Check out some of the features from this month’s issue of The Long Island Catholic Magazine below. Subscribe to the magazine to see everything.
from the editor
The world onslaught against Christians
By Rick Hinshaw
At the Angelus prayer of July 20, Pope Francis “cried with pain,” said his spokesman, for the persecuted Christians of Iraq, suffering under the onslaught of the hate-filled Islamist terror organization ISIL (or ISIS).
“[O]ur brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them,” the Holy Father lamented. “Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”
In his Believe and Profess column (page 45), Bishop Murphy calls our attention to the countless numbers of “persecuted and forgotten” Christians in Iraq and throughout the world, victims of “an exponential increase in violence against religious minorities” that is “once again” being perpetrated “more against Christians than all the others put together.”
Questions abound as we contemplate these horrors. Where is the international outcry? Is the United Nations, as usual, powerless – or unwilling – to intervene? Does even our own government understand the true nature, the depth of evil, of Islamist terrorism?
And, more practically, what can we do?
We can contribute materially, as our diocese is doing, to efforts to help those being persecuted, especially those who become refugees as they flee the onslaught of terror.
We can raise our voices, calling on our media to tell this story to the world, and calling on our political leaders to act – to provide humanitarian assistance to those suffering religious persecution, and to provide world leadership in acting to protect religious freedom and stop this worldwide persecution of Christians.
And we can pray – joining in the October 4 diocesan day of fasting and prayer for Christians and others suffering in the Middle East, and also making prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world part of our daily lives – not only through our words to God, but also through daily offerings of our own sufferings.
As a child in Catholic school, I was always deeply touched by the stories of our martyred and persecuted saints, past and present: from the stoning to death of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and the Roman persecutions of the early Christians; to the tortures and martyrdom suffered by Catholic missionaries, like St. Isaac Jogues right here in upstate New York; to the imprisonment, tortures, and mass murders of Catholics being perpetrated during those very days of my youth by totalitarian Communist regimes, from Stalinist Russia to Mao’s China, from Castro’s Cuba to Pol Pot’s Cambodian “killing fields.” Later, as a reporter for The Long Island Catholic in the 1990s, I had the powerful experience of meeting and interviewing several survivors – Jewish and Catholic – of Hitler’s concentration camps.
Always, reflecting on these realities – historic and current – of religious persecutions and martyrdom, I have questioned – and doubted – whether I would be possessed of the extraordinary courage and faith that so many Christians, throughout the history of the Church and throughout the world today, have shown, holding fast to their faith while suffering unspeakable tortures and inhuman forms of killing.
Please God, in America most of us will never have to undergo such a test (although some Catholic U.S. prisoners of war, like the recently deceased U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton, a POW in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, have had their faith tested through similarly sustained and unspeakable tortures). But we do have suffering in our lives – health issues, the suffering or deaths of loved ones, personal economic crises in these times of unrelenting un-or under-employment, and many other difficult challenges along our earthly journey.
While these may pale in comparison to the sufferings of persecuted Christians, they are still very real, and often painful, afflictions for us. Perhaps we can offer these personal sufferings – along with the countless daily irritants to which, if you’re like me, you tend to overreact – to God, in prayer and in solidarity with our Christian sisters and brothers throughout the world who today are suffering for all of us through their unyielding, courageous witness to the Gospel of Christ.
Faith and new works
The Eighth Commandment
Bishop William Murphy
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (pp.496f) lists the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20). As many a preacher has reminded us, they are Commandments from God, not suggestions. The first three, or First Tablet, relate to God, His sovereignty and our obligation to worship God and keep holy the Sabbath, which for us Christians is Sunday. That obligation to worship God is fulfilled by us Catholics by weekly attendance at Sunday Mass as well as Holy days which are of obligation. This responsibility for all of us Catholics is not an option but the fulfillment of an obligation toward God revealed to us through Jesus Christ.
That said, I want today to move on to the eighth commandment. The traditional expression of this commandment is You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor!
Put succinctly, God commands us to be honest and truthful. We are not to lie. We have an obligation in justice to ourselves and our neighbors to tell the truth. If we are disciples of God, who is truth, then we must live our discipleship by faithfully speaking the truth and acting in accordance with the truth. We are called to respect the truth and bear witness to the truth.
Think about that for a moment. Now ask yourself how much confidence you have that we all today do respect the truth, speak the truth, live and bear witness to the truth? Ask yourself if we as a society are committed to the truth? Ask yourself how much trust you have that others, individuals and groups, certain sectors of our society, everyday folks or prominent leaders, are pillars of truth?
So often we seem to be living in a society in which the only “rule” is don’t get caught.
