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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at Saint Jude Syro-Malabar Church in Centreville.

I treasure a small icon given to me as a gift, depicting Saints Peter and Paul embracing one another. Their embrace reveals their unity or one-ness of faith in the Lord Jesus and of love for Him and His Church. Indeed, they were one, yet very diverse in their temperaments, talents and roles of service within the Church. Nonetheless, each one — Saint Peter and Saint Paul — is clearly a model for us to imitate as we travel together, disciples of Christ Jesus united in faith and in love.

Cavalier d'Arpino - Madonna and Child with Sts. Peter and PaulSaint Peter was — and is — the source of unity within the Community of Christ’s Disciples, the Church. He is the source of unity in faith. When Jesus Christ asked His disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “But who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter alone who professed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Authentic disciples of Jesus Christ are united fundamentally by their profession of this same act of faith: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Very Son of the Living God.”

Saint Peter is also the source of unity in leadership within the Church. In response to his profession of faith, the Lord Jesus clearly announced: “… and so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” By these words, the Lord Jesus appointed and confirmed Saint Peter to be the visible head of the Church, His Vicar on earth, the first among equals within the College of Apostles.

This role of leadership has continued down through the centuries; each successor of Saint Peter, the one who is the Bishop of Rome, the one we call “Holy Father” or “Pope”: he is the visible sign of unity in leadership within the Church Universal. Authentic disciples of Jesus Christ are united fundamentally by their communion with Saint Peter’s successor.

Saint Peter is likewise the source of unity among all Christ’s disciples: forming as they do the Universal Church as well as forming a particular diocesan Church. This unity is achieved through the union of each diocesan Church with the Church of Rome and all the other diocesan Churches. Every Eucharistic Prayer expresses this communion when it directly and clearly prays for unity between Francis our Pope and Paul our Bishop, by the members of the Arlington Diocese, or Jacob our Bishop, by the members of your Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago.

Saint Paul was — and is — the icon of evangelization. Persecutor of Christians turned convert, Saint Paul was irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ and became passionately in love with Him. This conversion and deeply personal union with Jesus within the Community of the Disciples impelled Saint Paul to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to everyone and to the farthest bounds of his world. Yes, Saint Paul was passionate, zealous, determined, on fire with love for God and others, on fire to evangelize! And he remained so to the end, as we heard again in today’s second reading: “I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”

So, what lessons can we learn from Saints Peter and Paul?

(1) Saint Peter: Are we united by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Each day, through countless circumstances we are being asked: “Who do you say that I, Jesus Christ, am?” What is our real response? Our actions tell us! Are we united with the leadership within the Church? With our Holy Father, and with our proper bishop? Their style or approach in accidentals does not really matter. Are we listening to their teaching about faith and morals? Are we seeking to foster unity in faith by our concrete witness in daily life? Do we give to the Lord and to His chosen representatives our “obedience of faith”?

(2) Saint Paul: Are we daily seeking to be turned towards Jesus Christ more fully, to be converted, to be re-evangelized? Do we experience the joy of the Gospel, a joy rooted in our daily encounter with Jesus Christ? Are we eager to share the love of Jesus Christ and His message of hope and life with others? In a word, are we heralds and protagonists of the New Evangelization, our hearts on fire?

As members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, and this local visible expression, the Saint Jude Catholic Church here in Centreville, are you on fire to proclaim by your daily witness: “You are Christ, the Son of the Living God” and to invite everyone to come to know and love Jesus within the Community of His Disciples, the Church?

One final lesson to be learned. We are in the midst of the United States Bishops’ third Fortnight for Freedom, an extended period, from June 21 through July 4, for us to pray, to become more informed, to dialogue, and to witness for the cause of religious freedom, here in our own country and beyond. The freedom of religion is the first freedom. When the answer to the question “Who am I?” is “a disciple of Jesus Christ,” then every other action of ours flows from that identity. If I am not free to answer God’s call to love fully as Christ’s disciples, then all my other freedoms lose their meaning. Why have free speech if we cannot speak in praise of God? Why have freedom of association if we cannot gather as two or three and have Christ present among us?

