Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Happened at the Synod of Bishops Just Concluded?

The interventions by the bishops were not "electric." However, the bishops did not move forward regarding scripture--the synod's focus this year--and not backward, as some feared. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. summarized today that the bishops
in broad strokes the bishops steered a middle course between two possible extremes: secular skepticism and fundamentalist literalism. They endorsed the use of historical-critical methods of study, while also calling for a distinctly “theological” and “spiritual” reading of the Bible.
They also endorsed the laity in a surprising way with one of their proposals to Pope Benedict. (That proposal follows logically from something Pope Paul VI had done after the Second Vatican Council.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Way To Pray--at the Computer

St. Ignatius of Loyola would be pleased. The proponent of "seeking and finding God in all things" today would use the Internet to help people to pray. Loyola Press and its companion websites offer a catechetical website called Finding God. One of its features is its 3-Minute Retreat.

The sample linked above was yesterday's retreat. One can register at Finding God then receive an attractively produced, daily retreat in one's e-mailbox. Three minutes may not sustain Christians, but it is enough time to reorient them in a busy world.
Wiki-image of a laptop in use by Avatar, who has given permission for its use.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday word, 26 Oct 2008

30th Sunday of the Year A (26 Oct 2008)
Ex 22. 20-26; Ps 18; 1Th 1. 5c-10; Mt 22. 34-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
More Sensitive and More Versatile

Today’s three scripture selections focus us on serv[ing] the living and true God. What does serv[ing] the living and true God include? Let me offer four ways which that service includes.

It involves, first, initial conversion, encountering God in a way that moves me to arrange my life with God as singularly important. St. Paul, along with his contemporaries, described that with the words, turn[ing] to God from idols.

Idols are not necessarily exotic. We exalt many things too highly. We often do not realize when we arrange our lives around power, prestige, possessions or performance, to name a few. When we make such things the center of our universes, we bow before our idols.

Second, serv[ing] the living and true God is not divorced from daily living. That is spiritualistic. Serv[ing] the living and true God is in and of Jesus’ Spirit. To live according to Jesus’ Spirit means the shape of my living imitates Jesus and his living--loving God as completely as I can and loving others with the respect and care I desire.

Imitation was not aping. One learned how to be in the world by learning from and following models. Two fruits of ancient imitation were sensitivity and versatility./1/ Recalling their own enslavement helped the people of Israel to treat those on the margins with compassion. Being compassionate to widows and orphans--the phrase included any and all people at risk--was a positive command: you shall not molest or oppress...or wrong. Sensitive people sought to exercise compassion in situations for which no positive command existed.

Third, we do not exercise compassion on our own nor do we take the initiative to encounter God in our first conversion. We are powerless to do either of those on our own. As the Psalmist sang, I love you, Lord, my strength! We made those words our own in our responsorial psalm. Relying on God’s strength to help us shape our Christian identities, is crucial wherever we are and in all we do.

Last, keeping alive and fresh our initial conversion in daily living and cooperating with God’s grace gives our Christian living a particular purpose: to expect [God’s] Son from heaven, Jesus whom he raised from the dead.

The texture of expecting Jesus’ return is not fearfully watching over our shoulders. Witness is its texture! The ways we exercise Christian compassion as well as the ways we receive it are the most powerful ways all of us evangelize. Our witness to the living Risen Lord Jesus is crucial. As Pope Paul VI
said...to a group of lay people, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."/2/
What Jesus revealed by fulfilling God’s desire, enshrined in the commandments, the prophets and God’s relationship with humans, is that the vocation of us all is to witness to gospel values above all others. Jesus is our model, from whom to learn greater sensitivity. Plus, we enjoy many sainted people, who show us how to live the gospel daily with greater versatility to both awaken people to their first encounters with God and deepen our ongoing conversion to God in Jesus by their Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow yourself to rest in the love with which the Trinity creates you at each moment. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus about how your life gives witness to him and to his gospel. Ask Jesus for his strong grace in order to grow more sensitive to others and more willing to respond to them. Close your time with Jesus by saying slowly the prayer he taught us. The Lord’s Prayer is our key to fulfilling his twin commandments by which we honor God in our Christian concern for all people.

1. “The genius of Roman rhetoric resides in the use of imitation throughout the school course to create sensitivity to language and versatility in its use.” Donovan J. Ochs, “Roman Rhetoric,” in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, Ed., Theresa Enos, p. 643. The way people communicated extended to the whole of life.

