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By: Deacon Marques Silva

In the United States of America, July 4 celebrates Independence Day. We traditionally gather and grill with family and friends and then go watch a fireworks display. The phrase that sums up our celebrations can be found in the United States Declaration of Independence:

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence, and considered by some as part of one of the most well crafted, influential sentences in the history of the English language.[1]

For Catholics, this phrase is pregnant with meaning.

Life

Life is given to us by God the Father who not only creates us ex nihilo but also sustains our life through the continuous willing of our existence – before and after death.

Though our lives are contingent upon the Father, all other liberties and virtues flow forth from the fact that we are formed in His image and likeness. In particular, the Founding Fathers applied this phrase to all “persons” i.e., those with a rational soul.

Liberty

In theology, liberty and freedom, while related, have different meanings. Liberty is freedom, but with a stress on the person who enjoys or exercises freedom; it is the subjective power of self-determination. Freedom, strictly speaking, is the objective absence of constraint or coercion, notably with reference to civil society; internal or external. This power of the will is oriented to the good. We are made for the good and thus it is for this that the intellect is tasked with discerning what is “good.”

Declaration_independenceOur founding fathers also chose liberty over the word freedom. Perhaps that is because liberty resides in the will and is constituent to the definition of a person. Freedom is the extension of the person as he or she relates to society. To take it a step further in Catholic theology, St. Paul teaches us in Romans and his Epistle to Philemon that the Christian can experience liberty regardless of their state in life or their particular situation. Meaning, an oppressor can take away our freedom and subjugate a person but he or she cannot take away our liberty or ability to choose.

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Founding Fathers also seemed to be realists. They knew that happiness in this life was not guaranteed and could never be ensured. With a deeply Christian sentiment, they knew that we were destined for perfect beatitude in heaven. Even if we believe that happiness is guaranteed, experience teaches us differently.

Reviewing the Current Culture

It seems we find ourselves living during a time in which our culture is besieged with not only a misunderstanding of this phrase but also a rejection of our founding Christian values.

Life is being defined through a strictly utilitarian lens without a context. Since we have removed any notion of God out of our social consciousness, we have become the masters of all existence. The unborn are routinely aborted and Physician Aid in Dying (PAD) (technically euthanasia is illegal in the U.S.) is now legal in Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Vermont. (Your state not listed? No worries, soon it will be coming to a state near you.)

Liberty has been redefined as the right to make any choice. In fact, it has also been relegated to external liberties and not the internal liberty that we call virtue. The freedom of the will, as we have already suggested, is oriented to the good. True liberty frees not only the individual but society and the environment. Liberty cannot be judged on the basis of self-interest otherwise it withers, dies, and becomes the very prison (internal and external) that liberty was meant to avoid.

The pursuit of happiness has become an experiment in hedonism. Over the last five years, I have been amused by the Colonial Williamsburg advertising spot that ends with our above-mentioned phrase EXCEPT that it removes the phrase, “pursuit of” happiness. Colonial Williamsburg has turned happiness into an inalienable right. Sadly, many find themselves with everything that money can buy, experienced every pleasure the body can afford, and pursued every adventure their mind could dream of. And still, they are unhappy.

A Future and a Hope

Our Lord reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11:

“I know well the plans I have in store for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe. Plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Our Lord created us for the good, the true and the beautiful. When every effort has been exhausted our souls are designed for THE good. God Himself.

How do we recover our culture? By fostering the virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance; submitting ourselves to the Gospel; practicing good citizenship and letting our hearts experience the liberty that may only be found in Christ Jesus.


[1] Lucas, “Justifying America, ” 85.

From the Office of Communications

**EDITOR’S NOTE: Bishop Paul S. Loverde today issued a statement regarding the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in favor of Hobby Lobby in the widely watched religious liberty case. This statement appears on the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s website here.

(ARLINGTON, VA) – The Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of ABishop Anniversaryrlington and spiritual leader of Northern Virginia’s nearly half million Catholics, made the following statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case:

Today’s decision seems to be very good news for Americans who wish to run their businesses without government coercion to violate their consciences by paying for coverage of sterilizations, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraceptives for their employees.  Catholic business owners and family businesses should not have to cede their religious liberty at the marketplace door, and today’s Supreme Court decision, though closely decided, provides reasonable and welcome relief.

