Here is a sample of the May 2014 issue of The Long Island Catholic magazine. To subscribe to the magazine click here.
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FROM THE EDITOR
John XXIII, John Paul II, and Vatican II
Our two newest saints cannot be properly celebrated without also celebrating the momentous event in Church history that linked their papacies: the Second Vatican Council.
In his short, five year pontificate, Pope John XXIII prophetically anticipated the need — in the Church and in the world — for such a council, and convened it. Pope John Paul II, having participated in the council, devoted the 26 years of his papacy to its authentic implementation. Good Pope John, it may be said, set the stage — the world stage — for John Paul the Great.
In Humanae Salutis, his December 1961 apostolic constitution convening the council, Pope John made clear its impetus: “a crisis underway within society.” With “humanity …on the edge of a new era,” he wrote, scientific and technological advances, while offering great promise, were causing the world to “exalt itself” to the exclusion of God. As a result, “modern society is earmarked by a great material progress to which there is not a corresponding advance in the moral field.” An “almost exclusive search for earthly pleasures,” he warned, was giving rise to “a militant atheism which is active on a world level.”
Yet Pope John emphatically rejected “prophets of gloom” who “see only darkness burdening the face of the earth.” The “divine presence” within the Church, he reminded, “is noticeable above all in the most grave periods of humanity.” And so he instead saw hope and opportunity, for “bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel.”
To seize that opportunity, he called the Church first to renew itself — not, he made clear, by seeking to change or challenge its magisterial teachings. “The principle duty of the council,” he said in his opening address to it on October 11, 1962, was “the defense and advancement of truth.”
He urged the council, however, to explore ways to make the truth of the Church’s teachings more accessible in the modern age.
While “the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers,” he said, she must “ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate.” And that is the mission Pope John Paul II undertook.
Having lived through the “bloody wars” and totalitarian “ideologies” that Pope John had identified as causes of “spiritual ruins,” Pope John Paul almost immediately became the world’s foremost moral voice for human freedom as his homeland, Poland, lit the spark that ultimately brought an end — peacefully — to Soviet communist oppression.
But he also saw, as Pope John had, the dangers of a freedom that, absent a moral dimension, turns inward, focused on personal pleasure and material gain, to the exclusion and even exploitation of others. He taught instead an understanding of true freedom as the freedom to do what we ought to do: to give, as he said, not only from our surplus but from our substance to help those in need; to respect and nurture the sanctity of every human life, even those who might seem inconvenient or burdensome to us; to use our political freedom responsibly, in pursuit not of personal gain but of the common good of all.
He focused — again as Pope John had called for — on demonstrating, through positive persuasion, “the validity of (Church) teaching” and its applicability to the great challenges facing the modern world. He fully embraced scientific and technological advances guided by ethical principles and placed at the service of the common good. His theology of the body illuminated the Church’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality as a love-affirming, life-affirming gift of God. And, in his ongoing, worldwide pilgrimage to evangelize the Gospel, he welcomed — while holding always to the Church’s timeless teachings and essential practices —the diverse cultural contributions of Catholics from all corners of the globe.
As he opened the Second Vatican Council, Saint John XXIII offered a vision of hope: that the Church, “illuminated by the light of this Council,” would “make men, families, and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things.”
Saint John Paul II, as he worked to implement the authentic teachings of the Council, made his papacy a witness to that hope, foretelling a coming “springtime of evangelization” for the Church in the world.
Now, having taken their places in the Communion of Saints, they can be our spiritual strength as we continue the work that our Church, through them and the Council that defined their papacies, has called us to: offering — proposing, not imposing, as St. John Paul taught us — the Gospel of Christ to the earthly city.
by Laura Cassell, CEO of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Rockville Centre
‘What’s love got to do with it?’
Tina Turner belted out those words to her hit song back in the 1980s, but lately I find myself contemplating this same question as I watch the latest Subaru commercials on TV. You may have noticed them — they’re all punctuated by the tagline: “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.”
The advertising campaign is brilliant. It magically transforms a car into a symbol for many of the things we hold dear — life, love, safety, well-being, even adventure. A young woman just finishes changing a flat tire in the rain and hears the affirming voice of her dear father saying, “I knew you could do it,” as the camera pans to reveal him tenderly holding an umbrella over her. Another features twin teenage boys bickering as they learn how to drive in the family Subaru with their patient father, their mother anxiously watching from the driveway. There’s the one with a Labrador in the backseat, marking the milestones of the owners’ lives as he goes from puppy to grown companion. And then there’s a series of powerful images of an utterly demolished Subaru as it makes its way from accident scene to tow truck to junkyard. At every interval, an astonished bystander utters the simple words, “They lived.”
To be sure, advertisers play masterfully on our universal, mostly never satisfied, cravings for love, joy and peace of mind. Although ad wizards diagnose our needs perfectly, the solutions they offer are usually inadequate. Not one of the things they sell — not one — will deliver. The things of this world are, after all, the things of this world.
So what’s a thinking, Christian consumer to do? Jesus laid it out pretty plainly: Love God. Love one another. And don’t sweat the rest too much. It‘s what our Church has embraced for centuries. Hold true to these values and everything you do in this world will bring you closer to God’s love. And wouldn’t it be great if that guided all our decisions, big and small? If love can lead us to buy a Subaru, just imagine what it could do to fashion our families, our friendships, our work and our communities.
Every day at Catholic Charities, we offer God’s love to our neighbors who turn to us in their struggles. Even as we carefully track the number of services that are rendered through our programs — meals, counseling sessions, residential beds, affordable units, clinical treatments — we know that all these are just different expressions of God’s love. It’s at the core of everything we do.
Oddly, leaders of nonprofits and churches are regularly encouraged to run their ministries like businesses. But here those businesses are, spending untold millions in advertising to appear more like us. How did they so masterfully hijack our mission? It’s time that we reassert our claim to the word LOVE. Gospel love is indeed at the very center of our work at Catholic Charities, and it ought to be at the center of our very lives. Let’s embrace it. What’s love got to do with it? Everything — as followers of Jesus! Instead of shying away from the word, let’s embrace it. What’s love got to do with it? Everything!