Words to Share: Heaven, Justice, Purgatory

Practical. Catholic. Evangelization.

As human beings, we seem hard wired toward sharing news when it’s great news. We enthusiastically communicate with others all the time when we have really good news to share. It doesn’t take any special training or programmatic preparation. So why isn’t talking about heaven something exciting and great to share?

A lot of Christians just aren’t sure about what eternal life includes. We believe in eternal life in the abstract sense, but deep inside, we’re not sure if a heaven that includes the worst sinners makes sense, we’re not sure if we want this eternal life if it’s just some manipulative reward for our own good behavior, we’re not sure if we want an endless continuity of a “better” earthly existence (i.e. a pop culture image of heaven as a place with endless luxury cars or something along those lines).

On this very day, nine years ago, Pope Benedict…

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“Dialogue,” by Sr. M. Madeleva, C.S.C.

A Word, a Word
Thou, Lord, didst utter which thy willing handmaid heard,
And infinite, small Life within my own life breathed and stirred.

A blessed space,
My Lord in me and I in Him found resting place;
In such divine repose I waited, silent and full of grace.

Answer is nigh;
O God, I lift a Child up heart-and-heaven high
And say, ‘This is my Flesh and Blood;’ Thy Word is my reply.

5 ways to pray on World Day of Prayer for Creation

CAFOD blog

Rachel McCarthy works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme. Here, she reflects on how you can celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1 September.  

Church of the Divine Providence, San Salvador The Church of the Divine Providence, San Salvador.

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation fills me with gladness. How beautiful it is to think that Catholics all across the world will join together in thanks and praise for the wonderful gifts with which God blesses us.

The World Day of Prayer marks the beginning of the season of creation, which ends on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (4 October). It’s an important opportunity to spend time in prayer and reflection, to care for the world around us: our common home.

Download our prayer vigil for the care of creation

Pope Francis invites us to celebrate this day to draw closer to God, the Creator of…

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How people in Zimbabwe are fighting back against climate change with renewable energy

A short but eye-opening look at how climate change is affecting societies and what can be done about it.

CAFOD blog

Takura Gwatinyanya works for CAFOD partner Caritas Harare in Zimbabwe. He recently met CAFOD supporters in England and Wales to talk about how Caritas Harare is using renewable energy to help to tackle the effects of climate change in the southern African country.

Takura and Caritas Harare are helping people in Zimbabwe face the challenge of climate change Takura and Caritas Harare are helping people in Zimbabwe face the challenge of climate change

Pope Francis warns in Laudato Si’ that our interference with nature is particularly affecting areas in which the poorest people live.

This is all too evident for the communities that Takura and Caritas Harare serve in Zimbabwe. As we have caused the climate to warm, drought has dried up people’s water supplies, destroyed their crops and livelihoods, and increased the spread of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea.

Speak up to your MP for action on climate change

Takura recently visited parishes around England and Wales to talk about how the…

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Spotlight on Brazil: supporting our brothers and sisters living in favelas

CAFOD blog

Anna Paula and her 3 month old daughter Alexandra Victoria in front of their home in Electropaulo Favela Anna Paula and her 3 month old daughter Alexandra Victoria in front of their home in Electropaulo Favela

Tony Sheen is CAFOD’s Community Participation Coordinator for Westminster Diocese. Here he looks back on a memorable visit to São Paulo’s favelas, and explains how seeing the Church ‘in action’ helping those in need continues to inspire him.

Four years ago London was brimming with excitement when the Olympic Games arrived; a few special weeks which managed to bring out the best in Londoners. The eyes of the world are now on Brazil, where the 2016 Olympics kicked off last week.

This Olympics, CAFOD are shining a light on Brazil’s poorest communities

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit São Paulo and meet some of the people supported by CAFOD’s partners. Early one morning I was collected by Heluiza and Osmar from our partner APOIO to visit…

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Saint Clare of Assisi

Today, August 11th, we celebrate the feast of Saint Chiara Offreduccio (Clare) of Assisi.