As we observe this week the third annual Fortnight For Freedom, we can take real satisfaction in the Court’s ruling. But as I noted this past Saturday during the panel discussion with Catholic University of America President Dr. John Garvey and March for Life President Jeanne Monahan at our diocesan Religious Freedom Assembly, the government’s unprecedented HHS mandate remains a clear and unacceptable violation of religious liberty. Under the Obama Administration’s so-called accommodation for religious institutions, the funds used in the procurement of coverage for sterilizations, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraceptives still come from religious employers and their employees.  Further, the administration’s mandate penalizes the Church for its long history of charitable works, targeting our colleges, hospitals, and other facilities that serve others regardless of their faith.

I urge the Catholics of the Diocese of Arlington to continue to pray, sacrifice, and advocate for religious freedom here at home and abroad. The Church and its related institutions must be free to provide health care coverage for their employees that is consistent with our religious and moral principles, and without the threat of government coercion.  Church institutions have provided healthcare and education to our fellow citizens since our nation’s founding. We have always supported health care services for all people, but pregnancy is not a disease, and the Church cannot abandon the dignity of the human person and submit to complicity in the destruction of innocent life. ### 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.

By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

**EDITOR’S NOTE: This column originally ran in the Arlington Catholic Herald (view it here). It serves as a reminder to us to continue praying for religious liberty, especially since the Diocese of Arlington will be celebrating the Fortnight for Freedom tomorrow, June 28, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Herndon. For more information, please see the Facebook event at on.fb.me/1lPC1PF. **

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More – Patron Saint of the Diocese of Arlington

Freedom to Serve is the theme for the third annual “Fortnight for Freedom,” June 21–July 4. I join my brother bishops in urging you to participate in this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action devoted to upholding religious freedom at home and abroad.

What does it mean to be truly free? Who or what can make us free? For whom are we seeking freedom this Fortnight? I suggest three emphases that can illuminate the meaning and significance of authentic religious freedom: truthfulness, heroic witness in Christ, and vigilance.

The Gospel of John relates that as Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he was harassed by those who resisted the truth that He was revealing. Jesus assured those who believed in h
im: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:32). Truth is not simply factual data. It is essential because it expresses what is in accord with the nature of persons, things, and actions as they really are. Jesus did not hesitate to tell the truth in love and chose to identify Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

In his series of audiences on Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II explained how the opening chapter of Genesis celebrates the splendor of a free creation and the original design of God for human happiness. He describes what occurred when those at the fountainhead of humanity sinned, violating their relationship with God and one another. The effects reverberated throughout the world. Fundamentally, all sin is deceptive, seeming to promise happiness while undermining what is genuinely truthful and good. As Genesis relates, Adam and Eve, in their unhappy shame for what they had done, tried to lie even to God!

Whenever there is an attempt to subvert the truth about the reality of God, or the meaning of life and creation, freedom is lost. Respect for the true nature of people and things gives way to domination and the struggle to control people and events by force and legal fiats. Of ourselves, we cannot achieve or maintain freedom. We have just completed an intensified liturgical celebration of our Redemption in Jesus Christ and have sacramentally experienced how Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the life,” has indeed set us free.

The martyrs, and all who live a heroic witness to the truth in the midst of a world disfigured by sin, inspire and assist us as we enter the Fortnight for Freedom, which does not come without cost. We are accompanied by those who have been willing to suffer, even die, for the truths in Christ that make us free. Saint Paul encouraged the Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1).

How privileged we are to have Saint Thomas More the principal patron of our diocese! Under duress, he remained faithful to the truth of divine and ecclesial realities rather than yield to the force of an earthly king. Although condemned to death, Thomas More, like Christ, was truly free and faithful. After his sufferings in the Tower of London, Thomas joked with the man assigned to be his executioner, who would drop the sharp-edged blade on his neck. In a later age, the poet Paul Claudel, would honor such inner freedom in his admonition: “To mount the cross laughing.”

