Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Back On The Holy Hill

Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church.

Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church.

Today marks the completion of two weeks on the road. I’m at St. Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary in Southern Indiana this morning.

I’m looking forward to visiting with our three seminarians studying here as well as with the faculty, and celebrating the community Mass today.  I remember as a seminarian looking forward to visits by my Archbishop, and now, I enjoy the opportunity to get to know my seminarians and hear how they are growing in discernment and formation.

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Deacon Augustine Carrillo, Clark Lenz, and Deacon Hiep Nguyen with Bishop Etienne

The first week of November I was in St. Paul for meetings with Catholic Rural Life.  We held a board meeting on Monday and Tuesday and then welcomed 70 agriculture and faith leaders from around the country for a three day symposium on faith, food, and agriculture. Catholic Rural Life is collaborating with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to draft a document on the Vocation of the Agriculture Leader.  This will be a companion piece for the previously written document, The Vocation of the Business Leader.

A part of the work leading up to the writing of the document is to hold two symposiums, the one held last week in St. Paul, and an international one the end of June in Milan, Italy.  We are posing questions on the topics of faith, food and the environment and listening to theologians, farmers and many others involved in various spectrums of the agriculture world and business.

There are many issues around hunger and food, farming, food production and distribution, labor, environment and care for the earth and all of our natural resources.  Our efforts seek to better understand all of these complex issues, while at the same time introducing principles based upon gospel-based values and ethics to help leaders develop sound answers that will respect the dignity of the human person and the limited resources of creation.  As Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical Charity in Truth, Blessed Pope Paul VI “proposed Christian charity as the principal force at the service of development.”  (Charity in Truth, #13)

From St. Paul I made my way to Baltimore for the November plenary meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  I was very encouraged during our meetings this week by the leadership of our President, Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville.  I had a chance to speak with him at the airport in Baltimore yesterday evening, and thanked him for his generous and gracious leadership.

I am also pleased to see more time spent during our gatherings for bishops to gather in smaller groups for more in depth discussions on specific questions.  I was particularly pleased that one of the questions invited the bishops to reflect upon the direction and teaching of Pope Francis in light of our own future priorities as a Conference.  I’m hopeful that this will help us be more responsive to the needs, hopes and desires of the Catholic population, and enable our work to be more capable of making a difference in the day-to-day life of the faithful.

The past two weeks have been very full, and I pray God bless the work of the labor of many people who seek to serve Him for the good of the Church and the common good of society as a whole.  More and more I am convinced that the Gospel is essential for building up the fraternal wellbeing of all of God’s people in society.  Please God, may we find our way to presenting the truths of the Gospel in a manner that can improve the lives of all of God’s people.

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Feast of Lateran Basilica Calls To Mind Our Membership In The Body of Christ

Today the Church celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, St. John Lateran, which also serves as the Pope’s Basilica as the Bishop of Rome. In many ways, the image of a ‘church’ structure, symbolizes the many different aspects and elements of the church architecture which come together to form a beautiful place of worship.

We hear in the readings today that Christ is the foundation of this structure, and each of us are a temple of God.  (1 Corinthians 3)  The Spirit of God dwells within each of us and dwells within the Church.  From the Church flows a life-giving water that sustains the life of every creature and plant, and refreshes the waters of the sea.  (Ezekiel 47)

It is good for everyone of us to think through this imagery of being ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:4-6) in the edifice of the Church.  Our membership in the Church is in and through Jesus Christ, in whom we are bound together in our many varied gifts into the one community of faith.  Thus, for our unity, we are to regularly cultivate our friendship with Christ; our LIFE in Christ.

Another way to look at our membership in the Church  is through another beautiful title of the Church.  We (every member of the Church) are the Body of Christ.  In Baptism, we are joined in a very real and permanent way to the person of Jesus.  This means that our natural life is now oriented to its fullness in the person of Jesus.  To use other language, we have become ‘one flesh’ with Christ.

Once our bodies, our life, is joined to Jesus, we now are continually being more and more oriented to Christ; to His Gospel and Truth.  Our relationship with Christ is what frees us from sin, and helps us find our proper ‘freedom’ in all that we do.  Christ is now intimately a part of us, and through baptism, Christ has made us an intimate part of Himself.

All that we do ‘in the flesh’ now involves our ‘one flesh’ union with Christ, and this knowledge and reality is what consciously informs us in our behaviors, our thinking, our values.  What we cannot imagine Christ partaking in, we no longer indulge in.  What we see Jesus doing, we now participate in.  This is the life-giving water that flows from the Church and renews all things; the life of Christ in us and the life of the Holy Spirit that animates our very existence.

All that God created finds its renewal and redemption in the person of Christ.  Through the Church and her sacraments, Christ brings us into his Body.  In Christ, we are made whole; we are made one.  Let us live our life in Christ in unity, peace and joy.

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Cardinal Turkson’s Talk: Agriculture As Vocation

Last night, on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Cardinal Turkson’s representative delivered his presentation on Faith And The Call For A Human Ecology.  The presentation was a keynote address that is a part of our days together with agricultural leaders for a symposium on Faith, Food, and Environment.  It is quite inspiring, and worthy of reflection.  This talk will help Catholic Rural Life in our efforts to develop a document on the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader.

Enjoy.

Symposium on Faith, Food and Environment

St. Paul, Minnesota

5 November 2014

 

Faith and the Call for a Human Ecology: The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader

 

On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and of its President Cardinal Peter Turkson[1], I thank you for the very kind invitation to the Council to participate in the Symposium on Faith, Food, and the Environment here at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul.[2] Thank you for the warm welcome

I. Introductory Remarks

Cardinal Turkson is very grateful for your invitation. If he were not required by the Vatican to help devise a response to the Ebola crisis, he would be here today where he has found exceptional collaborators at the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought. He would make special mention of the leadership of Professor Michael Naughton who has led the development of our very successful booklet on the “Vocation of the Business Leader”. This symposium is very much an outgrowth and applications of the insights in that work.

