Archive for the ‘Caitlin Bootsma’ Category
By: Caitlin Bootsma
I drive a little slower whenever I pass the clapboard white church on the hill, sign board out front. As usual, I can’t resist checking what message is posted on the marquis for passersby to see. “Burdens leaving you wrinkled? Come inside for a faith lift.” Okay, it’s a silly pun, but I can’t help but smile. These signs always grab my attention. Sometimes I indulge in wondering whose job it is to pick the slogan for the week. Do they sit with a cup of coffee musing on what inspiration or witty phrase to use? Is there some database full of potential church signs? Their motivation may be to attract new members or maybe just to make people think about faith. Either way, they’ve made my drives a bit more pleasant and even more reflective.
On a heavier note, these signs stand out to me more still in recent years because I notice fewer and fewer overt signs of faith in everyday life. My Facebook feed has been full of acquaintances posting as their profile picture the ubiquitous equal sign (showing their support for homosexual civil marriage) but it is a rare that I notice equally obvious demonstrations of religious faith.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that I want people to be Pharisaical – boasting of their religious practices out of pride.
Rather, I desire that sense of unity in faith that comes through encountering other believers. Occasionally, I’ll see a family say grace together before a meal in a restaurant. I’ve run into a husband and wife saying the rosary walking along the beach. A few weeks ago, my husband and I saw a couple in their early twenties kneeling in front of an outdoor statue of Mary. We paused for a moment, remembering our own reliance on the Blessed Mother.
Too often, these genuine gestures of faith in public life are suppressed. Some of us, perhaps, do not wish to draw attention to ourselves; others may simply forget. But when we talk about the New Evangelization, it can’t just be a topic in a homily or a catch phrase for parish initiatives. We evangelize through our witness to the joy of being Christian.
If I’m thankful for my food, shouldn’t I thank the Lord regardless of whether I eat at home or in a restaurant? If someone asks me what I did this weekend, should I neglect to mention that I went to Mass with my family?
We may not each be called to put signs on the road with witticisms and invitations to Church (though you are welcome to!), but in a society that increasingly devalues religion and the centrality of faith to our lives, we can be those signposts to the fullness of life given by Christ.
By: Caitlin Bootsma
Sometimes I think that I’ve been working for the Diocese of Arlington central offices for quite a while – after all, five years is a pretty respectable run, right? However, as we celebrate Bishop Loverde’s 25th anniversary as a bishop, I admit that my years of working for the Church pales in comparison to Bishop Loverde’s commitment and love for the flock he shepherds.
I can honestly say that so much of the reason that the Chancery staff is blessed to work here is because of Bishop Loverde’s leadership. Not only, as the Herald outlines in their comprehensive anniversary issue, has he led us in so many areas, including multicultural ministry, pro-life ministry, evangelization and vocations, he is also a personal example of holiness and love for the Lord.
Bishop Loverde often talks about discipleship, about a personal encounter with God. I see this personal discipleship in my interactions with him. At the beginning of each one of our meetings, he sincerely takes a moment to bow his head and thank the Lord, always remembering to pray for the intercession of the patron saint of my office. When he discusses ideas for pastoral letters or Arlington Herald columns, one can see that this is not just work to complete, but an opportunity for him to share the faith that is so central to his life. One cannot help but be hopeful for our Church when he talks with great enthusiasm about the faith of young people he has confirmed or the seminarians he has visited.
During my time here, I have come to a deeper appreciation of all of the responsibilities of being a bishop. Bishop Loverde so evidently carries in his heart all of the people in the diocese, constantly striving to “encourage and teach with patience” (his episcopal motto).
I am encouraged the most by the example he sets. I often say that there is no way that I could keep up with the schedule he follows – the Holy Spirit must be with him! He travels throughout the diocese, works into the evenings, and still finds time to dedicate to prayer and to greeting each one of us individually, always remembering what is going on in our lives.
On this 25th episcopal anniversary, I thank God for the shepherd he chose to give the Diocese of Arlington, which He chose to give me. Celebrate by praying for Bishop Loverde, that he may continue to humbly serve and to courageously lead as our shepherd.
By: Caitlin Bootsma
“At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
(Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Bergoglio, on homosexual marriage in Argentina)
The debate over homosexual marriage is everywhere right now – in the Supreme Court, on Facebook, and over coffee at work. Yet, sometimes it seems like it is not even a debate anymore; the rhetoric has changed. I hear excitement over “marriage equality” and “the civil rights movement of our time,” but little reasoned defense or advocacy for traditional marriage, an institution that is thousands of years old and reflects the natural law.