A third way to increase understanding of religious freedom is accurate knowledge of dangers to religious liberty in our nation and throughout the world. In a word — vigilance. Laws, mandates, and judges’ decisions are requiring actions that violate the truth of the human person and override principles of moral responsibility. For example, institutions and agencies that provide health care, serve immigrants, or enable the adoption of children are threatened with severe penalties or closure for refusing to perform services that violate the truths of sexuality and marriage. Business owners seeking exemptions from governmental directives that violate their consciences are facing crippling fines. Protecting religious freedom to be of service to others, especially to those who are in most need, without losing moral integrity, is urgently needed.

And so, as we once again mark these ongoing challenges with a Fortnight for Freedom, I urge you to participate in a tangible way, to inform yourselves, to advocate, to pray and to sacrifice. This is no small matter because our ability as Catholics to participate in civil society as full citizens is threatened, with directs impacts on the vital works of charity the Church performs. I am marking the Fortnight in a particular way on June 28th from 9 a.m. to noon at St. Joseph’s Church in Herndon, as I host a diocesan event explaining clearly our concerns regarding religious liberty and providing for intercessory prayer. Speakers include Catholic University of America President John H. Garvey in what promises to be an informative and meaningful gathering, and I urge you to join me if at all possible. We must be free to serve others as Jesus Christ has mandated us to do!

By: Natalie Plumb

Your significant other didn’t call you – you start to think that maybe he called another girl. Your girlfriend is very friendly, attractive and smiles at everybody she sees – you start to want to keep her from going out and talking to others because you just want her to yourself.

All of us have been jealous at one point or another in our lives. Sometimes we call our friends or significant others “flirts.” Sometimes we call ourselves that with pride.

The bottom line, what I’ve learned, is that jealously feeds an unhealthy relationship. It’s one thing if your significant other is borderline cheating on you – simply get out. Don’t bother troubling yourself with jealousy; the emotion will hurt you more than them. But if your fallback is to be jealous of someone you love, whether they are naturally more flirtatious than you are, or they are spending a lot of time with an activity or a group of people, talking to them about it always beats the feeling of, and acting on, jealousy.

Photo Feb 24, 10 59 24 PMA relationship that exemplifies true love naturally welcomes others into it and shares that love because of the pair’s confidence in their love for one another. A relationship that turns in on itself naturally implodes because the person you are in love with is nowhere near perfect. Jealousy is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason.

An ex-boyfriend of mine used to get jealous – and act on that jealousy inappropriately – whenever I would dance (social ballroom, so none of that grinding business) with other men. I can understand his point of view, but I was doing nothing wrong, and certainly nothing sensual.

My unease and fear of any impression others might have of my (innocent) dancing faded when I began dating my current boyfriend. His instinctive response to my dancing blew my mind, gave rest to my heart and allowed me to have peace: “I love watching you dance. I can see how happy and how joyful it makes you. That’s all I want for you is that joy.”

Again – a relationship that exemplifies true love naturally welcomes others into it and shares that love because of the pair’s confidence in their love for one another. He naturally welcomes my dance partners into the picture of our friendship and relationship, creating love that explodes.

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: Michael J. Donohue

Last week, the Catholic Press Association held its annual convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Catholic media remains a vital component of evangelization and community-building within the Church, as well as an indispensable source of news and opinion, from the parish level to the universal Church, for all Catholics.

Our local Church is blessed to have a very successful diocesan newspaper, the Arlington Catholic Herald, which was once again recognized with numerous awards at the CPA’s annual gathering. Please take a moment to read the article below regarding the Herald’s latest well-earned recognition.

Catholic Herald wins 18 awards

The Arlington Catholic Herald won 18 awards last night at the Catholic Press Association awards banquet, including a third place finish in the general excellence category.

The annual gathering of Catholic media professionals was held in Charlotte, N.C.

Bishop Loverde congratulates the Arlington Catholic Herald staff.

Bishop Loverde congratulates the Arlington Catholic Herald staff.