2. Pope Paul VI, Address to the Members of the Consilium de Laicis (2 October 1974), He incorporated his words in his Apostolic Exhortation, Proclamation of the Gospel, 41. The occasion was the 10th anniversary of the closing of Second Vatican Council.

Wiki-image by Merlin of a torah scroll and its jad are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license .

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday word, 20 Oct 2008

29th Monday (20Oct2008)
Eph 2. 1-10; Ps 100; Lk 12. 13-21
Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.
Staying with Experience

I realize that when you and I hear about cosmic forces our minds tend to think of outer space or of the behavior of matter and energy on the atomic level. Our knowledge and experience does not help us appreciate what the first Christians grasped. They and their contemporaries felt strongly grasped by cosmic forces and in bondage to their effects.

St. Paul’s phrase, the ruler of the power of the air, is one expression of cosmic forces--another we find in this letter is principalities and powers./1/ People felt and knew themselves in bondage to these forces. Christians experienced a freedom from this bondage, which registered one way as being dead in []our transgressions and sins, able only to follow[] the wishes of the flesh and the impulses.

Their freedom was salvation. Being saved was not a future condition but very present, in which they felt certain of their new identity in Jesus and free to proclaim it in deed and word. Dark forces sought to lure them in many directions, one impulse was greed. Salvation--freedom in the dead-and-risen Messiah Jesus--was their wealth, not possessions or power or prestige.

Being saved enlightened their minds so that they could live according to the Spirit of Jesus rather than the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, that is, whatever was contrary to Jesus’ Spirit of freedom and of communion.

One important clue this offers us is this: God in Jesus by their Spirit worked their freedom in and through the experience of the first Christians. To live and to be rich in what matters to God begins and continues for us in our experience, too.

Parents know from experience what psychologists help us understand: impulse control is crucial in life. St. Paul reminds us how God in Jesus by their Spirit control all things for good, inviting us to share the gift of true freedom, for our lives now and as well as for ever.
1. Ephesians 3.10. Paul used the collective, powers, again in the same letter; three times in Romans; twice in his letter to the Colossians (a letter with great overlap to Ephesians); and once in his letter to Titus.

Wiki-image is used according to the GFDL.

Synthesis of the Synod

The Internet has allowed instant communication from the Synod (like the Jesuit's 35th General Congregation at the beginning of this year).

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica (the Vatican's English-language press attache for the 2008 world Synod of Bishops) communicated that
I have always had great respect and admiration for Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec and the relator-general of this world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. What he did today in the Aula, in the presence of the entire assembly and Benedict XVI, was a real “tour de force” that left many people spellbound.
Access his summary for his description of the intervention.

John L. Allen Jr. offered last Friday his description of where things stand thus far:
As the Oct. 5-26 Synod of Bishops on the Bible moves into its "sausage-grinding" phase, working on propositions that will be submitted to the pope and a concluding message to the world, it already seems possible to anticipate several of its conclusions, at least at a fairly high level of magnification. . . .

I'll give a quick summary of the proceedings so far, first looking at areas of general agreement and then three tensions that, at this stage, remain unresolved.
Mr. Allen listed areas of "General Agreement" and "Tensions." Tensions fell under three categories: 1) Lay Ministers of the Word; 2) The Historical-Critical Method; and 3) Inerrancy of the Bible. His summary concludes with excerpts of his interviews with some bishops at the synod about some of the topics in his summary and about others.
Wiki-image of a bible and rose is in the public domain.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday word, 19 Oct 2008

29th Sunday of the Year A (19 Oct 2008)
Is 45. 1-4,6; Ps 96; 1Th 1. 1-5b; Mt 22. 15-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Making Our Faith, Hope and Love More Concrete

Some things don’t change. Opponents become unlikely allies when circumstances suit them. Opponents even staunchly support each other. An opponent, more accurately, a conqueror of the Persian empire, where the Jews already had been in exile, became their liberator and God’s agent: For the sake of...my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.

Cyrus was in the right place at the right time. People did not underestimate the ramifications of that moment. None other than the Lord brought it about. God’s chosen servant, the entire people Israel, caught something we miss.

Greek was the language spoken in the ancient Mediterranean world. The Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into Greek so that God’s word could circulate far, and so more people could appreciate it. Lord in Greek is Kyrios (we know it in Kyrie eleison). Greek does not have a letter C, which means that Kyrus was their liberator’s name. That similarity deepened appreciation that the Lord worked through everyone--even a government leader, who didn’t acknowledge the only Lord.