Perhaps you, like me, are worried about being offensive. I don’t want to seem mean-spirited, or lacking in compassion for people with same-sex attraction. I feel uncomfortable with being labeled a ‘bigot’ by family and friends, knowing that I’m not.
I do not hate people who identify as homosexual nor think that they have less dignity than anyone else. I do accept that homosexual acts (like a myriad of other sexual sins) are against God’s plan for our marriage and our happiness, a plan that is inscribed into the very nature of our bodies. You may have seen slogans asking you to “fight for love” and support gay marriage. And yet, I know that a loving action is not to create something that a. is against natural law and b. will have harmful effects on society, our religious freedom, on children and, in fact, on the homosexual couples themselves.
This is a lot to articulate on social media or over a cup of coffee, and I often find myself at a loss for words. But now is the time to speak up. The Supreme Court is hearing two cases on homosexual marriage this week. We could be fighting for the true definition of marriage for the next 40 years, just as we’ve been fighting against Roe v. Wade.
Now is the time to defend the institution of marriage. If you find that you don’t have the words to enter into discussions, I encourage you to read the following interview with Archbishop Cordileone (Archbishop of San Francisco). He lays out the reasons we should maintain a traditional definition of marriage and the ways in which homosexual marriage would hurt society and individuals. Archbishop Cordileone says,
“To legalize marriage between two people of the same sex would enshrine in the law the principle that mothers and fathers are interchangeable or irrelevant, and that marriage is essentially an institution about adults, not children; marriage would mean nothing more t than giving adults recognition and benefits in their most significant relationship.”
We have a responsibility as Catholics who have been given the gift of faith and as citizens who are part of a democracy to search for the truth and to fight for it. Complacency over this issue is not an option for those who take to heart Christ’s call to be salt of the earth and light to the world.
Find more resources at: Marriage, Unique for a Reason
By: Caitln Bootsma
Pope Francis continues to capture the attention of the world with his actions. For Holy Thursday, rather than celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s, he will celebrate at a Roman prison for youth. There, within the Mass for Holy Thursday, he will wash the feet of some of the young inmates. The papal title “Servant of the Servant of God” aptly fits Pope Francis; already he leads by his example of service.
I’m reminded of the first time I learned that Bishop Loverde spends his Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners serving meals to the homeless at Christ House in Alexandria. Surely, there are other days when he could serve those in need. Would it be so wrong to actually enjoy a holiday meal at home?
No, it wouldn’t be wrong for our pope and our bishop to have made other plans for these days, but their gestures of humility and service speak volumes.
When those young men and women in the juvenile detention center in Rome see that the Pope chose to spend one of the holiest days of the year with them, how can they help but feel valued? When he washes their feet, will they be struck by his love for them, for the Lord’s love for them? Each Thanksgiving, the smiling faces of those at Christ House remind us that acts of charity are motivated by the desire to show others God’s love for them.
As Lent draws to a close, we will be reading and contemplating the end of Christ’s life. An innocent man – God Who came down to earth – Who chose the ultimate act of service, to die so that we might live.
There are so many ways to serve others, whether in your family, your parish, or the wider community. Catholic Charities needs a multitude of volunteers; the Gabriel Project needs “angels” to help pregnant women in need; Christ House always accepts food donations.
If you have the opportunity, find a way to watch Pope Francis’s visit on Holy Thursday and consider asking the Lord how it is that He is calling you to serve those around you.
As the Cardinals prepare for the serious duties of entering the Conclave and choosing the next Supreme Pontiff, the idea of having a new Holy Father any day now is exciting, but also has led us to reflect on the last papacy. We thank Pope Emeritus Benedict for his selfless service to the Church and pray for God’s will to be done in choosing our new Pope. Today, the Diocese of Arlington’s Communications team will reflect on the legacy of His Holiness Benedict VXI, Pope Emeritus, and relate how he personally touched our lives. Please feel free to discuss how Benedict influenced your faith in the comments below.
