Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Can Mother Teresa help Clinton embrace adoption over abortion?

First appeared in Crux on August 19, 2016

At first blush, the idea of Hillary Clinton having much appeal for pro-life voters may seem a terribly long shot. A relatively little-known partnership between Clinton and Mother Teresa in the 1990s, however, suggests the fascinating possibility of altering the traditional political calculus.

In her July 26 speech accepting the Democratic nomination, Clinton reiterated her commitment to preserving social security, expanding social programs, fighting for children and their health insurance, and defending the disabled, working people, immigrants, women and the poor.

In many ways, those are precisely the same commitments Pope Francis will celebrate in Mother Teresa when he formally declares her a saint on Sept. 4, and Mother Teresa and Clinton are linked by more than being accomplished women in what have long been men’s worlds.

In February 1994, Mother Teresa was invited to deliver a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual ecumenical and inter-faith event that happens every February in Washington D.C. The title of the speech was Whatever You did Unto One of the Least, You Did Unto Me, which was the core of Mother Teresa’s theology of mission to the poorest of the poor.

... continue reading in Crux

Mother Teresa: A saint despite spiritual ‘darkness’

Happy to be quoted in an article by Nicole Winfield of Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis canonizes Mother Teresa on Sunday, he’ll be honoring a nun who won admirers around the world and a Nobel Peace Prize for her joy-filled dedication to the “poorest of the poor.” He’ll also be recognizing holiness in a woman who felt so abandoned by God that she was unable to pray and was convinced, despite her ever-present smile, that she was experiencing the “tortures of hell.”

... continue reading in The New York Times or in The Washington Post

Centered in the Periphery – Pope Francis and Mother Teresa

Appeared first in Salt and Light Media on August 31, 2016

Since March 2013, when Pope Francis was elected at the See of St. Peter, he has captured the minds and hearts of the people worldwide: Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, believers, and non-believers alike. Compassion and forgiveness, mercy in action and prayer, love of God and love of neighbor, are some of the markers of Francis’ papacy so far. A particular concept of paramount importance to Francis’ pontificate is “the periphery.” In his interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, a few months after his election, Francis talked about his theology of the periphery, explaining that the great revolutions and changes in history were realized when “reality was seen not from the center, but rather from the periphery.” According to Pope Frances, it is the life experience of the periphery, walking the walk of the periphery with the people of the periphery, through which one is acquainted with reality. The direction of Francis’ pontificate is periphery-bound, moving the Church from security to risk-taking, “from inward looking to outward looking,” from the center to society’s edges.

But what is “the periphery”?

... continue reading in Salt and Light Media

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mother Teresa’s Mysticism

Appeared first in Salt and Light Media on August 28, 2016

On August 23, 2007, TIME magazine published excerpts of the private journals and letters of Mother Teresa depicting her crisis of faith and her almost 50 years without sensing God’s presence. TIME’s author, David Van Biema, asked: What does her experience teach us about the value of doubt? The late Christopher Hitchens, Mother Teresa’s harsh critic, refers to these letters as “scrawled and desperate documents” from a “troubled and miserable lady” who tried to recruit others “to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe.” (Newsweek, 8, 28, 2007). To conclude that Mother Teresa was “a crypto-atheist,” who was perfectly knowledgeable that there was no God but lacked the decency to admit it, cannot be farther from the truth. This is to misconstrue the woman and the mystical experiences she underwent. Moreover, it is exactly this doubt and the life-long “thirst” for God that make Mother Teresa become St. Teresa of Kolkatta. Mother Teresa is real, approachable, and earthly as she herself desired to be: “If I ever become a saint—I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”

... continue reading in Salt and Light Media

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WYD is the Palestra to Educate and Practice Bridge-Building

Roberto Maroni, the president of the Lombard region of Italy, said in an appeal to the media that “Father Jacques is a martyr of faith” adding that the pope “immediately proclaim him St. Jacques.” In a recent article John Allen suggested that Fr. “Hamel’s martyrdom gives organizers (of the WYD) a chance to educate Catholic youth at a moment when they’re likely to be especially receptive.” Education is key and martyrdom has unfortunately become a common occurrence; WYD might be the perfect setting to reflect on this current and crucial issue. Is there a difference between the Christian martyr and terrorist suicide bombers? The results of both might seem the same: loss of human life, but the philosophy behind both acts is diametrically opposite.

The most recent attacks on innocent people in France, suicide bombings in Germany, killing of Catholic priests and nuns in Yemen, are brutal acts of terrorism, not martyrdom. The Syrian suicide bomber who injured fifteen innocent people last Sunday in Ansbach, Germany, is not a martyr. A martyr is exactly the opposite of a suicide bomber. A martyr is someone who upholds his/her faith to death. He/she is a lover of faith and of life. He or she dies so that something else may live and multiply. The martyr dies so that his/her cause may live. A martyr is the one who cares so much for something outside of himself, that “he forgets his personal life” (Chesterton). Christ’s death on the cross was not a deliberate suicidal act. Instead, Christ is a model for the martyr to imitate and to follow in voluntarily enduring death because of love of faith. Faith is so crucially important and life such a tremendous gift that martyrs are ready to give their lives up for the cause. The cause is outside and more important than self. Self is destroyed and diluted; it becomes meaningless for the cause. Odium fidei, or hatred of the faith, is another important requirement for martyrdom and, if this element is lacking, there is no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church.

Suicide, on the other hand, is an act of rejection and negation of life. It is a deeply desperate act. The terrorist suicide bomber “cares so little for anything outside of him, that he wants to see the last of everything.” (Chesterton). A suicide bomber is a destroyer of life and of the other. The focus here is on self and personal distress, thus forgetting everyone else. There is no cause to live for, but instead much distress in dying, often sacrificing the lives of others in the process.  

Eleven years ago during the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Pope Benedict XVI in his speech to the Muslim communities living in Germany reflected on the spread of terrorism and the damage terrorism was causing to Christian-Muslim relations. The Pope warned that terrorist attacks and suicide bombings which were occurring in various parts of the world “poison our relations and destroy trust, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful and serene life together.” Obviously, things have become worse in the last several years. Time demands an urgent need for education and interaction, mercy and dialogue, exploration and contemplation of possibilities to build human bridges (Pope Francis) and WYD is the perfect palestra – training ground to practice all of the above.