It is our first freedom not simply as Catholics, but also as Americans. It is our first freedom because it comes first in our Bill of Rights — the guarantee of our freedom from an established state church and our freedom to exercise our religion without state interference. It is our first freedom as Americans because it was the reason why the first settlers came from England, so that they might be free to practice their beliefs free from the threat of oppression and governmental coercion.

At the same time, we can never allow our rights — even our right to freely worship — to become merely a political club by which we beat back our political or ideological enemies. We have rights in freedom because we have duties in love. Freedom of religion is not rooted merely in some sense of personal spiritual fulfillment. It flows from the duties we have as children of God to respond to His providence.

We serve our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends, our community and country best when we exemplify Christ the obedient Son who carries out the will of the Father. Our country is stronger and our people better when Christians are free to be images of Christ to the world, in our faith in God and our charity towards others. We know that our religious freedom is not some selfish design to fulfill our own plans, but our generous response to the love we have received from God. And so we insist on our rights in liberty not simply for our own sake, but for our neighbors and for the generations to follow. This is freedom’s ideal — that we are free to pursue the truly good, and so to serve the common good. This is why the theme for this year’s Fortnight for Freedom is “Freedom to Serve.” Please make your voices known in upholding and defending religious freedom.

Yes, the icon of Saints Peter and Paul is much more than a beautiful image of these two saints embracing each other in the unity of faith and love, although it is that in a very concrete way. The icon is the call and challenge to imitate Saints Peter and Paul, surrendering in faith to Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior; proclaiming Christ to everyone; and upholding and defending religious freedom. It is fundamentally and ultimately to live what we believe, not only in the private sector of religious worship, but also in the public square of concrete witness and involvement — for the common good and the salvation of the world!

Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.

This homily first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

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The Catholic Diocese of Arlington wishes you and your family a blessed and merry Christmas. As we all celebrate the joy of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we thank God for all of the blessings He has bestowed on us throughout the year. We should also turn our thoughts to the less fortunate and the poor, who struggle with meeting their daily needs.

As Pope Francis said in his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, “Small yet strong in the love of God, like Saint Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples” (Evangelii Gaudium, 216). Our Bishop Paul Loverde also wrote on the importance of service and charity in his pastoral letter, Go Forth With Hearts On Fire, saying, “As children of God and followers of Christ, we seek opportunities for acts of charity, for living out our faith in concrete ways. Expressing the love for the Gospel through our actions is vital to being faithful disciples of Jesus and His authentic witnesses” (Go Forth With Hearts On Fire, 27).

12daysofcharity2This year, we’d like to offer you a daily challenge to support those in need. We’ll be posting a charity every day of the 12 days of the Christmas season on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and compiling all 12 on our blog. We hope that this opportunity inspires you to give generously, knowing that you’re following Our Lord’s command in Luke, “Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 13:13-14). God bless you and your families this Christmas season and always.

12 Days of Charity

Day One: Catholic Charities

Day Two: Gabriel Project and Project Rachel

Day Three: Alpha Omega Clinic

Day Four: Divine Mercy Care

Day Five: Catholic Relief Services

Day Six: Migration and Refugee Services

(Please note: to donate directly to the Arlington Diocesan MRS affiliate office, please visit http://www.ccda.net/programs_mrs.php.)

Day Seven: St. Vincent de Paul Society

Day Eight: Retirement Fund for Religious

Day Nine: Pontifical Mission Societies

Day Eleven: MaterCare International

Day Twelve: John Paul II Medical Research Institute

Thank you for supporting the 12 Days of Charity! We hope you were inspired to give and that you had a joyful Christmas with continued blessings in the new year!

