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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Book review: 'James Martin: Essential Writings'

By Mitch Finley 

"James Martin: Essential Writings," selected and with an introduction by James T. Keane. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York, 2017). 245 pp., $22.
 
No matter how many of the bestselling books authored by Jesuit Father James Martin you have read, a great deal of what's in this book -- a volume in the publisher's "Modern Spiritual Masters Series" -- is likely to be unfamiliar. While it includes some brief excerpts from his most popular books ("The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything," "Jesus: A Pilgrimage," "A Jesuit Off-Broadway" and "Between Heaven and Mirth"), most of what you'll find here comes from articles by Father Martin that appeared in various periodicals including America (more than 200 to date), the Tablet, Huffington Post and Portland, the University of Portland's alumni magazine.
 
James T. Keane does the author's many fans a service, then, by presenting them with material they might otherwise never know about.
 
Keane gathers this book's 40-some articles into four categories titled: Motions of the Soul: Spirituality and Prayer; God in All Things: The Divine in Daily Life; The Care of Souls: Solidarity with the Suffering and the Wounded; and More by Deeds than by Words: Models of Holiness. Article titles many readers will find particularly appealing are "Reflections on Chronic Illness and Pain, Among Other Things," "Holy Dirt" (about sacramentals), "Six Stupid Things I Never Want to Do Again," "Don't Be a Jerk," "Lourdes Diary," "Why Stay in a Church So Clearly Flawed" and "The Saint of the Sock Drawer" (about St. Jude).
 
In his introduction, a short biographical essay about Father Martin, editor Keane make a solid case for his comparison of Father Martin to the great 20th-century Trappist monk, author, social critic and poet Thomas Merton. Father Martin most likely dismisses any such comparison. Still, Keane writes: "James Martin, SJ, the Jesuit priest who is perhaps American Catholicism's most prominent public figure, was a lukewarm, non-practicing Catholic on the fast track to executive riches at General Electric."
 
While this is certainly true, one may be justified in observing that there are, undoubtedly, many regular Catholics with similar backgrounds who returned to being Catholic or joined the Church and did not go on to become priests or nuns, but went on to live their faith in admirable, even heroic ways without becoming well known in the pattern of Fathers Merton and Martin. One may hope for a book, one day, that presents the inspiring stories of just such ordinary Catholics.
All the same, "James Martin: Essential Writings" is a solid, inspiring and informative book. Read up!
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Finley is the author of more than 30 books on Catholic themes, including "What Faith is Not" (Sheed & Ward) and a new revised and updated edition of "The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and Those In Between" (Word Among Us Press).
 
  • Published in Reviews

World Day of Prayer for Creation

Environmental destruction is a sign of a "morally decaying scenario" in which too many people ignore or deny that, from the beginning, "God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment," said the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
 
Marking the Sept. 1 World Day of Prayer for Creation, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople issued a joint message.
 
They urged government and business leaders "to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation."
Looking at the description of the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis, the pope and patriarch said, "The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy."
 
But, they said, "our propensity to interrupt the world's delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet's limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets -- all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation."
 
"We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession," the two leaders said. "We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs."
 
Ignoring God's plan for creation has "tragic and lasting" consequences on both "the human environment and the natural environment," they wrote. "Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation."
 
The pope and the patriarch said prayer is not incidental to ecology, because "an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world."
 
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople established the World Day of Prayer for Creation in 1989. In 2015, shortly after publishing his encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si'," Pope Francis established the day of prayer for Catholics as well.
 
The object of Christian prayer and action for the safeguarding of creation, the two leaders wrote, is to encourage all Christians "to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives."
 
Echoing remarks Pope Francis made Aug. 30 when the pontiff announced he and the patriarch were issuing a joint message, the text included a plea to world leaders.
 
"We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized," they wrote. No enduring solution can be found "to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service."
 
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew also highlighted how "this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people," especially the poor, in a more pronounced way.
 
"Our obligation to use the Earth's goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures," they said. "The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work toward sustainable and integral development."
 
  • Published in World

'Integral ecology'

Catholic social teaching has developed over the past century as new problems — human, social, economic and environmental — come clearer into focus and call out for a faith-based response.
 
Pope Francis’ contribution, with his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” is to emphasize just how closely entwined those problems are.
 
“After Laudato Si’, for the Catholic Church, these are connected. You cannot try to tackle poverty without caring for the Earth and equally you cannot care for the Earth without caring for the people who live on the Earth,” said Father Augusto Zampini Davies, an official at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
 
One of the biggest challenges of Pope Francis’ approach is a spiritual one, the Argentine priest said. It involves conversion.
 
The poor are impacted most by climate change, yet they have done the least to contribute to it, he said. “We must convert and change our lifestyles and help others cope with the climate change we’ve caused.”
 
People in wealthy countries may think they are “ecologically friendly” because they recycle and “like trees and gardening,” he said, “but the way we produce, trade, consume and waste” is not offset by separating plastic from paper.
 
In addition, wealthy countries “have the resources to mitigate the effects of climate change,” for example, in building infrastructure to control flooding and providing emergency relief to victims of natural disasters and drought. But in poor countries, thousands of people die in floods and tens of thousands are forced to migrate because of drought and famine.
 
“If you cannot grow your crops and feed your children, who wouldn’t migrate?” he asked.
 
In richer countries, the conversion Pope Francis is calling for includes learning to face fear with a Gospel-based attitude toward others and toward future generations, the priest said.
 
The connections between environmental damage, the global economy and migration are clear, he said. And so are the motives underlying reactions like climate-change denial, isolationism and anti-migrant sentiments.
 
