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Faithful Citizenship Decision 2016

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We are approximately 3 weeks away from what is arguably the most intense election cycle our country has ever dealt with. The intensity has cause divisions for some within their families, amongst their friends and within the workplace. I have seen social media bullying and name-calling over candidates and election issues. Many people I know, including many Catholics, and including myself, feel an internal, anxious struggle as we form our conscience surrounding the issues and the candidates. And so before I even touch the subject of faithful citizenship and politics, I ask you to take a moment to quiet your mind, take a deep breath, and pray:

Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city, state, and country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment
so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
Prayer Before An Election, US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sent Into the World

As Jesus Christ the Son was sent into the world by God the Father, so Christ sends us into the world (John 17:18). Christ has sent us to share God and to love and care for our neighbor. And so in a nation such as the United States, where we are blessed with the opportunity to have a voice in politics, we have a responsibility to live our Catholic faith at all times, including politics.

Living our faith is difficult in many circumstances and situations in our lives, as our sinful human nature causes us to struggle. Yet we find our strength in Christ. We find ourselves nourished by His Church and we become empowered by the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation to form our consciences to be strong Catholics living in the world.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: [The] conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings” (CCC #1783).

And it is with these well-formed consciences that we are called to make decisions in the world, including in politics. Because when “Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them” (CCC #1786).

To help us form our consciences, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revised their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, in November 2015. This 37-page document is meant to assist us in discerning our political decisions as a teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics in the United States. It is meant not to tell us who to vote for. It is meant to aid us in forming our consciences in accordance with God’s Truth. This document has been updated to include Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, and Pope Francis’ encyclicals, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’, as well as to address recent domestic and foreign policies such as abortion, physician assisted suicide, the redefinition of marriage, ecological and environmental concerns, deadly attacks on Christians and religious minorities, religious freedom, economic policies, immigration and the refugee crisis and wars, terror and violence.

Sometimes people question if it’s appropriate for the Church to play a role in politics. However, because the Church is obligated to care for Her people, She has an obligation to teach and share moral truths that shape us in our entirety, not just the life we live when we are on parish property. Our entire selves, and at all times.

 

Political Relativism vs. Faithful Citizenship

We live in a relativistic society that tells us that ‘what is right for you is right for you and what is right for me is right for me, and that’s all okay because there’s nothing that’s absolutely right.’ 

This mindset carries over into specific political issues, even for Catholics, leading us to give more weight to some political issues over others. Except that as Catholics, we know that this mindset often causes the replacement of Truth with opinion. It becomes personal preferences swayed by our sinful nature instead of allowing ourselves to make morally conscious decisions in accordance with our faith. And as People of God we have “…the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He [man] must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters’ ” (CCC #1782).

Politically, we are sometimes confronted with situations in which making a moral decision is difficult, even with a well-formed conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has guidelines to help us in these situations too:

      Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision       
      difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God
      expressed in divine law. To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the
      signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the
      help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. Some rules apply in every case:
            —One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
            —the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”
            —charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus             
                  sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.”
      Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”
      #1787-1789

And from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States:

      Aided by the virtue of prudence in the exercise of well-formed consciences, Catholics are called to             
      make practical judgments regarding good and evil choices in the political arena. There are some
      things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible
      with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to
      the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be
      rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned… It is a mistake with grave
      moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of
      individual choice… The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods
      that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected… St. Pope John             
      Paul II explained the importance of being true to fundamental Church teachings: ‘Above all, the
      common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights— for example, the right to health,
      to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and
      fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum
      determination’ (Christifideles Laici, no. 38).

      #21, 22, 25, 26

Living our faith as Catholics and living in the world are not easy. And as we make our decisions for the November 2016 election, as we are called to do for all things, we must prayerfully discern our voting decisions. And so to close, I ask you to pray daily with me and many others, for all our currently elected officials, candidates for office in November and ballot issues to be voted on.

 

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Interested in videos or audio on Faithful Citizenship? Looking for a novena for the election? Need materials to discuss the election and Faithful Citizenship with children, teens or other adults? Visit the USCCB Faithful Citizenship website.

