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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

“Habemus papam!” I can still hear the cheering from the crowd which eagerly awaited the emergence of the newly elected pope in St. Peter’s Square. On June 21, 1963, I was a seminarian in Rome studying at the North American College and was blessed to be in that crowded square. When Giovanni Cardinal Montini emerged having taken the name Pope Paul VI, I knew that he, too, embraced the evangelical and missionary zeal of our mutual namesake, St. Paul. I would have the privilege of being in the presence of Pope Paul VI — who is being beatified by Pope Francis on October 19 at the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family — two more times: once when he visited us seminarians at our summer villa, and later at a papal audience after my priestly ordination. Though these are fond memories, what has most been impressed upon my mind and heart is Pope Paul VI’s steadfastness in leading the Church through difficult times. For this reason, he has always been a pope for whom I have had a great deal of admiration and respect. His beatification is so timely at this moment in our history!

PaulVIPope Paul VI was elected prior to the second session of the Second Vatican Council, when the Church was experiencing what Pope St. John XIII had called an “aggiornamento,” or an updating. Theologians and clergy at the Council had the task of discerning how the Church could dialogue with the modern world — what aspects of the culture could be embraced by the faithful and which would have to be kept at bay because their integration would threaten the unity of the Faith. As Pope Francis has said, “Faith is ‘one,’ in the first place, because of the oneness of God. Faith is one because it is shared by the whole Church, in which we receive a common gaze. Faith must be professed in all of its purity and integrity,” (“Lumen Fidei,” No. 48).

Much of Pope Paul VI’s pontificate would be directed at answering lingering questions that remained after the Council had ended. Many of those questions had to do with marriage and the family in light of cultural changes that were taking place. Pope Paul VI is undoubtedly most remembered for his forthright teaching about responsible parenthood in his encyclical“Humane Vitae” (1968). Many have read “Humane Vitae” and reduced its message to a “no” from the Church about the licit use of artificial contraception. What they miss, however, is the document’s rich presentation of the biblical understanding of marriage that the Catholic Church has consistently promoted. The characteristics of marriage as designed by God include that it is “fully human,” “a total, personal friendship in which husband and wife share everything,” “faithful and exclusive of all others until death,” and “is ordained toward the procreation and education of children” who are a supreme gift to their parents (No. 9).

To enter into marriage, then, is to enter into a union that God intends to be total, faithful, and fruitful. Responsible parenthood must respect the design that God has for the sexual union which involves openness to life unless there is a grave reason why a couple cannot welcome a child. The Church’s teaching on the sexual union between husband and wife is one that promotes communication, mutual discernment, and a respect for the ability of man and woman together to cooperate in God’s creative work.

Sadly, many people still misunderstand the Church’s presentation of marriage in “Humane Vitae” and characterize it as antiquated and restrictive. The truth, however, is that the Church’s teaching increases a couple’s freedom — freedom to love one another as they have been created by God. In “Lumen Fidei,” Pope Francis explained: “Precisely because all of the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole,” (No. 48). The Church’s teaching on human sexuality, contraception, and marriage are related to all that She professes and teaches. They are a response to the revelation of Jesus Christ about the kind of love for which we are made. For that reason they remain relevant.

I find myself reflecting on the courage of Pope Paul VI these days, as our own culture wrestles with the nature of marriage. Though in our times, the biblical view of marriage may not be understood or popular, it does not for that reason lose its truth or beauty. St. Paul’s bold proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even in difficult times, inspires me as it inspired Pope Paul VI, to share the teaching on marriage in its fullness. It is not coincidental, then, at the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, an event during which bishops in communion with the pope are discussing how to best strengthen married love and family life, that Pope Francis will beautify a champion of these realities. I hope you join me in thanksgiving for the witness of Pope Paul VI, a man of God who has taught me to teach the faith with patience, love, and zeal! May he intercede for all of us, especially for married couples and families!

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 column first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

**Editor’s Note: This is the third and final blog post of a series addressing mental health issues by Dr. Frank Moncher, a clinical psychologist with Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington. We hope that this helped educate you on the circumstances behind mental illness and suicide and begin that dialogue within the context of the Catholic community.

