed us the ultimate expression of love when he surrendered his life for us. Most of us are not called to sacrifice our lives for our children— but wait, yes we are! I’m not talking about physical death, but about the self-sacrifice of dying to our ego. It’s human to want to be right, to win, to be thought well of. But just as “unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24), so too, if we parents are to become our best selves and serve our children well, we must strip ourselves St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g


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They’re Coming to Be with Us! When adult children return home, share your expectations and limits, whether it be for holidays, vacation, or longer. If it’s for a while, be clear on how long a while is. What will happen if they drop out of school or want to live at home to save money, or if their lifestyle conflicts with your values? (Think study habits—or lack thereof—partying, sex, drugs, alcohol.) You will always love them, but you don’t always have to house them. Choose your battles, so that you don’t drive them away. If they are away at school, the messiness of their dorm room or which church they go to is small potatoes. Save your energy for crucial things like: Are they kind and fair? Are they seeking a spiritual grounding for their life? Are they people of integrity? Ultimately, we need to return our young adults into God’s Fr anciscanMedia.org

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of biases and self-righteousness. This isn’t easy and might take further selfeducation, listening to voices that differ from our own, and then discerning what is really true versus what is just tradition or pop culture. Underneath all of this is honest humility. What a sacrifice it can be. So let’s say you’ve been working the virtues, but not yet feeling very consoled or hopeful. Consider that sometimes one has to lose faith in order to find it. Often it’s a matter of moving from an inherited faith, through a time of wandering, to eventually recognize that something essential is missing in life. That essential element is a deeper awareness that the things of this world are not enough to satisfy. Sometimes this hands. Pray. Become friends with St. Monica. Ultimately, we searching for the divine comes through a She understands. Some parents are perpetual fixers. When are called to love health, job, or family crisis. Sometimes it just comes from feeling empty. It takes time—and you want to help out, ask yourself, “Will this each child just action be a step toward my child becoming it’s God’s time, not my time. Trust God. as God loves us. As we journey with our adult children more independent, or will it foster continuing through life transitions, it’s tempting to want dependence on me?� For example, paying off to fix our children or make them over into our a child’s credit card debt is a short-term fix image of the perfect human being. Ultimately, and makes you his or her banker of first resort. we are called to love each child just as God Conversely, paying tuition to finish a degree loves us—in all our human beauty and imperfections. It is your job to keep loving your child, no matter what. What Simply, peacefully convey the true meaning of Christmas follows are some tips for parents as their adult children move through life. ‡ (DV\DVVHPEO\ ‡ $OOZHDWKHU


your children that you will fully accept whomever they choose. If, sadly, the marriage does not last, banish “I told you so” from your speech. 2 Choose your battles. Your child needs your support, not 3 Support independence. your judgment. On a similar note, don’t advise 4 Support your adult child’s choice your adult child unless directly asked. of a mate. Whether about a job, a mate, or par5 Don’t advise unless directly asked. enting, your advice will be more 6 Respond to a young adult in crisis with likely heard if you wait for the “ask.” compassion, plus a plan for the future. For example, as a seasoned parent or maybe a grandparent, you’ve cer7 Don’t beat yourself up. tainly had decades of child-rearing experience and hopefully you were empowers a child to become more financially pretty good at it. But times have changed. Let independent. them make their own mistakes. You did. Then there is the biggie—selection of a One exception: if there is a life-threatening (hopefully) lifelong mate. One wise friend of situation or someone might get seriously mine is fond of saying that we parents are not hurt—emotionally or physically—you can the Selection Committee, we’re the Welcoming and should intervene. If your beloved young Committee! Support your adult child’s choice adult is in crisis, respond with compassion of a mate. plus a plan for the future. This means your Not everyone marries, nor should they, but child knows you will love him or her no matter this is your child’s life partner, not yours. If what, but you will not buy drugs, pay off you have serious reservations, you might voice debts, make excuses, or house him or her foryour concern once and explain why, but assure ever. Forgive, but verify. Some young adults (such as grown children with intellectual, emotional, or physical disabilities) may need your support for longer than others. No matter what is happening with your adult child, don’t beat yourself up! Regardless of how well or poorly RANCISCAN EDIA you assess your job as a parent, remember: You are responsible for the process Our legal title is: you use in raising your child, not the outFranciscan Media LLC come. Even if you aren’t so sure you 28 W. Liberty Street ■ Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498 did a good job on the process, the corollary to this maxim is: You did the For more information, call: best you could with what you knew at 1-800-488-0488 the time. God still loves you and your adult child. And God will guide him or her in God’s own way. Remember, all parents always have Your Digital room for improvement. You are a good Edition parent, and God continuously offers • Free to print subscribers you the opportunity to grow in love • Does not change your with your children as they make life’s print subscription journey. Enjoy! A • Many digital extras Susan Vogt is a speaker and writer on marriage, • Register at Franciscan Consider Media.org/ a Gift parenting, spirituality, and simple lifestyle. She subscription-services/ Subscription and her husband, Jim, live in Covington, Kentucky. They have four adult children. Her website is SusanVogt.net. Her Living Lightly blog is at susan vogt.net/blog/.

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7 Tips for Success

1 When adult children return home, share your expectations and limits.

So that his work might continue... Please remember

F

M

in your estate plans

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EDITORIAL

Syrians on the Run Jesus’ parable points the way. “Who is my neighbor?” That question is perhaps the most provocative one in all the Gospels (Lk 10:29ff). Jesus answers his wise inquisitor with a parable. It begins: “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.” We have seen as much in Syria over the past 4½ years. Robbers—the Islamic State and opposing Syrian-government forces— came into their cities, towns, and homes and attacked them, one way or another. These robbers have bombed them, terrorized, gassed, and killed them. The victims who were able fled for their lives. They walked across the desert, thousands and more thousands of men, women, and children, seeking the mercy of neighbors. We Americans watched from afar. Our military has been involved, ineffectively, as Syria has unraveled. And we’ve been hesitant to take care of the refugees.

Out of Sight The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is a long, gradual descent near the Dead Sea, about 16 miles of dirt and dust, surrounded in places by rocky crags, places where it is easy to hide. It looks like that to this day, though the road is now a highway. It falls off to the side in large ditches, easy places in biblical times to cast off a victim of violence, perhaps out of plain view. “A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite . . . passed by on the opposite side.” One can imagine the victim was moaning, injured, immobile, calling for help. The priest and Levite are a bit like us, tending to our children or grandchildren, deeply committed to our all-consuming jobs or community responsibilities, our recent elections, all for good and loving reasons. They—and we—cross to the far side of the Fr ancisca n Media .org

road, pretending we don’t see or hear, despite the moans or cries. We look away in spite of the news photos of the Syrians on the run. We won’t call them our neighbors, or our brothers and sisters, but, more distantly, “Syrian refugees.” They are a group of people, an object, in a ditch on the other side of the road, somebody else’s problem.

Paltry Relief Along comes help, Jesus continues. Forget that our Good Samaritan is an outsider; he is a man who sees suffering and is moved with compassion. He sees, is moved, and acts, caring for the man, even taking him to an inn. We, you and I, almost all of us, have crossed the road, averting our eyes, since, beginning in 2012, our Syrian brothers and sisters have fled for their lives. They’re not like us, we say. These Muslim Syrians (5 percent are Christian) might be terrorists— aren’t most of them? How can we trust that they’re not? Besides, we have our own problems, our own responsibilities—we’re busy! We walk to the far side of the road, avert our eyes, cover our ears, and hurry along the way. It’s year five. We’ve sent our emissaries to plead peace. We carry out our complicated military strategies, perhaps as much about oil as anything. And we ignore the refugees at our doorstep, in Canada, all across Europe, in the Middle East. The United States promised to take in 10,000 refugees this past fiscal year, finally, and we took in 12,587. Canada, one-ninth as populous as the United States, had taken in 25,000 already by February 2016. Compare that, though, to Amnesty International’s report of a whopping 4.5 million Syrian refugees in only five surrounding countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. We have taken in fewer than three-thousandths of the displaced Syrians. “Who was this man’s neighbor?” asks Jesus. “The one who treated him with mercy,” replies the wise inquisitor. “Go and do likewise, says Jesus.” It’s time that we step up our game. —J.F. December 2016 ❘ 25


A New Look They remind us that God is present in all things. BY MICHAEL DENNIN

MADONNA © DAN BRANDENBURG/ ISTOCKPHOTO; STAR © REALCG/FOTOSEARCH

I Miracles aren’t magic; rather, as the Gospel of John tells us, they are signs of God’s presence, God’s desire, in our lives.

