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Finding Our Way

Jesus, who came to seek the lost,
give me the willingness to be found by you.
I am scattered about, playing hide and seek with grace.
Pieces of myself
lie here and there,
in this room and that,
in the past and over the horizon,
above and below,
within and without.
Gather me together as a mother hen gathers her chicks.
I want to be under your wing,
where your heartbeat
and mine can sound as one.
I trust you to lead me with gentleness to my heart’s core.

—from the book A Retreat with Saint Anthony: Finding Our Way by Carol Ann Morrow

We Need a Sabbath Mind

We are reminded of the truth of the creation—that our work, though called and needed, is not necessary. The world will continue without us and came long before us. Our work is to live from and with these gifts so that we can use what time we have, what little time we have, to tend their flourishing rather than exploit them for the gains that will soon fade with the rot. The practice of Sabbath also has the effect of elevating the value of labor and of the people engaged in it. It is not a break so that we might become renewed and refreshed for more work, but is rather a time when we live in the simple reality that we are creatures whose lives are given by God. On the Sabbath, we are able to be apart from our achievements.

—from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life by Ragan Sutterfield

Mychal Judge: Saying Yes and Accepting God's Grace

Fr. Mychal simply wished to go where God needed him. And he could never refuse God anything. “The wonderful thing is saying yes and accepting God’s grace. We could say no and walk away. But when we say yes and go forward, great and wonderful things will happen,” Fr. Mychal reportedly said.

“It takes courage in the midst of fear, but you do it with the grace of God.” Great courage is what Fr. Mychal showed the world throughout his life and on the day when the world needed courage. On the darkest day, when the world needed to be reminded of Christ’s love, Fr. Mychal Judge showed us that light.

—from the book Faith Under Fire: Dramatic Stories of Christian Courage by Matthew Archbold

 

Estás destinado a ser un águila, no una gallina: Una reflexión sobre el Bautismo

Cuando ejercía a tiempo completo el ministerio parroquial, una de mis actividades favoritas era hacer bautismos. Puse “bautismos” en plural, porque casi nunca bautizaba a un solo bebé a la vez, pero normalmente eran diez o una docena. Típicamente, el grupo bastante grande de familiares y amigos se reunía en los primeros bancos de la Iglesia de San Pablo de la Cruz alrededor de las 2 de la tarde de un domingo, yo les daba la bienvenida y hacía una breve descripción de lo que estaba a punto de suceder, y entonces la feliz cacofonía de doce bebés llorando a la vez comenzaba inevitablemente. Yo llegaba a hacer los bautismos, con todas sus oraciones, a gritos, y al final todo el mundo estaba feliz. Ahora que soy obispo, tengo menos ocasiones de bautizar, y las echo de menos. Pero la semana pasada hubo una excepción, cuando tuve el placer de…

You’re Meant to Be an Eagle, Not a Chicken: A Reflection on Baptism

When I was doing full-time parish ministry, one of my favorite activities was performing Baptisms. I put the word in the plural, for I hardly ever baptized one baby at a time, but usually ten or a dozen. Typically, the quite large group of family and friends would gather in the first several pews of St. Paul of the Cross Church about 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, I would welcome them and do a very short description of what was about to happen, and then the happy cacophony of twelve babies crying at once would inevitably commence. I would shout my way through the prayers and the Baptisms—and a general joyfulness would obtain. Now that I’m a bishop, I have less occasion to baptize, and I do miss it. But an exception took place last week when I was delighted to welcome into the Church Hazel Rose Cummins, the…

Statement regarding the resignation of Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy

Father James B. Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth, has issued the following statement:

I have learned that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted the resignation of Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy. Sadly, that notification was accompanied by an announcement from the Diocese of Rapid City of an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor made against Father Mulloy as a priest of that diocese. We grieve with all who have suffered sexual abuse and their loved ones. I ask you to pray for the person who has come forward with this accusation, for Father Mulloy, for the faithful of our diocese, and for all affected. We place our hope and trust in God’s providence as we await, again, the appointment of our next bishop.

Father Mulloy was to be ordained and installed as Bishop of Duluth on Oct. 1. Father Bissonette will continue to serve as diocesan administrator until the Holy Father appoints a new bishop for the diocese.

Please see this statement from the Diocese of Rapid City for further information.