Two other touchstones are worth mentioning. In 2011, our Council issued a small booklet entitled Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority. In the midst of the major economic and financial system problems that continue to reverberate, this was an attempt to bring human dignity and the common good to the attention of world leaders who were reacting to the crisis. The production and distribution of agricultural goods and the behaviour of financial markets in relation to foodstuffs are very much part of this crisis, and perhaps this symposium will have good thoughts to add in their regard.

Just last week, Cardinal Turkson hosted a major three-day meeting of some 150 of the world’s marginalized people, representatives of grassroots movements concerned with housing, land and work. These include peasants who lose their land and livelihood to agribusiness, and agricultural workers trapped in poverty. On Tuesday morning (28 Oct), Pope Francis participated for several hours in joyful and lively encounter with them in the Old Synod Hall. First he met selected representatives, then he delivered an inspiring speech that has been described as a ‘mini-social encyclical’.[3] Several chosen spokespeople shared, including a man who had dedicated years to building up a cooperative, but then one of his colleagues “sold out to the usual interests who’re always in charge”.

Your topic is very much on the mind of the Pope; as has been announced, he plans to issue an encyclical early next year on creation, ecology and the environment. In fact, he assured his listeners last week, “Your concerns will be present in it.”

In my remarks, I wish to expound on the idea of vocation, then on agriculture as vocation. Following this, I will give you a glimpse of the origins and main ideas of the book on Vocation of the Business Leader and suggest some questions that link it to your subject. I will end with some reflections on the phrase “human ecology.”

II. Why “Vocation”?

Vocation connotes more than work, more than interest and aspiration. It means “calling”, and the Bible has God frequently calling individuals directly or through dreams, angelic messengers or other intermediaries. For instance, David had a job as a shepherd; God called him to do something else. Jonah ignored God’s call because he had no interest in lecturing the people of Nineveh so God sent a whale to deliver him. And when Jesus called Simon/Peter and Andrew, telling them “I will make you fishers of men”, they followed Jesus but they continued to be fishermen too; what distinguished their new calling or vocation was its larger perspective.

For our purposes in this symposium, “vocation” means a calling which comes from God our Creator. Creation and everything created is purposely willed by God. It follows that the meaning of everything that exists is determined with reference to God. Accordingly, the sense and value of human activity are not fully discovered without reference to the God of creation. All human activity that affects man, his existence and his world, must be related to God and be seen as a contribution to and a continuation of God’s work of creation by man, who is created in the image and likeness of God.

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) explains vocation as the calling to be completely authentic as individual persons and as social beings, based on our status as made in God’s image and relating to God (Gen 1:26-7). Vocation is the acknowledgement of and engagement in the essence of our nature as humans. Here are a few relevant passages:

Compendium § 19: the vocation of every person is to collaborate in “God’s plan of love in history”;

Compendium § 34: “The revelation in Christ of the mystery of God as Trinitarian love is at the same time the revelation of the vocation of the human person to love. This revelation sheds light on every aspect of the personal dignity and freedom of men and women, and on the depths of their social nature.”

Compendium § 36: “only in relationship with God can men and women discover and fulfil the authentic and complete meaning of their personal and social lives.”

Compendium § 101 (citing Laborem Exercens) says that “work has all the dignity of being a context in which the person’s natural and supernatural vocation must find fulfilment”

Pope Francis focuses on vocation in his Apostolic Exhortation. Besides speaking of religious life, Evangelii Gaudium says that “…the essential vocation and mission of the lay faithful is to strive that earthly realities and all human activity may be transformed by the Gospel…” (201). Then he singles out the worlds of politics (205) and business (203). As he wrote subsequently to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:

“Business is – in fact – a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life” (Ev. Gaudium, 203). Such men and women are able to serve more effectively the common good and to make the goods of this world more accessible to all.[4]

Business belongs to such human activity; and entrepreneurs should see themselves as called by God to exercise their necessary and important skills and activities in order to assist in continuing God’s work of creation. Properly understood, business leadership is indeed a calling, a vocation, a very noble role. The Church takes great joy in supporting and helping business people to respond appropriately to your vocation and to find the place of your activities in God’s design for man and his world.

III. A Vocation to Agriculture?

Agriculture is a constant backdrop in the Bible. The language of Jesus is full of illustrations from agriculture: tending flocks, planting, harvesting, managing agriculture with granaries and with payments to workers. Jesus assumes that his listeners understand and respect healthy agriculture; this allows him to make comparisons to agriculture in his parables. For instance, in the parable of the good seed, how seed reacts to different types of ground helps him to teach what happens when people react in different ways to the word of God (Mk 4).

This enriches our thinking as we turn to agriculture as a vocation. From the very beginning, the Creator asks us to “till” the earth and to “keep it” (Gn 2:15). It is part of our assignment as human beings. It cannot be ‘just a job’ if we treat it as part of “God’s plan of love in history” (CST 19).

Putting this sense of vocation positively (based on Compendium §§ 19 and 36), allow me to suggest that:

Agriculture is a vocation when we carry it out within God’s plan of love in history, and when it is the occasion for us to discover and fulfil the authentic and complete meaning of our personal and social lives.

How can we elaborate on this grand vision of agriculture as vocation?

I will try to do so with Vocation of a Business Leader as a model.