By: Dr. Frank Moncher

The Need To Belong
As important as the prior topics of biochemistry, prayer, and pursuing virtuous lives are to addressing the problems of depression and risk of suicide, conquering isolation and loneliness is at the heart of flourishing as a human person. One might think that in Robin Williams’ case, his relationships with his wife and children and millions of adoring fans would meet this need. However, fame and popularity are not the same as attachment and connection.

LonelinessThe human soul longs for a deeper, more intimate sense of belonging. And even when there are family and friends who are ready to assist, for persons suffering from depression, the perception of relationships can be distorted and these loved ones not seen as such. The best prevention for suicidal behavior is healthy relationships, characterized by unconditional warmth, affirmation, and acceptance. This type of relationship provides people with a haven from the stress they experience in their daily lives. Altruism is another way of boosting a person’s gratitude for what they do have in their life, which might go unnoticed amidst the chaos and stress. It also combats isolation, which is rampant but sometimes missed in our world infused with “social networks” and visual communication.

What Can Be Done?
Because a certain stigma persists about seeking mental health treatment, shame can be a huge barrier to getting the help one needs.  Therefore, it is wise for all to be attentive to the needs of those around us should we suspect they are struggling in some serious manner.

Warning signs or symptoms which are a cause for concern include emotional numbness that does not subside, insomnia or recurring nightmares, inability to engage one’s normal routine (e.g., returning to work, caring for one’s children or household), feeling isolated and unable to connect with others, staying busy to avoid feelings, and increased alcohol or drug use, including addictive prescription medication.  More concretely, it is critical to pay attention to any preoccupation with death or talking about suicide, or behavior that can be seen as preparing for dying, such as giving away possessions or putting affairs in order. Sometimes those who are planning suicide seem to feel better once they have decided upon a course of action, because they believe that they have an answer to their problems. This temporary lift in spirits can give those around them the impression that things have improved, even if the tendency toward suicide was known.

Avoiding mention of the problem to protect the person is rarely helpful (though if the person redirects the conversation away from their mental health issue, this should naturally be respected). Acceptance and compassion, along with a prudent appraisal of ways to help (offering practical assistance with shopping, cooking, driving, etc.) can be beneficial. Make a sincere offer of emotional support, whether communicated in a card or letter, by telephone or in person, and give the depressed person permission to talk and then just listen. Let them decide how much they want to share.

There are also numerous organizations that have suicide prevention at the heart of their mission:  to name a few, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (call 1 800-273-8255), the American Association of Suicidology, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

While all of us need others to “pick us up” in times of stress and misfortune, some of us are better at asking for and receiving this assistance than others. For those reading this who may be going through a particularly difficult time, it is vital to find a way to connect with others who can provide you comfort and support. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you to know who is there, waiting to be asked… And for those reading who have begun wondering if some particular friend or family member might be struggling, risk reaching out through an invitation to coffee or to take a walk. Then pray for the right words to say, for patience if a response is not forthcoming, and for the Lord to hold that precious person in the palm of His hand.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

By: Rebecca Ruiz, Staff Spotlight

I was recently on a plane that was delayed on the tarmac for 2.5 hours. When we finally lifted into the air at 8:30 p.m., the passengers were tired and famished. Having a food allergy, I am accustomed to eating food substitutions that are not very tasty, especially when travelling. I am also accustomed to being served last.

So, when I heard the food carts coming, I was surprised when my food came out first. And, not only was I served first, but the food was amazing! It was fresh and full of flavor. There were beautiful colors all over my tray – a salad of greens and reds that tasted as if it had just been picked, a delicious and healthy entrée, and an overflowing bowl of blueberries and raspberries – the freshest of first fruits.

I sat there savoring each flavor and literally thanking God after each bite.

St IgnatiusI felt so blessed and cared for and couldn’t help but recall the Gospel passage: “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Mt 20:16).