T’S THE LAST SECONDS of the game. She shoots from half-court and scores. He throws long to the end zone—touchdown! Her shot catches the upper corner of the goal for the win. Victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat and the fans cry out, “It’s a miracle!” An event that we do not expect to happen manages to happen, and in modern society, not just in sports, we commonly call such events a miracle. But for people of faith, miracles are more. Miracles are God’s actions in our lives. Or to use an older meaning of miracle from John’s Gospel, miracles are the signs of God’s presence and God’s desires for us. Like Christmas, they are not just the unlikely events in our life; they are all the moments that God is revealing God’s self to us. But in an age of science and reason where miracles have come to mean the unlikely and the unexplainable, how are we to understand miracles and God’s actions? The first step is to recognize that God’s reality is greater than physical reality.

is often viewed as involving some violation of physical laws. And it is this view of miracles that runs head-on into our scientific worldview. By definition, physical or natural law refers to the rules that govern the physical world, that is, the world we access through our five senses and the tools we have built to enhance those senses. This is the realm of science— which is our best tool yet for uncovering the rules of the physical world. And when something unexplainable happens, the miracle is often connected with these rules being violated, and this is seen to contradict contemporary science. Connecting miracles with violations of physical laws is most common for medical miracles because the actual healing process is often not understood. In this case, not only is God credited with the healing, but the magical element of the miracle appears to provide confirmation of God’s existence. God intervened, violating natural law and bringing about the miracle. But what about the times the desired healing does not occur? Unfortunately, too often when this happens, it is the root cause for people losing their faith in God. So there are two main problems people might have with miracles: (1) they appear to contradict science, and (2) when they do not occur as expected, they cause us to doubt God’s existence.

One of the challenges with understanding God’s action in the world is being honest about our image of God. When imagining miracles, our common imagery is often of a physical being with “magical” powers intervening in the world to cause an unexpected event to occur. At the extreme end, a miracle 26 ❘

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Miracles and Mystery When we remember that God is so much greater than a physical being, then we are open to the possibility that miracles are so much more than unexpected events or violations of physical law. Consequently, both of the problems identified above become nonSt A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g

PHOTO BY JUSKTEEZ VU/ UNSPLASH

The Problem with Miracles


at


God is more generous than we can imagine, and we should act in the same fashion toward each other.

© DRAGANAB/ISTOCKPHOTO

Just as a mother interacts with the child in her womb, so, too, does God, revealing the mystery of God’s fullness in our lives.

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issues. As God tells us in Exodus, God is “I am Who am.” God is everything. God is the fullness of reality and goes beyond physical reality. At this point, words tend to fail to describe the deep mystery that this concept represents. It is one of the deepest mysteries of our faith that God is more transcendent than anything we can imagine, and at the same time, God is so close to us and is always inviting us into deep relationship. Though words fall short of fully capturing the mystery of God, our images and analogies can help. Instead of the image of a physical being interfering to change events, I propose the image of the child in the mother’s womb. The child is physical reality. The mother is the fullness of reality, God. If you were a small scientist inside the child, you would discover the equivalent physical laws that govern all behavior within the child. The mother fully interacts with and supports the child at all times, and yet at no point does the mother need to “violate” any of the rules governing the child. These interactions are the miracles of God’s presence and interaction with God’s creation. Though the mystery that is God may not be fully understandable, our experience of God acting in our lives and in our world is no less real, and these are true miracles. But how

does this really resolve the two issues we raised with miracles as magical acts? And if God does not violate physical laws, and miracles are not necessarily meant to be magical acts that prove God exists, what is the purpose of God’s miracles in our lives?

Miracles as Transformation God is powerful enough to accomplish everything God wants by acting within those laws, and so there is no need for God to violate physical law. However, even if God chose to violate physical laws in exceptional cases, the violation of physical laws is not the interesting issue; the interesting question is why is God acting in the world? When I hear stories of God’s actions, both in the Bible and in personal stories, I am struck by the positive transformations of the individuals or societies that are at the heart of every miracle. Recognizing the power of transformation moves miracles from evidence of God’s magical powers to signs of the true power of God to transform us and the world all the time! It is worth recalling a very common joke or story (who is telling it, and the context, determine if it is a joke or story!). A town is flooding, and a very religious man climbs to the roof of his house. He prays for God to save him. Soon a boat comes by and the people offer to take him to safety. He passes, saying that God will save him. He continues to pray, and another boat comes by. Again, he passes on going to safety, secure in his belief that God will save him. Finally, the water is almost over the house and a helicopter flies in and offers to save him. Again he refuses and then drowns. Once in heaven, he demands to see God. At his audience with God, he demands to know why God did not save him. God responds, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter! What more did you want?” In this story, the religious man is not fully open to the mystery of God’s action in the world. Focused on the magical solution, the man misses the potential for deeper relationships with those who want to help him. The story also reminds us that God can act in this world however God chooses. In fact, as a scientist, I find that one of the most amazing things about the world is that it obeys a well-defined, regular set of rules that are understandable by human reason. One of the St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g


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greatest gifts God has given to humanity is our reason as a way to better understand God and God’s creation.

Miracles as Surprises As we turn to the contemplation of biblical miracles, the idea of transformation is powerful. For example, most of Jesus’ miracles involve a surprising change of perspective. Miracles point to surprising aspects of God! But not the surprise we often assume when we read the Bible. When the Bible was written, science did not exist in the form we have today, so “magical” events were not surprising. Second, people lived steeped in a tradition of storytelling as a significant mode for communicating truth. The truth of events was more important than specific facts. If someone had a deep experience of God, it would be completely natural to describe the experience in terms that conveyed the wonder of the experience. The problem is that the scientific mind is often distracted by the issue of the facts of the event and not the meaning of the event. Consider a specific miracle. For some reason, whenever I speak on miracles, people ask me about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana (Jn 2:1-11). Almost everyone is familiar with the general story: Jesus is at a wedding and they run out of wine. Fr anciscanMedia.org

His mother tells him to do something about it. He resists, but she insists and makes the servants take action. Jesus turns the water to wine, and all turns out well for the wedding. Go back and read this story again—no one in the story is surprised that the water is turned to wine! They are only surprised that the best wine is saved for last. It is the action of being an exceedingly generous host that surprises everyone! The last lines of this story are a bit ambiguous: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” Is the sign that the water turned to wine? If the shocking part is the unbelievable generosity that results from the miracle—perhaps that is the “beginning of his signs.” After all, God’s incredible generosity is an ongoing theme in the Bible and a central element of Jesus’ ministry. In this context, we see how our scientific focus can cause us to worry over the apparent magical elements of the events and miss the deeper mystery that is being revealed— God is more generous than we can imagine, and we should act in the same fashion toward each other.