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By: Deacon Marques Silva

How often do you think about or even pray to the angels? You might pray to your Guardian Angel, but how about the rest of them? Our society prides itself on empirical evidence and observation. Unfortunately, without Divine Revelation and Tradition, we would know nothing about the holy angels. In fact, angels are mentioned 165 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament. Yep, equal in both – oh happy coincidence! Theologians agree that without the angels, salvation history would be vastly different.

Yesterday, we remembered the three great Archangels mentioned in Sacred Scripture: Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael [Editor's note: Sept. 29, the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels, traditionally known as Michaelmas]. These three played key roles in Sacred Scripture, salvation history, and the life of the Church.

Archangel Michael

michaelSt. Michael, whose name means “Who is like unto God?,” is the Captain of the heavenly hosts. He is mentioned four times in the Holy Writ (Daniel 10, Daniel 12:1, Jude, Revelation 12:7).

Ancient writings suggest that just as Satan “rules” in hell, St. Michael is the governor of heaven (Praepositus Paradisi). Under the Old Covenant he was known as the “great prince” and protector of the children of God (Daniel 12:1). The Church expresses this too in her liturgy. During the Offertory Prayer while celebrating a Requiem Mass, she prays:

Sed signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam, quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini eius.

Saint Michael, the banner bearer, may conduct them into the holy light which Thou hast promised to Abraham and his seed.

An article in Communio (September 29, 2010) shared that Sacred Tradition teaches us that St. Michael exercises his four offices in the life of the Church in the following ways:
• to fight against Satan, his minions and the power of evil
• to rescue and protect the faithful from evil, especially at the hour of death
• to lead the people of God to full communion with God Himself
• to call our souls to judgment before God.
As one might imagine, Michael is the patron of soldiers. But did you know that he is also the patron of grocers, mariners, paratroopers, police and sickness.

Archangel Gabriel

gabrielGabriel means “the power of God” and is most remembered for the Angelic Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. Gabriel is also mentioned four times in the Word of God: Daniel 8:16, Daniel 9:21, Luke 1: 5-25, Luke 1:19 (Zechariah), and Luke 1: 25 (Our Lady).

Pius tradition also holds that it was Gabriel that strengthened our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane and announced in the Garden of the Resurrection that the Christ had arisen. The Fathers of the Church also mention that on the Last Day when heaven and earth are consummated and the final judgment is convened, Gabriel will sound the trumpet. Gabriel in Luke 1:19 mentions that he stands before the throne of God. Additionally, he is believed to be one of the seven angels that adore our Lord before His throne.

Gabriel is the patron of communication and postal workers – I definitely believe his messages will always be on time and timely.

Archangel Raphael

raphaelNo, Raphael is not a teenage mutant ninja turtle but is the angel that guided Tobiah to Sarah and healed his father’s (Tobit) eyes in the Book of Tobit. Appropriately, Raphael means the “medicine or healing of God”. In the Book of Tobit, he is mentioned by name twenty-seven times. Needless to say, he is a main character in this Old Testament treasure.

Like Gabriel, Raphael mentions that he is one of the seven angels that stand before the throne of God (Tobit 12:15). He is not only the patron of travelers he is also the patron of dating and engaged couples (Go figure with him finding the perfect wife for Tobiah).

Later this week, we will look more at the angels per se since the Feast of the Guardian Angels (Wed., Oct. 2) is almost upon us.

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Project Rachel is a ministry of healing and hope for post-abortive parents. The next day of Prayer and Healing will take place on July 27th. For more information, visit the Project Rachel website.

By: Josephine Balsamo

“You are not judged on the height you have risen but from the depth which you have climbed.” ~Frederick Douglass, 1881~

This quote brought to mind the many people who have called us for help. They are wounded and they are in pain. Many believe they are beyond the mercy of God and are not worthy of anything good in their lives – after all, they think they deserve this misery.

