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The Wound of Consumerism and Materialism

This is the second in a series of articles by Bishop Weisenburger on the “Five Wounds of Secularization” to be published during this “Year of Faith.” The first part, “Busyness: The Scourge of our Modern Time,” was published Nov. 30. An overview, “Probing the Wounds: A Different Look at the ‘Year of Faith,’ ” was printed Jan. 18.

In looking at the “Five Wounds of Secularism,” the second of the wounds we have identified is consumerism and materialism. The sin is focusing our lives excessively on money and possessions — the passing things of this world — while sacrificing the things that last into eternity. The grace that heals the wound is found in the call to simplicity of life, sharing with others and discovering right relationship with God and neighbor.

I realize that there are a certain amount of material things that I must contend with — to consume — in order to survive as a human. But this Lenten season challenges me to consider the right balance of the material things I need and the material sacrifices I need to make. An old question that prompts me to ponder this balance more deeply is, “What do I own, and what owns me?”

When it comes to money and possessions, the example of my grandmother always comes to mind. She spent most of her life in Catharine and Hays until she moved to St. Louis in order to live with her daughter, my aunt.

There was a one-year break in her time at St. Louis, however. It was in the late 1960s that she moved to live with my immediate family, as we were spending a year in Hays while my father was in Vietnam on military assignment.

My grandmother had grown up in poverty and had lived very simply all of her life. Actually, for the last 20 years or so of her life, her possessions fit neatly in the trunk of our car, with room to spare. Moving her was never a challenge. Her possessions included some clothes, a favorite rocking chair and a huge supply of rosaries, prayer books and holy cards.

The hours of her day were divided comfortably between time with family and time spent quietly in prayer. Those were her only desires or joys. Despite the lack of possessions (quite literally in her case), there was never any air of poverty, want or need about her. She was satisfied; indeed, more than satisfied.

When I reflect back on the fact that two of her children, my aunts, died in their childhood, and she already had buried her dear husband, as well, it makes the peacefulness that pervaded her all the more prophetic.

I think it was the sense of profound blessing and gratitude that made me want to know more about the God with whom she seemed so happy to spend her days. As a child, I was blessed to know good priests, parents, catechists and teachers. But the greatest witness to the faith for me was an old woman who mostly smiled, loved and prayed. I’ve always suspected it was the simplicity of her life that made it possible for the glory of God to shine through.

Of course, we have to be careful about exulting poverty. My grandmother had her extended family, reasonable health care and her physical needs were met. What I find very moving — and sometimes challenging — about my grandmother is that her possessions were in balance with the greater values of her life. It reveals that — at best — money, possessions and the things of this world glorify God when used in the right spirit and for the right purposes.

Material things become a danger and consume us only when we find that they are keeping us focused more on them than God. In all truth, the growing craving for excessive money and possessions can lead to a false sense of security and leave us with the very fragile illusion of control. Indeed, with our culture’s insistence that only those who are wealthy have real meaning, our endless desire for increasing wealth and possessions replaces our passion for God.

Moreover, what may be worst of all is that we become spiritually numb to the real needs of those around us. I suppose that in the end, material things are pretty much neutral. It all depends on how we look at them and what we do with them.

Again our question: “What do I own, and what owns me?” A case can be made that I don’t really own anything, since all good things are given to me by God and are to be returned to God. One way of gauging how much we’ve fallen prey to consumerism and materialism is to consider: “Do I measure love — given or received — by a monetary value?” For example, at Christmas or special event celebrations, we might find ourselves wondering, “Did I get them a nice enough gift?” or “How much did they spend on me?” If these or similar questions sound familiar, as powerful as love is, then there is a chance that something is owning me and my life is out of balance.

Perhaps a different way of phrasing this comes from another old saying: “Remember who you are, and whose you are!” To remember that we belong to the Lord puts us in touch with a power that cannot ever be taken away or destroyed; it connects us with the one who is eternal.

Again, the assault of secularization on the world and our Church is leaving deep wounds. One area of those wounds is found when we look carefully at consumerism and materialism. The sin is found whenever the craving for money and possessions becomes the focal point of our lives. The result is a restless spirit, anxiety and an inability to recognize Christ in the faces of those who are truly poor.