The True Power of Miracles The difference between mystery and magic is critical for understanding God’s

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What are the miracles of Jesus? • Feeding people • Healing people • Welcoming the unwelcome • Being at one with nature • Extreme nonviolence

actions in the world and the miracles God performs. At the heart of mystery is the challenge of living with concepts that make sense at a deep level but cannot be expressed well in finite language. Transformational experiences of God leave us struggling to explain what occurred—and magical language may work best to convey the mystery of the experience. But magical actions are not the point. The point is the transformation brought about by our experiences of God. As with the story of the drowning man, perhaps the real miracle— and mystery—is that God is always able to act within the rules God laid out for the universe because God is powerful enough to achieve anything! No reflection on miracles would be complete without considering John 14:12: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” What are the miracles of Jesus? They are feed-

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ing people, healing people, welcoming the unwelcome, being at one with nature, and extreme nonviolence. Notice, I include two actions perhaps not traditionally considered miracles because they do not necessarily have a magical element, but they certainly are surprising actions by Jesus that are signs of God—welcoming the unwelcome and extreme nonviolence. The real surprises are always the nonmagical elements: the forgiveness of sins, challenges to the normal views of society, and the transformation of people and society. Are we ready and do we have the will to feed all people of the world? Provide access to basic health care? Welcome all, even those we most fear? Live in better harmony with the natural world? And perhaps most challenging, achieve peace? It is certainly exciting to experience a miracle. However, if miracles are only magical acts by God, by contrast, we are limited by the physical world. But if miracles are the mystery of God in us with the power to transform, then we can truly embrace Save 15 00 Jesus’ call to do greater works than he Enjoy handmade fudge and did. We become the boats or helicopfruitcake from the Trappist monks ters that are God’s miracles for healat the Abbey of Gethsemani. ing—and even saving—the world. A

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Michael Dennin is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, as well as the author of Divine Science: Finding Reason at the Heart of Faith (Franciscan Media). Last June, the book was awarded first prize by the Catholic Press Association in the category of “Faith and Science.” He has appeared on a number of television programs, including Ancient Aliens. St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g


YEAR OF MERCY

❘ BY PAUL JEFFREY

Life over Death in Caloocan City The Corporal Works of Mercy ■ Feed the hungry ■ Give drink to the thirsty ■ Clothe the naked ■ Shelter the homeless ■ Visit the sick ■ Visit the imprisoned ■ Bury the dead

CNS PHOTO/PAUL JEFFREY

The Spiritual Works of Mercy ■ Admonish the sinner ■ Instruct the ignorant ■ Counsel the doubtful ■ Comfort the sorrowful ■ Bear wrongs patiently ■ Forgive all injuries ■ Pray for the living and the dead Bringing the works of mercy into Caloocan City, Philippines, Father Luciano Feloni, an Argentinian priest, is leading an effort to rehabilitate drug users who are vulnerable to violence and death.

A

Fr ancisca n Media .org

you offer something, people cannot really change.” He says users also must develop new sources of income. Almost all users “get their portion free, but, at the same time, they sell to others. If you stop their business, they have no way to survive, no way to feed their children.” A

tal Digi as t Ex r

Click here for a longer version of this article.

Paul Jeffrey is a freelance writer and photographer who contributes to Catholic News Service.

POPE FRANCIS ON MERCY “God did not send his Son into the world to punish sinners, nor to destroy the wicked. Rather, they were invited to convert, so that, seeing the signs of divine goodness, they might rediscover their way back.” —Pope Francis, September 7, 2016

December 2016 ❘ 31

CNS PHOTO/PAUL HARING

s the body count rises in the war on drugs in the Philippines, a Catholic priest is promoting healing over harming. Father Luciano Feloni consulted local officials in Caloocan City to help users who wanted to surrender. In the first two months of the war on drugs, more than 2,000 people were killed— some in police operations, others under suspicious circumstances. In response, tens of thousands of drug users have turned themselves over to police, choosing life in overcrowded jails rather than risk death on the streets. As Father Feloni celebrated funeral after funeral, he talked with his parish council, which agreed something had to be done. Without condoning their criminal behavior, Feloni wanted to help. He says it is unrealistic to think that people who surrender will be relieved of their addictions. “It’s a sickness, and you need psychosocial intervention to cure it,” he says. Surrender is “just the beginning. Unless


Wait for It! Advent is a time to embrace anticipation. Here is a path through the season.

‘‘ B Y C A R O LY N ANCELL

AIT FOR IT. . . .” Barney Stinson, the Neil Patrick Harris character on the television series How I Met Your Mother, said it 40 times and turned it into an oft-repeated, popular expression. “Wait for it. . . .” can make us stand on tiptoe in anticipation or leave us tapping our toes in irritation with perceived postponement or delay. Nobody likes to wait, and yet waiting is a part of life. We wait at the DMV or the grocery store checkout, in line at the post office to mail Christmas packages, for an appointment, a diagnosis, a resolution, a solution, an opportunity, the light at the end of the tunnel, a birth, a death. “Wait for it. . . .” It is the cry of Advent. As we enter Advent, we sing, “Wait for the Lord whose day is near” (Taizé chant) and “Patience, people.” Yet, Advent is not a good time for waiting! It is the very time when our social and shopping calendars kick into high gear. We cannot possibly “have no anxiety at all” (Phil 4:6) and rest in some blissful holding pattern. We’re not going to stop buying and mailing Christmas presents, visiting with friends and relations, or adding extra charitable activities for the sake of those who are not as fortunate as we are. We will not be able to avoid the noise and excitement in the air between Thanksgiving and Christmas (or, as it is increasingly now, between Halloween and Christmas). We will hurry, perhaps frequently. But we can also listen deeply to words from our Advent Scriptures and create a plan to insert moments of patient waiting into our busy days. Here are some possibilities.

First Week of Advent

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ache, yearn. Psalm 25 for the first Advent Sunday supplies us with the gift of a simple prayer to breathe over and over again this week: “For you [Lord] I wait all the day long.” Try praying it whenever you find yourself waiting for anything, stuck in traffic, fretting over an anticipated phone call or a delay in service, or standing in line. Turn each waiting moment into a sacred moment. When you feel particularly spiritually stressed, find the longest line!

“The days are coming—oracle of the LORD— when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).

Second Week of Advent

Life and its burdens can be overwhelming. We may feel unfulfilled, incomplete. We may

“The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:5-6). St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g


Third Week of Advent “Shout for joy, daughter Zion! . . . The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst” (Zep 3:14, 15). This is Gaudete Sunday, the day we rejoice in the closeness of the Lord’s coming. “Do not be discouraged!” says Zephaniah. Judgment has been removed from us, our enemies turned away. How do we understand that? How often do we hear a prayer for peace in the world and respond to ourselves, “Yeah, as if that’s possible”? Or see the need for justice or human rights in places that beg for them and think, Fat chance? This week, let us practice offering our prayers of petition as God asks, “full of gratitude,” recognizing that what appears impossible to us is always possible for God. We are in the season of impossible good news: God comes to us! While you are standing in line this week, do a rundown of your prayer requests and complete each one with a simple “thank you.” That’s it. Just “thank you.”

Fourth Week of Advent “O God of hosts, restore us; light up your face and we shall be saved” (Ps 80:8).

PHOTO BY JEANNE KORTEKAMP

In the first two readings and the psalm, God tells us that he “will” or “shall” heal us and bring to completion what he has begun in us. In the Gospel’s quote from Isaiah, the word shall occurs four times in the last two sentences. We are asked to hope and trust and wait on God; but let us not forget that God waits on us—often and patiently, like a parent with a growing child, or a beloved spouse, or a farmer awaiting the yield of the field in winter and in spring rain. This week, pay attention when you spend time waiting for others. Replace impatience with delight in the other, be it a child or an adult. Be as God waiting for you! Be patient with those you love and those you encounter. Fr anciscanMedia.org

We’re now entering the homestretch of Advent, heading for the goal, the celebration of the Lord’s birth. Jesus has come in history as a tiny babe in a manger. He does come in mystery, prayer, word, sacrament, and many small daily wonders. And he will come in glory at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. Our psalm response this Sunday is, “Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face, and we shall be saved.” God present in our midst— that is the gift that tops all gifts in this season and always! This week, let our prayer be simply a yearning for God. The decorations will be up. The cookies will be baked. Presents will be under the tree. Friends and family will gather. We will be prepared. Now what we must do is wait. Wait on the Lord! Anticipate that wonderful moment when we will once more fall on our knees and sing with the angels. . . . Wait for it. . . . “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14). A Carolyn Ancell is a freelance writer from Oro Valley, Arizona. She is the author of 18 books for children and adults, including Can the Saints Come Out to Play? December 2016 ❘

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CHRISTMAS “

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he guys want to hang out,” said our 26-year-old son after breakfast Christmas morning. “So, do you need me around for any . . .” he looked at me as he annunciated, “traditions?” Rob and I exchanged looks. We exchanged more looks than presents that Christmas. Of course, we expected the children to begin pulling away as they grew up, but we were still caught off guard when the holidays rolled around that year. “Sure, son,” my husband said. “Have a good time.” Because, really, what else could we say? It’s the bittersweet truth that we raise our children so they will leave. But that Christmas Rob and I found ourselves sitting in stunned BY CAROLINE ROCK silence, flipping channels, and napping. After that, I was more prepared. It’s a learning curve. Every year is different as the kids find their own way. So we have to find a way, too. As the nest empties, we have to learn what to hold on to and what to let go of. To make the holidays pass with meaning and not melancholy, I try to keep in mind the following.