But here’s what happens when they finally have the courage to pick up the phone and call: they are met exactly where they are – much like Jesus’ response to the many people he encountered illustrated in the Gospels, such as the woman with the hemorrhage. Similarly those who call the post-abortion helpline are met with unconditional love, and perhaps for the first time, they are able to articulate some of the unspeakable trauma they have suffered because of their past mistakes.

What a life changing moment it is when they feel the love and acceptance of Christ and dare to let a spark of hope ignite within their souls.

say_hello_2_heavenThis is the gift that each of us can share with them – hope in the mercy of God and his power to heal. Each of you working to bring others to the love of God makes it possible for them to see the love of God through you. In turn, they instinctively recognize that love and realize that they want some of what they see reflected in you. And this is the beginning of the long journey home.

Someone once told me that the road to heaven is simply one long line of people who have found the way reaching back and taking the hand of someone else searching for the way. I think this is how we get to heaven – reaching back for one another, one soul at a time. You may never know this side of heaven how many souls you have touched, but I am quite sure that once you get there, you will be amazed.

Thank you for your support and for sharing the precious gift of yourselves and your faith with others. You are making a difference in their lives – both earthly and eternal.

We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other; if we are to succeed.” ~Frederick Douglas, 1847~

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By: Corinne Monogue 

 

ImageThe day has finally come. Blessed Kateri, who has been such a witness for so many of us, is being recognized as a saint this weekend! When this was posted on the diocesan Facebook page, several people expressed their excitement that more young women would have the opportunity to adopt soon-to-be Saint Kateri as their Confirmation saint. 

Blessed Kateri appeals to Native Americans, who have been here in our country from its beginning. Because she is the first Native American saint, she highlights for us our culture and our history. She held true to her Native American heritage AND her Catholic faith (read more about her life here). What a model for us – you can identify as more than one thing in the living Body of Christ. You can be Native American and you can be Catholic. You can be black and you can be Catholic. You can be Chinese and you can be Catholic.

This Sunday’s canonizations – not only of Blessed Kateri, but also of Blessed Pedro and Blessed Marianne Cope – are deeply meaningful to the various multicultural communities in our diocese, for many of the same reasons that Blessed Kateri’s canonization touches so many. Please consider coming to Mass this Sunday at 2:30 pm at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington to celebrate the canonizations (it is also World Missions Sunday) and then to attend the Multicultural Catholic exhibit fair that follows.

ImageThe Filipino Catholics in our diocese are ecstatic about the canonization of Blessed Pedro, a young Filipino martyr. Pedro, the second Filipino to be canonized, was killed while bringing the Gospel and teaching the catechism in Guam. His witness is crucial for young Filipinos, who can see through Pedro’s life that one is never too young to recognize and embrace the Catholic faith. (Read more about Pedro’s life here).

Blessed Marianne Cope, also to be canonized on Sunday, was a Dominican Sister who persevered in serving those with leprosy in the Pacific Islands. Even today, the scars of that horrible disease can be seen in their society. Her elevation to sainthood has real significance for the culture of the Pacific Islands. More than just national patriotism, this means something to the Pacific Islanders as a whole. She is a great example of strength and generosity – tradition among the Islanders holds that even when others left them, Sr. Marianne would not abandon the afflicted (read more about her life here).

ImageOne of the wonderful things about these canonizations is that these men and women already had great significance in the countries in which they served, as well as for specific cultural groups here in our diocese. On Sunday, when they are canonized, however, they also will be recognized as saints for the universal Church – for Native Americans, Filipinos and Pacific Islanders, but also for each one of us in the Body of Christ.

Blessed Kateri, Blessed Pedro, Blessed Marianne – Pray for Us!

 

 

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By: Soren Johnson

The Year of Faith opens today.

And to mark it, there’s part of me that would like to post an erudite and memorable reflection on any one of the extraordinary documents exploding out of the Vatican with this week’s opening of the Synod, “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith”.

But I’d probably be missing the point.

