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Can women religious work in law enforcement or in forensic labs?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 10, June 2023 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
The spirit of the community's founder should be represented by the work of the institute and its members.

This is a question best addressed by canon law, and the answers are less clear than might be expected. The section that describes "Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life" (cc. 573-746) notes that laws governing religious life are to meet certain criteria—most fundamentally, the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience (c. 573.1). It's also presumed that the individual and her community are mutually responsive to a call by the Holy Spirit, which must be confirmed by the proper church authorities (c. 573.2). However, it's not specified in every instance whether that authority implies the superior of the order, the local bishop, the Holy See, or any combination of the above.

The spirit of the community's founder should be represented by the work of the institute and its members (c. 578). Which means an order founded to be contemplative should pursue this vocation, just as those founded for teaching, healing, service to the poor, etc. should maintain this calling. These guidelines are deliberately drawn very broadly, to admit the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit as well as the evolving need of each new generation. For example, Mother Frances Cabrini's Missionary Institute of the Sacred Heart originally embraced service to Italian immigrants in the U.S. In later generations, their service expanded to other immigrant groups and to other countries.

Does the flexibility purposely built into these canons expand to admit a woman religious to the field of law enforcement if her religious community was founded on the charism of justice for the poor or prison ministry? Might she fulfill her calling serving in a forensic lab if her intent is to ensure that DNA testing is properly done for incarcerated persons who were poorly represented at trial or whose guilty sentence may have been racially motivated? These occupations likely didn't exist at the time of her community's founder. Yet were the founder alive today, would she see this work as an extension of the charism?

Other canons concern "unbecoming activity" for church leaders (see canons 285-289), but these explicitly refer to ordained clergy. These activities presently include holding public office, but historically included fox hunting, bartending, cab driving, professional prize-fighting, horse racing, and serving as a jailor. The "Worker Priest" movement of the 1940s and 50s—in which some clergy worked among the people at manual labor—was dimly viewed, yet there's still no canonical impediment for clergy to do so.

Scriptures: Amos 1:1; 7:12-15; Acts 18:3; 20:33-35; 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 9:1-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:9

Books: God's Call Is Everywhere: A Global Analysis of Contemporary Vocations for Women, by Patricia Wittberg, SC, Mary L. Gautier, Gemma Simmonds, CJ (Liturgical Press, 2023)

Called to Serve: A History of Nuns in America, by Margaret M. McGuinness (New York University Press, 2015)

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Why is being rooted in Peter's authority so important to the Catholic Church?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 10, June 2023 Categories: Church History,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints,Scripture
To find the job description of a modern pope, look no further than Peter's example.

Peter's a remarkable person in the New Testament. Many people counted themselves as admirers of Jesus for shorter or longer periods during his earthly ministry. Some, both women and men, were serious disciples who accompanied Jesus since the Galilee days. A mere dozen were special members of his inner circle, known as the Twelve. Among the Twelve, three (Peter, James, and John) became Jesus' most trusted friends: present at the Transfiguration, and also invited to pray with him in Gethsemane just before his arrest. Yet even among these favored three, Peter makes a singular impression.

Peter is mentioned nearly 175 times in the New Testament, almost twice as often as John and three times as often as James. Peter is a fisherman personally invited by Jesus to fish for people. In John's gospel, he's called a shepherd of Christ's sheep. In Matthew's narrative, Jesus declares Peter the rock upon which his church will be built. This is because Peter receives the special revelation that Jesus is the Son of the living God.

In Acts, Peter has a vision that reveals to him that Gentiles as well as Jews will be welcomed into the church. In the letters attributed to him, Peter is perceived as an elder among elders, as well as one capable of amending errant teachings. Yet Peter's also represented in Acts as a team player, working in full partnership with John and willing to accept the discernment of James when in Jerusalem. Peter's not just the boss left in charge after Jesus returns to his Father. After an early career of impulsive speech and rash behavior, Peter's been humbled, becoming a leader who appreciates that the wisest way to wield authority is to seek good counsel and faithful collaborators all along the path.

