Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In Case You Missed It: Pope Francis In His Own Words

The following words were taken directly from Pope Francis during his recent visit to the United States.[1] They are a compilation of quotes woven together to tell the story of the servant of the servants of God in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” They are words for you and me, for our country, and for the entire people of God whose hearts long to be filled with the joy of the gospel.

It is not my intention to offer a plan or to devise a strategy. I have not come to judge you or to lecture you. I have no wish to tell you what to do, because we all know what it is that the Lord asks of us. I have come to testify to the immensity of God’s love.

The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change. He helps us to journey along the paths of life and fulfillment. We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us what about we have done. Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God.

Jesus keeps knocking on our doors, the doors of our lives. He doesn’t do this by magic, with special effects, with flashing lights and fireworks. Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the faces of our neighbors, in the faces of those at our side. Jesus still walks our streets. He is part of our lives.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ. A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while incessantly “explaining” its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. We are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the God’s embrace. We must constantly relate to others. We are witnesses of God.

Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). The brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain. Jesus’ Church is kept whole not by “consuming fire from heaven” (Lk 9:54), but by the secret warmth of the Spirit, who “heals what is wounded, bends what is rigid, straightens what is crooked”.

Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.

Jesus keeps telling his disciples to go, to go out. He urges us to go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be. Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation. Go out and proclaim this joy which is for all the people. Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side.

I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly. For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace. Our Father will not be outdone in generosity.

Love is shown by little things. Holiness is always tied to little gestures. These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family. The family is a factory of hope, of life, of resurrection. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day's work. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles.

So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children? Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful brings us to God. Because God is good, God is beautiful, God is the truth. May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!

[1] Quotes were taken from various addresses delivered by Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to the United States: Meeting with the US Bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Address to the Joint Session of Congress, Visit to the Homeless at the Charitable Center of St. Patrick Parish, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, Prayer at the Interreligious Meeting at Ground Zero Memorial, Mass at Madison Square Garden, Festival of Families, Address to Detainees at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, and Mass to Conclude World Meeting of Families.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cops, Catholics and Camp: Police Lieutenant Reflects on His First Experience of Young Life

This guest post was written by Jason Smith, Lieutenant of the Tactical Operations Bureau, and one of my closest friends. A lifelong Catholic, Jason was an adult guest this summer at Timber Wolf Lake,  a Young Life camp in Michigan.

Have you ever been moved in a way that changes how you look at or perceive something? Have you ever been in a place so amazing you can't actually describe it to others who ask? Have you ever been with a group of people, some you know, most you don't, that just ooze love and make you feel like you are the most important person in their life? Have you ever been in a place that was so infused with the Holy Spirit you could actually feel, hear, smell, taste, and see It? Have you ever been so moved you want to cry and smile at the same time? And have you ever seen 217 teenagers "stand up" and give their life to Christ before your very eyes?

I have. I experienced all of those things this summer as a thirty-nine year old "camper" at Timber Wolfe Lake. My family was lucky enough to have been invited by our friends to be a part of something way bigger than us.  As Adult Guests we were invited to watch God work in ways that I never dreamed possible. I literally saw God reach out and touch young people's hearts through the hands of others during a week at Timber Wolf Lake. Weeks later it's still difficult to find the words to describe what I witnessed at camp this summer.

Young Life's mission is simple. Bring the message of Christ to teenagers. Nothing more. Nothing less. You see, the staff and volunteers don't have to tell you their mission. They live it and everyone in their path feels it. Everything they do is a means to accomplish this goal. Yeah the buildings are majestic, the blob is fun, and the grounds are meticulous, but the real secret to Young life's mission? It's about relationships. They reach kids where they’re at. They bring the universal message to kids who have never heard the message of Christ. They tell the story of a redemptive God to kids who are struggling with real life problems at too young an age. They don't pass judgment. They just love em like Christ called us to do. This is something I can get behind. This is something all Christians, no matter your denomination, should get behind.

I am a cradle Catholic that, like many others, left my faith during my late teenage years only to return when I had a family of my own. I went to church every Sunday growing up and went to a Catholic grade school, high school, and even earned my degree from a Catholic university. Despite the Catholic upbringing, I didn't develop a personal relationship with Christ until I was 36 years old. That’s a lot of lost time.

After my experience at camp I keep asking myself, "If I had this experience as a teenager would I have been away from the Church for 20 years? Would I have had developed a personal relationship with Christ as a teenager?" I don't know the answer to those questions and probably never will. I can say however, I very much would have liked to have had the opportunity. 

I want nothing more than to raise my two sons in the finest tradition of the Catholic Church and all it has to offer. But above all I want my sons to know and love Christ in a most personal way. There are so many Catholic teenagers who will take similar paths to mine. I pray both my son's and those teenagers choose a different path.

I think we as Catholics can learn a lot about how Young Life lives their mission, reaches people where they’re at, and shares Christ them. I also think Young Life could learn a lot about how we as Catholics live our faith as a sacramental people. This isn't a competition. This is about Christ!  This is about how we as witnesses bring His message to others and love one another as Christ has called us to do.
Jason and his beautiful family