As I savored these freshest fruits, it also came to mind that God wants to give us more than we expect. He wants to give us more than we can even think to ask. Our minds are limited by our human capacity — God’s mind and ways are far beyond our ways. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord, “and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine” (Isaiah 55:8). If we would just let down our guard and really trust Him, He would give us more than we could ever hope to imagine.

Trust is an arguably difficult concept though. We live in a culture that values independence and the individual. To trust in anyone, even in God these days, is completely counter-cultural. Sadly, many people today mistake trust in God and are waiting to allow Him to work as a character weakness or an excuse for lack of initiative. Yet, when we really trust Him and allow Him to work, in His time, He makes things happen that are better and beyond anything we could plan – even with detailed lists and hours of planning.

St. Ignatius of Loyola composed a beautiful prayer called the Suscipe, which has helped me and countless others learn how to let go and to trust God.

Suscipe

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory,

my understanding,

and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.

The Suscipe is a prayer of radical self-surrender. Most people can’t even comprehend what they are saying and asking for when they start praying this prayer — I certainly didn’t. I can tell you though, that it is a powerful prayer, and if you pray it daily, you will see God at work in your life.

And you will see that what He wants for us, His beloved children, is far more than we could even think to ask.

Trust. Pray. Believe.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She serves as Development and Communications Manager at Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services.

By: Natalie Plumb

The word “risk” says more than meets the eye. A “risk” insinuates that the action will take your time, attention and energy. A “risk” says taking a chance. A “risk” means making a leap from the expected or conventional.

The “risk” in “Risk Jesus,” the diocesan conference that has perhaps recently popped up on your computer screens, inboxes and in your parish bulletins, is there for all of those reasons, and more. This risk means that Jesus wants all of you. This risk means danger to our comfort zones. This risk asks for all of us, not just part of us. This risk tells us that Christianity is a leap, and something that – if true – should be pursued with intense vigor, as if “run[ning] with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Because the truth that comes when you take this risk will set you free.

RiskJesus14 363 edit

Me with featured Risk Jesus ’14 speaker Jennifer Fulwiler and musician Marie Miller. Visit arlingtondiocese.org/riskjesus to learn more about the diocesan conference.

When you say something truthful to a friend, and it’s hard for him or her to hear so he or she never treats you the same…

When you call out injustice, and those involved begin to treat you as an outsider…

When you refuse to conform to the conventional norm because you know it’s sinful, and you are badgered or teased by friends and family…

There’s nothing quite like it. And any word to describe it wouldn’t seem to sum up its effect on your heart, and do it justice. We can try to name its antithesis – possibly righteousness or integrity or dignity…or even closure. These are pains we experience ourselves. But these are Jesus’ pains every day, too. They are the pains we ourselves give Him. Daily.

As humans, we crave for things to come full circle. We hope that what we give to the world – but only the good stuff – comes back to us. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. And Jesus never said it was. We are, in reality, deserving of absolutely nothing. We are “dust,” and were so named from the very beginning, in Genesis.

The Golden Rule is not, in fact, do unto others as they do unto you. The amazing proclamation of Christ is beautiful in that it says: Even when they persecute you, love them. Risk loving them. The Beatitudes proclaim just the opposite of what society today tells us: Blessed are those who have trials and tribulations, pains and afflictions, for later shall be their reward. In heaven shall they find their solace.

Jesus never said He would always grant us closure.

Jesus never said He would always convert the hearts of those who persecute us for doing good.

Jesus never said He would reward us greatly on earth.

But He did say He would be there. Always. That may not provide closure or reward or solace to you in all of your circumstances, even the most nitty gritty and ugly parts of your life. But maybe, just maybe, it will remind you to risk turning to Him, in all things.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

By: Erin Healy

When my director suggested that I stand outside the metro on Monday nights and invite strangers to join me at Theology on Tap, I was terrified. Immediately, my thoughts ranged from: What if someone ignores me? What if they yell at me? What if they actually want to talk about God? Will I be able to dialogue? And, is this even worth it?