Because today is about a personal invitation addressed to you and me. Today, Pope Benedict XVI is inviting us to enter “into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith”. He is summoning us “to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord” (Porta Fidei).

I want to take the Holy Father’s invitation at face value, I’m praying that I will mark this Year of Faith in a worthy manner. Today begins a journey that I hope to look back on and be able to point out to my children when they’re grown—that among the many times we experienced God’s grace as a family through the years, this year beckoned us to special moments of conversion and encounter with Christ; and that we didn’t toss the invitation to the side and turn down the graces that were being offered.

Simply put, I am praying that this “particular reflection and rediscovery” will lead me to renew my relationship with Jesus Christ, within the community of His Disciples, His Church.

On a practical level I have not made any grand resolutions. I have signed up to read the Catechism throughout the year in daily installments, and I’m looking for opportunities to crack open the documents of the Second Vatican Council and give them a fresh and long-overdue closer reading. I’ve signed up to receive Bishop Loverde’s weekly Year of Faith challenge. I’m looking forward to getting back to the basics of discipleship with Christ at an upcoming workshop on evangelization with author Sherry Weddell. I’m excited to see where the Holy Spirit will lead our diocese as parishes step into the Year of Faith in so many unique ways. Through the St. Therese Society, I’m weaving prayer for the great priests and seminarians of this diocese, Bishop Loverde, and our Holy Father, more intentionally into my daily prayer.

But I recognize that I’m quick to do things in a flurry of activity—and far slower at being a disciple of Jesus Christ. If I could spend today with Jesus I would probably find it easier to do tangible jobs for Him than to sit at His feet and reflect on His words. I’d probably rather try to win His love than acknowledge that there is nothing I can do to earn it, that His love for me is already unconditional.

So, this Year of Faith—of rediscovery—should be an uphill climb for me.

And when it comes to a close, I do not plan on making my descent. I know that the moments of authentic conversion—of turning toward Him—in the past have come with a price: the decision to step out of my comfort zone and encounter Jesus there.

What could rediscovery and conversion look like for us—individually, and as members of His Body, the Church—in the Year of Faith?

Today let’s draw near to Him and ask that question.

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The Gabriel Project set to Celebrate 10 Years of Active Ministry

Did you know the Gabriel Project has been actively offering pregnancy assistance in the Diocese of Arlington for ten years? We wanted to share with you what some recent parents have had to say about the difference this ministry has made in the lives of their families.

Please pray for these expectant parents, for their babies and for all those who are involved in this life-supporting ministry. If you want to become more involved, check out the Gabriel Project website.

The Gabriel Project Assists Parents:

ImageWith the Heart of Christ, making a difference to expectant mothers

One mom came to visit us some weeks ago to pick up an Easter basket donated by Blessed Sacrament Church’s Gabriel Project.

She told us: “When I didn’t have any other options for my pregnancy, I saw a Gabriel Project ad in the Herald and I called you. And you were really kind and sweet and showed me that there was hope and options.  You guided me to different resources, and I have been so grateful. Thank you for all you have done for me, especially for taking the time to listen to me.”

“That is the reason my baby’s name will be Gabriel”

In their faith journey

We recently had a conversation with a mom we are assisting who has no family in the state, just lost her job, has no money for rent, and was struggling with feelings of desperation.

Gabriel Project volunteer: “We talked about the importance of having a good relationship with God and the power of prayer. We encouraged her to pray to Our Lady and to entrust all her concerns to Mary.”

“Two days later, she called back and said that she has been doing her homework (praying) and that she feels more peaceful. She wants to start going to Mass.”

In their familypromoting values

Some month ago, we received a call from “Rosa” who was looking for prenatal care and didn’t know where else to go. She was feeling sick, had just been in the hospital because of pregnancy complications, and was really worried for her baby.

The Gabriel Project used their resources to help her: prenatal care at Tepeyac Family Center, a Gabriel Angel (parish-based volunteer) for transportation, and a Gabriel Angel for translation services.  Things began to fall in place, and she began to have more peace and confidence.