III. Origins and Use of Vocation of a Business Leader

How did it happen, two and a half years ago, that the Church issued a handbook on the Vocation of a Business Leader? The stimulus was the encyclical Caritas in Veritate of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace collaborated in two very interesting conferences exploring the implications of Caritas in Veritate in the realm of business. These took place in Los Angeles in late 2010 and in Rome in early 2011. The outcome was a decision to write a handbook or vademecum for business men and women that translates specific principles of Catholic Social Teaching into practical ethical guidelines for making business decisions. The work was begun by an international group of some fifteen business people, managers, researchers and educators. The coordinator was Prof. Michael Naughton (University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota), and the working-group included the then President of the International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC), M. Pierre Lecocq. I wish to thank them heartily, and many others who have worked on the document and its different language versions, published in collaboration with various partner organizations. The handbook appeared in its first editions, French and English, in early 2012.

The handbook is being used in a growing list of languages (now 15 completed and at least 2 underway).[5] It is being used in university courses, in discussion groups of business people, to stimulate research, in an ongoing blog,[6] and more.

IV. Vocation of a Business Leader: Outline and Key Ideas

LOGIC OF GIFT

The “logic of gift” is the keystone of voation of the business leader (VBL). It is articulated in Caritas in Veritate, where Benedict XVI observed that:

Every Christian is called to practise charity in truth in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the public sphere.[7]

The principle of generosity / gratuitousness and the logic of gift must find their place within normal economic activity and commercial relationships.[8]

Our very lives and the entire world we inhabit are gifts freely given by God – and this gift should inform how we act in our business endeavours. It humanizes and civilizes business, where businesspeople see themselves as stewards rather than owners, their wealth as common rather than just private goods, and their employees as persons rather than only as instruments of production.

The Vocation handbook points to these eternal implications at the very beginning: “In the Gospel, Jesus tells us: ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked’ (Lk 12:48). Businesspeople have been given great resources and the Lord asks them to do great things. This is their vocation.”

CATHOLIC SOCIAL DOCTRINE

This gifted character of business carries social implications. Business leaders have significant means to undertake something, and with this comes a corresponding responsibility. The Vocation text sees business not in terms of a legal minimalism – “don’t cheat, lie or deceive” – but rather as a vocation that makes “an irreplaceable contribution to the material and even the spiritual well-being of humankind.” It is about a meaningful life that opens the businessperson to God’s will, and not simply their own will, in the day-to-day decisions of ordinary life, which gives us the capacity to share goods in common and build community.

This vision of business is grounded in CST. At its centre is the fundamental dignity of all human beings because we are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). This expresses God’s infinite love for us. Faith denies that a loving God would wish untruth, bondage, injustice and strife for us. Rather, based on divine love and human dignity, our faith compels us to embrace four fundamental values: truth, freedom, justice and peace. Because they are grounded in our divinely and lovingly created human nature, we have an absolutely firm response when such values are challenged or denied.

Catholic Social Doctrine enunciates many other principles, some of which are especially pertinent to the world of business. Service to the common good comes before serving narrower interests. The goods or resources of the world have a universal destiny; creation is a gift to the whole of humanity, not just a part. We are called to act in solidarity with those who lack access to these goods – with the large portion of humanity who suffer in the midst of plenty.

This vision of business is not without significant tensions and is not easy to execute in today’s world. Business leaders experience great pressures; excessive competition, the demands for efficiency and profitability. Many external obstacles can also affect a business leader’s decisions, such as the absence of the rule of law or regulations, corruption, tendencies towards greed, or poor stewardship of resources. Chief among the obstacles at a personal level is a divided life which is one of the more serious errors of our age. The split between religious faith and day-to-day business practice can lead to imbalances and misplaced devotion to economic success.

SEEING, JUDGING, ACTING

These challenges demand more just and human structures, regulations, policies and practices; and they demand virtues from business leaders – those habits of work that make business people and the world better. For the business leader, one of the most important virtues is practical wisdom – how to be wise in practical affairs. Our handbook is structured on a framework that shows how a prudential leader can encounter the world of business by seeing the situation clearly, judging with principles that foster the integral development of people, and acting in a way which implements these principles in light of one’s unique circumstances. I will explain these three stages one by one, though it is clear that seeing, judging, and acting are deeply interconnected

When we attempt to see the world of business thoughtfully, thoroughly and fairly, we notice both good and evil factors at work. The handbook mentions four major “signs of the times” in particular, four significant factors facing leaders today.

Globalisation has brought efficiency, mobility and extraordinary new opportunities to businesses, but the drawbacks include greater inequality, economic dislocation, cultural steam-rolling, and the inability of governments to properly regulate capital flows.

Communications technology has enabled connectivity, new solutions and products, and lower costs, but its amazing velocity also brings information overload and rushed decision-making.

The rise of the financial sector has created ways to leverage capital to make it more productive, yet it has also intensified tendencies to commoditise all business relationships and reduce them to one value – price – whether that is the monetary value of the firm, the price of a product, or the cost of labour; all of which emphasise wealth maximisation and short-term gains at the expense of working for the common good.

Cultural changes in our era have led to increased individualism, more family breakdowns, and utilitarian preoccupations with oneself and “what is good for me”. As a result we might have more private goods but are lacking significantly in common goods. Business leaders increasingly focus on maximising wealth, employees develop attitudes of entitlement, and consumers demand instant gratification at the lowest possible price. As values have become relative and rights more important than duties, the goal of serving the common good is often lost.

Next, the handbook organizes insights into the judging required in business in three perspectives: good goods, good work, and good wealth.

The first objective is to produce Good Goods. Businesses attend to the needs of the world by producing goods that are truly good and services that truly serve. They make solidarity with the poor a facet of their service to the common good by being alert for opportunities to serve otherwise deprived and underserved populations and people in significant need.

Second, businesses should provide Good Work. By organizing good and productive work, businesses make a contribution to the community by fostering the special dignity of human work. Businesses are communities, not mere commodities! Further, they contribute to the full human development of employees by applying the principle of subsidiarity; that is, by providing them with opportunities to exercise appropriate authority as they contribute to the mission of the organisation. They also allow workers to influence the overall direction of the business and accept their right to participate in intermediary bodies such as unions.