Saint Clare’s story begins at the age of eighteen (or seventeen), when she escaped with St. Francis in the dead of night, led through the woods by companions carrying burning torches,  to kneel before an altar and consecrate herself to God. She then cut her hair, removed her jewelry, and exchanged her gown for sackcloth. She would begin a new life of prayer and contemplation, a life that has had a profound impact on the world to this day.

Though Clare dreamed of joining Francis and his friars in wandering the world to beg for their daily bread, she and Francis both knew that it was not safe for her to do so. So she brought her order of Poor Ladies into a convent, where they lived owning only the building that they needed for shelter and the garden that they needed for food. They would later petition the Pope to allow them to own nothing at all.

I have no doubt that Clare seemed just as strange to her contemporaries as she does to us now. In fact, the Pope himself was hesitant to approve her order; he struggled to comprehend how her refusal to own property, the ideal of “holy poverty” taken to its extreme, could ever work practically. But in a time when the Church was growing increasingly extravagant, this disciple and dear friend of St. Francis reminded us of the freedom that comes from going without.

This is not to say that property is bad. We celebrate, and rightly so, the independence and security that comes from owning your own house, owning your own car, and knowing where your next meal will come from. But saints often go to one extreme to remind us of our need to steer clear of the other. As G.K. Chesterton said in his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas:

The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need.

And St. Clare’s bravery was exactly what the people of her time needed, and in many ways what we need today. This lifestyle reminds us of how utterly dependent we are on God, and how little security we truly have.

In his biography of St. Francis, the saint from whom Clare drew much of her spirituality, Chesterton tells a story in which Francis retreats into a cave and emerges a changed man. Chesterton imagines Francis walking out of the cave on his hands, and seeing the world hanging upside down. (Fun fact: Mumford and Sons references this passage in “The Cave.):

If a man saw the world upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasize the idea of dependence. There is a Latin and literal connection; for the very word dependence only means hanging. It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hanged the world upon nothing. If St. Francis had seen, in one of his strange dreams, the town of Assisi upside down, it need not have differed in a single detail from itself except in being entirely the other way round. But the point is this: that whereas to the normal eye the large masonry of its walls or the massive foundations of its watchtowers and its high citadel would make it seem safer and more permanent, the moment it was turned over the very same weight would make it seem more helpless and more in peril. St. Francis might love his little town as much as before, or more than before; but the nature of the love would be altered even in being increased. He might see and love every tile on the steep roofs or every bird on the battlements; but he would see them all in a new and divine light of eternal danger and dependence. Instead of being merely proud of his strong city because it could not be moved, he would be thankful to God Almighty that it had not been dropped; he would be thankful to God for not dropping the whole cosmos like a vast crystal to be shattered into falling stars. Perhaps St. Peter saw the world so, when he was crucified head-downwards.

This doesn’t need to be a frightening vision; in fact, Chesterton goes on to say that it inspires a profound gratitude. Because God does not let us fall, no matter what might come at us. Being infinitely in danger only means that we are infinitely protected.

I’m sure Francis and Clare saw, as Chesterton saw, that living an uncertain life makes us even more aware of this infinite protection, and our infinite gratitude. Francis and Clare learned to abandon everything to God, to trust him with even the clothes on their back and the source of their next meal. They learned to be aware and thankful of the fact that God provides. And by letting go of fear of the future, they learned to live more and more in the present.

Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us.

Gambling to Faith in Jesus

Practical. Catholic. Evangelization.

Exploring if and/or how faith in Jesus Christ can be certain matters for catechesis, disciple-making, and evangelization as a whole. Certainty is related to confidence. If the “Good News” isn’t confidently known as something good with certainty, then why share it at all?

A few weeks ago I dropped in on Part 3 of an annual series by Ron Bolster entitled “Philosophy for Catechists” as part of the St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Prof. Bolster picked up these practical questions of confidence and certainty from a philosophical angle to consider how we (in real life) come to know people and things that are beyond our finite human experience.

And the reality is this: most of the things we know and accept we haven’t witnessed; we believe on the testimony of someone else (a textbook writer, Wikipedia editor, etc.).

What does this bit of philosophy (epistemology, to be precise) have…

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