Moving forward five centuries to Jesus’ time, the tension among Jews between being ruled by the Lord or by a man who considered him-self supreme--Caesar--had grown razor sharp. Members of two opposing groups allied themselves against Jesus. The Pharisees represented the Jewish people under Rome’s oppressive thumb. The Herodians, the party of Herod, sided with Rome in order to enjoy power. Herod was a heretic, who only wanted power. He had only the power Rome gave him, and Rome made him puppet-king of the Jews.

Malice made these enemies allies, specifically their hatred for Jesus. Their insincere question was not about taxes but about power, authority and allegiance. Jesus shrewdly asked for the coin used to pay the Roman tax. If a Pharisee had offered the coin, he’d have been a heretic for holding it. If a Herodian had offered the coin, the Pharisees would have been guilty for associating with Herod’s own; their association with them meant the Pharisees distanced themselves from the Lord, what they preached no one ought to do.

Because the issue is about recognizing God’s authority and about allegiance to God or denying God, these verses do not offer church-state solutions. The episode is about God’s loving control of history and our share as God’s stewards in each present moment. It's about recognizing God as the source of all; that all things are gifts.

October reminds us of two gifts from God: life and mission. This month deepens our awareness about life as given by God not by anyone else. October also calls each Catholic to participate in the church’s universal mission, namely, to make visible in more concrete ways our work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus.

Gesu offers one more way to do that by inaugurating the Gonzaga Society. Its mission complements other avenues of Christian service. Named after Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who helped those in Rome no one else would help, the Gonzaga Society seeks to help people who “slip through the cracks” in our community. Members of the Gonzaga Society give people, who cannot drive, rides to church and to the doctor. They offer respite to those who are 24-7 caregivers at home. They sit with those who are dying, and they accompany survivors in their grief. Doing those things brings people nearer to Jesus. They are tributes of a priceless kind we offer as friends of Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow the Trinity’s creative love of you give you new awareness of your partnership with them. Ask St. Aloysius to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus about your partnership with him; how you champion life and the church’s mission. Desire strongly to practice in more concrete ways your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Those who say it regularly and with passion grow more united with our Creator and Redeemer, who empowers us with his Spirit to practice more concretely our faith, hope and love with and for others.

Wiki-image of the mausoleum of Cyrus is used freely by its author's permission. Wiki-image of Roman coins is used under the GFDL.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday word, 18 Oct 2008

St. Luke, Evangelist (18Oct2008)
2Tm 4. 10-17b; Ps 145; Lk 10. 1-9
Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.
Our Embassy

St. Luke, as you know, wrote a two-part gospel. Part One we name his gospel, his portrait of Jesus. We name Part Two, his Acts of the Apostles, Luke’s portrait of the infant church. Recalling him today the church directs our attention to Jesus and his compassion as well as recalling the only information in Paul’s letters, which indicated a relationship between him and Luke.

Jesus’ compassion we can identify by turning to our experience. However, our experience is alien to the ancient metaphor of harvesting. Does that mean that this gospel passage is so time-bound that it cannot speak to us? It need not be time-bound, and here’s why.

Scripture comfortably heaps images atop each other. Harvest is named but two others are described by Jesus: shepherding (I send you as lambs in the midst of wolves) and messengers (say to [those I send you], ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you’ ).

Jesus is the model messenger as well as shepherd and harvester. Jesus was sent by God, who was the master of the harvest, to proclaim God’s kingdom.

St. Luke’s feast reminds us that all Christians are to act with the master of the harvest; we are to allow ourselves be sent by Jesus as his ambassadors to our world. Our embassy is not an office to which people come. The Catholic embassy is our way of living by which we extend Jesus’ work, empowered by Jesus to invite others to the Kingdom of God to which we already have been welcomed. We invite by our manner of living.

That calls for perseverance as well as moving lightly through life. Becoming enamored of the present world, to use Paul’s language, is to cease to focus ourselves on Jesus’ mission he gives us and not to persevere. Because St. Luke abided with St. Paul--Luke is the only one with me--he is a worthy intercessor to help us persevere, to encounter Jesus and others in new ways and to discover anew how Jesus makes us conduits of his Holy Spirit.
Wiki-image of St. Luke is in the public domain.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gazing Action

Lectio divina has arisen repeatedly in the Synod devoted to God's word. [A summary list of topics thus far has been formulated as 19 questions.]