“What Pope Francis does is say, ‘OK, here are the symptoms, let’s find the roots,'” Father Zampini Davies said. “The roots are the same: selfishness or indifference or greed or this mentality of thinking that if I have more I will be more important.”
 
In many ways, he said, fear appears to be spreading among people in the wealthiest nations, and “politicians play on people’s fears. If I feel I am not benefiting from the global economy and I live in a democracy, I will vote for someone who says they will get us out of that.”
 
Christians can find in their faith a healthy way to handle their fears, he said, “because we have a different approach to the quality of life, to what it means to have a better life, because our understanding of life is relational and our understanding of redemption and salvation is that it is for all of creation.”
 
Transforming the former Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis specified that the office is an expression of the Church’s “concern for issues of justice and peace, including those related to migration, health, charitable works and the care of creation.”
 
In other words, for Pope Francis, all those issues together are key components of “integral human development.”
 
Father Zampini Davies, a priest of the Diocese of San Isidro, Argentina, is one of the newest officials at the dicastery. He moved to Rome from London where he spent the last four years serving as a theological adviser to CAFOD, the official aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales.
 
His focus is “integral ecology,” which includes development, the environment and spirituality.
 
Early development efforts focused almost exclusively on material growth, Father Zampini Davies said, but over time it became obvious that increasing income and purchasing power was not enough. Progress also meant access to education and health care and greater social and political inclusion.
 
Thanks also to the social teaching of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he said, Catholic development experts began insisting that respect for human dignity, strengthening families and religious freedom also were markers of progress.
 
For many of the development models, he said, environmental degradation was accepted as collateral damage in the drive to increase production and consumption, thereby raising GDPs.
 
Now it is clear to scientists, economists, development experts and theologians that care for the environment and reducing the factors that contribute to climate change are essential for making development sustainable and truly caring for the poor, Father Zampini Davies said.
 
  • Published in World

Labor Day

"Excessive inequality" threatens cooperation among all people in society "and the social pact it supports," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., in the U.S. bishops' annual Labor Day statement.
 
In the message, Bishop Dewane cited the words of Pope Francis, who told factory workers in Genoa, Italy, "The entire social pact is built around work. This is the core of the problem. Because when you do not work, or you work badly, you work little or you work too much, it is democracy that enters into crisis, and the entire social pact."
 
Dated Sept. 4, the federal Labor Day holiday, the statement was released Aug. 30.
Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, pointed to a "twisted understanding of labor and laborers" that fosters deepening inequality.
 
In Genoa, the pope "acknowledges that 'merit' is 'a beautiful word,'" Bishop Dewane said, "but the modern world can often use it 'ideologically,' which makes it 'distorted and perverted' when it is used for 'ethically legitimizing inequality.'"
 
"Wages remain stagnant or are decreasing for the vast majority of people, while a smaller percentage collect the new wealth being generated. Economic stresses contribute to a decline in marriage rates, increases in births outside of two-parent households and child poverty," Bishop Dewane added. "Economic instability also hurts the faith community, as Americans who have recently experienced unemployment are less likely to go to church, even though such communities can be a source of great support in difficult times."
 
He said, "When a parent -- working full time, or even working multiple jobs beyond standard working hours -- cannot bring his or her family out of poverty, something is terribly wrong with how we value the work of a person."
 
"Pope Francis has said it is 'inhuman' that parents must spend so much time working that they cannot play with their children. Surely many wish for more time, but their working conditions do not allow it."
 
He quoted St. John Paul II's encyclical "Centesimus Annus": "Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business."
 
"A culture that obsesses less over endless activity and consumption may, over time, become a culture that values rest for the sake of God and family," Bishop Dewane said.
 
He added, "Our Lord's 'gaze of love' embraces men and women who work long hours without rest to provide for their loved ones; families who move across towns, states, and nations, facing the highest risks and often suffering great tragedy in order to find better opportunities; workers who endure unsafe working conditions; low pay and health crises; women who suffer wage disparities and exploitation; and those who suffer the effects of racism in any setting, including the workplace."
 
Bishop Dewane suggested several approaches to right the imbalance brought by inequality.
 
"Worker-owned businesses can be a force for strengthening solidarity, as the Second Vatican Council encouraged businesses to consider 'the active sharing of all in the administration and profits of these enterprises in ways to be properly determined,'" he said. "The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has helped in the formation of many employee-owned companies which provide jobs in communities where work opportunities may be scarce."
 
Workers' legal rights to "a just wage in exchange for work, to protection against wage theft, to workplace safety and just compensation for workplace injuries, to health care and other benefits, and to organize and engage in negotiations, should be promoted," he added.
 
"Workers must be aided to come to know and exercise their legal rights. As an example, CCHD has supported the Don Bosco Workers in Westchester, New York, which has launched a successful campaign to combat wage theft. Persons returning from prison also need support to understand their legal rights as they seek new employment. CCHD has helped the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati and elsewhere as they work with returning citizens to find stable and meaningful jobs."
 
Labor unions play an important role in this effort, according to Bishop Dewane, as he quoted from Pope Francis' remarks in June in an audience with delegates from the Confederation of Trade Unions: "There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones."
 
"Unions must retain and recover their prophetic voice, which 'regards the very nature itself of the union, its truest vocation. The union is an expression of the prophetic profile of society,'" he said, quoting further from Pope Francis, who added, "The union movement has its great seasons when it is prophecy." Bishop Dewane added that unions should "resist the temptation of becoming too similar to the institutions and powers that it should instead criticize."
 
Bishop Dewane said, "Unions are especially valuable when they speak on behalf of the poor, the immigrant and the person returning from prison."
 
  • Published in Nation
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