The third objective is Good Wealth. By being good stewards of the resources given to them, businesses create sustainable wealth through efficient and product processes producing healthy profits. But creating wealth in a business is insufficient without the wider context of stewardship for the natural and cultural environment, and just distribution to all stakeholders who have made the wealth possible: employees, customers, investors, suppliers, and the larger community.

Turning to the third step, acting, the handbook urges business leaders to put aspiration into practice, word into deed, by following their vocation and letting themselves be motivated by much more than financial success or formed only by the “logic of the market.” What this kind of action calls for is that business leaders receive and accept what God has done for them and to have this gifted life inform and order the way they give and enter into communion with others in business. When businesspeople integrate prayer, the Sabbath, the scriptures, the gifts of the spiritual life, the virtues and ethical social principles into their life and work, they can overcome the “divided life” and receive the grace to foster the integral development of all business stakeholders. It is precisely this life of faith that can strengthen and embolden business leaders to respond to the world’s challenges not with fear or cynicism, but with the virtues of faith, hope, and love.

As very practical, well-aimed aids to action, the handbook offers two checklists. The first is a set of “Six Practical Principles for Business” that summarise the discussion of good goods, good work and good wealth. The second is “A Discernment Checklist for the business Leader” – nearly three dozen questions to help business leaders to deeply examine their own lives and the behaviour of their organizations in light of the Catholic social principles here presented. These three questions summarize the latter checklist:

As a Christian business leader, am I promoting human dignity and the common good in my sphere of influence ?

Am I supporting the culture of life; justice; international regulations; transparency; civic, environmental, and labour standards; and the fight against corruption?

Am I promoting the integral development of the person in my workplace?

V. Application to Agriculture

Of course, your interests are not business in general but the business of agriculture. Seeing how the Vocation book explores business leadership in general, I believe you will be able to apply it to the particular world of food production and marketing.

What are the unique features of the vocation of a leader in agriculture? I cannot give you answers, but I suggest that you look to the Vocation book for help in asking the right questions.

Thinking about the logic of gift, it is abundantly clear that agricultural leaders exercise influence over immense resources – the very land that feeds us and houses us, the water, the nutritional value of the soil. Is it legitimate to worry that humanity may now have tilled too much and kept too little? Can GMOs and chemical fertilizers make their contribution without inhibiting the preservation and continued spontaneous growth of God’s creation, the original gift to all?

How do agricultural leaders react to the central tenets of CST? For instance, is common good subordinated to ‘ability to pay’? Does subsidiarity influence the willingness of powerful corporations to allow and even assist other farming structures – family farming in some regions, subsistence farming in others – to flourish alongside agribusiness?

When it comes to seeing, we can ask about the influence of globalization and financialization on agricultural planning – do those plans reflect the goal of adequate nutrition everywhere, or do financial considerations push thoughts of food aside? One of the difficult cases is the reduction of capacity for local food production so as to grow ethanol-producing crops for distant customers – a clear case of the impact of living in a global economy.

When agricultural leaders judge about “good goods”, do they think about ‘what sells’ or do they focus on truly feeding a hungry world while stewarding the environment in a responsible and prudent manner? Do the production and distribution decisions address the rampant problems of malnutrition? And are long-term risks such as the growth of resistance to herbicides and pesticides included in how they assess technological innovations?

In the same way, thinking about “good work”, are migrant workers treated with human dignity and with fairness? Do policies and subsidies favour some forms of agricultural business over others without a compelling rationale in terms of human and environmental benefit?

The heading of “good wealth” is especially pertinent. Do agricultural leaders see themselves as stewards of the earth? Do global markets accept the food sovereignty of every country and region? Is wealth generated by agricultural business distributed and used to preserve nature and provide food for future generations?

Finally, I have one suggestion with regard to the acting of agricultural leaders. Before you sign off on an order, ask “Is this what is best for humanity and for the environment?” And realize that “best” is not a synonym of “most”. The most fertilizer may not be what is best. The most profit may not be what is best, any more than eating the most is best for one’s health! We must always try to do what is optimal. This may be neither ‘the minimum’ nor ‘the maximum’; for instance, ‘maximum yield’ in crops and in investments is a worthy objective only if it is an optimal strategy for human and environmental outcomes.

VI. Faith and the Call for a Human Ecology

So far I have not mentioned “human ecology”. Let me close with some thoughts on this phrase.

Our human bond with the earth is absolutely foundational. The second Genesis account, “Adam” comes from adamah or ground, earth. So too, “human” is grounded in humus, soil. Humanity was not created ex nihilo but ex adamah and humus. Without earth, there is no human being.

Moreover, our human story begins in a garden, not the wilds. And it involves more than the inexorable laws of nature. Humanity is the factor that opens the earth up to new possibilities and realizations. Are they new harmonies or new imbalances? The outcome depends on our actions.

When we care for the earth or misuse it, we care for ourselves or abuse ourselves. Because we are earth, and we sent forth as gardeners: our nature is to consciously work the soil, work on and within the ground from which God made us.

So there is a duality in the idea of “human ecology”. On the one hand, we know ourselves as God’s stewards of the earth. When we exercise stewardship or caring in the style of God, when we act in the name of God the Creator and in his image, we must adopt his style of love and communion. Let us seek beauty and harmony in carrying out this role. We cannot divorce ourselves from our instruments, so wonderfully fashioned by science and commerce. If machines and chemicals and investment strategies are hurting nature, we cannot wash our hands – it is we who introduced them into the garden.

Simultaneously, protecting creation means protecting something of which every human is a part. We are all creatures, we are nature, and we share the destiny of created nature. When we care for the environment, we care for life in general and thus for human life. And when our interventions in nature lead to changes in nature, these changes do not occur in some inert matter distant from us. We are changing ourselves too. The authentic wholeness, the integral self of every woman and man, is bound up in whatever we do in our natural environment.