Seeing Benedict strolling the grounds of Castel Gandolfo makes me realize how influential he was to me as a young Catholic and how his particular style of communication compelled me to delve deeper into my faith. I had hesitations about his election; the media described him as “God’s Rottweiler,” after all. How could I connect on a personal level to someone I perceived as a staunch and rigid Cardinal; we disagreed on modern issues from rock and roll to Harry Potter! I didn’t really feel he was the right person to lead the Church during such uncertain times, especially not when the very principles of the Church were being ridiculed by society and media as bigoted and uncharitable. I thought that such a dogmatic and unyielding leader, in my opinion, couldn’t bring the Church together. Yet that was exactly what Benedict did.
Even so, I was happy to have a Pope from Germany, the country of my heritage, and it was particularly delightful to see him in Rome, where, for the first time, I began to read his writings and was amazed at his deep love and invitations to everyone from saint to sinner. Seeing him celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass after reading his encyclical Deus Caritas Est helped me to remove the beam from my own eye in order to see more clearly and without negative judgments. In his papacy, Benedict strove to connect to Catholics, especially young adults, and constantly surprised us by adopting new communications platforms like Twitter. He was one of the oldest elected Popes, but his messages weren’t outdated and his efforts were robust. Even to the end of his papacy, Benedict constantly reached out towards his Church and encouraged us through love. His papacy was, especially for me, inspiring and renewing as he guided the Church back to Christ. “Love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world—this is the invitation I would like to extend with the present Encyclical” (Deus Caritas Est, 39).
My clearest memory of Pope Benedict XVI is burned into my memory – partly because I was literally getting burned in the sun while waiting for a Papal Audience to begin. While I had the blessing of being able to see and hear Pope Benedict a number of times while I was in graduate school at a Pontifical University in Rome for several years, on this day I was sitting up on a dais only 15 feet from the Holy Father.
Why did I get to sit up front with the dignitaries and VIPs? Because my well-connected friend knew that on that very day my grandmother was being buried in the United States and that I was the only family member unable to be at her funeral. You see, he knew my affection for Benedict – a wise shepherd who was like a scholarly, loving grandfather. I was continually struck by our former pope’s clarity in teaching, his obvious humility and his simple love for God and for beauty. That day I couldn’t be with my earthly family, but I felt so intimately the connection with the Church as I sat at the feet of the Holy Father.
At the end of the audience, Pope Benedict gave the audience attendees and their families a blessing. My grandmother always said that she thought that Heaven would look like St. Peter’s. But on that day, with the always sincere Pope Benedict extending his blessing to my grieving parent, siblings and cousins, St. Peter’s looked like home and the Holy Father seemed like family.
By: Caitlin Bootsma
I don’t know about you, but it’s not even two weeks into Lent, and I’m already having trouble keeping my Lenten penance. This year, I chose to add something to my daily routine (Liturgy of the Hours), rather than to give something up, and I’m actually finding it more difficult, because I have to remember several times a day to set aside time to pray.
However, the fact that I slip up just serves to remind me of the fact that I’m not perfect, that I’m weak and always in need of God’s grace. The ultimate purpose of Lenten disciplines, after all, is to unite us more closely to the Lord and to rely on His mercy and His forgiveness.
Along with Lenten disciplines, one of the best things I can do for myself is find time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I tend to put it off, not willing to be honest with myself about my failings. But, each time I go, I really do find what Bishop Loverde says in his video for The Light is On For You to be true, that this Sacrament of Mercy strengthens me, heals me and sets me free.
I don’t know any better way to prepare for Easter then to experience this mercy and forgiveness – to be welcomed back by the Lord Who loves me.
Along with regularly scheduled parish Confession times, every parish in the Diocese of Arlington and the Archdiocese of Washington welcomes you on Lenten Wednesdays from 6:30-8 p.m. Priests regularly say that through this Light is On For You initiative during Lent, they hear from penitents who haven’t been to the Sacrament in 10, 20 or 30 years.
The freedom I experience after the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a peace that I want to share with others. I encourage you to go to Confession sometime this Lent (no matter how long it has been) – maybe even invite a family member or friend to come as well. The Lord, priests and our Church family are leaving the light on for you each Wednesday evening during this Lenten season.
By: Caitlin Bootsma
It seems to me that one of the recurring habits of mankind is to forget the lessons of the past and focus entirely on the present day. In the Church, however, we recognize a wealth of men and women who have reached our ultimate goal of heaven whom we can learn from. Their lives, in various places and times, instruct us (if we are willing to listen) not on how to form a utopia on earth or to achieve status, recognition or wealth, but rather on how to live a life close to God, regardless of the circumstances.