To find the job description of a modern pope, look no further than Peter's example. The fisherman who casts the broadest possible net, the shepherd intimately companioning the sheep, the rock upon which the structure of church depends: these are the fundamental tasks of the papacy. A pope must also be a person of deep prayer open to revelation and new insights—even spectacular ones that shake up social expectations. A pope must gather wise and collaborative counselors, yet be ready to make the final call when necessary. All of this makes a Petrine foundation an essential component of Catholic authority.

Scripture: Matthew 16:16-18; Luke 5:10; John 21:1-17; Acts 1:9-16; 3:1-11; 4:1-22; 8:14; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 3:15-16

Books: Four Times Peter: Portrayals of Peter in the Four Gospels and at Philippi, by Richard J. Cassidy (Liturgical Press, 2015)

Petrine Ministry and the Unity of the Church: Toward a Patient and Fraternal Dialogue, by James F. Puglisi, ed. (Liturgical Press, 1999)

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My mom asked me to promise her a Christian burial. What does that involve?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 10, June 2023 Categories: Sacraments

Your mother is asking for her departure from this world to be accompanied by the rituals of the church.

Good news: it no longer involves descending into a catacomb, which was the normative way Christians were buried for the first five centuries. Unlike most earlier societies, Christians weren't buried in these underground vaults with valuable objects they might require in the afterlife—a disappointment to grave robbers. But at my dad's viewing before the casket was closed, his small grandson saw fit to tuck a Hot Wheels car in beside Grandpap. That sort of generous gesture is entirely okay.

Your mother is asking for her departure from this world to be accompanied by the rituals of the church. Christians share with Jews and other ancient religions a respect for the dead and how their bodies are treated posthumously. This included washing and dressing the bodies with care. What distinguishes the Christian response to death is that we rejoice and give thanks for those who have "gone before us marked with the sign of faith." So no need to hire a band of mourners, though it's natural to shed a tear at the loss of our dear ones.

As early as the seventh century, a believer near death was given the Eucharist along with a reading from Scripture. After death, the body was delivered to the church, psalms were prayed, followed by a procession to the place of burial. Catholics still follow a similar format. Calling the priest to administer "last rites" when a person is expected to die is proper, a ritual known as viaticum ("on the way with you"). Even if your mother is unconscious, it's possible to perform this rite. 

After death, the body may be brought for a church viewing, though this vigil service popularly known as a wake or rosary is often held at a funeral parlor. A priest may be present, or the vigil can be led by anyone. It typically includes a Liturgy of the Word: a song, prayer, Scripture reading, psalm, gospel, short reflection, and prayers of intercession, concluding with the Lord's Prayer. That's the standard vigil; however, many wakes involve little formal prayer, since many attendees aren't Catholic. While the church’s preference is that the body be present for the vigil and funeral Masses, some families choose cremation. "In all, pastors are encouraged to show pastoral sensitivity.” (Appendix #415 Order of Christian Funerals.) 

The final part of fulfilling your mother's request is the funeral and committal rituals. Her pastor will know what's required for these rites at the church and gravesite. These four moments of passage together–the dying time, vigil, funeral, and burial—are marked by simple rites acknowledging a life is ending, yet life continues.

Scripture: Genesis 23:1-9; 49:29—50:14, 24-26; Exodus 13:19; Deuteronomy 34:5-8; Joshua 24:29-33; 2 Samuel 21:13-14; 1 Kings 2:10; 11:43; Tobit 1:16-20; 2:3-8; Sirach 38:16; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; 1 Corinthians 15:55

Books: Planning the Catholic Funeral, by Terence Curley (Liturgical Press, 2005)

Now and at the Hour of Our Death: Instructions for My Medical Treatment, Finances, and Funeral, by Victoria Tufano et. al. (Liturgy Training Publications, 2022)

What's the vocation of a religious brother about?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Saturday 10, June 2023 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
The communal life is key, as it becomes a form of spiritual family to stabilize the commitment of its members even as it liberates them from the responsibilities of typical family life.