For empty nesters, the holidays can feel, well, empty. Here are six ways to fill yours with cheer.

1

romantic ways. Take a thermos of hot chocolate and a favorite Christmas CD, and drive around town together enjoying the decorations. Plan a quiet dinner or a cozy evening at home with a glass of eggnog. Don’t spend all the time reminiscing about past Christmases with the kids. Instead, talk about future Christmases with each other. Above all, share the birth of Christ with one another. Bond through prayer, Scripture, and Mass. The beginning of a new liturgical year is a perfect time to take your love for each other to a deeper spiritual level.

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Let go of the feast.

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Hold on to the least.

I know, it’s nearly blasphemous to suggest ditching Christmas dinner. Even Tiny Tim’s poor family cooked up a goose! But as the kids grow, holidays will pull them in many different directions. Not expecting them to come for a big meal might be the best gift you can give. On Christmas Day, we set out platters of cold cuts, cheeses, special breads, and our favorite snack foods. This way, kids can come whenever they want, and food is ready without hassle. Remember, Christmas doesn’t really end until the Sunday after Epiphany. If you still want that big meal with all the family around the table, try having it another day. It will relieve the pressure on everyone and give you something to look forward to.

Let go of the kids.

Try not to take it personally if they would rather spend the holidays with the families of friends or significant others. This is natural. We certainly hope they will prefer being with us at holiday time, building new traditions as they outgrow old ones. But in these early adult years, they are taking what you have taught them and applying it to the world. Believe me when I say they will notice and appreciate your generous release of them. If they have a cheerful, inviting place to return to, they will be more likely to embrace your ideas for new, grown-up traditions.

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Hold on to your spouse. Find new purpose in one another. Holidays are a great time to reconnect in simple,

Jesus commands us to tend to the needs of “the least of these brothers of mine” (Mt 25:40). There’s no shortage of need during the holidays. Ask at your parish for opportunities to help at soup kitchens or shelters, or organize a group of carolers to visit nursing homes and hospitals. Maybe you know other empty nesters who would appreciate a visit. You will be amazed how such simple gestures will stir up your own Christmas spirit, and you may even be moved to continue these good works well beyond the holidays. As a fringe benefit, I can’t help thinking that it’s also a good lesson for those young adults of mine when they realize they are not the only ones I can be a servant to! St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g


without Kids

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Finally, hold on to the hope.

GRAPHIC ABOVE © KUDRYASHKA/FOTOSEARCH; PHOTO © ALESSANDRO-TOMIELLO/ ISTOCKPHOTO

5

Let go of the hype.

Simplify. Scale back on decorating, shopping, and baking. Resist the urge to go completely dark, as some do when the kids leave, but you don’t have to compete with the Griswolds. Your home can be joyful and inviting—a crèche, a simple tree, some thoughtful gifts, and a few sweets. As for me, I know that if I exhaust myself over dozens of cookies and Martha Stewart’s holiday tips, I’m sure to find myself binging on the leftovers and drained in January when it’s time to pack it all away.

The coming of Christ is really the point of it all. Find ways to celebrate the truth of Christmas. Look for special events of the season that will draw you closer to Jesus. Don’t abandon the Advent wreath just because the kids aren’t around to light it. Go caroling or attend an Advent Mass. Offer your talents for music, art, sewing, or chaperoning to the parish Christmas program. Is there a living Nativity in town? Go see it, or organize one at your own parish. Spending time at eucharistic adoration or meditating in front of a manger scene is a great way to allow your heart to be filled with the coming of Christ. An empty nest doesn’t have to be a lonely one. St. John Paul II reminded us mature Catholics that “this period provides real possibilities for better evaluating the past, for knowing and living more deeply the paschal mystery, for becoming an example in the Church for the whole People of God.” Just because the kids are grown and gone doesn’t mean we stop being an example for them. Prayerfully discern how God wants you to live the paschal mystery in this season of life. Your nest may be empty of children, but it’s still full of purpose. Allow your adult children Fr anciscanMedia.org

to see you thriving as a child of God, growing in your faith, and relishing the liturgical seasons, even after they are no longer living under your roof. A Caroline Rock is the wife of Rob, mother to Katie, Jonah, and Joyce, and soon-to-be grandmother. She lives in Maryland, where she is a college instructor. December 2016 ❘

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Make Room to Give Sometimes the best advice comes from an unlikely place. BY G.A. HERNANDEZ

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A New Perspective I’m not a pauper, and no one has commented on my lack of sartorial options. Though they’ve 38 ❘

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thinned out a bit, these trusty gray sweats are still completely functional. I look back to five years ago, when I was in the position of not having enough space because of an abundance of clothes, and I am amazed. I was never a hoarder, and I firmly believed in the “if you haven’t worn it in the last year, then get rid of it” principle. Yet I still had mounds of clothes, and by extension, things in general. When I think about the “last year” principle, I realize how silly that is, too. If I wear something just once in a year, is it worth keeping in my closet? Go look in your closet. Even if you follow the “last year” principle, how much in there is really worn on a regular—or even occasional—basis? Probably little. Yet we can’t let go. I look at my single pair of thinned-but-stillfunctional-and-worn-in sweats—I’m wearing them right now, and I’m thankful. I’m thankful that I’m back at a stage in my life where everything I own can fit in my (hypothetical) car. I’m thankful that I’m beholden to nothing material. I’m thankful that I’ve reached a point in my life where my possessions in no way own me. I think back to all the items I once had that just took up space, and now, with so much less, I’m thankful for what I do have. That being said, after twisting my own arm long enough—and with a little incentive from some freezing mornings—I’ve finally decided to buy a second pair of sweats. This Christmas, consider giving yourself a gift of less. Give away all those items you don’t really need to someone who can use them, and you’ll be giving yourself a present, as well. Now, if I can just find a little bit more room in my locker. A G.A. Hernandez has been incarcerated for nine years. He says his work with the Church in Captivity and his own spiritual growth are due in large part to the ministry of the Capuchin Franciscans. St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g

PHOTO © KHVOST/FOTOSEARCH

VERYTHING I OWN fits in a 5-foottall, 2-foot-wide, 1-foot-deep locker. Of that space, about 1 square foot is devoted to my clothes. I’ve been wearing the same pair of sweats for three years. I’ve finally decided that I need to buy another pair of sweat bottoms so that I can work out in the cold and not get my sleeping pair dirty. The main thing holding me back is that I don’t know if I have enough room in my so-called closet. It’s funny how easily we adapt to our environments. When people upsize to a larger home, they look at all the extra space and wonder how they’re going to fill it. Then a few years later, seemingly out of nowhere, the rooms and closets are filled, and they’re wondering where to put their extra stuff. It works in reverse, too. When they downsize, if they learn to let go and prioritize, they can limit themselves to the number of items needed to fit in any space. At first, I used to stop myself and think how pathetic my life had become. I had only one pair of sweats that I wore day in and day out. Even though I could have spent $15 to buy another top or bottom, I didn’t even have the room in my locker to hold them! But then, over time, that bewilderment turned into amazement. It’s been three years, and I’m still wearing the same pair of sweats, and it’s OK! The world hasn’t ended.