We’ve been talking a lot as a nation over the last year about the issue of religious liberty. We’ve questioned how our legal right to religious liberty is being protected, and many of us have contacted our legislators, prayed and spread the word about ways this fundamental liberty has been threatened. It is easy to think that we will always be able to worship and live our lives according to our beliefs. Yet, over and over again throughout history, we see that this has not always been the case.
Today is the memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions (also known as the Martyrs of Nagasaki), 26 faithful Catholics who were martyred in Japan for practicing their faith. When St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits first arrived on the shores of Japan (a very insular country at that time with little contact with other nations) they were tolerated and then even welcomed. However, while hundreds of thousands of Japanese converted to Catholicism, the freedom to practice religion ultimately depended on the perspective of the political rulers of the time. In the late sixteenth century, it became politically advantageous to ban Christianity, and these 26 Catholics were rounded up and then publicly mutilated, crucified and struck with spears.
The first obvious lesson here is that the freedom to practice our religion is not guaranteed and that it is worth fighting for. Yet, the second and perhaps more important lesson is the one that we can learn from the martyrs themselves. Upon his crucifixion, St. Paul Miki reportedly said from his cross that this was the “supreme moment of my life.” It is hard for me to imagine being in such unbearable pain and being able to say that with any joy. And yet, that is the faith we profess: that without God, we are nothing.
These martyrs impressed everyone with their joy in being able to share in the suffering of Christ. St. Paul Miki had already given up the status of his noble birth by taking on the priestly cassock; he desired solely to be at the service of the Lord. In fact, upon his death, he was quoted as saying that through Christ, his blood would sanctify the largely Buddhist Japan. He cared more for the evangelization of souls than for his own life!
This is not to say they would have chosen this over being able to practice their faith freely. Rather, when asked to choose between Christ and every earthly good and pleasure, they chose Christ unreservedly.
St. Paul Miki and Companions, pray that I might have the strength to cling to Christ regardless of the political and social climate!
By: Caitlin Bootsma
This Sunday is the World Day for Consecrated Life, a celebration established for the universal Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997. Growing up, if I thought about it all, I would have said that “consecrated” was simply synonymous with “nuns” and “monks.” However, this designation actually applies to a myriad of men and women who are dedicated to the kingdom of God, including sisters, brothers, priests in religious orders, consecrated virgins, hermits and members of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life (you can see a list here).
Jesus Himself was the model of consecrated life – remaining celibate and giving His entire life for the Church (even to the point of death). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus affirms the validity of the consecrated life saying, “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12).
Sunday is an opportunity for us to thank God for the many saintly men and women who consecrated themselves to the Lord for the good of the Church throughout history. In a particular way, we can pray for those consecrated that we’ve known in our life, for the strength of their vocation. Whether that be a religious sister who taught us in grade school, a hermit who prays for our intentions or a consecrated man or woman living in the world. We can, as well, pray for all of those who may be discerning a call to this way of life.
Bishop Loverde tells us,“I join all the members of our diocesan Church of Arlington in thanking God for the gift of consecrated life in the Church and in asking Him to renew in all the men and women living the consecrated life…a spirit of deepening intimacy with their Spouse the Lord Jesus and of faithful service to the Body of Christ and to the human family. I especially ask us to pray for those living the consecrated life within this diocese and, in your name and mine, I thank each of them for their service here” (statement for World Day for Consecrated Life, 2011)
The very first person from the diocese that I ran into was Bishop Loverde. He had just arrived after celebrating Mass at the “Life is Very Good” event at the Patriot Center with thousands of teenagers. He was clearly energized by the enthusiasm for life shown by so many young people and ready to march for the unborn and to meet parishioners along the way.
On the steps of the National Gallery of Art, Pope John Paul the Great High School students were regrouping and preparing to march with a huge banner expressing their support for human life. The teenage boys couldn’t resist strategizing about how they could elevate their banner above all of the other hundreds of signs being held along the March. Principal Sr. Mary Jordan shared with me that she could tell that many of her students were struck by the value of young life after hearing Bishop Loverde relating his own story of being born prematurely, weighing a mere three pounds.
As I marched along in the throng with my husband and son, we quickly got caught up with a huge group from St. Timothy parish in Chantilly. Among that group, I ran into a coworker who explained that his children were present among several different groups — both parish and school.