To many Catholics, religious brothers are invisible in the hierarchy of church leadership. Clergy play public liturgical roles, and religious sisters were traditionally set apart by their habits and occupations as schoolteachers and nurses. But brothers? It's possible you never met one, or didn't know it if you did.

Religious brothers are members of the laity, as religious sisters are. They consecrate themselves to the three traditional evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity, obedience. Three distinguishing marks of a brother are his public profession to consecrated life, commitment to a religious community, and dedication to some aspect of church service. Some brothers are called monks (like Benedictines and Trappists) or friars (Franciscans or Dominicans), while others are simply known as brothers within a larger community that may include ordained members as well (like Oratorians and Jesuits).

Some teaching orders, such as the Christian Brothers, are entirely composed of consecrated laymen. Yet early in church history, most monastics and religious were brothers, ordaining members only when their community needed a priest to serve them. Later on, many deep-rooted religious orders began to ordain most of their members as a matter of course. Those who presented themselves for religious life but were uneducated or ill-suited for ordained ministry remained brothers, serving the community in supportive roles as porters, cooks, and gardeners. This contributed to a class system in religious life, as brothers had less voice, vote, or authority within their communities. Since Vatican II, in modern community life more brothers are attaining leadership roles and equivalent status as full peers to priestly members.

You may wonder why someone chooses to formally profess as a religious brother (or sister), since the work they do can be done by unprofessed people. The communal life is key, as it becomes a form of spiritual family to stabilize the commitment of its members even as it liberates them from the responsibilities of typical family life.

Each religious community may orient the ministry of their brothers to a particular kind of service, as religious sisters do: education, healthcare, social services or social justice action. Precisely because they aren't ordained, brothers can be more flexible and versatile in their work, responding to the needs of their generation. Brothers today may serve in the areas of ecology, racial justice, migrant ministry, media, or wherever their talents and the world's need come together. When you think about it, who couldn't use a helpful brother?

Scripture: Mark 10:17-31; Matthew 5:3; 19:16-30; Luke 6:20; 18:18-30; John 4:31-34; 6:37-; Philippians 2:8-10; Hebrews 10:5-7

Books: Brother Andre: Friend of the Suffering, Apostle of Saint Joseph, by Jean-Guy Dubuc (Ave Maria Press, 2010)

Francis and His Brothers: A Popular History of the Franciscan Friars, by Dominic Monti, OFM (Franciscan Media, 2009)

Are Hebrews the same as Jews?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 09, June 2023 Categories: Church History,Scripture
How did Israelites known widely as Hebrews become Jews?

A Venn diagram of these two words would find some overlap. But they're not equivalents. Jews have their origins in a people once known as Hebrews, whose story is recorded in the Old Testament. Their story doesn't begin with Adam and Eve, the mythical first people, but in chapter ten of Genesis with the descendants of Eber, son of Shem, noted in the Table of Nations. 

Abraham is called a Hebrew, as is his great-grandson Joseph. Their community as a whole is often identified as Hebrew. But the designation is not used by the people themselves, who later identify primarily as Israelites, a name tying them to their patriarch Jacob, grandson of Abraham. Jacob's name is changed to Israel after he wrestles with an angelic being. 

Other biblical nations primarily refer to Israelites as Hebrews, a term rooted in the Near Eastern word 'apiru. Neither an ethnic nor a racial category, 'apiru is the political status of wanderers, dissidents, or unwelcome non-citizens. Such nomadic people were viewed as vagabonds, withdrawn from the social networks and responsibilities of upstanding people in the land. As Israelite dietary restrictions and purity laws evolved, these made it increasingly difficult for them to associate in the amicable venues of other nations. The more they distinguished themselves as different, the less welcome Israelites were.