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Another Chance Was it time to say good-bye? FICTION BY RUTH BOWLEY HE RED-TIPPED NEEDLE on the thermometer outside the kitchen window hovers at 30 degrees. An icy drizzle greets me as I hurry to my car. Dirty, wet snow lies in the yard. My rubber boots slide, but I manage to grab the car door handle and climb in. I step lightly on the gas. The SUV snakes out of control until it hits the salted roadway. I am on my way. Everyone is either in school or working, so I have become the chief advocate for my widowed mother-in-law. At 84, she had been diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. Local doctors gave her a death sentence with not much hope of surviving past Christmas. I suggested we get a second opinion in the city where they had the latest treatments. She agreed. “I’m going to fight this!” she declared, her hazel eyes ablaze. I take her for cancer drug infusions three times a week. She still lives in the decaying riverfront neighborhood where Jack grew up. She has survived her old friends who lived nearby. Some of the newcomers are cut from a different cloth. I ring the bell and walk in. “Mom, you shouldn’t be here with the door unlocked. You know your neighbor across the street was just arrested for selling drugs. Those addicts will do anything to get money for a fix.” “Nobody’s going to bother me. I still have some nice neighbors. They watch out for me. They’re more concerned about me than some other people I know. Y’know Jack only stops once a week now.” Jack has been feeling sorry and guilty, and his mother doesn’t make it any easier for him. In a way, I agree with her. Now that she’s getting worse, he tells me he can’t stand to see her this way. As if it’s easy for me. But I defend him. “He took a week off when you first got sick,

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ILLUSTRATION BY JOANNA GORHAM

Fr ancisca n Media .org

but he had to get back to work. He’s really busy, Mom. I get up here at least three times a week, and you have your aides.” “It’s not the same.” She gives a sniff and a little toss of her head. Talking makes her cough now. I help her with her fake fur coat and matching hat, and wrap a red scarf around her neck. She pulls worn leather gloves out of the coat’s pockets and puts them on. “Ready?” I ask. “Wait, I need my coupons.” She points at a pile of clippings on the coffee table. “We’ll stop at the market on the way home.” She knows full well the market is not on the way home. She doesn’t ever ask for help. She demands and expects. I gather up the coupons and put them in her purse. She is very slow and deliberate. She steps down and brings her next foot to that step before stepping down again. It takes longer each time to get her safely into my car. She coughs all the way to the doctor’s, struggling to get her breath.

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e pull into the circular drive of the cancer treatment facility. A valet hurries over to the car and helps Mom out. Another opens my door and hands me a ticket. Mom takes my arm and we go in. It’s quiet in the elevator, although it is nearly at capacity. Everyone stares ahead numbly. In just a few seconds, we are on Dr. Schuleman’s floor. “Hi, Beth.” The receiving nurse, Maria, nods at me, then smiles at my mother-in-law. “How are you doing today, Olivia?” “If I was good, I wouldn’t be here, would I?” “Your daughter can wait for you here.” “I told you, she’s not my daughter.” They disappear behind the heavy wooden door with the small window. December 2016 ❘ 41


I grab some dog-eared women’s magazines off a rack and settle down for a two-hour wait. I am just into the third “How to Reduce Clutter” article, when I hear my name. “Elizabeth Jackson?” I can’t believe Mom is done already. Inside the treatment area, I follow the nurse past rows of people in recliners, hooked up to infusions that are no doubt keeping them alive, at least for now. Mom is sitting in Dr. Schuleman’s office. “The doctor will be in shortly,” the nurse lies. They are always overbooked. “He thinks I need to go into the hospital. I’m not going to be in the hospital for the holidays!” Mom says defiantly. “You talk to him. He wouldn’t listen to me.” She has a coughing spasm, a bad one. “Let’s see what he has in mind before you get all worked up.” I get her a cup of water. “Last time I landed in there, they wouldn’t let me go for a month! I’m not doing that again,” Mom insists. I hand her a magazine. We wait in the

treatment room for an hour. Finally the door opens. “As I told your mother, she has a serious lung infection and needs to be in the hospital so that we can administer an intravenous antibiotic,” Dr. Schuleman says. “I prefer that you take her now, before the infection gets any worse. We took a sputum sample so that we can specifically target the infection with the most effective antibiotic for that particular bug.” “How long do you think she will be in there?” “We’ll see.” He’s out the door and on to the next patient. We wait another 45 minutes for the paperwork we need for her admission to the hospital. We reverse our steps and retrieve my car from the valet. “I need to go home and get my clothes,” Mom says. She is already bargaining. “You know you’ll be in a hospital gown until they finish your tests for admission. Once you get settled in a room, I’ll go get you some clothes. I promise.”

“Nobody understands what I’m going through, nobody.” She starts coughing again, choking on the mucus. “I’m sorry. I know you are the one going through this, and I’m really, really sorry. I wish there was more that I could do. You know we love you very, very much.” “So you say.”

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om insists on going to the small hospital near her home. We know the routine. Mom is ushered into one of the rooms in emergency, where we wait for a nurse. They check her vitals, draw blood, and are going to try to get a catheter in place. She refuses. “I can go myself,” she says. She won’t take no for an answer. We wait for three hours while they find a room for her and schedule her X-rays, CT scan, and PET scan. She is finally in her room. I order her an egg salad sandwich and coffee. When they arrive, I am free to leave to retrieve her clothes.

Prayer annd meditatio meditation … the perfect gift

4 2 ❘ Dec ember 2016

St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


“You’ll be right back?” “Yes. It will take me about an hour. I’ve called Jack and he will probably be here right after work.” She accepts my kiss on her cheek. I squeeze her hand. She looks so small, like Goldilocks in Papa Bear’s bed. The drizzle is starting to freeze now. I drive carefully back to her house, pack a bag for her, and return to the hospital. Jack greets me with tears in his eyes. “She fell asleep and they can’t wake her up,” he blurts out. I hug him tightly. “I don’t know if she’s going to make it,” he adds. He is crying now. “I should have spent more time with her.” “She’s a tough old bird,” I say. “She’s been in worse shape than this before. She’ll get out of here.”

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ut she doesn’t. The days stretch into weeks. She has stopped eating, and is sleeping or semiconscious most of the time. Only tubes seem to connect her to life. A bag of fluid keeps her hydrated. It drip, drips

dry, and the nurses replace it with a fresh one. They have inserted the dreaded catheter. I sit with her all day, playing Elvis tunes for her on my daughter’s old boom box, hoping to rouse her. I hold her hand and comb her hair. Jack joins me in the evening and we have a private nurse at night. The kids and grandkids come to say good-bye. We notify her pastor, who anoints her. The elderly priest comes every third day to bring us Communion and pray with us. The hospital has made no attempt to provide nourishment for her. I won’t accept that she cannot be helped. She is not an old lady in my mind. She played bridge twice a week, had lunch with friends, went to senior activities and dances, and always volunteered for church events. But Jack seems to want the waiting to end. “I don’t want anything artificial done,” he says. “Why make her suffer?” The hospital staff seems to agree that she should not be given sustenance, just fluids.

“But food is nothing extraordinary,” I say. “Why can’t we try the feeding tube for a few days? Just see if she will respond, give her every chance? Just give her a few days?” “A few days more of this? I can’t take it,” Jack says. “Don’t you understand? That’s my mom we’re talking about!” Jack is completely distraught and irrational. I try to bring him down to earth. “That’s what you have to realize. It is your mom we’re talking about, not you,” I say. “She told the estate planner that she wanted to receive fluids and nourishment if she became incapacitated, and be given time to respond to treatment. Remember?” Jack cosigned her living will and was well aware of what it said. “I don’t think there is anything to consider here but her wishes.” Jack glares at me, waves his hand as if to dismiss me, and storms out of the room. I am angry and disappointed in him. Even so, I make mental excuses for him. He’s never seen a family member

Can we light a candle for you at the National Shrine of St. Anthony? Fr. Carl lights the candles for your intentions. Each burns for five days, a reminder of St. Anthony’s attention to your prayer. Candles dispel the darkness and offer hope. In lighting a candle, you are asking St. Anthony to intercede with the Lord for your intention. Can we light a candle for you? Visit us at www.stanthony.org. The Franciscan Friars 1615 Vine St., Ste 1 Cincinnati, OH 45202-6492

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December 2016 ❘ 43


suffer, as I have. I watched my dad struggle in the aftermath of several excruciating heart attacks until he finally succumbed, and he was less than 50 when he died. It wasn’t easy to watch, but Dad felt that every breath was precious and a gift from God. We prayed the rosary together as a family with him every night. Afterwards, my mom said she could feel the presence of Jesus while we prayed. Jack’s mom is a private believer. She seems almost embarrassed when we pray at family functions.