One day, she asked one of her Angels about sterilization, because she wanted to have the procedure done immediately after her baby was born. When the volunteer called, we started to pray for this mother.  In the meantime, the volunteer explained to the mother about the beauty of family and love. From the Gabriel Project office she received a mailing with NFP information as well as resources about the importance of marriage and God’s loving plan for her and her family.

After a month or so of prayer, conversations, material and, most of all, love and care, the mother relayed that she and the father of the child were planning to talk with a priest after the baby is born, so they could learn more about NFP and also about marriage.

More recently, the mother told us that she had been talking with the father of the child about the possibility of marriage and believed they were moving towards it. She said, “Thank God that people like you exist. You all have been a blessing in my life.”

In their womanhoodacknowledging their dignity

After talking with a mom about the dignity of her body and her life, as well as the importance of being chaste and living according to Christian values, she said, “thank you for sharing with me this thought. You don’t hear good things frequently, and you tend to forget what is good and right.”

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Did you know that the Diocese of Arlington has been sponsoring a Catholic community in the Dominican Republic since 1991? Before that time, the area had been without a priest and the sacraments for nearly eighty years! For the past twenty years, our diocesan priests have been stationed there serving the missions of San Francisco De Asis and San Jose. Groups from Northern Virginia regularly spend time down in the Dominican Republic working on various service projects and getting to know the community there.

Bishop Loverde leaves today to visit Banica in celebration of the twenty year anniversary of its relationship with the Diocese of Arlington. As we wait for him to return (no doubt with many travel stories!) I’ve been looking over photos taken last year when our Chancellor visited the Mission – see below. You can also find out more about the missions here.

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The manager of our website sent us this photo from Lourdes where pilgrims participated in a rosary procession

Via social media, we are receiving reports that the group from the Diocese of Arlington is already feeling blessed on their pilgrimage to World Youth Day. Yesterday they were in Lourdes, France, and they have a full itinerary ahead of them! Be sure to follow us on Facebook to hear more on their progress – and, of course, to keep them in your prayers.

If you haven’t already had an opportunity to read it, Bishop Loverde wrote on just why World Youth Day is an antidote to much of the negativity in our world. 

“Whether it is via a newspaper, on a smartphone or on the television, many of you, like me, scan the daily news headlines. At times, following the news can be disheartening. Headlines often proclaim stories of division — between nations, ethnic groups, politicians and even neighbors.

What is our response to the disconnect that exists in our world? The simplest approach may seem to be to ignore this onslaught of negativity, to turn off the computer or the television or to set aside the morning paper. Yet, as the Holy Father reminded us during his visit to our region just a few short years ago, Catholics are not to be discouraged by the challenges of the secularism, materialism and individualism that surround us, but are to bring their Faith to the public square (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the United States bishops, April 16, 2008). We are to transform the world as instruments of Christ. This engagement of our culture is part of the New Evangelization; that is, the renewal of the Faith in our own life and, through this personal renewal, the renewal of our world.

For young people, disheartened and divided by a secular culture, as well as distracted from the pursuit of Faith by the constant diversions that the new technology offers, this renewal is critical. More than any generation before them, a good number of young people are disconnected from religion and the hope that it brings. In fact, one in four American “millenials” (teens and young adults) do not adhere to a particular set of beliefs, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center (Pew Research Center, February 2010).”
Read the rest of the column here.

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By: Mariann Hughes, Office of Communications

I wouldn’t say my world entirely revolves around broccoli cheddar soup, but pretty close. I eat it three times a week. I crave it in the middle of the night. What I’m trying to say: broccoli cheddar soup and I are in love.  Not much can come between us.

At the end of the day, when thinking about all the people who talked with him, I wanted him to remember that one of them shook his hand, smiled at him and wasn’t a jerk.