In addition to quietly reading a passage from scripture, lectio divina aims to help a person personally engage the passage. The engagement is not limited to the intellect; it seeks to

"Auxiliary Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales of Valparaiso, Chile, made a concrete presentation of this type of prayer that lasted some 20 minutes." The summary of his presentation listed seven points and described the fruit of five years of praying with scripture this way in his diocese.

Reading, rereading in a meditative way leads to
contemplation, aided by silence or music. What is important, the bishop said, is that "Jesus takes hold of me, looks at me and I at him, an exchange of gazes."
The outcome of this engagement with Jesus through the divine word is action--a concrete way Jesus, through his word, guides and graces individuals to put into practice in their daily lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Picture of Persecution Today

In the secular and democratic nation of India Christians are suffering persecution in no single area. Orissa, an east-central state, has seen it yet again; Karnataka, the state in which the city of Bangalore is located, saw persecution of Christians for the first time--to name only two states.

The Indian Prime Minister “himself. . .has recognized that this is a ‘national disgrace’ for India, an evident contradiction of the great values of non-violence, tolerance and respect, which the religions of this great country have cultivated for centuries.” [Source: Zenit]

A recent article in the New York Times depicted what is happening in an accurate fashion, according to an Indian Jesuit priest, who teaches theology in his country and is currently studying in the United States.

The perpetrators of this religious persecution offer all sorts of justifications. The fact that it happens at all urgently calls people to ponder the meanings of secular and democracy.

More information with a timeline of recent events are at People for Peace in India.
Wiki-image of India States and Union Territories map by Planemad is used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.o Unported license.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Disarming With "a Human Approach"

The Vatican has a permanent observer at the United Nations. Last week, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, addressed the 63rd U.N. General Assembly about the still pressing need for nations to disarm. He called for "a human approach" to it because each human being
is the ultimate aim of all public policies, arms regulation, disarmament and non-proliferation must have an interdisciplinary or, more importantly, a human approach.Without considering the social, economical, psychological and ethical impact of armaments, policies on disarmament and non-proliferation become a game of armed truce between States.
Archbishop Migliore, near the conclusion of his address noted the "enhanced complexity of the arms trade," cited two resolutions made by the General Assembly and linked "disarmament"
with more general problems, such as the reform of this Organisation, the procedural and structural reform of the Conference on Disarmament, the tendency of overlapping the civil and military economies and the scarce coherence of the policies adopted in the strategic sectors.
Humans need coherence. Without it individuals, families, societies, cultures and the entire globe suffer.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday word, 12 Oct 2008

28th Sunday of the Year A (12 Oct 2008)
Is 25. 6-10a; Ps 23; Phil 4. 12-14,19-20; Mt 22. 1-14
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Starting Point

Connotations are the starting points of meaning for us.

  • Take the word "meal," and we usually think first of good nourishment. Farmers may think first of feed for fowl, and bakers may think first of corn meal to dust baking sheets.
  • Take the word banquet, and we may think of more than nourishment, such as too much to eat or, a dinner in conjunction with a gala.
  • Take the word death, and we may think of a particular point in time when life ceases in a living being.
Pausing to consider meanings which come first to us is important because scriptural language, which is Mediterranean language, exceeds the connotations usual to us. Sometimes scriptural connotations clash with our expected meanings. Scriptural connotations always burst human meanings. Scriptural language and images are the vocabulary of worship. Two examples: Jesus took bread, gave thanks, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it;/1/ and a priest’s greeting at mass quotes St. Paul: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!/2/

Our readings exemplify the differences between scripture’s connotations and our understanding. Isaiah announced God’s desire of life with an image of a feast of choicest things. The image surpasses good nourishment and points to God’s total restoration of humans and their original blessing: the reproach of his people [God] will remove from the whole earth. In the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, which we echoed, God’s companionship with us allows us to move through the dark valley of death--in scripture no single point in time.

In the Mediterranean world life without honor was--and is for many today--unthinkable. Life without honor was no life at all. The phrase, “to die a thousand deaths,” helps us appreciate that the death God would destroy...forever was no single moment in time. God would destroy every force inimical to humans.