So here’s the connection with human ecology. The way men and women treat the environment reflects how we think about and treat ourselves – and vice versa. Respect for human ecology lays down the limits and perspectives of development. The environment cannot be considered more important than humanity nor as just a warehouse of raw materials. Not to recognize and not to respect our full, integral reality is to poison the human environment at the same time as we poison the air and the water too.

Our faith calls us to this understanding of ourselves and our place in nature. For too long, we have allowed the colossal power of science, engineering and commerce to separate us from nature and treat it instrumentally. Thank you for listening to the call of faith. With prayer, with loving concern for all humanity and with the best that science and commerce have to offer, let us roll up our sleeves and return to the garden.

[1] Due to the Ebola crisis, Cardinal Turkson felt obliged to cancel his trip to the U.S.A. in favor of meetings at the Vatican to assess the situation and develop a strategic action plan to guide the Holy See’s response. Speaking in his place was Dr. Michael Czerny S.J.

[2] Hosted by the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, Catholic Rural Life, Farmers Union, John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota Catholic Conference, and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

[3] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/speeches/2014/october/document…

[4] Pope Francis, Message to the World Economic Forum, Davos-Klosters, 17 January 2014.

[5] As of November 2014: Arabic, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Russian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish, Ukrainian (and next year Chinese and Thai)

[6] William Bowman, Catholic CEO: How Church teachings can help us build better organizations, http://www.catholicceo.net/catholic-ceo-blog

[7] Cf. Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, § 7.

[8] Cf. Caritas in Veritate, § 36.

Catholic Rural Life Convening Symposium On Faith, Food and Environment

The following press release explains the exciting symposium that begins tomorrow, Wednesday at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Our Catholic Rural Life board of directors just completed a board meeting today, and are looking forward to welcoming the 70 symposium participants and several hundred others who will attend some of the presentations scheduled for the week.

We learned yesterday that Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will be unable to attend as previously planned, but are relieved that Fr. Michael Czerny, SJ, will be present in his name to deliver the Cardinal’s speeches and represent the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace during our days together.

Faith, Food and the Environment Symposium

November 5-7, 2014

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.

Press Release 10/9/2014

One of world’s leading Catholic officials will bring Pope Francis’ message of faith-based ecology to the United States this fall. Cardinal Peter Turkson will deliver the keynote address and participate in working sessions at the Faith, Food and the Environment Symposium, a groundbreaking event that will confront the challenges of 21st century agriculture from a faith-based perspective.

The symposium, which will include a diverse array of Christian voices, will be held Nov. 5-7 on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

Cardinal Turkson serves as the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican and is considered a leading authority on the ethics of agriculture. The Ghanaian native is drafting Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment.

His presentation, expected to hint at what the world can expect from the pope, will be at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 5, in the O’Shaughnessy Education Center Auditorium on St. Thomas’ campus. The lecture is free and open to the public, and seats can be reserved here.

 

The cardinal will be joined at the symposium by notable food and ag leaders, such as Roger Johnson, the president of National Farmers Union, and Steve Peterson, the director of sustainable sourcing for General Mills. A number of leading academics, including Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, director emeritus of The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and Dr. Cal Dewitt, an ecologist from the University of Wisconsin, also will take part. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will welcome the diverse group of leaders with opening remarks at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

About the Symposium

The Faith, Food and the Environment Symposium will bring together more than 70 leaders in the fields of agriculture and food production, environmental studies and theology to examine how faith traditions can inform solutions to modern agricultural challenges, such as food shortages, environmental degradation and the ethical use of biotechnology.

This year’s symposium is part of a broader initiative called The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader, which aims to provide leaders in the farming and food industries with practical, faith-based principles that can be applied to their daily work.

The November event will be followed by an international symposium in Milan, Italy, in 2015. The results of both symposiums will be used to develop a set of resources for leaders in the food and agriculture sectors.

The symposium is co-hosted by several organizations from the faith, academic and agricultural sectors. Co-hosts include Farmers Union Enterprises (Minnesota Farmers Union, Wisconsin Farmers Union, South Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakota Farmers Union, Montana Farmers Union), the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, Catholic Rural Life, the University of St. Thomas, the Center for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the International Catholic Rural Association.

All Saints & All Souls; Eternity Is Our Goal

As I write, the Solemnity of All Saints is drawing to a close and the eve of All Souls quickly draws near. These two great celebrations call to mind one of my favorite quotes of Bl. Cardinal Newman:

Life is short. Death is certain. Eternity is long.

It is good to turn our thoughts to eternity; to heaven. St. Paul said as much when he taught: Since you have been raised up to new life in Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. (Colossians 3:1)

This is how the saints lived, following Christ, with their feet on the ground and their eyes towards heaven. Thoughts of Christ and his eternal Kingdom stirred their hearts and motivated their every action to live life fully for God; concretely in loving service of their neighbors. They knew that Christ had conquered death and rose from the dead, and they were capable of joining all of their hardships to his with the hope that in so doing they would discover greater life here and grow in the only life that truly matters for any disciple, which is our life in Christ.  This notion was captured well in a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Lord, let me not run from the love which you offer, but hold me safe from the forces of evil.  And on each of my dyings shed your light and your love.

It is good to think of heaven while facing squarely the challenges we face today. As a tidal wave of secular force continues to crash upon our times and culture we can and still do live with faith and hope, because we know this life is fleeting, and the life of Christ is sustaining us now and drawing us onward to the fullness of life. We need this hope, because we cannot neglect our duties and obligations to the family of God who accompany us during these times in this earthly pilgrimage.

In this past month, I have followed closely the proceedings of the Extraordinary Synod on the family.  We have heard many thoughts regarding the family and marriage.  Some of these thoughts were captured in the relatio given during the midway point of the Synod, Pope Francis’ address during the final session, and finally, the concluding document.