It was about 2 p.m. in my workday yesterday when I realized I hadn’t eaten lunch. And I could hear soup calling me from Panera, 14 blocks away. So I listened to the lure of its voice and headed down Glebe Road for my lunch break.

I secured my soup and was happily strolling back to my car when an attractive young man stopped me.   “Excuse me. Can I talk to you for a moment?” In another situation, it is possible that I would have responded enthusiastically. In this case, inwardly I groaned because he sported a pale blue t-shirt with a pro-abortion, pro-contraceptive industry name emblazoned on the front.

“No, thanks,” I said with a fake grin and a crisp tone, my rolling eyes hidden by my sunglasses. “I’m Catholic and extremely pro-life.”

And I kept walking, my heels clicking impressively on the pavement. “Whew, that was close,” I thought, mentally patting myself on the back at the confident and poised manner in which I eluded him.

Then God spoke.

  • “Really, Mariann? You wrote a statement the other day about the importance of ‘engaging the culture.’ So, that’s what you think ‘engaging’ is? Fake smile, nasty voice, rolling eyes, snappy heels?”
  • “Hey, God, that’s not fair! I told him I was Catholic. That was totally a witness! I could have just said, ‘Thanks, no.’ But I proudly told him of my Faith!”
  • “Yeah, that’s great. So now he knows you’re a jerk and a Catholic?”

Ouch.

  • “I’m sorry God, but what’s done is done. Too late. I’ll do better next time. My soup is cooling as I stand here motionless in the sidewalk having this internal dialogue with you and looking like a fool.”
  • “Next time? How many times have you seen volunteers from this organization outside of Panera in your umpteen quests for broccoli soup?  Plus, it’s 96 degrees in Northern Virginia. Is hot soup more important than engaging a soul who volunteers to promote abortion? Go talk to him.”
  • “No, God! Come on, you know me. I’m terrible with numbers and stats.  When he starts whipping out his ‘proof’ I’m going to say the wrong thing and look like an idiot. That’ll really make the pro-life cause look awesome.”
  • “Ha! Well, it’s a good thing I just want you to talk to him. Shake his hand. Ask him why he does what he does. No need to whip out stats. Go. You followed the beckon of broccoli cheddar soup. Now, listen to Me! I’m God!”

So I went back and said softly, “Excuse me?” I shook his hand.  He asked if I wanted to donate to women’s rights. I said, “Well, first, can you tell me about your organization?”

So he did. And I listened. I smiled into his eyes and asked how he came to volunteer.  He again asked if I wanted to donate. I smiled and asked where the money went. He told me, and asked for a third time if I wanted to donate. I told him I was pro-woman and Catholic, as well as anti-abortion. He said, startled, “Wait, was that you who walked by a few minutes ago and told me the same thing? I didn’t recognize you.” I guess a smiling face really does make a difference. God had made His point.

When the guy realized I wasn’t going to donate, he seemed ready to let the conversation drop. “If you’re a good Catholic, I know you won’t support the work we do.” I told him, “I don’t support many of the ways you employ to help people; I think they are wrong. But I really admire your desire to help women have better lives.”  He was friendly and sincere. He listened to me patiently list the concerns I had with funding toward abortion. I told him my name, told him to have a nice day. He told me the same, with a friendly smile and a farewell shake of the hand. And we parted ways.

  • “Well, God, that was embarrassing. I looked, as I knew I would, like an idiot. Pretty sure I didn’t change his mind about anything.”
  • “Mariann, I didn’t need you to whip out stats and arguments. Tons of people can do that. I just wanted him, at the end of the day, when thinking about all the people who talked with him, remember that one of them, a young woman who disagreed with him, shook his hand, smiled at him and wasn’t a jerk. That’s what he’s going to remember. That’s how I needed you to witness for Me today. So, thank you. Now go eat your soup.”

And you know what? By the time I got back to my desk, the soup was still hot. God, you are so good to me!

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