This process of God restoring our original blessing was accepted by the people to whom Isaiah announced God’s desire. "This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"

Jesus’ parable contrasts people who accept with people who reject God’s invitation. Rejecting God’s invitation to allow God to begin to restore us now and to completely restore us when the kingdom dawns is always a temptation we face. If any of us think that temptation does not affect us, the end of the parable warns us to be on guard.

Those who accepted the invitation, coming in from the main roads and streets, followed wedding banquet conventions and came in proper attire--all but one. Not putting on a guest’s wedding garment, that is, not acting in character as disciples and friends of Jesus, is that temptation we face often. For us Christians actions are so important. Actions flow from the inner-self, to paraphrase Jesus, and our actions above all, as Jesus will remind us as the liturgical year closes next month, guarantees our place in the kingdom-banquet.

That’s why the parable’s king ordered his servants to fill his hall with both the bad and good alike. If that shocks us, then the hymn we sing in God’s voice at communion should shock us no less: “O come and sit at my table where saints and sinners are friends.”/3/

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, calm yourself in the inviting love of the Trinity. Jesus seeks you through word and sacrament; accept his invitation to welcome you and restore you. Speak to Jesus about how you reject him and how you accept him. Resolve to act in ways in harmony with his gospel. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, our guide for Christian action for both new and veteran Catholics.
1. St. Paul and the Evangelists grouped these actions of Jesus together.
2. 1 Corinthians 1.3.
3. Dan Schutte, “Table of Plenty,” #312, verse 1, ©1992, Daniel L. Schutte, OCP Publications,
Breaking Bread, 2007.
Wiki-image of cornucopia of fruits and vegetables is used according to the GFDL. Wiki-image of Russian icon of Paradise is in the public domain.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not All Has Stopped During Financial Crisis

Catholic Charities informed through its weekly emailing list of important actions taken by Congress and the President.

ww logo

Special Edition

October 10, 2008
Volume 3 Number 29

Inside this issue:

  • Congress Approves Financial System Rescue Package
  • President Signs Child Welfare Bill
  • Congress Reauthorizes Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
  • House Approves McKinney Vento Legislation
  • Legislative Accomplishments of the 110th Congress

President Signs Financial System Rescue Package

On October 3, the President signed into law (P.L. 110-343) a rescue package (H.R 1424) for the nation's ailing financial and banking sectors. The legislation authorizes the Treasury Department to buy $700 billion in troubled assets. It also raises the FDIC deposit insurance limit for bank accounts from $100,000 to $250,000.

The financial rescue package includes a number of provisions originally included in senate-passed tax-extender bill (H.R. 6049) including:

  • Mental health parity legislation that would require insurers to cover mental health benefits equal to traditional medical benefits;
  • A reduction in the income eligibility threshold for the Child Tax Credit from $12,050 to $8,500
  • Tax relief to victims of natural disasters; and
  • Tax breaks for renewable energy.

The changes raised the total price of H.R. 1424 to almost $850 billion from $700 billion. However, these provisions were already being considered by Congress and were included because of limited time on the legislative calendar.

Catholic Charities USA sent a letter to the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee on September 24. For more background on the issue, please read a letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Congressional leadership on the nation's financial crisis.

For more information, please contact Kellyann McClain, Policy Analyst, kmcclain@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

President Signs Child Welfare Bill

On October 7, the President signed into law (P.L. 110-351) the "Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act" (H.R.6893). The bipartisan legislation was widely supported by both the House and Senate. It provides a number of important improvements to the child welfare system including:

  • Supporting children aging out of foster care by providing an extension of federal foster care payment beyond age 18;
  • Extending federal foster care funds to tribal governments;
  • Increasing financial incentives for families who adopt children and providing additional support for adoption of children with special needs;
  • Providing grants to improve access to services for relative caregivers; and
  • Allowing access to federal training funds for private child welfare providers.

Catholic Charities USA applauds the leadership in the Senate and House for their hard work in crafting these important changes to the nation's child welfare system.

For more information, please contact Desmond Brown, Senior Director of Government Affairs, at dbrown@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

Congress Reauthorizes Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

On October 8, President Bush signed into law (P.L. 110-378) the "Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 2008" (S. 2982). The measure reauthorizes the 1974 Runaway and Homeless Youth Act that was set to expire on September 30. The legislation reauthorizes programs that support state and local efforts to help homeless youth through street outreach, transitional care, and crisis intervention.