The grace that heals the wound is found in the Gospel call to simplicity of life, sharing with others, and then discovering the joy of living in right relationship with God and neighbor.

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  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will meet with five priests who suffered abuse by Chilean Father Fernando Karadima or his followers, the Vatican said. The pope will meet June 1-3 with "five priests who were victims of abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse," the Vatican said in a statement May 22. Two priests who have accompanied the survivors "in their juridical and spiritual journey" and "two laypeople involved in this suffering" also were invited by Pope Francis, the statement said. They will all be guests at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where Pope Francis lives. The pope will celebrate a private Mass with the group June 2 and will meet with members of the group together and individually, the statement said. In late April, Pope Francis had hosted three laymen who were sexually abused by Father Karadima. "With this new meeting, planned a month ago, Pope Francis wants to show his closeness to abused priests, accompany them in their pain and listen to their valuable opinion to improve the current preventative measures and the fight against abuses in the church," the statement said. The day after the Vatican's announcement, three Chilean priests who will take part in the meeting read a statement on behalf of all nine, confirming their participation in the meetings with Pope Francis. At a May 23 news conference in Santiago, Chilean Fathers Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, Alejandro Vial Amunategui and Eugenio de la Fuente Lora thanked the pope for his invitation, which they said they hope would "re-establish justice and communion, particularly within our Archdiocese of Santiago and its presbyteries." The statement was signed by the three priests, as well as Fathers Javier Barros Bascunan and Sergio Cobo Montalva. The four other members of the group, the statement said, wished to remain anonymous. They also expressed the "hope that our experience may give a voice to many others who have suffered abuses or have accompanied abused persons." The Chilean priests also asked journalists to respect the "confidentiality and the privacy" of the meetings and that there will be "no more public statements until our return to Santiago." The Vatican said the priests were abused by Father Karadima and his followers in the parish of Sagrado Corazon de Providencia, also known as the community of "El Bosque" ("The Forest"). Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Father Karadima founded a Catholic Action group in the wealthy Santiago parish and drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood. Four of Father Karadima's proteges went on to become bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.   However, several former seminarians of "El Bosque" revealed in 2010 that the Chilean priest sexually abused them and other members of the parish community for years. One year later, Father Karadima was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance after he was found guilty of sexual abuse. Chilean survivors have also alleged that Bishop Barros -- then a priest -- as well as other members of Father Karadima's inner circle had witnessed their abuse by his mentor. The pope, who initially defended his 2015 appointment of Bishop Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno, apologized after receiving a 2,300-page report from Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta. In a letter released April 11, Pope Francis said he had been mistaken in his assessment of the situation in Chile, and he begged the forgiveness of the survivors and others he offended. He invited three survivors -- Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo -- to Rome in late April and called all of the Chilean bishops to the Vatican for meetings May 15-17. In a document leaked by Chilean news channel Tele 13 before the meeting with the bishops, Pope Francis said he was concerned by reports regarding "the attitude with which some of you bishops have reacted in the face of present and past events." The document's footnotes included several details from the investigation made by Archbishop Scicluna, which confirmed that, in some instances, the bishops deemed accusations of abuse as "implausible." But Pope Francis said he was "perplexed and ashamed" after he received confirmation that undue pressure by church officials was placed on "those who carry out criminal proceedings" and that church officials had destroyed compromising documents. Those actions, he said, "give evidence to an absolute lack of respect for the canonical procedure and, even more so, are reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future." After the three-day meeting, most of the Chilean bishops offered their resignations to the pope. Back in Chile, bishops -- including Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, president of the Chilean bishops' commission for abuse prevention -- continue to face a backlash over their handling of cases of abuse. Bishop Goic suspended 14 of the diocese's 68 priests May 19 after an investigative report by Tele 13 alleged there was a sex-abuse ring made up of clergy and known as "La Cofradia" ("The Brotherhood"). According to the report, "La Cofradia" had its own hierarchical structure and carried out, as well as covered up, the sexual abuse of minors by members of the group. The report also alleged that although Bishop Goic was informed and presented with evidence of the group's existence by