Nearly every aspect of the paper’s production was recognzied, including graphic design, advertising and writing.

Current staff writers Dave Borowski, Katie Collins and Maria Pia Negro all received individual honors, as did former staff writers Katie Bahr and Gretchen Crowe. Borowski’s honors included a first place award for headline writing.

Graphic designers David Garcia and Ashleigh Buyers also were recognized for their ad designs and graphic work.

 

Mike is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Loverde’s spokesperson. A native of New York, he holds a BA in Political Science from the George Washington University. Mike and his wife have two sons and live in Washington, D.C., where they attend Church of the Annunciation.

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

By: Deacon Marques Silva

Happy birthday, Saint John the Baptist! Typically the Church calendar commemorates the death of a saint because it is upon that day that they are birthed into heaven. There are two exceptions to that rule on the Church calendar: the births of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8) and John the Baptist. To me, at least, celebrating the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary seems logical since she was not only conceived without Original Sin, but also the mother of our Lord.

St-John-the-Baptist-Solemnity-Meme1-2014

Meme By: Will Pacheco | Retweet it: bit.ly/jtbsolemnity

We celebrate his birthday because his birth anticipates the birth of our Savior. The two great mysteries of the year are that of the Incarnation and Redemption. Of the two, the mystery of Redemption holds primacy, but the Church does not neglect the mystery of the Incarnation. From the Solemnity of the Incarnation, we mark the two anticipatory feasts that illuminate our faith:

  • Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) – for he was six months older than our Lord
  • Annunciation (March 25) – nine moths prior to the birth of our Lord

The Council of Agde, in 506 A.D., listed the Nativity of Saint John among the highest feasts of the year. In 1022 A.D., a synod in Seligenstadt, Germany, prescribed a 14-day fasting and abstinence period in preparation for the Feast (this was never a universal discipline in the Church).

As you know, I love learning about customs that are linked with liturgical seasons and feasts. The People of God have marked this Feast with various traditions and celebrations. Among them, Father Wieser notes[1]:

  • All over Europe, from Scandinavia to Spain, and from Ireland to Russia, Saint John’s Day festivities are closely associated with the ancient nature lore of the great summer festival of pre-Christian times. Fires are lit on mountains and hilltops on the eve of his Feast. These “Saint John’s fires” burn brightly and quietly along the fjords of Norway, on the peaks of the Alps, on the slopes of the Pyrenees, and on the mountains of Spain (where they are called Hogueras). They were an ancient symbol of the warmth and light of the sun which the forefathers greeted at the beginning of summer. In many places, great celebrations are held with dances, games, and outdoor meals.
  • Fishermen from Brittany keep this custom even while far out at sea in the Arctic Ocean. They hoist a barrel filled with cast-off clothing to the tip of the mainsail yard and set the contents on fire. All ships of the fishing fleet light up at the same time, about 8 o’clock in the evening. The men gather around the mast, pray and sing. Afterward, they celebrate in their quarters, and the captain gives each crew member double pay.
  • Many small fires in the valleys and plains are lit. People gather around, jump through the flames, and sing traditional songs in praise of the saint or of summer. This custom is based on the pre-Christian “need fires” (niedfyr, nodfyr), which were believed to cleanse, cure, and immunize people from all kinds of disease, curses, and dangers.
  • In Spain, these smaller fires (fogatas) are lighted in the streets of towns and cities, everybody contributing some old furniture or other wood, while children jump over the flames.
  • In Brest, France, the bonfires are replaced by torches that people throw in the air. In other districts of France, they cover wagon wheels with straw, then set them on fire with a blessed candle and roll them down the hill slopes.
  • As the first day of summer, Saint John’s Day is considered in ancient folklore one of the great “charmed” festivals of the year. Hidden treasures are said to lie open in lonely places, waiting for the lucky finder. Divining rods should be cut on this day. Herbs are given unusual powers of healing, which they retain if they are plucked during the night of the Feast. In Germany, they call these herbs Johanneskraut (Saint John’s herbs), and people bring them to church for a special blessing.
  • In Scandinavia and in the Slavic countries, it is an ancient superstition that on Saint John’s Day witches and demons are allowed to roam the earth. As at Halloween, children go the rounds and demand “treats,” straw figures are thrown into the flames, and much noise is made to drive the demons away.
  • Catholic sections of Europe combine the ancient festival of nature lore with the Feast of the Baptist that has resulted in a tradition of dignified celebration, which has come down to our day. People gather around the fireplace, dressed in their national or local costumes, and sing their beautiful ancient songs. When the fire is lit, one of these participants recites a poem that expresses the thought of the Feast. Then they pray together to Saint John for his intercession that the summer may be blessed in homes, fields, and country, before finally performing some of the traditional folk dances, usually accompanied by singing and music.

