Archbishop Chaput's column
Restoring the heart of Catholic life
I think it proves God’s sense of timing that whenever the world most bitterly criticizes the Church, good men step forward to rekindle her witness. The past decade has been difficult for Catholics from every walk of life, including priests. But it's not the first time in Church history, nor will it be the last, that God has used failure and suffering to restore the heart of Catholic life. That renewal hinges in a special way on our priests. Here in Philadelphia we’re blessed with one of the great seminaries of the United States: St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. The men who study there for the priesthood, and those who teach them, deserve our gratitude for their dedication, joy and unselfishness. They also need our support and prayers for the work of revivifying Catholic life that lies ahead. So it’s a good moment to take stock of our identity as a community of faith.
Looking back and looking ahead
On the Catholic calendar, Christmas continues through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, observed this year on Sunday, January 13. In effect, we’re only halfway through the real Christmas season, and if we take the time to pray over the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we’ll find plenty of reasons to keep the joy of Christmas alive in our hearts.
Christmas and the reason for our joy
For believers, the Christmas season doesn’t end this week. It begins. So much of modern life at this time of year – its noise, its urgency, its relentless emphasis on shopping and the fatigue that always follows – can seem beyond the control of individuals. These things can easily distract us from the real reason most Americans, even today, celebrate “the holidays,” the birth of Jesus Christ.
Advent, suffering and the promise of joy
Scripture is a love story, the story of God’s love for humanity. But it’s a real story filled with real people. It’s not a fairytale. In Scripture, as in the real world, evil things happen to innocent persons. The wicked seem to thrive. Cruelty and suffering are common. The Psalmist cries out to heaven again and again for justice; Job is crushed by misfortune; Herod murders blameless infants; Jesus is nailed to a cross. God is good, but we human beings are free, and being free, we help fashion the nature of our world with the choices we make.
Advent, a season of hope: Hearing and sharing the message
One of the best ways to experience Advent this year is to join Dr. Tim Gray for the first talk of the Archbishop’s Year of Faith Lecture Series. I’ve known Dr. Gray for many years as one of the finest young biblical scholars in North America – articulate, vividly engaging, and rich in the history and meaning of God’s Word. Scheduled for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Thursday evening, December 13, and designed for the general public, Dr. Gray’s theme is “Advent: A Season of Hope.” He’s the right man with the right theme at the right time, and I strongly encourage Catholics across the archdiocese to spend the $5 admission to hear and share his message. We’ve never needed it more.
Christian faith and God’s hand in history
In this Year of Faith, and especially as we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King (Nov. 25) and the beginning of Advent (Dec. 2), it’s a good time to reflect on the nature of what we believe as Catholics. To be a Christian is to believe in history. I mean that in the way the great Catholic historian, Christopher Dawson, meant it. Dawson wrote: “Christianity, together with the religion of Israel out of which it was born, is a historical religion in a sense to which none of the other world religions can lay claim.”
What a ‘community of believers’ really means
Another election has come and gone, and when the complaining dies down, most of us will go back to our everyday lives without a blink. Politics is important. On some issues, it’s deadly serious. But most of the time, for most people, political passion is viral: It appears and disappears like the flu every campaign season. Hurricane Sandy has come and gone as well. But its human imprint, its extraordinary devastation and suffering, will be with us for a very long time.
‘The only thing that matters is to be a saint’
A friend of mine quipped recently that the real religion of Americans has nothing to do with churches or synagogues. Our “real” religion is politics and the juggling for power it involves. He was being humorous. But as I write these words in late October, and we head into the final days of another, uniquely important, presidential election, his words don’t seem quite so funny.
Public witness and Catholic citizenship
Public witness on issues of public concern is natural for Catholics because we have a commitment to the common good and to the dignity of each human person. Those two pillars — the common good and the dignity of every human person — come right out of Scripture. They underpin all of Catholic social thought. That includes politics. Politics is where the competing moral visions of a society meet and struggle. And since a large majority of American citizens are religious believers, it makes sense for people and communities of faith to bring their faith into the public square.
The Year of Faith and how we’re called to live it
In leading us into the Year of Faith, which began October 11, Pope Benedict calls on each of us as believers to “rediscover [God’s] joy,” to “radiate [God’s] word,” and to make our Christian witness “frank and contagious.” Now those are wonderful words, but how do we actually live them? We need to begin by realizing that we’re not being asked to do the impossible – only the uncomfortable and inconvenient. Benedict is asking us to examine our hearts and our habits of life without excuses or alibis. He’s asking us to tear down the cathedral we build to ourselves, the whole interior architecture of our vanities, our resentments and our endless appetites, and to channel all the restless fears and longings of modern life into a hunger for the Holy Spirit. If you think that sounds easy or pious, try it this week.