Several changes were made to S. 2982 to get Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to remove a legislative hold on the bill including: removing funding for a public awareness campaign, limiting extensions for how long participants could stay in transitional housing programs, and reducing the fiscal year 2009 funding level by $15 million. After those changes were made, the bill easily passed both the House and Senate.

For more information, please contact Joseph Devine, Policy Analyst, jdevine@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

House Approves McKinney Vento Legislation

On October 3, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to reauthorize the "McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act" (H.R.7221) by a vote of 355-61. The measure authorizes $2.2 billion for FY 2009 to support programs that serve homeless individuals and families. This is a significant increase above FY 2008 funding of $1.6 billion. The measure also made a number of changes to the McKinney Vento program including:

  • An expansion in the definition of the homeless;
  • Additional flexibility for communities to address identified need;
  • Additional flexibility to provide supportive services; and
  • An expansion in protection for victims of domestic violence.

The changes to the definition of homeless in the final bill are not as broad as an earlier version of the legislation. While the earlier bill, the "Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2008" (H.R. 840), outlined broader definition for the homeless, the changes in the final bill represent an attempt to compromise with a similar measure in the Senate. The Senate did not pass its version of the bill (S.1518) due to procedural maneuvers.

For more information, please contact Desmond Brown, Senior Director of Government Affairs, at dbrown@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

Legislative Accomplishments of the 110th Congress

At the start of the 110th Congress, Catholic Charities USA outlined a comprehensive legislative agenda as part of our Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America. While a number of these legislative proposals did not become law, it is important to note that we are making progress in some important areas. Both Congress and the Administration took important steps to target relief and strengthen programs that assist some of the most vulnerable among us. Some of the changes passed by Congress and signed into law include:

  • Legislation that increases the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years, signed into law by President Bush on May 25, 2007;
  • "The Second Chance Act" of 2007 (H.R. 1593) which addresses barriers to housing, employment, education, and health care that ex-offenders face when exiting the prison system;
  • The 2007 Farm Bill which provides $10 billion over ten years for the Nutrition Title: $7.8 billion for the Food Stamp Program, $1.26 billion for The Emergency Food Assistance program, and $1 billion for the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable program;
  • A supplemental spending bill (H.R. 2642) that expands veteran education benefits, extends unemployment insurance, places a moratorium on six harmful Medicaid regulations, provides disaster relief for the Midwest, and provides permanent supportive housing vouchers for the Gulf Coast region;
  • The "Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008" (H.R. 6331) that blocks a 10.6 percent cut to Medicare payments;
  • The "Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008" (H.R. 3221) that includes an Administration-backed plan to help troubled mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an expansion of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loan program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, the creation of a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to address the lack of housing options for extremely low-income families, and four billion in Community Development Block Grants for communities to rehabilitate foreclosed properties;
  • The "SSI Extension for Elderly and Disable Refugees Act" (H.R. 2608) which provides a two-year extension of eligibility for the elderly and disabled refugees who have lost or will lose their SSI benefits due to the seven-year time limit set by the mid-1990's changes in the welfare law;
  • The "ADA Amendments Act of 2008" (S. 3406), a proposal that clarifies the "Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990" (ADA) to broaden the number of physical ailments covered under the ADA;
  • "Michelle's Law" (H.R. 2851), legislation that allows full-time college students over the age of 18 to maintain their parents' health insurance plans for up to one year if they take a certified medical leave of absence from school;
  • A continuing resolution that includes $5.1 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), doubling the FY2008 level, as well as $22.9 billion in disaster relief, and $200 million for Emergency Food and Shelter Fund, a $49 million increase over FY 2008; and
  • The "QI Program Supplemental Funding Act of 2008" (S. 3560) that authorizes $45 million in additional funds to assists certain low-income seniors in paying Medicare premiums.

Catholic Charities USA will continue to advocate in the 111th Congress for legislation that provides quality health care, affordable housing, adequate nutrition, and economic security to the more than 37 million people living in poverty in this country.

For more information, please contact Kellyann McClain, Policy Analyst, kmcclain@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

There will be no Washington Weekly until Congress resumes.

Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
Sixty-Six Canal Center Plaza, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314
For information about advocacy, please contact Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pope's Reflection at the Synod

Pope Benedict opened the Synod on the Word of God with a reflection about words and power.
Humanly speaking, the word, my human word, is almost nothing in reality, but a breath. As soon as it is pronounced, it disappears. It seems like nothing. But already the human word has incredible force. It is words that create history, it is words that form thoughts, the thoughts that create the word. It is the word that forms history, reality.

Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality.
It is worth pondering in its entirety.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Which Month Is Mary's Month?

May answers the title-question. October is the month which contains the Memorial, Our Lady of the Rosary (07 October). The rosary and Mary are so closely related in popular piety, which explains why some mistakenly call October Mary's month.

Pope St. Pius V in the year 1571 instituted the memorial to commemorate the miraculous victory of the Christian forces in the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The pope emphasized the power of Mary's intercession as greater than the arms of war.

Entrusting self, work and evangelizing efforts to Mary's protection has become characteristic of the Church. In 2005 on the eve of an earlier Synod of Bishops, Pope Benedict did "entrust the work of the Synod to Mary." Before doing so he recalled the efforts his predecessor to revive praying the rosary:
This ancient prayer is having a providential revival, thanks also to the example and teaching of the beloved Pope John Paul II. I invite you to reread his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae and to put into practice its directions on the personal, family and community levels.

We entrust the work of the Synod to Mary: may she lead the entire Church to an ever clearer knowledge of the proper mission of service to the Redeemer truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. [Angelus, 2 October 2005]

The rosary is a prayer of protection in which we meditate on the mysteries of our Lord Jesus, turning them over in our hearts after the example of his Blessed Mother, who knew her son's incarnation, passion, resurrection and ascension in the most intimate ways.

Wiki-image of a scene of the Battle of Lepanto is in the public domain.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday word, 05 Oct 2008

27th Sunday of the Year A (05 Oct 2008)
Is 5. 1-7; Ps 80; Phil 4. 6-9; Mt 21. 33-43
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Tending or Possessing?

My high-school friend’s parents became wine-makers much to their surprise. It was no surprise that Mr. Paluzzi read about home-wine making; purchased supplies; set to work and successfully served delectable wine. Mrs. Paluzzi was not interested in the workings of making wine, but as far as enjoying a glass with dinner or at night with her husband or while reading a book, she was all for it!

When my parents picked up my friend and me from an outing and returned Daryll to his home, we visited. “Get ready for my Dad,” said Daryll, “he only talks about wine lately.” Mr. Paluzzi didn’t disappoint. His enlightening tour included a delicious selection of his efforts.

I learned dandelion wine was delicious; strawberry wine tasted too sweet; elderberries would be worth growing; and cantaloupe wine was superb. Mr. Paluzzi was thrilled, and Daryll lovingly endured it all yet again. Then: “It’s your turn, Mom.”

Mrs. Paluzzi took her cue. “You know why everyone loves the cantaloupe wine?” she asked us with an eye toward her smiling husband. “Angelo didn’t make it. I did.”

“You did!” exclaimed my father. “I thought you didn’t want any part of making wine.” “Well, she was that way,” Angelo answered. “When I kept getting all the accolades from our guests, she wanted in on the action. I told her no way. She makes her own wine now. Sometimes her wine outshines mine. More cantaloupe wine, by the way?” he grinned.

I haven’t sipped Paluzzi wine in years nor will I again. My classmate died of cancer a short while after graduation. His dad died a little later, and his mom had grown ill before I left the area. Yet, their story is fine vintage: being close to the process of making, what Mrs. Paluzzi had taken for granted, changed her outlook and vitalized her spirit. She gave her-self to the discipline of turning fruits into wine.

Mr & Mrs Paluzzi said they made their wines to see who made the better. Motivation in part. I think that wine as gift to refresh life and companionship began to exert its pull. In her way, Mrs. Paluzzi, like her husband in his, gave herself to the value of that gift.

We are less inclined to be astonished by the process of fruit fermenting into wine than our Jewish ancestors in faith and the first Christians who gave us Jesus’ good news. We may be nonplussed by Isaiah’s song of the vineyard and deaf to its echo in Jesus’ parable of the tenants. Something astonishing resides in Israel’s cherished self-identification as God’s vineyard, namely God’s perception of the enormous value of the house of Israel. So great a value that they saw each other as friends: Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard--our Creator-Friend’s song about us! God befriends us.

In the stresses and strains, the hopes and joys of life the relationship of God with us remains constant. God’s relationship is constant even when we produce sour grapes. Even then we, the new Israel, like the first people of the promise, are God’s cherished plant.