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follow Jack down the hall and catch up. “Come on, Jack. Let’s take a break,” I suggest. The chapel is around the corner from Mom’s room. He lets me lead him there. Inside it is toasty warm and cozy with the flicker of candles. We light two more candles, one for her and one for the family, and kneel to pray. Jack takes out his

ANSWERS TO PETE AND REPEAT 1. The moon now appears outside the window. 2. There are extra windowpanes. 3. Pete’s cuff is visible. 4. A berry is missing from the wreath. 5. The collar on Pete’s shirt is smaller. 6. A piece of greenery is missing from the wreath. 7. The left side of the ribbon is longer. 8. Pete’s cowlick has grown.

handkerchief and blows his nose loudly, as if to shake off his grief. “I hope the Lord takes her. She wouldn’t want to be bedridden,” Jack says. “I’m praying the Lord can heal her and send her back to us,” I say. “If that’s not his will, then I can accept it, but I’m rooting for her recovery. I think she’s got some good years left in her.” In the end, Jack agrees with me. The doctor inserts a tube and schedules a feeding for her. We are exhausted. Neither of us speaks on the way home. In two days it will be Christmas. Tomorrow we will trim the tree and set the table for Christmas Eve’s special fish dinner—our first without Mom there.

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he next morning, the kids and grandkids wake us up. I smell fresh coffee. The kitchen table is loaded with pancakes, eggs, sausage, and bacon. The tree twinkles in the den. Presents surround it. I look around me at the breakfast table and see all the treasures I could ever want. Our tradition is to have the youngest lead us in Christmas Eve day grace. Four-year-old Lizzie begins, “Bless us, O Lord . . .” After a noisy meal, Jack announces, “Everybody get ready. We’re going to see Grandmom. She’ll probably be sleeping, but that’s OK.” I pack Mom some eggs and sausage, a thermos of coffee, and the chocolate chip cookies she loves so much, just

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I certify that all information on this form is true and complete. _____________________________________________ DANIEL KROGER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER /PUBLISHER

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Date 9/29/16

in case. I put the Christmas vest I made her in a gift bag. The kids have gifts, too. We pile into three cars and caravan to the hospital. Jack steers everyone into the chapel for a moment of prayer before we go to Mom’s room. The grandkids light some candles. I ask God to help my family deal with what they are going to see. Jack leans toward me. “I want to thank you for loving my mom and helping us keep her a little longer,” he says. His eyes shine with tears.

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e all troop down the hall to Mom’s room. No one tries to stop us. It is Christmastime, after all. We round the corner, and there she is. Her bed is cranked up and her head is propped on a pillow. Her eyes are shut. My grandson David walks right up to her bed and puts his small hand over hers. Her eyes flutter open. She looks dazed at first. Her voice is weak. “What’s going on?” She struggles to cough. “How did you all get here?” She doesn’t lift her head. “We couldn’t have Christmas Eve without you, Mom,” my daughter Marie says. We all crowd around. Everyone wants to touch her hands, her feet, the covers. I hang back and watch as Mom basks in the outpouring of love. I see a flicker of hope in her eyes. Finally, it’s my turn. “I wouldn’t be here today if itwasn’t for Beth,” she tells everyone, pausing to breathe halfway through the sentence. I lean down to kiss her cheek. She whispers in my ear, “I heard you tell the doctors to just give me a few days.” She catches her breath and wipes her nose on the sleeve of her gown. “Now, do I see presents? I hope they’re for me,” she says with a little smile. “I’m tired now, though. I think that I’ll wait till tomorrow to open them.” A

Ruth Bowley is a freelance writer from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Since retiring she has been busy writing fiction. She has completed one novel and is working on her second. St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


AT HOME ON EARTH

❘ BY KYLE KRAMER

The Fullness of Life in Nature

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sustained, undivided attention to God’s creation, and this kind of attention puts a keener edge on my sometimes-dull spiritual imagination. I feel the sun finally Embrace rising to warm me on a 20the Wonder degree morning. I hear the birdsong and skittering Did you know that Pope squirrel-play and other signs Francis recently proposed of a forest waking up at caring for creation as a dawn. I sense the aliveness of corporal and spiritual work the tree I’m strapped into as of mercy? Find ways to it sways gently in a breeze. I incorporate this work of witness the red fox quartermercy into your everyday ing its way past my tree and life. the great horned owl staring me down from a branch not Devote some regular por10 feet away. In all of this, I tion of your prayer time to feel grateful, I feel alive, and I paying attention to some feel connected to the creator near-at-hand part of God’s and sustainer of this world. creation. It could be a In this season of Christparticular tree, activity at a mas, however, we celebrate bird feeder, or a local park. not just the sacramental presence of God in creation—a Late Advent includes the great Christmas gift in winter solstice. Find the itself—but also the glory of wonders of God in the turn God revealed in a human of the season as you anticibeing, fully alive. As a Chrispate Christmas celebrations. tian, I believe that Jesus—the helpless infant at Mary’s breast, the powerful healer and teacher and prophet, the crucified and resurrected Savior—opens an even wider invitation for us to enter the loving fullness of the Trinity. St. Athanasius says it best: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” A

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Kyle Kramer is the executive director of the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Spending time in nature provides a personal connection with the wonder of God’s creation. Fr ancisca n Media .org

tal Digi as Extr

Click the button on the right to listen to an interview with Kyle.

December 2016 ❘ 45

PHOTO FROM PIXABAY

© SEBASTIAN PICHLER/UNSPLASH

ensing God’s presence doesn’t come easily to me. As much as I’d like to spy angels perching in tree branches, like the poet William Blake, or to hear God’s soft whispering voice after the storm, like the prophet Elijah, I spend much of my time and energy in practical, pragmatic pursuits, and it’s easy to let my spiritual attention wander. When I decided to take up deer hunting several years ago, it was for practical, pragmatic reasons: in the absence of wolves, hunting helps control my region’s overabundance of deer, and it is an environmentally sustainable way to provide protein for my family. Every year, then, from October through January, I spend many hours perched 20 feet up in a tree stand, watching and waiting quietly at the threshold times of dawn and dusk, when deer are most active. My practicality and pragmatism have since conceded that hunting isn’t an especially efficient use of my limited spare time. And yet I keep coming back. Why? The most honest answer is that the time I spend in the woods is an opportunity to pay


ASK A FRANCISCAN

❘ BY FATHER PAT McCLOSKEY, OFM

PHOTO BY AARON BURDEN/UNSPLASH

Is God Listening to My Prayers?

Why is God not communicating with me, hearing and answering my prayer requests? I know God answers in God’s time, not our time, but I have been praying for many years without an answer. I pray frequently, usually twice a day at least. I send donations to charities. My prayers to saints have not lifted the profound loneliness that I have felt for many years. I have been told that I have a chronic depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. Although my spirit is broken, I continue to pray. Please advise what I should do. Thanks for writing. Perhaps God is communicating with you more than you realize. Are your prayers motivated by a desire to compel God to yield on a certain matter? I suspect not. You probably think that God would agree with you that what you ask in prayer is only one way to resolve a certain situation. Perhaps God was answering some of your prayers unexpectedly when someone told you that you have a chronic depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. Are you under a doctor’s care for this? If so, are you taking the medication prescribed? I 4 6 ❘ Dec ember 2016

would be responding recklessly if I failed to raise these questions. When I was in grade school, I used to pray for my Uncle Greg, who was no longer a practicing Catholic. I feared that he would go to hell if he did not return to the Catholic faith before he died. I eventually turned this situation over to God—not because I was indifferent to Uncle Greg’s salvation, but because I realized that only God can completely know the intricacies of an individual’s heart. Did Uncle Greg witness something that snuffed out his faith while serving as a soldier in France and Germany during World War I? I don’t know. Was there some other explanation for his apparent loss of faith? Again, I don’t know. Honest prayer opens up our hearts, as in the case of the tax collector praying at the back of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem (Lk 18:1314). Dishonest prayer, however, can lead us deeper into illusion, as it did for the Pharisee praying in the front of the same temple (Lk 18:11-12). That Pharisee may have been telling the truth about what he did, but his prayer was a train wreck as soon as he said, “I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other people.” The Pharisee was—even if his most typical sins were different. I encourage you to accept all the human and divine help available to you. The “human” help is not possible without God’s prior assistance— even if your doctor or counselor is an atheist. You are never beyond God’s loving

and merciful reach. Prayer should remind you of that regularly.