When you think about it, we can come up with many examples that are pretty scary, at least if you agree with God that commitment to truth and honesty are virtues and responsibilities we all should have. Here on Long Island, we have the LIRR retirement cheating scandal, school personnel who doctored test results and parents who lie about their kids to school officials or kids who lie to their parents about what they are doing behind the backs of adults. So many businessmen cheat and Wall Street has more than its share of manipulators. The Wolf of Wall Street is more than a movie. It is an attempt by an entertainment industry to glorify material success, casual and immoral relationships and cheating as a means to fulfillment.
So often we seem to be living in a society in which the only “rule” is don’t get caught. And if you are, then you use any means but truth to get yourself out of the jam. How often have we heard politicians tell us that they “misspoke” – which means they did not tell the truth. “Spin” has become an accepted means of communication and we have become used to networks who no longer bother to report the news. They prefer to begin with their own conclusions and then shape their narrative to justify their own opinions. Our diocese was the object of one of those last month in our local Long Island newspaper.
The sad element in all this is that persons who are leaders, whether it be parents or teachers, politicians or opinion makers, on a small scale or a large scale, set a bad example that gets passed on to the young and that begins a downward spiral of lies, subterfuge and distortions that cause serious harm to persons and society. In fact the first untruth, the first dishonest word or deed, because it is false, either has to be corrected or it has to be defended. And defending one lie involves more and more lies to defend the initial one. And that is the definition of corruption.
Lest I be accused of accusing everyone but myself and those who agree with me, let me add that all of us can see the reality of cheating, lying, dishonesty when it is done TO us. Yet when it is done BY us, we all can be as guilty as anyone or any group I have mentioned. That is where our faith and the teaching of Church and synagogue must be a steady reminder that truth begins in the mind and heart of all those who allow God and God’s commandments to inform and guide our lives. If the downward spiral has become a part of our lives, then our faith calls us to examine our own consciences and rectify this on two levels. First, with God, we need to confess our sins and be absolved through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Second, we have to rectify our relationships with any and all who have been affected by our words or actions that violate the eighth commandment.
Integrity, honesty, commitment to respect the truth and witness to the truth are not traits that only believers must make their own. Remember what Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46. When the Lord comes to judge ALL the Nations, He will judge everyone by this standard: As you have done to the least of my brethren so you have done to me.
6 ways to steal some time for God
By Sister Ann Shields
The Seventh Commandment, “Thou shall not steal,” tells us not to take for ourselves what belongs to another. Each day is given to us by God, and while we have free will and numerous choices on how to spend a day, we need to consciously acknowledge that the day is a gift. How does God want us to spend it?
With this in mind, I want to discuss the place of prayer in our daily lives. So many people say they would like to pray but don’t have time – too many demands. Let’s take a look at some ways we can “steal time” and give it to God. It might take some time to develop a pattern using these ideas, but the end result of your effort will be worth it – a more perceptible walk with God in daily life.
- 1) When you first get up and head toward the coffee pot, pray the Morning Offering: “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins and for the intentions of my family and the Holy Father. Amen.” Memorize it, and you will be surprised at how that little prayer begins to shape your day.
- 2) As you begin to eat breakfast or run out the door with a cup of coffee, say: “Lord, thank you for giving me this day. May I live it for your honor and glory.” At this hour, you may be engulfed by small children and their needs, or the needs of an elderly parent: Just stop, look up toward heaven and simply say the name of “Jesus.” Let that simple one-word prayer tell the Lord that you look to Him as the source of all you need this day.
- 3) When you arrive at work, close the door of your office for a few minutes. Read one of the psalms, read the day’s Gospel, give God your concerns and read another psalm to thank Him for His love for you. I promise that as you put those few minutes to work every day, you will be amazed at the insight and confidence you will have as you confront all the day’s problems.
- 4) Perhaps at noon time you can actually sit down at your desk or kitchen table and thank Him for the morning, giving Him your concerns for the rest of the day. Perhaps you have only one minute – give it to Him. Do the same before the evening meal and before you go to bed.
- 5) Read the Mass readings for the day or listen to my daily radio program on the readings of the day (renewalministries.net). It only takes a few minutes but the end result is that you have the living word of God at work in you all day long and it will change you.
- 6) Read a good biography of a saint. Daily reading of such material inspires and encourages me – even if you only have time for a paragraph or two.
Over time, you will sense His presence. He always answers when we call on His name, even if we have no human experience of an answer in a tangible way. Faith tells us that He always hears us when we call upon Him.
We will almost never find the perfect amount of time that we would like. But if we take advantage of the times of day I have suggested, I think I can almost guarantee that God will bless your stolen time – for Him!