Beyond the Synod, closer to home, federal judges across this nation continue to declare that state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman are unconstitutional.

In light of all this recent focus (and fuss) on family and marriage, I gathered a group of young adults for dinner and discussion this past Wednesday evening. It is clear that the ‘tolerance mentality’ of the times is having its effect on what our people believe.  Even though there is appreciation for ‘traditional marriage,’ there is also a willingness to allow people to live and express love as they choose, and find no problem calling it ‘marriage.’

At one point, I asked the group: “Where does morality and salvation fit into this discussion?”  to which they responded: “That is a good question.”  I also ask: “When everyone is allowed to define what is ‘true’ for ones’ self, do we not see what happens?”    Absolute Truth disappears when everyone lives according to their own truth.  And when these ‘various forms of truth’ conflict with one another, how does anyone any longer know what is ‘True?’

Before leaving this brief discussion of marriage and family, it is very clear to me that we as Church need clear and strong teaching of the fundamental nature of marriage.  We need to teach not only the sacramental aspect of Holy Matrimony, but the fundamental nature of the social institution of marriage, which can only be the indissoluble union of love between a man and a woman, which is open to the generation of new life.  Marriage is always a life of the spouses lived as a complete ‘gift’ to the other.

To all of those who are living and striving to live this life of husband and wife, I say “Thank you.”  We need to continue to find ways as Church to encourage and support our married couples and families.

Back to thoughts about ‘truth.’  The present culture of ‘tolerance’ and ‘live and let live’ can only lead to division, which is more and more the fruit being harvested.  The goal of governance is the common good of all peoples, and the common good leads to harmony.  For people of faith, we find this common good and sole expression of Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.

Where I see Pope Francis leading the Church is this:  First, we are to recognize the beauty of Christ through an intimate encounter with Christ.  We are to first personally fall in love with Christ, who alone reveals the love and mercy of the Father.  Christ and his Holy Spirit will reveal to us ‘all truth’ so that we may live fully the Divine Life the Father longs to share with us.  The Holy Spirit will then help us to know and love the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Second, we are to recognize that many people for various reasons are not living the fullness of the truth in their lives.  We are to embrace them and accompany them, not judge and condemn them.  Jesus came into the world to save the world, not condemn the world, and this is our attitude once we come to know and love Christ.  As we accompany God’s people, together we seek the Truth, all the while seeking to ‘build a bridge’ by which we walk together to greater and greater wholeness and holiness.

So, let us look to heaven, where the great company of holy men and women await us and intercede for us.  Let us know and love Christ and his Truth.  Let us get to know and love our neighbor, and together, build a bridge (which is Jesus Christ) that will bind the wounds of a hurting humanity while binding us together as one, in our faith in Jesus Christ.

Peace,

+pde

We Are God’s Servants; Sent As Witnesses Into The World

As the Church today recalls the two Apostles, Simon and Jude, we take heart that the apostles were sent to introduce the world to Jesus Christ. As the first apostles were chosen by Christ, so each of us is chosen by Him. As the first apostles were given the power of the Holy Spirit, so are we through Baptism and Confirmation.  As they were sent to proclaim the Good News, so are we.

We look at what God’s grace has accomplished since the time of the first Apostles.  Just about every corner of the world has received the Good News, and has heard the name of Jesus Christ.  But, with every generation comes the renewed need for believers to witness their faith in Jesus Christ to others.

In some ways, out times require of us the same apostolic zeal and courage of the first apostles.  Many people today do not know Jesus Christ, and those who do have lost their love for the truth of the Gospel.

As the first apostles discovered their mission in their relationship with Jesus, so we must be continually renewed in our friendship with Christ.  As the first apostles received strength and wisdom through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so we must learn to live in the Spirit in whom we were consecrated.  Then, and only then, can we live in the world in joy and peace, proclaiming Christ by our lives.  The message of the apostles was the message of Jesus, who taught us the Truth;

  • The Truth about God, who is without beginning or end, who is love and mercy, the creator of heaven and earth and all within them
  • The Truth about the human person, who is created in the image and likeness of God and deserving of respect as an adopted child of God
  • The Truth about marriage, a human love rooted in God, the source of human life which is the fruit of the love between a man and a woman, a covenant that is indissoluble
  • The Truth about life, which is lived as a gift for others, first to God and then for one’s neighbor
  • The Truth about the transitory nature of the things of this world, and how we are to be generous stewards of what is entrusted to us in this life, while always building up treasure in heaven
  • The Truth about God’s mercy and fidelity
  • The Truth about the law, which has its foundation in God and God’s law
  • The Truth about sin, which separates from God and one another
  • The Truth about discipleship, which requires self-denial in order to save one’s life; which will entail our sharing in Christ’s rejection, death and resurrection
  • The Truth about judgment which belongs to Christ alone
  • The Truth about eternal life, which is found only in Christ

Saints Simon and Jude, pray for us, that we may be worthy witnesses in the world today to Christ and His Truth.

+pde

Unity In The Work of Service

Today’s Mass has for its first reading a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  One of the verses was chosen as the theme for the 1987 Papal Visit of now St. Pope John Paul II to the United States.  The overarching theme for the Trip was: Unity In The Work Of Service, and this is the quote from Ephesians:

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God…

The ten day trip in September highlighted many areas of ministry in the Catholic Church, such as meetings with educators, catholic charities, youth, permanent deacons, priests, religious, catholic health care workers, and of course many prayer services and daily celebrations of the Eucharist.