Why a Second Judgment? I was taught in a Catholic school that when we die, each of us will stand before God and be judged immediately on all the things we have done in life. Then you go to purgatory, heaven, or hell. If so, why do we need to be judged again on the world’s last day? When and who determined that there will be a second judgment? Catechisms have spoken of the particular judgment when someone dies and the general judgment at the end of the world. They have also indicated that purgatory ceases at the general judgment; whatever purification was needed before entering heaven will have been accomplished. The outcomes of the particular and general judgment are the same. The Councils of Lyons I (1245), Lyons II (1274), and Florence (1439-43) clarified the Roman Catholic teaching about purgatory, to which Church fathers between the second and sixth century had contributed and about which later theologians had written. In a sense, this teaching is prefigured in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18, where St. Paul teaches that those still alive at the general judgment will have no advantage over those who have already died. Because this letter is the oldest New Testament writing to reach the form in which we know it today, this indicates that from the earliest days of Christianity there has been a concern about the final judgment. Except for Jesus and Mary, no one in heaven yet has a glorified body; St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


after the general judgment, everyone there will have one.

Six Precepts of the Church Why are these rarely mentioned now? Are they still expected? Is their interpretation subjective? At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, the US bishops established these as the obligation to: 1) participate in Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, receiving the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly; 2) provide a proper religious education for oneself and one’s children; 3) observe the marriage laws of the Church; 4) support the Church, especially one’s parish and the worldwide Church; 5) observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence; and 6) share in the missionary spirit of the local and worldwide Church. These precepts are expected of adult Catholics everywhere. Over time, the worldwide Church has also made changes. For example, as recently as 50 years ago, the Catholic Church did not give permission for a Catholic to be married by a Protestant minister in a Protestant church; today that can be done if the proper dispensation has been requested and granted by the local bishop. The required days of fasting are now only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; those two, plus the Fridays of Lent, are days of abstinence, but even that requirement is not absolute. Supporting the Church financially is related to one’s resources. The 1983 Code of Canon Law touches on the US precepts in sections 2041-46 and 2048. These precepts are objectively stated but must be practiced according to each person’s possibilities. The six precepts of the Church identify important areas in becoming a more generous follower of Jesus Christ. No law’s observance, however, enables a Catholic—or anyone else—to argue with and prevail over St. Peter at the pearly gates. Fr ancisca n Media .org

Laws tend to state a minimum; that’s why they are usually stated negatively (avoid doing XYZ, or if you do XYZ, this is the punishment you can expect). Positively stated laws (for example, love your neighbor as yourself) are often not taken very seriously because it is not so clear when someone has completely followed such laws. Growing as a generous disciple of Jesus means cooperating with God’s grace to the best of one’s ability. That ability is not the same when someone is 65 years old as it was when that person was 5 years old. Our possibilities for good and for evil usually change significantly as we age. Disregarding all laws is a recipe for a very selfish life; constantly overemphasizing the letter of the law will lead to a very stingy life mired in a false sense of security. Jesus told several parables to illustrate these dangers. With God’s help we can grow as disciples while generously observing both positive and negative laws. A

Click the button above to hear Father Pat’s insights on Catholic topics.

Father Pat welcomes your questions! Send them to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or Ask@FranciscanMedia.org. All questions sent by mail need to include a selfaddressed stamped envelope.

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St. Anthony Messenger is only $39.00 for 12 monthly issues. This price includes our digital edition: digital.StAnthonyMessenger.org. __ YES! Please begin my subscription. Ship to: Name ________________________________________________ Address _______________________________________________ City/State/Zip ___________________________________________ Payment Options (Choose one) ___ Please bill me $39.00 for 12 monthly issues. ___ Enclosed is my check or money order. ___ Charge my: __ Visa __ Mastercard Card #: __________________________ Expiration Date ______ Signature __________________________________________ Phone _____________________________ ________________ Mail to: St. Anthony Messenger, P.O. Box 189, Congers, NY 10920-0189 For fastest service, call toll-free: 866-543-6870, M-F, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Eastern) To order a subscription online: FranciscanMedia.org/subscribe

December 2016 ❘ 47


BOOK CORNER

❘ BY CAROL ANN MORROW

The Pilgrim Journey

What Our

Readers

Recommend The Creed: Professing the Faith through the Ages Scott Hahn The Spiritual Journey of George Washington Janice T. Connell Armchair Mystic: Easing into Contemplative Prayer Mark E. Thibodeaux Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing beyond the Game John Sexton Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper Brant Pitre

4 8 ❘ Dec ember 2016

A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World By James Harpur BlueBridge Books 208 pages • $15.95 Hardcover/Paperback Reviewed by SUSAN SAINT SING, PhD, a Secular Franciscan and the author of nine books, including A Pilgrim in Assisi, The Wonder Crew, and Spirituality of Sport. She lived in Assisi, Italy, and has made pilgrimages to Canterbury, Chimayo, and Delos, Greece. She currently lives, teaches, and coaches in Florida. Passion for walking and traveling on pilgrimage to sacred sites infuses The Pilgrim Journey: A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World. Using his Cambridge-trained historical bent, James Harpur leads readers down the paths of insight and knowledge about the historical importance of pilgrimage and its relevance and resurgence in the present day. Having been a pilgrim myself, I found this book to be extremely well written and easy to read. The size of the book is just right for throwing into a backpack or suitcase. I prefer the hardcover edition, which makes it easy to write notes in the margins. Published by BlueBridge Books, the text and format of the book are easy on the eyes and its price easy on the pocket—enough so to make it a must for purchase before a trip, when every penny counts. Each chapter of this worthy read begins with a famous quote, which adds further

insight into the ways pilgrimage has been interpreted. Harpur carefully weaves the pilgrimage trails and destinations of Europe and the Holy Land—such as Canterbury, Rome, and Jerusalem—with the New World shrines in the Americas. The result is a very thorough and comprehensive continuum. But he also steps off the beaten pilgrimage path and brings the reader’s attention to lesser-known sites across both North and South America. His description of Chimayo in the American Southwest Diocese of Santa Fe gives the historical backdrop accurately, but I feel, in this case, the local environs surrounding the shrine might have been better portrayed. It is a desolate, humble place that urges pilgrims to settle to their knees atop the ancient sacred earth out of reverence and awe. But overall, the author tries to cover a large scope of history dating back many centuries, and successfully accomplishes this formidable task. The author’s voice is that of a poet and fellow traveler, giving the reader an invigorating dose of spirituality and historical background. I particularly like the references and historical background given to the Magi. Most of us, as Harpur deftly points out, think of pilgrimage as a journey to somewhere that holds relics or bones, or some sacred site that releases its blessing to the surroundings. I believe in looking at spirituality as an energy of goodness that we can tap into. I have spoken on this subject, and I feel the author has truly experienced the reward of pilgrimage in his own heart and soul. Harpur rightly points out that the Magi, arguably the first Christian pilgrims, went seeking a living being, not a relic. That insight made me stop and consider. Clearly, Harpur brings a scholar’s eye to this text, and the richness of his details can only aid the modern pilgrim or armchair traveler to ponder the depth and intricacies of pilgrimage itself. The “ingredients” of pilgrimage that Harpur weaves into his narrative pull at both emotional and intellectual strings, encouraging readers to pause and to ponder. After all, isn’t that what pilgrimage is all about? St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


BOOK BRIEFS

‘Let the Little Children Come to Me’ Spider’s Gift A Christmas Story By Geraldine Ann Marshall Pauline Books & Media 40 pages • $14.95 Hardcover

Mary’s Way The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God By Judy Landrieu Klein Ave Maria Press 160 pages • $14.95 Paperback/E-book Reviewed by MARY LYNNE RAPIEN, mom of six married children, grandmother of 20, and greatgrandmother of four. She wrote for St. Anthony Messenger for 40 years. The self-stated purpose of the book Mary’s Way, by Judy Klein, is to encourage women to “pick up the banner of prayer, to pray unceasingly, and to learn to surrender our children and ourselves to God.” To achieve this goal, the author sets the stage in the first chapter, then divides the remaining seven into the five joyful mysteries of the rosary, followed by the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Each chapter is Scripturepacked and Mary-focused, and ends with a challenging question for reflection as well as a prayer response. By looking more deeply into Mary’s faithfulness, Klein reveals the transformation of her thinking about motherhood, womanhood, prayer, the intercession of the saints, and Church teachings. She talks about Marian spirituality and the freedom she found in total consecration to Mary. Klein’s life was no Camelot. She is surprisingly transparent about her husband’s death and her children’s struggles, which included addictions, anorexia, and unwed pregnancy—all shared with their permission. This transparency was necessary to appreciate grace in the moment and the transforming grace of God over time. The book is easy to read, but one to be mulled over to get its full benefit. I underlined many passages to revisit. Fr ancisca n Media .org

We’ve all heard the expression “to be a fly on the wall.” But what about a spider? Geraldine Ann Marshall tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of a spider, a honeybee, and a cricket, likening them to the Magi.