El libro del Éxodo y por qué volver a la misa es importante

En relación con un proyecto académico mío, recientemente he estado estudiando el libro de Éxodo y numerosos comentarios al respecto. El segundo libro más famoso del Antiguo Testamento se ocupa principalmente de la forma en que Dios da forma a su pueblo para que se convierta en un faro radiante, una ciudad situada en una colina. En la lectura bíblica, Israel es elegido, pero nunca por su propio bien, sino por el de todas las naciones del mundo. Diría que esta formación se lleva a cabo en tres etapas principales: primero, Dios enseña a Israel a confiar en su poder; en segundo lugar, le da a Israel una ley moral; y tercero, instruye a su pueblo en la santidad a través de la alabanza justa. La lección de confianza ocurre, por supuesto, a través del gran acto de liberación de Dios. Los esclavos totalmente impotentes encuentran la libertad, no confiando…

The Book of Exodus and Why Coming Back to Mass Matters

In connection with an academic project of mine, I’ve recently been poring over the book of Exodus and numerous commentaries thereupon. The second most famous book of the Old Testament is concerned primarily with the manner in which God shapes his people so that they might become a radiant beacon, a city set on a hill. On the biblical reading, Israel is indeed chosen, but it is never chosen for its own sake, but rather for all the nations of the world. I would say that this formation takes place in three principal stages: first, God teaches Israel to trust in his power; secondly, he gives Israel a moral law; and thirdly, he instructs his people in holiness through right praise. The lesson in trust happens, of course, through God’s great act of liberation. Utterly powerless slaves find freedom, not by relying on their own resources, but rather upon the…

Deacon Kyle Eller: What does being pro-life have to do with wearing a mask?

My social media circles, which include people from varied political and religious perspectives, have included a lot of conversation about an unusually obscure topic — how pro-life beliefs correspond (or don’t) to wearing a mask in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deacon Kyle Eller
Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

Cards on the table: As a matter of conviction and principle, I am unapologetically and unconditionally pro-life. As a matter of obedience and prudence, I am conditionally pro-mask.

On social media, I have repeatedly encountered the claim that people who are pro-life on abortion but who resist mask mandates are hypocrites. My gut reaction is to dismiss it — whatever truth there may be in it seems overwhelmed by the vastly worse hypocrisy going the other way.

I mean, it’s been hard to bear weeks of listening to people who favor an unlimited license for the deadly violence of abortion, which directly, purposely, and with virtual certainty destroys a tiny person’s body, as they lecture others on the sanctity of life over wearing a piece of cloth on one’s face just in case one is sick without knowing it and might unintentionally infect someone else, posing a small risk of death.

It’s like listening to a Mafia attorney sanctimoniously scold someone for reckless driving.

But even an outrageous hypocrite can say something true. Is there merit? Reflecting on the question is fruitful for better understanding what Pope St. John Paul II called the “Culture of Life.”

The most aggressive form of the “pro-lifers who don’t wear masks are hypocrites” argument goes something like this: “If you really believe every life is infinitely precious, you should do anything that might save even a single life.”

That’s easy enough to refute, because it’s a totally impossible standard no one can or does follow. Being pro-life doesn't involve imagining one can eliminate every risk, and one can literally always do something more to reduce the risk of people dying.

A few examples illustrate the point. Flu is normally not as deadly as COVID-19 seems to be, but it still kills people every year. We could lock down the country every flu season, and it would likely save some lives. But we don’t, because collectively we consider the disruption disproportionate to the gain in public safety.

Or consider cars. Cars in 21st century America are much safer than they once were, as those of us who predate seat belt laws and air bags and car seats can tell you. But people die on the roads every year, and cars made even safer could save some of them. We could keep making cars safer and safer until they became so expensive to make that no one could afford one. Society regards that, too, as disproportionate.

Does that mean we value money or convenience more than human life? It seems to me it depends. At some point cutting corners on safety plainly is greed and wanton disregard for human life. But at some point the pursuit of safety plainly verges into something unworkable and unrealistic. In between is a range of places people of good will might draw the line.

Traffic laws, workplace safety, regulation of food and medication, building codes, and countless other areas of life all offer similar situations, where society has to make choices balancing safety and what is practical, a line that often shifts over time with new possibilities and sensibilities.

These situations pose real moral questions, but of a different kind than situations like abortion or euthanasia, where causing death is literally the objective.

That distinction is so glaringly obvious it feels crazy to have to spell it out, but welcome to 2020 America.

There is a better version of the argument, though. Our pro-life Catholic beliefs are rooted in the dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God and precious in his sight. Even in situations that don’t involve direct attacks on human life, where there are difficult judgments to make and room for legitimate disagreement, shouldn’t our pro-life convictions strongly influence the way we approach them?

Again, the answer seems obvious to me: yes. A business owner who publicly professes pro-life convictions while running a notoriously unsafe workplace would rightly raise questions — and eyebrows. Where convenience and money come into tension with protection of human life, being a people of life and for life should mean we noticeably err on the side of life, even when those intrinsic evils aren’t involved.

It’s in this framework that I suggest we consider the mask debate. Not wearing a mask is not an intrinsic evil like abortion. But if our reflection ends there, we’re falling into a form of legalism. How should our conviction at the heart of why we’re pro-life — the dignity and inherent value of every human person, particularly the vulnerable — influence our approach? I’ve already given you my conclusion, and I don’t say it’s the only one a person could reach in good faith, but it’s worth wrestling with.

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected].