Saint John was the herald of our Lord and knew that he was the voice crying out in the wilderness to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3 and Matthew 3:3). He certainly embodies the Scripture verse: “Zeal for thy house consumes me…” (Psalm 69:9). More importantly, may we learn from his example and say with him: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).


[1] Father Wieser, CatholicCulture.org, The Birth of John the Baptist, www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1107 (June 24, 2010).

By: Kathleen Yacharn

Are you there for your friends? I mean, when times are tough, when you see someone struggling, or when you hear news of bad things happening to good people, do you call them? If a friend has been job-searching for months and hasn’t found a thing, do you pay attention? Think about your social networks: if you see someone whose child is sick, who has cancer, whose grandparent has just died, what’s your reaction? It’s easy to quickly ‘like’ something and type out the “I’m so sorry;” “praying for you #hugs #xoxo” and the “call me!!”

How often do we follow it up by grabbing our phones and calling them, leaving a message, typing up a text or an email? How often do we drop to our knees in prayer? And speaking of prayer how easy is it to forget that other person’s suffering the very next day, when we begin to pray for ourselves…again?

This might sound harsh, but I can’t offer excuses since I am an offender. I love social media because it helps me connect, keep in touch (as a parent, this is key), and share with others media, humor, and beliefs that are important to me. I’m an advocate for social media and I have to admit that without some detachment, it’s easy to get sucked up into the constantly refreshed world that erases importance and keeps things out of sight and out of mind.

hands reaching outBesides the frenetic pace of several hundred friends’ updates, there are the human vices we struggle with, jealousy, bitterness, desensitization, callousness, schadenfreude, that feed off of social media. I know I’ve scrolled past the illness updates of friends without thinking about it and even rolled my eye at this post or that because, geez, can’t they just get it together? I’ve definitely gotten caught up in the cult of me and been disappointed that some funny thought or picture didn’t get the attention (read: approval) it so clearly should have. We have to remember that we are called to live like Jesus Christ lived, and loving our friends like our Lord is one of the best ways we can witness to the Truth. With these thoughts in mind, let’s revisit what real friends do for each other and remember that social media can’t be the place where our friendships grow or heal.

  1. Friends follow up. – If you say you’ll pray, pray. Right then or later, and keep them in your prayers for more than a day. Pick a saint or particular prayer and offer it up for them in their time of need.
  1. Friends reach out frequently and often. – Don’t say, “call me” but “when’s a good time to call” or ‘I’ll email you.” It can be frustrating to feel like you’re constantly reaching out to someone who doesn’t respond or reciprocate. Just remember that unless you talk to your friend, you don’t know what’s going on in their lives, for good or for bad, that is taking up their time. It’s even more shocking to find out that someone you care about has been suffering or in pain while you were disconnected or feeling snubbed.
  1. Friends are proactive. – The friends that are there for you are there at your lowest, after losing a job or when you’re unsure of your next steps. These people also call to build you up and connect on your birthday, when you have achieved a major goal, or just to say that they were thinking of you.
  1. Friends are understanding. – At times in my life, I’ve been a terrible friend. Whether I was so caught up in my own problems or so intent on enjoying life, I’ve dropped the ball in terms of reaching out. The most genuine people I know understand that we’re all at different places in life and are just happy to hear from a friend again. Show Christ-like love today and call that friend you haven’t heard from in forever. They might need you more than you know.
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