A few weeks later, I found myself, along with four volunteers from Holy Spirit and Nativity New Life Young Adults, standing on the sidewalk, purse on one shoulder and camera bag on the other, with my hands full of flyers and my heart pounding. At first, I scanned the crowd emerging from the metro, hoping to spot a friendly face or, at the very least, someone without headphones glued to his or her ears. That would make this easier, I thought.

StFrancisNeverSaidThatMemeAfter a few minutes of standing silently, I thought to myself it’s now or never. I stepped forward to approach a young woman, and before I could even get, “Have you heard of Theology on Tap?” out of my mouth, she offered, “No thanks,” without breaking her stride or making eye contact. No matter how big my smile or my selling point, this pattern continued for, what felt like, an eternity.

Then, out of nowhere, I was tapped on the shoulder by an older man of Middle Eastern decent. He asked me what I was doing, and wanted more information about the Church. After our short, but pleasant exchange, he thanked me and went on his way. For the first time all evening, I felt like I was actually spreading the Gospel.

That experience, along with witnessing of the other volunteers, gave me the strength to keep at it. I approached people sitting on benches and those waiting at the crosswalk. I met a family of strong Christians waiting for their Uber ride, and a young Catholic who had no idea Theology on Tap (or anything like it) existed. I even knocked on the window of a parked car after noticing what I hoped was a Rosary hanging from the mirror! All were very touched and surprised by the invitation.

As we walked from the metro to Theology on Tap that night, my heart filled with humility and gratitude as I reflected on how the Lord used me to bring His love and message of Good News to others. I began the night thinking I was extending an invitation to others, and the result was a seed planted in my own heart.

Join us at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, October 13 for Theology on Tap at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Arlington. Our speakers, Ron and Terry Riggins, sought a life of comfort and achieving the “American Dream.”  That is, until God revealed the emptiness of that life as He called them into personal intimacy, discipleship and evangelization.

All adults ages 21-39, single and married are welcome. For a complete list of dates and speakers, click here. Check the event out on Facebook here.

**Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of blog posts addressing mental health issues by Dr. Frank Moncher, a clinical psychologist with Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington. We hope that this can help educate you on the circumstances behind mental illness and suicide, and begin that dialogue within the context of the Catholic community.

By: Dr. Frank Moncher

Biochemistry

As explored last week, one’s choices and attitudes toward hardships in life are important to consider in understanding depression and suicide.  Still, it would be erroneous to deny the reality of the impact of brain chemistry in the development of depression and related suicide risk and prevention. Some studies suggest that there are biochemical differences in the brain among those who commit suicide, though these may be either the cause or the consequence of depression.

Melancholy_2Still, for those suffering from clinical depression, medication along with psychotherapy are the best standards of medical practice. Research demonstrates that some people suffering from depression can benefit from a variety of anti-depressant medications that are available through psychiatrists or, at times, one’s family doctor. Other people benefit from differing forms of counseling and psychotherapy, while some require both. Taking medication alone rarely does the entire job, while the suggestions given by well-meaning friends or family that “pushing through it” or “getting over it” will carry the day are erroneous and, for many, unrealistic options. Yet, there is also truth to the understanding that depression is, in the words of one controversial blogger: “deeper and more profound than a simple matter of disproportioned brain chemicals…” which brings us to prayer.

Prayer

Popular media largely covers the natural level aspect of depression and suicide, but often neglects the spiritual aspect. Some religious commentators have provided helpful catechesis, but conversely neglects the natural realities of depression. Suicide and depression, I believe, are issues for which neither the natural nor the supernatural aspects are peripheral. These issues are about life and its meaning. Persons of faith go through periods of dryness and feeling detached from God, but clinical depression is different. As a clinician, I am always relieved to hear a depressed client state their adamant opposition to suicide as an option because of their faith beliefs. At times, this is a good enough place to start. Better, of course, when there is recognition that God’s love is at the center. But, for a depressed person, relationships with visible beings can be difficult enough, let alone one with God.