Categories
Catechism Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Martina Offering your suffering Ordinary Time Prayer

#FishFriday – It’s Not Just for Lent

If you’ve heard the buzz lately, you know that the bishops plan to readdress and reemphasize that the faithful abstain from meat on Fridays, but do you know why? I know that, for many of us, this can come across as “lotsa rules” or “how can the Church be so determined to focus on this {perceived minutia} when we have so many bigger fish to fry?” – pun intended. It’s simple when you understand the core of Christ’s love for us. It’s about the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. Let me give you an example of both.

Letter of the law:

Days of Penance*

  • Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
  • Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
  • Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Can.  1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
  • Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

*Pulled from the Vatican website

Spirit of the law:

  • Jesus has a particularly scandalous love for each one of us.
  • Jesus died on the Cross for you – yes, YOU!
  • Each Friday is an opportunity to unite our small sufferings to His redemptive suffering on the Cross.
  • Out of our love for Him, we offer something small {such as meat if that is a particular suffering for you} to show Christ that we recognize and appreciate His gift of salvation for us.
  • We are not limited to giving up meat, but can also offer up other acts of penitential suffering as well – this varies from person to person, depending on our particular struggles and sufferings.

When we break it down into two categories like this, we can see that the letter of the law is borne of the spirit of the law. Without the spirit of the law, it’s all just words. If your heart isn’t convicted to a love for Christ, all you will see giving up your precious meat on Fridays is just a mere inconvenience. It’s so much more than that. SO. MUCH. MORE THAN THAT. The next time you start to feel that way about the laws of the Church, look at the Cross and lay those feelings at His feet. Pray for Jesus to soften your heart to understand the foundation of the rules. They are all rooted in a love for Him. Promise.

Categories
Abortion BirgitJ Current Events HHS mandate Ink Slingers NFP and contraceptives Respect Life

FIAT: HHS Mandate and Why We Should Care as Catholics

The HHS Mandate has been prominently in the news for the past week or so. That the current administration would violate the religious freedom of the Catholic Church, by forcing Catholic institutions to provide abortifacient birth control to all employees, has resulted in a unification of purpose not seen in recent times – if ever. The USCCB  is pushing back – with one voice – as other clergy and Catholic leaders are seen in the national media. What will ultimately happen remains to be seen but many different avenues are being explored in a united effort to proclaim the respect for life that Mother Church sees as her mission.

Today I am sharing a wonderful, encouraging video produced by a growing video company, Lolek Productions, that is rich in its Catholicity. Thanks to Fr. Joshua McCarty and his vision, they are growing by leaps and bounds. Just this week, news of their new video – Fiat: A Catholic Response to the Healthcare Debate – about the beauty of the journey to NFP by a local family, has made it to his local newspaper. Since I could never presume to explain it better myself, I will simply share their description of the video and allow your heart to burst with pride in our beautiful Church and her mission for us all!

Birgit J

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Why should we care as “Catholics?”
It is a stance often seen as an obsolete stronghold in a world that moves much faster than an antiquated church, ruled under the heavy hand of a bunch of old men.

Why would the Church care about this?
It’s a plausible question, seeing as 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control.
The whole contraception controversy is shrouded in misunderstanding, yet the Church remains persistent in Her teaching about the life-giving purpose.

What is that teaching?
That every married couple have a dozen children? No, not at all. It is a much more endearing standard than that.
No matter if you are on the rocks financially or if you are trying to keep up with the Duggers, the teaching requires that a couple allow God to have the final say on the dimension of their family.

There are several ways to give God the power that is His-to be the Guide, Nurturer, Refuge and Creator of life. A couple invites God to their wedding to bless their commitment, and to hold them in love.
God is invited into their homes through daily prayer, love and sacrifice. God is invited into the bedroom when a couple gives of themselves totally, in the most vulnerable and beautiful way — body, heart and soul.

Trust is difficult, especially when speaking of something as life-changing as having children. With all the implications, just a few of which include financial and emotional, only a fool would run headlong into sex blindly. But that is not an accurate depiction of the teaching.
Through the design of a woman’s cycle, through her natural phases of fertility, through the natural attraction between a couple during a fertile time, through the firm and faithful decision of the couple to abstain from sex if they must, Natural Family Planning gives couples the ability to achieve or avoid pregnancy at a percentage of 99.5%. It is with that trust that a couple invites the Lord to put His seal on their life.

He is allowed His right as Creator and Designer. In their stunning trust, both husband and wife exude the beauty of Mary.


Fiat — “Let is be done unto me according to your word.”


Visit us on the web at http://lolekproductions.com

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lolek-Productions/154759447935572