Weekly column from Archbishop Chaput

Welcoming students and understanding our mission

On September 4, tens of thousands of students across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia return to class for a new academic year in our 123 parish schools, 17 secondary schools and four schools for persons with special needs. Philadelphia rightly claims one of the finest Catholic educational systems in North America. Catholics across the archdiocese can take pride in its extraordinary achievements. Nonetheless, our schools exist primarily to develop the whole human person with an education shaped by Catholic faith, virtue and moral formation. The goal of the Church, and by extension, the goal of all Catholic education, is to make disciples.

Security, immigration reform and human dignity

For Catholics – who belong to a Church that supports the fundamental right of every person to migrate to seek a better life for his or her family, and who themselves were disdained as “outsiders” for much of American history – anti-immigrant resentment is especially wrong.

Wisdom and Christian witness

En espanol In a few months we’ll close out the Year of Faith that began under Pope Benedict and was highlighted so beautifully in Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei. In the past year — in fact, in every year now, according to the Holy See — more than 100,000 Christians are killed worldwide for reasons related to their faith. That’s the real cost of discipleship. That’s a measure of heroic character.

Christian witness and America’s birthday

Boldly and faithfully living our Baptism is the single greatest contribution we can make to the Church and our nation. The obstacles to vigorous religious faith and practice are far greater today than they were in the time of Franklin. But the consequences of religious indifference -- both for the Church and for our country -- are extraordinarily damaging. The moral renewal of our nation begins with the moral renewal we allow God to work in each of our own hearts. That’s something to pray for this week as we honor the birthday of the United States, and every day of our lives in the months and years ahead.

Looking ahead to the Archdiocesan Financial Report

En espanol The wife of a friend once quipped that there’s not much sizzle or romance in balancing a check book – but try feeding the kids if you can’t. If a family has financial problems, it needs to know why. That requires accurate information, no matter how complex and sobering, so the problems can be fixed. So it is with the Church. The resources of the Church don’t belong to the bishops or the clergy or some remote institution. They belong to her people.That means the Church has an obligation to use her resources well. She also has a duty to make an accurate yearly accounting to her people of how she manages those resources, whether the news is happy or not.

Immigration reform: Renewing the soul of a nation

En espanol Sane voices have been rare in America’s immigration debates. We’re a nation of immigrants constantly worried that the next gang of newcomers will ruin the country. More than 260 years ago, Benjamin Franklin fretted that newly arrived hordes of German-speaking aliens would steal the identity of Pennsylvania. We know how that turned out. So it goes today. In his new book, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez makes a powerful case – the best case I’ve seen so far – for the urgency of deep reform of immigration now.

Human dignity and human trafficking

James Nicholson is probably best known as a successful businessman, attorney and former U.S. secretary for veterans’ affairs. But he also served with distinction as our country’s envoy to the Holy See. One of the issues he championed during his tenure, working closely with the Vatican, was the global fight against human trafficking – the lifeblood of modern forced labor and sexual exploitation. Officially, worldwide slavery ended more than a century ago. Unofficially, it’s a growth industry.

The evidential power of beauty

We might consider several lessons from creation this week as summer begins and life starts to briefly slow down. God lives in the summer rain, the stars in the night sky, the wind in the leaves of the trees. He speaks to us through a creation alive with his love. We need to be silent, and watch and listen. And then we need to join in nature's symphony of praise.

Religious freedom and the need to wake up

En espanol Even with the financial and structural flaws that critics believe undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the bishops continue to share the goal of real health-care reform and affordable medical care for all Americans. But health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly -- by the current White House. Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations. The day when Americans could take the Founders' understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up.

The birthday of the Church and the path we choose

Anything without heart, anything without love -- and I mean politics, music, law, art, even religion -- anything without love, no matter how brilliant, is finally inadequate and weak. At the end of the day, the human soul yearns to be loved, and to love in return. And it won't settle for anything less. God loves us so deeply that he sent his only son to live, suffer, die and rise again for our salvation. That’s the message of Easter. The message of Pentecost – the “birthday of the Church” that we celebrate this Sunday – builds on Easter.