I had the good fortune as serving as an assistant coordinator of this trip, and seldom a year goes by that I do not recall something of this visit around this time of year.  Today, I was reviewing some of this saintly man’s talks, and rediscovered this Entrustment to the Virgin Mary :

 APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND CANADA

ACT OF ENTRUSTMENT TO THE VIRGIN MARY

PRAYER OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II

Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles)
Wednesday, 16 September 1987

1. I wish at this time to turn my thoughts once more to the Woman of faith and of all salvation history: Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Mother of his Church; Mary, the Patroness of the United States under the title of her Immaculate Conception.

I entrust to you, Virgin Mother of God, all the faithful of this land. I entrust them to you, not only as individual men and women in the nobility of their personhood, but as the Christian community, living corporately the life of your divine Son.

I entrust to you my brother bishops in their great mission as servant pastors of God’s people, in communion with the Successor of Peter. I entrust to you all the priests, who minister generously in the name of the Good Shepherd; all the deacons bearing witness to Christ’s servanthood; all women and men religious proclaiming by their lives the holiness of God; all the laity working in virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation to order all temporal affairs according to the plan of God.

I entrust to you all the holy People of God - the pilgrim People of God – called to be mindful of their Christian dignity, called to conversion, called to eternal life.

In particular I entrust to you the families of America, in their quest for holiness, in their struggle against sin, in their vocation to be vital cells in the Body of Christ. I ask you to bless all husbands and wives, all fathers and mothers, and to confirm them in their high vocation of human love and openness to life. I entrust to you the children of this generation, asking you to preserve them in innocence, to protect them from all harm and abuse, and to let them grow up in a world of peace and justice and fraternal love.

I entrust to you all the women of the Church and the cause of their true human advancement in the world and their ever fuller participation in the life of the Church, according to the authentic plan of God. May they discover in you, O Mary, and in the freedom that was yours – from that moment of supreme liberation in your Immaculate Conception – the secret of living totally their femininity in fulfilment, progress and love.

I commend to your protection the young people that make up the future of the United States. I pray that in your Son Jesus Christ they may grasp the meaning of life, and come to understand deeply their call to serve their fellow human beings; that they may discover the profound fulfilment of chaste love, and the joy and strength that come from Christian hope.

I offer to your loving care the elderly people with all their sufferings and joys, and with their yet unfinished mission of service in your Church. I ask you to console and assist the dying, and to renew within the whole community a sense of the importance of human life at every stage, even when it is weak and defenceless.

I ask you to assist the single people with their special needs and special mission. Give them strength to live according to the beatitudes and to serve with generosity and gladness.

2. I entrust to you all those engaged in the great Christian struggle of life: all those who, despite human weaknesses and repeated falls, are striving to live according to the word of God; all those who are confused about the truth and are tempted to call evil good and darkness light; all those who are yearning for truth and grasping for hope.

I ask you to show yourself once again as a Mother with that deep human concern which was yours at Cana of Galilee. Help all those weighed down by the problems of life. Console the suffering. Comfort the sad and dejected, those tormented in spirit, those without families, loved ones or friends.

Assist the poor and those who need, and those subjected to discrimination or other forms of injustice. Come to the help of the unemployed. Heal the sick. Aid the handicapped and disabled, so that they may live in a manner befitting their dignity as children of God. Stir up the consciences of us all, to respond to the needs of others, with justice, mercy and love.

3. Through your intercession I ask that sinners may be reconciled, and that the whole Church in America become ever more attentive to Christ’s call to conversion and to holiness of life.

I pray that all those baptized in Christ your Son will be strengthened in the great cause of Christian unity, according to his will.

I ask your prayers so that citizens may work together to conquer evil with good, oppose violence, reject war and its weapons, satisfy hunger, overcome hatred, and remedy all forms of personal, social, national and international injustice.

I ask you to strengthen the Catholic people in truth and love, in their obedience to the commandments of God, and in their fidelity of the sacraments.

Virgin Mother of God, Our Lady of the Angels: I entrust to you the whole Church in America. Help her to excel in sacrifice and service. Purify her love, renew her life, and convert her constantly to the Gospel of your Son. Lead her children with all their Christian and non-Christian brethren to eternal life, for the glory of your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Division & Fire

IMG_3780-XLIn the Gospel today (Luke 12:49-53) Jesus tells of his desire to set the earth ablaze with a fire.  He says something else that seems contradictory to His person and message: “I have come for division.”

In reality, Jesus does not come to bring division, but His presence and message result in division until people humbly submit to His Gospel of Truth.  The Fire that Jesus casts upon the earth is the Fire of Divine Love.  This Divine Love; the Love that exists within (and is) the communion of Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is the source of all creation.  As such, this Divine Love is the unifying power of everything within creation.  This Divine Love is the final destination to which all creation will return, when all creation will bend the knee at the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10), ‘and God will be all in all.’  (1 Corinthians 15:28)

Where there is resistance to this Love, there can only be division and discord.  Where there is harmony with this Love, there is communion – unity – peace – love.

This Fire of Divine Love is the culmination of God’s plan for all of creation – for every human person.  St. Paul gives a marvelous ‘blueprint’ for the Divine Plan in his letter to the Ephesians.  Today’s first reading (Ephesians 3: 14-21) speaks of the culmination of God’s plan:

Brothers and Sisters: I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

God’s plan, through Christ, is to share His love with all of us; to fill us with the very Love of God!  This is the Fire of Love that burns away selfish love, leaving only Authentic Love, which is the harmony of the soul with God and the peaceful abiding of one person with another.

My dear friends, let us live the Faith that is ours in Christ, that we may abide in the Love of God.  May this Raging Fire of Divine Love sweep over us and all creation, that we may be cleansed of all selfishness and division, thus discovering communion with God and unity with our brothers and sisters.

+pde

 

Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell to the Benedictine Sisters of San Benito Monastery

Today, we celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell to celebrate the 31 years the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have ministered in the Diocese of Cheyenne. It was an emotional Mass, and a joyful celebration and reception that followed.  Here is my homily for the occasion:

Mass of Thanksgiving & Farewell: Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at San Benito Monastery

From Left To Right, Benedictine Sisters Hope, Gladys, Josetta and Regina.

