The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

God and Man at Work

How good it is that God's great love causes Him to step into our world, touch it in ways we could never imagine, and save us from ourselves. He doesn't need to send legions of angels to carry out His will; he need only choose a few of us and let His Holy Spirit do the rest. After all, this is how He brought His Church into being -- His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church -- when He chose a dozen unlikely men from an distant corner of a hostile empire and sent them into the world to do His work. And He's still choosing, still sending, still guiding.

This truth came to mind as I scanned several news reports over the past day or two. Few of the stories that caught my attention will ever make it into the mainstream media, because they would no doubt seem irrelevant to those who reject the idea of a loving God acting in the world of men. Here are a few examples...

Signs of Catholic-Orthodox Unity. Batholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, stated that he and Pope Francis are planning a gathering (a new ecumenical council perhaps?) in Nicaea in 2025 to celebrate the 1,700 anniversary of the 1st Council of Nicaea which convened in the year 325. At that council, the first ecumenical council, the Church, rejecting the Arian heresy, taught the true nature of Jesus Christ and His relationship with the Father and gave us the Nicene Creed. The recent meeting of Catholic Pope and Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem took place 50 years after another historic meeting, also in Jerusalem, between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athanagoras I in 1964. In an interview with AsiaNews, Batholomew I stated:
"The dialogue for unity between Catholics and Orthodox will start again from Jerusalem. In this city, in the autumn , a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission  will be held hosted by the Greek -Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III . It is a long journey in which we all must be committed without hypocrisy...I walked with my brother Francis in the Holy Land not with the fears of Luke and Cleopas on their way to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24: 13-35), but inspired by a living hope which we learn from our Lord."
What a wonderful opportunity God offers these two sister Churches! It is an opportunity to come together in prayer and achieve the unity that Jesus desires for His Church. Click here to read the Common Declaration of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I. Pray for Christian unity.

Greyfriars Return to Oxford. Franciscan Conventual friars, often called "greyfriars" because of the color of their habits, had been sent to England by St. Francis himself and first arrived in Oxford in 1224. In that great university town they not only became a presence in the academic world, but also carried on their traditional work of ministering to the poor. But then, almost 500 years ago, King Henry VIII, upset that Pope Clement VII had refused to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, went on the rampage against the Catholic Church in England. As a result, the Franciscans of Oxford were forced to leave England. They didn't return to the country until 1906 and ever since have been looking for a way to resettle in Oxford. This will now happen, and they will soon take up residence in the former All Saints Convent in Cowley after the sisters who currently live there move to a smaller building. Friar Daniel Geary stated, “There will be 12 of us in the house of formation, with many being involved in training and going to classes. But part of that process is also to become involved with the area. Cowley is a very rich and diverse place and we look forward to joining the community.”

I think the academic world of Oxford could probably use a good, strong dose of Franciscan spirituality. Keep these good friars in your prayers.
Some of the Greyfriars of Oxford
Another Anglican Crosses the Tiber. Greg Griffith, the outspoken Anglican blogger whose traditional beliefs upset so many of his coreligionists, has announced that he and his family have joined the Catholic Church and were confirmed at a recent Easter Vigil Mass. Griffith made the announcement in his blog, StandFirm. For over a decade Griffith has used his blog to share his concerns about many moral and theological positions taken by the Anglican and Episcopal hierarchy. Although I am sure this conversion was a difficult decision for him, we welcome Greg and his family into the Church and trust he will continue to enlighten us.

Fr. Joseph Kentenich
The Schoenstatt Movement.  I suspect that most Catholics have never heard of either the Schoenstatt Movement or its founder, Fr. Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968), a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp who is being considered for sainthood. Perhaps surprisingly this Catholic movement has several million members and is established in well over 100 countries. Fr. Kentenich, joined by a small group of young Pallotine priests and seminarians, founded this Marian movement in 1914 in Schoenstatt, Germany. The movement's spirituality is centered on a Covenant of Love, in which the Blessed Mother, the woman who is close to God and His people, plays a key role. According to the movement:

Love for Mary, expressed in this Covenant, is transformed into the quickest and surest way to live in an alive and permanent contact with the God of our life and of our history. Through the Covenant of Love, we become "Family," since all who seal the Covenant know and feel they are children of Mary, and thus, brothers and sisters to each other.

From this Covenant of Love, lived in depth, a strong sense of mission also comes forth; it leads those who seal it to become effective instruments in the hands of Mary in order to collaborate with her in the religious-moral renewal of the world. Through this Covenant of Love, Schoenstatt fulfills its commitment to construct history in childlike dependence and contact, freely and totally for Christ, the Lord of History through Mary, His permanent Collaborator.

In recent years the Schoenstatt Movement has grown rapidly in the United States and has a presence in several major cities. If you're interested in learning more about this movement, check out its extensive and interesting website.And here's a link to a fascinating article about the movement that appeared in the Washington Post.

Yes, God is good and He's doing His work throughout the world, calling on each of us to lend a hand.

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