Faith in the Public Arena: The abolition of man and woman

By David Crawford, Michael Hanby, and Margaret Harper McCarthy
Faith in the Public Arena

The commonplace assumption of American liberalism, that courts merely preside over contests of rights, conceals the limitless power of the judiciary to decide questions of truth without thinking deeply or even honestly about them. Bostock v. Clayton County is a case in point. Justice Gorsuch claims, in writing for the majority, that the Court’s decision to include LGBT identity under Title VII’s definition of “sex” is a narrow ruling about “sex discrimination” in employment, leaving concerns like locker rooms and religious liberty for future litigation. But underneath the false modesty of this declaration lies a much more fundamental decision with vast implications. The Court has intervened in the most bitterly contested question of our time — a question of philosophy before it is a question of law — and codified a radical new conception of human nature with a dubious ideological history. It has inscribed the abolition of man and woman into law.

Faith in the Public ArenaThe entire argument of the case, repeated ad nauseam throughout its 30 long pages, is that adverse employment decisions based on LGBT status are necessarily a form of “sex discrimination.” Why? Because it is impossible to make these decisions without treating similarly situated individuals differently, based on their sexes. If a male employee who “identifies” as a woman were in fact a woman instead of a man, he would not have suffered adverse treatment. Hence, Justice Gorsuch confidently tells us, “she” is necessarily the victim of discrimination based on sex.

The argument would be laughable were its implications not so humanly disastrous. Crucial to observe are the argument’s presuppositions. Justice Gorsuch thinks that a man who “identifies” as a woman is similarly situated to a woman who “identifies” as a woman. For him to think this, he must assume that the relationship between our embodiment as male and female and our personal subjectivity (as expressed in “identity”) are essentially arbitrary and that they therefore lack any organic or natural unity. These assumptions then imply that a man who “identifies” as a woman might really be a woman, that to be a woman is a mental state, that we really are Cartesian “ghosts in the machine.” Without such assumptions, Justice Gorsuch could not claim that such a man and woman are similarly situated.

These are metaphysical judgments. Yet Justice Gorsuch naively fails to recognize that the crux of his argument relies on and effectively codifies them. The question of sex discrimination in employment is relatively unimportant compared to the momentous imposition by law of these very questionable philosophical propositions with their vast implications for society.

It is impossible to redefine human nature for just one person. When a fourth-grade girl is required to affirm in thought, word, and deed that a boy in her class is now a girl, this does not simply affirm the classmate’s right to self-expression. It radically calls into question the meaning of “boy” and “girl” as such, thereby also calling into question both her own “identity” and that of everyone in her life, from her mother and father to her brothers and sisters, and all of her friends and relatives. As well it should. If each of us is defined by a sexual or gender “identity” only arbitrarily related to our male and female bodies, now relegated to a meaningless biological substrate, then in fact there is no longer any such thing as man or woman as heretofore understood. We are all transgender now, even if gender and sexual identity accidentally coincide in a great majority of instances.

To settle questions of truth by force of law is a characteristic of totalitarian regimes. And this example shows just how totalizing this ruling really is. It requires everyone to live for all public and practical purposes as if what they know to be true in their pre-ideological experience of reality — an awareness we drink in with our mother’s milk — were officially false, a “stereotype.” Even worse, it requires everyone to live for all public and practical purposes as if what they know to be false were officially true. Ironically, what is now “true” is nothing but stereotypes, that bundle of mannerisms, dress, make-up, and hairstyles by which one imagines what it feels like to be a woman or a man. Worse still, it prefers them especially when they are at odds with one’s actual sex. The war on pronouns, an assault upon the very language by which we recognize a world in common, follows of necessity. What we are dealing with here is nothing less than a war on the very principle of reality itself. And everyone has just been pressed into service.

There is no totalitarianism so total as that which claims authority over the meaning of nature. Increasingly we find the courts assuming this authority, though this power is typically exercised in part unconsciously, or even ignorantly, and in part dishonestly and subversively, all under the pretense of “neutrally” mediating between interests, rights, powers, and authorities. Or in this case, simply parsing “plain English.” But this is bosh, and no one believes it. Not for a second.

The burdens on free speech, free exercise, and perhaps most fundamentally, free thought, are obvious. But the burden on the basic unity of human society is even weightier; for the Court has just abolished the fundamental fact on which every civilization depends, indeed on which the human species depends. We have just been pushed over the edge. It’s breathtaking.

As C.S. Lewis said in “The Abolition of Man,” we will now need the “beneficent obstinacy of real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses.” We can only hope that such children will come along to point out the naked truth to our new Emperors.

David Crawford, Michael Hanby, and Margaret Harper McCarthy are professors at the John Paul II Institute. This piece originally ran in the Wall Street Journal.


Action Alert

Sept. 1st: World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

In 2015 Pope Francis established World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation as an opportunity for individuals and communities “to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

In stewarding creation, we must recall Pope Francis tells us in Laudato si’ that our bodies place “us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings.” Therefore, we must learn to “accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning” and value our bodies in their femininity and masculinity.

You can learn to become a better steward of all of creation with the “Minnesota, Our Common Home” resources including a six-week study guide and the “Ecological Examen” – a prayer resource. Find these by visiting www.MNCatholic.org/OurCommonHome.