From Left To Right, Benedictine Sisters Hope, Gladys, Josetta and Regina.

We welcome all of you to this celebration this morning, especially, we welcome Sr. Gladys, Sr. Regina, Sr. Josetta and Sr. Hope. We are also pleased to have so many other members of the Benedictine community join us for today’s celebration.

In our opening prayer for Mass, we pray for these “servants who have left all things … who devote themselves entirely to you [God.] … following Christ and renouncing the things of this world.” (Prayers For Religious, Roman Missal, 3rd edition)

As we give thanks for the 31 years of your presence in the Diocese of Cheyenne, we must think about not just the individual members of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, but the root of your vocations. Beyond your monastic life as Benedictines are the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, which are at the heart of every religious vocation.

This ‘pursuit of perfect charity by means of the evangelical counsels traces its origins to the teaching and the example of the Divine Master, and that it is a very clear symbol of the heavenly kingdom.” (Perfectae Caritatis, #1) This teaching of the Second Vatican Council describes how our own Benedictine Sisters have sought Christ in their own personal lives, and in their common monastic profession. Their fidelity in seeking Christ through their Benedictine way of life is at the heart of their ability to serve Christ in the members of this local Church since 1983.

I wish to offer a few passages from the Rule of St. Benedict that seem to capture what we appreciate most and will miss greatly as you take your leave from Wyoming:

San Benito Farewell 025RB # 72:11 “Prefer nothing to Christ.” And: RB #5:2     “cherish Christ above all

Sisters, your prayers; your cherishing Christ above all, are the means by which you acquire graces for us, which enable us and equip us for the mission and good work of the Church, which is the building up of God’s Kingdom.

I wish to reflect just a bit on the challenges associated with placing Christ above all else. It is indeed the priority of life required for every Christian, but it is a challenge, one involving mystery. I wish to share with you a quote from Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI:

God is indeed the Great Mystery. Of all the mysteries of life and the mysteries that accompany our life- journey of faith, God is the Great Mystery.   Initially, perhaps out of the zeal of youth and the eagerness of a Christian vocation, we can be uneasy with this Mystery. We want answers. Particularly when life throws up barriers and difficulties, we wonder about the value of the path we have chosen. We wonder why God is not more forthcoming with help or answers or direction. But eventually, by God’s grace, we grow in our comfort to simply be grateful to be enveloped by the Mystery that is God. We by faith begin to recognize that the Light in the midst of the Mystery is none other than the Light of the Risen Christ. Not all that unlike Moses who saw the burning bush, aflame yet not consumed, this same Light speaks to us, leads us, this is the Light of Christ and His Gospel. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Our Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are not unlike the women at the empty tomb who were astonished, even frightened at what they discovered. Our sisters come face to face first with the Lord, in their devotion to the Eucharist, so they can then bear this light of the Risen Christ to us, while at the same time recognize Christ in each of our faces and persons.

Sr. Josetta, Sr. Hope, Bishop Etienne, Sr. Gladys and Sr. Regina

Sr. Josetta, Sr. Hope, Bishop Etienne, Sr. Gladys and Sr. Regina

RB 4:20      “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way.”

RB 4:8        “We cannot exclude anyone. Every person we meet must be honored and loved as our brother or sister.” This sums up how the Lord’s command to love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, with all our strength is best served by our love of neighbor.

RB72:4       “We can never wait for the other person to love us first.” If we are the first to show love and respect, the others will follow.

RB4 We must prove our love with good works. Feelings and words are not enough. There are many concrete ways we can find to do this.

RB: Prologue 1:  “We must listen with the ear of our heart to the burdens and joys of others. We need to feel in ourselves what the others are feeling.”

San Benito Farewell 014Today, we wish to express our gratitude to each of you, sisters, and to all the other Benedictine sisters who have served in the Diocese of Cheyenne through your monastic community. We are grateful for the many lives you have touched and drawn closer to Christ, through your monastic profession, your example of life, your teaching, spiritual direction; in short, through your modest and humble presence in our midst.

At the same time, we acknowledge that we will no longer be a whole family without you. A Church to be whole needs the presence, example and service of monastic women. San Benito Monastery has been an oasis of prayer, and your apostolic service a witness of faith that will be deeply missed.

Just as “deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away,” (Song of Songs) we know that we will always remain in your hearts and prayers, and you will most assuredly remain in our love.

My dear Sisters, May God bless you!

Statement On Marriage in Wyoming

In light of Friday’s (Oct. 17, 2014) order by U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl that Wyoming’s state law banning same-sex unions is unconstitutional, I wish to offer a few thoughts.  (According to an AP story, the ruling is on hold until defendants have the chance to appeal.)

The Catholic Church teaches the dignity and sanctity of every human person. This belief is rooted in our understanding that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Every person is deserving of this respect, even those with same-sex attraction.

The Catholic Church also teaches that marriage is by nature a union of a man and a woman. It is perhaps the single oldest institution of society, and as such, the primary and natural starting point of family life. Marriage expresses, strengthens and protects the love of a man and a woman, and endures for their lifetime. Their love promotes harmony in their relationship, and generates new life in the children they bear and raise together. Marriage and the family it generates are unique bonds of love meant for the well-being of each of its members and the common good of society as a whole. This ‘unique bond of love’ cannot be replicated in any other fashion. A true understanding of the nature of marriage prohibits any institution, secular or religious, from redefining marriage.

As Church, we will continue to promote the understanding that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a covenantal relationship instituted by God. We as Church will continue to teach this truth in all of its richness and encourage all people to embrace this truth. At the same time, we encourage respect for all persons and a respectful dialogue in discussing marriage and family in our culture today.

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