We can appreciate why Israelites didn't use the name Hebrew, especially after they settled in the land of Canaan ca. 1225 BCE. Yet the name is retained for the ancient language of Israel. Hebrew derived from a Semitic language of Canaan. But in the 6th century BCE, after a generation of exile in Babylon, the spoken language of the people became Aramaic. It was the preferred tongue of the Persian Empire of which they were now a part. Hebrew was used only in prayer and scholarship, much as Latin was in the Roman church long after it ceased to be a living spoken tongue.

So how did Israelites known widely as Hebrews become Jews? The southern kingdom of Abraham's descendants was originally given to the tribe of Judah. (The north was called Israel, destroyed by Assyria in 722 BCE). When the Judahites were hustled off to Babylon, the land formerly known as Judah became known by the Persian designation Yehud. When the Romans took it over in 66 BCE, they called it Judea. Judeans became Jews, and the name stuck.

Scriptures: Genesis 10:21 (see footnote NABRE), 24-25; 11:14-17; 14:13 (see footnote NABRE); 39:14, 17; Exodus chs. 1—7; 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:12; 1 Samuel chs. 4—14; Acts 6:1

Books: Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, by Lawrence Boadt, CSP, revised edition by Richard Clifford and Daniel Harrington (Paulist Press, 2012)

A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, by J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes (Westminster John Knox, 2006)

What does it mean to be saved?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Friday 09, June 2023 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

God's desire to save includes everything.

Salvation is one of those churchy words we use all the time with relatively little reflection. To Catholics of a certain generation, or Christians of some denominational persuasions, it simply implies you're not going to wind up in hell for your sins. But that's a very reductive idea. Being saved is so much more than that.

In theologian Jon Nilson's wonderfully rich definition, salvation is the condition of the ultimate restoration and fulfillment of humanity and all creation effected by God's action in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. I mean, wow! This is so much bigger than the singular rescue of your soul or mine from eternal flames, so to speak. God's desire to save includes everything. This reminds us of the words of Jesus after the multiplication of loaves: "Gather up the fragments that nothing may be wasted." It's God's plan that no crumb of creation is wasted.

The important question this raises is: Is this your plan and mine? Climate change reveals how human beings are very careless about the stewardship placed in our hands for all of life. Pope John Paul II's admonitions concerning our "culture of death" point toward the many ways we "waste" life: in warfare, poverty, capital punishment, and abortion among others. Pope Francis likewise warns about our "throwaway culture," which pollutes the air, soil, and water in its consumptive production, then tops off landfills as we discard it for more. And of course there are other ways in which we squander life: in the wasteful use of our time. In exploitative careers founded in personal greed rather than meeting social needs. In addictive habits, injustice, racism, hate speech, attitudes of resentment, and so much more.

What seems clear is that, if we are not saved, if we are in fact wasted or lost, it's not because God wills it to be so. God's design and desire are to rescue all. The story of salvation history traced in Scripture describes the perpetual efforts of a "saving God" who seeks to rescue and reconcile a people repeatedly and stubbornly choosing to wander into harm's way again. Heaven and hell, properly understood, are images that invite us to participate now in the happiness or misery we ultimately want. In Nilson's words, "Taken seriously but not literally, [heaven and hell] are reminders of the ultimacy involved in one's everyday decisions." There should be no mystery in how we spend eternity. Just contemplate how you spend today.

Scripture: Mark 3:4-5; 10:50-52; Matthew 1:21; 8:25-27; 14:30-32; Luke 1:46-55, 68-79; 2:10-11, 29-32; 7:50; 17:19; 19:9; Acts 4:10-12; Romans 3:21-26; 5:9-10; 8:19-24;  1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 2:15-17; Galatians 2:15-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 

Books: Teresa of Avila, the Holy Spirit, and the Place of Salvation, by André Brouillette (Paulist Press, 2021)

Jesus and Salvation: Soundings in the Christian Tradition and Contemporary Theology, by Robin Ryan (Liturgical Press, 2015)

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