Our Father By Rainer Oberthür Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 58 pages • $16 Hardcover Prayer takes practice—for all of us! Remembering the words to prayers can be a struggle for children; understanding their meaning is a whole other question. In Our Father, each line of the Lord’s Prayer is fleshed out with easy-toread explanations and paired with images kids can easily connect with.

Dear Pope Francis The Pope Answers Letters from Children around the World By Pope Francis Loyola Press 76 pages • $18.95 Hardcover In his first-ever children’s book, Pope Francis responds to the simple yet profound dilemmas that enter young minds. “Why did God create us even though he knew that we would sin against him?” asks one boy. The pope gracefully answers questions that many of us have probably wondered ourselves. —D.I.

Books featured in Book Corner and Book Briefs can be ordered from

St. Mary’s Bookstore & Church Supply 1909 West End Avenue • Nashville, TN 37203 • 800-233-3604 www.stmarysbookstore.com • stmarysbookstore@gmail.com December 2016 ❘ 49


A CATHOLIC MOM SPEAKS

❘ BY SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER

A Christmas Wake-Up Call

ILLUSTRATION BY MARY KURNICK MAASS

I Click the button above to listen to Susan’s reflections on family life.

5 0 ❘ Dec ember 2016

can’t get the image out of my head—a young boy in the back of an ambulance, covered in dirt and blood. He touches the blood on his head, stares at it, and then wipes it on the side of his pants. He ended up there following an attack on his family’s home in the city of Aleppo, ground zero for the fighting in Syria. The little boy, identified as 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, is later joined by his sister and brother, Ali, in the ambulance. It was later reported that 10-year-old Ali had died from his injuries suffered in the air strike. I think of Omran—just a year younger than my daughter Kacey—and wonder about the next chapter in his story. I also think of Alan Kurdî, the 3-year-old boy found dead on a beach in Turkey. His brother and mother also died after the family’s boat capsized.

The family—reportedly from the northern Syrian town of Kobani—was trying to escape the fighting that has plagued their home for the past five years. Hundreds of thousands more Syrians, many of them children, have also been lost to the fighting.

Time for Action In a letter this past August to President Obama, the 15 physicians who are still in Aleppo asked for help, saying, “We do not need tears or sympathy or even prayers; we need your action.” For most of us, it’s easy to shove the disturbing images of war, hunger, homelessness, and many other things that make us uncomfortable to the back of our minds. If it doesn’t affect our daily lives, we have the luxury of skimming over or scrolling past headlines or changing the channel when we St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


PUTTING A FACE ON THE CRISIS

become uneasy or are drawn to the next big story to catch the headlines—no matter how inconsequential. But what can I do? you might ask. Of course there are the obvious answers, such as make a donation to an organization such as Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or pray for peace in Syria and those affected by the war. CRS also has a number of ways to get involved and help on their website (CRS.org). There are also other ways to help, though. For instance, speak up. Contact your senator or representative

Sakeena, her parents, and eight siblings have lived in a makeshift shelter made of a few wood beams and an assortment of tarps in Lebanon’s remote Bekaa Valley. “‘She likes to know about everything,’ Sakeena’s mother, Turfa, says. ‘You send her to the shop and she comes back with the right amount of money.’ “Turfa hopes that her daughter will someday become a teacher. In the meantime, the family is focused on day-to-day survival. “Turfa knows what she wants for the future. ‘If God let the war end tomorrow,’ she says, ‘we would walk barefoot back home.’”

and make your voice heard about the plight of refugees. Bring attention to the suffering of these families—families like yours—via outlets such as social media and in conversations with others. Challenge assumptions and misinformation about refugees. The most important thing is to do something.

PHOTO BY NIKKI GAMER/CRS

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has assisted a million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the Middle East and Europe. In an effort to shine a light on the crisis, CRS is sharing the stories of six Syrian refugees on its website. This is the story of one of them, who happens to be the same age as my daughter Riley: “With her thick black hair pulled into a long ponytail, a bright pink Tshirt, and multi-colored nail polish, Sakeena Mteir looks like your typical 11-year-old. And in some ways, she is. But for more than four years,

But, unfortunately, for many people throughout the world, that will not be the case. I think of Omran and his family and all those suffering from the horrors of war. In light of that reality, whether we got what was on our Christmas lists seems pretty inconsequential, don’t you think? A

Remember Our Blessings This month we celebrate Christmas. Many of us will enjoy a peaceful season complete with gift exchanges, extravagant meals, and choruses of “Silent Night.” We will gather in our homes and not have to worry about bombs falling around us. We are blessed.

Do you have comments or suggestions for topics you’d like to see addressed in this column? Send them to me at “A Catholic Mom Speaks,” 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to CatholicMom@Franciscan Media.org.

PETE AND REPEAT These scenes may seem alike to you, But there are changes in the two. So look and see if you can name ILLUSTRATION BY TOM GREENE

Eight ways in which they’re not the same. (Answers on page 44)

Fr ancisca n Media .org

December 2016 ❘ 51


BACKSTORY

St. Anthony Center

L

ast night, I attended an amazing event in the buildings next to ours. It started in the Franciscan motherhouse friary, behind St. Francis Seraph Church, and ended in the new St. Anthony Center. That’s

the building that once was home to this magazine. Last year, we completed our move into an adjoining building to make way for the center,

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER HEFFRON

which will house programs serving those in poverty. St. Anthony Center deepens my pride to work with the Franciscans. I saw the plans and met the leaders of seven existing social-service agencies that will use the building. One is the Mother Teresa Dining Room, a part of St. Francis Seraph Ministries. That soup kitchen has been a staple in our lower-income neighborhood for decades. They’ve outgrown their space in the parish school’s basement. Another is the Center for Respite Care, a step-down facility for homeless people who have been hospitalized and have nowhere to go after hospitalization. Marianist Brother Bob Donovan, MD, leads this center, which also will help find homes for patients upon discharge. Then there’s Magdalen House, a place for homeless individuals to come in off the streets, take a shower, and generally take care of themselves, restoring dignity and hygiene. In the same vein is Franciscan Ministries/ Haircuts from the Heart, which provides hair care for people in our neighborhood and possibly others (alas, too late for my long-missing hair). Fifth is Sarah Center, a crafts co-op/jobs training program, restoring confidence in women who participate. There’s also a community-health program, TriHealth Outreach Ministries. Finally is a new program, Sweet Cheeks, which provides diapers for infants in cash-strapped families. Dia-

PHOTO BY JOHN FEISTER

Busy mom Megan Fischer learned that many other moms have no diapers for their babies. She cofounded Sweet Cheeks to do something about it.

pers are not covered by food stamps, which even the working poor depend upon. How families cope without fresh diapers is awful; here is relief. The friars have created the space for all of this to happen; the various groups are working together to see that it does, serving the very poor. As St. Francis said, “What had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body.” It’s inspiring.

Editor in Chief @jfeister

5 2 ❘ Dec ember 2016

St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o rg


CNS PHOTO/MIKE CRUPI, CATHOLIC COURIER

REFLECTION

Through

MARY, we come to her Son more easily. —St. John Paul II


ST. ANTHONY M 28 W. Liberty Street Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498

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