Yet, this is where people of faith do seem to have an upper hand. In responding to a controversial blog on the topic by Matt Walsh, novelist Daniel McInerny sums up nicely the Christian position on suffering: “I’m not saying that taking this supernatural outlook will cure depression, or that the depressed person should not pursue every available human means of healing. I’m saying that only in the Cross does suffering make ultimate sense. Only in the Cross do we find a lasting hope. Our task as Christians is to bring this message of hope to the world, both through advocating appropriate human means of healing, and by spreading the Good News that depression and other evils never have the final word.”

“We do not believe in a Mental Prosperity Gospel, where God rewards His faithful ones with a sense of well-being and good cheer. A good many of the saints were as close to God as they could come — Mother Teresa comes to mind — and yet they struggled constantly against the darkness. Depression and mental illness are not a sign of personal sin, but one of many signs of the weakness we all inherited when Adam sinned.” -popular blogger, Simcha Fisher

Again, prayer is always appropriate, and is always our duty. Prayer provides not only for the mysterious influence that is Grace, but also can serve as a concrete reminder to the person suffering that their friends and family remain connected and are pleading for their healing.

 

In his next blog post of this Mental Health series, Dr. Moncher will discuss the need for belonging we have, how easily it is to become isolated in the modern world, and what we can do to help those suffering from depression.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Touching God

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

Jesus then asked, “Who touched me?”
cf. Lk 8:43-48

You have to sympathize with Peter in this scene. The crowds surround our Lord, a mixture of the faithful, the curious, and the suspicious. They swarm around this Nazarene celebrity as He journeys through the little towns and villages of Galilee. So when our Lord stops and asks, “Who touched me?” Peter has every reason to be a little confused. Point is, many people had touched Him. Peter responds with a simple observation, perhaps gesturing to the mass of humanity in the crowded little town, “The multitudes surround you and press upon you…”

Luke 8But someone had touched Him differently, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.” Unlike those who bumped into Him accidentally, or who touched Him to be able to say that they did or out of curiosity, someone touched Him in faith. This nameless woman, seeking healing for her illness, provides a profound example and instruction on the personal dimension of faith.

There is, first of all, and before any of us, the ecclesial dimension of faith. The Church believes before we do. We receive our faith from the Church and profess it within the Church. But faith must also be personal. And if we do not invest ourselves personally, if we do not personally make an act of faith, then that gift of the Church profits us nothing. The Church gives us our faith, but She cannot do the believing for us.

The woman with the hemorrhage believed in Jesus personally. She did not know everything about Him. But she entrusted herself to Him by the simple touch of the fringe of His garments. “For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well'” (Mk 5:28). Her touch was different from the others because it was made with faith.

To believe in Jesus Christ means precisely this — to entrust ourselves to Him. We do not believe things merely about Jesus. As Saint James observes, even the demons believe in this way (Ja 2:19). Rather, we believe in Him, which in the Latin has the sense of entrusting or handing ourselves over to Him entirely. That is faith.

Faith touches God. That is what the woman teaches us in this scene. Nor is that a pious thought or a even a metaphor. In his encyclical letter on faith Pope Francis cites Saint Augustine’s summary of the woman’s action: “To touch Him with our hearts: that is what it means to believe.” It is not only the poetic Augustine that makes this observation. The more systematic Saint Thomas speaks similarly about the “spiritual contact” that faith makes with Jesus Christ Himself. To say “I believe in Jesus Christ” is not a wishful statement spoken into the void, but an act of the soul that touches Him and moves His Heart.

But many of us, rather than imitating the woman with the hemorrhage, behave more like the crowds in Galilee. Like them, we are familiar with all the stories about Jesus, have been in the room when He was there, have even been present for His miracles (the Mass, for instance). But we remain accidental Christians, encountering Him and bumping into Him because we happen to be in the same place at the same time — not because we have touched Him in faith. We may have grown up in the atmosphere of our Lord, but never directly believed in Him.

Our Lord’s question to Peter therefore also functions as an invitation. Not only “Who touched me?” but “Who will touch me?” He asks for our faith, for that touch that only the personal belief in Him can accomplish.

This is the fifth of seven posts that will take up some questions of God that satisfy more than the answers of man.

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