Jesus’ parable of the tenants is a window on our inconstant and fickle nature with God and humans. By his parable Jesus reminds us God is like the owner, who lovingly prepared his vineyard. God, too, is long-suffering, desiring only respect, hoping the limited and selfish tenants would respect my son.

Just as astonishing as the relationship God desires with us as we are is that the parable’s vineyard remained; the tenants came and went. Are we, tenants, fickle at best or greedy at worst, who come and go? Do we covet ownership? Or do we seek to be people who produce...fruit by tending our corners of the vineyard given us in trust?

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, ask the Trinity to allow you to see with their vision. Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus about the ways you exercise stewardship over people and things God has entrusted to you. Desire to be more attentive but not possessive; to be more confident in God’s providence and aware of freedom, yours and others. Close by saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer, which is our act of entrusting ourselves to God: in praise, in need and in our desire to grow more like Jesus, God’s son.
Wiki-images of an airlock by Joshk and of a vineyard in autumn by HuttyMcPhoo are used according the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Synod on the Bible Begins Monday

Pope Paul VI gave the world's bishops a voice in the governance of the universal church through the medium of the synod. [Synod come from two Greek words meaning journeying together. The discussion and debate by bishops, one hopes, will contribute to the progress of allowing the Tradition to speak to new circmstances.]

On Monday the 22d synod convenes. It's name is “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. offered a preview in his weekly online column published yesterday. Synods are considered by some to be wasteful of time and money, "expensive talk shop with no actual authority." Mr. Allen correctly added that
it’s nonetheless a unique sounding board. For roughly the first week and a half, each participant will have a few minutes to deliver a message to the pope himself, and to the wider world, about the state of the church.

The synod is thus a unique gauge for taking the temperature, so to speak, of the global church.

The subject this time around is the Bible, with discussion likely to oscillate between lofty matters of theology and exegesis and more practical concerns about how to foster greater Biblical literacy and a deeper passion for scripture at the grass roots. Here we’ll take a brief look at each.

Mr. Allen considers in turn the "lofty matters" and the "practical and pastoral concerns."

Will this synod make a turn that will be one sided, that is, church, or will it acknowledge the power of the Word in a deeply divided world?


Wiki-image of an illuminated letter P is in the public domain.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wednesday word, 01 Oct 2008

Teresa of the Child Jesus (01Oct2008) Jb.9. 1-12,14-16; Ps 88; Lk 9. 57-62
Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.
One Way of Operating

In Sri Lanka today is a solemnity, which I learned as a tertian. The youthful Sri Lankan church recalls its missionary roots. St. Teresa, who never left her Carmelite convent, was named patroness of all men and women missionaries by Pope Pius XI.

Growing up I easily understood why St. Francis
Xavier had been proclaimed in turn patron of mission lands east of the Cape of Good Hope--all missioners bound for Asia had to sail past the tip of the African continent--and later of the Propagation of the Faith. How did a Carmelite, who lived a cloistered life, join him?

Their fundamental principles of operating echoed each other. Francis’
spiritual principle had been: To “love those people to whom we are sent and to make ourselves loved by them.” [Thérèse’s] ...motto of her monastic life was: “To love Jesus and to make him loved.”/1/
Missionaries and even Pope John Paul II/2/ have reminded each Catholic that we are missionaries, too. Jesus invites us to follow him because Jesus loves us. Jesus sends his followers with the mission to continue his work. The first disciples did that by making Jesus known to others.

People attract others to Jesus by their love for Jesus. Your love and my love for Jesus infects others. Our love opens the hearts of others to the love Jesus has for them.

Our roles in the church as well as life differ. Our Catholic way of operating unites us: “To love Jesus and to make him loved.”
1. http://www.ocd.pcn.net/mission/News16en.htm#_ftn5
Redemptoris Missio, 2.

Updated JRS-USA Website

JRS/USA witnesses to the reality that God is present in human history, even in the most tragic experiences of persons driven from their homes by conflict, natural disaster, economic injustice, or violation of other human rights.
[Source: About Us link at home page]

St. Ignatius would use the Internet. Perhaps the most prolific letter writer of his day, St. Ignatius communicated, guided, begged and directed both Jesuits and their friends and benefactors with his written communications. The Jesuit Refugee Service-USA website affords us images of people with whom God is present in dire circumstances.

The updated website not only informs about displaced peoples around the globe. It also allows visitors to it to pray with refugees and to take action on their behalf.
Wiki-image .