Elsa Fernandez, a local youth minister, he refused to act. Fernandez said she contacted the Chilean bishops' conference in January to inform them of the abuses committed by "La Cofradia." However, she said, she was informed in an email that the conference "does not formally receive complaints." In an interview published on the Tele 13 website May 22, Bishop Goic said he had thought people talking about "La Cofradia" were speaking "in jest" and said he "never received a formal complaint that seriously said this was happening." After the report's broadcast, Bishop Goic acknowledged that he had met with Fernandez, and he apologized for his failure to act "with the appropriate agility in the investigation" of the priests allegedly involved in the sex abuse ring. "I must admit that personally, as a Christian and a pastor, I find myself very affected by this difficult situation that hurts and embarrasses me," the bishop said. "I pray that the truth, the whole truth, may come to light in these cases and in any other situations that threaten the Gospel of Christ's love." - - -Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Natalie BattagliaBy Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON (CNS) -- A year into his priesthood, Father Matt O'Donnell was named a pastor. Days before his 27th birthday in 2013, Father O'Donnell arrived at St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago's South Side Park Manor neighborhood and since then has embraced his ministry to the African-American community. It didn't take long for the young priest who grew up at St. Fabian Parish in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview to become a leading figure in the neighborhood. Father O'Donnell, now 31, went about getting to know residents and parishioners and learning what they thought the community needed. From that, Father O'Donnell recruited volunteers in spearheading the creation of a variety of services and ministries that has cemented St. Columbanus as an anchor in Park Manor. For starters, there's the parish food pantry that serves more than 500 people 49 of 52 Wednesdays a year, the building of a new playground that gives kids a safe space to be kids and an athletic center that gives older kids an alternative to gang life. The parish also is the site of Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy, an acclaimed elementary school focusing on science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math. The parish opens its doors to the wider community, hosting its popular "Pop Up Clergy" program from time to time in front of the church, complete with a grill for barbecuing. The event brings neighbors and police together to foster friendship and understanding. The most recent in early May attracted 150 people. "The people (at the parish) are very grateful that I'm young and have inexhaustible energy," he told Catholic News Service. For his efforts, Father O'Donnell was named the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty and social justice program. The award is to be presented June 13 at a reception during the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in a statement called Father O'Donnell's work of building a parish "a living example of Pope Francis's vision of a field hospital church that exists to serve humankind and spread the Gospel of a loving God." "By his caring presence, his limitless energy for good works and his compassionate ministry, he has made St. Columbanus a beacon of hope in its community and an example of faith in action far beyond its borders," he said. In nominating Father O'Donnell for the award, Olivia Silver said she wanted to call attention to the "good things that were happening at the parish and the good things that Father Matt was doing." Silver, a member of Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral and a St. Columbanus volunteer, called the priest an "innovative pastor who gives his entire heart to his parish, his community and his loved ones." "He is doing such great stuff there," she said. Father O'Donnell takes little credit for the parish's accomplishments, citing instead parish staff for the success of the many ministries. He said he strives to "empower the people in the parish to take the responsibility to run the different aspects of the ministry that we have." And he thanked parishioners for being "forgiving and patient with me." Father O'Donnell also credited the "good priests around me to give me on-the-job training" in the work of a pastor. The young priest has long held an interested in serving in the African-American community. His internships before ordination were in other South Side parishes where he "fell in love with the liturgy, the music, the preaching" and discovered that the hospitality of the neighborhoods was "very giving." A period spent at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans strengthened his desire for his chosen ministry. That interest convinced then-Cardinal Francis E. George to appoint Father O'Donnell as pastor. "Cardinal George said he would rather have me because I have the desire to serve the black community than to have somebody who had more experience but didn't have the desire," Father O'Donnell recalled. As for the future, Father O'Donnell has eyes on opening a community service center to help residents prepare for the GED test and apply for work. He has even thought of opening a coffee shop "to create some jobs in the area." The priest acknowledged Park Manor is going through changes, like many other Chicago neighborhoods: longtime residents have either moved away or died; violence has increased; locally owned businesses have closed; and poverty is growing. Such factors motivate Father O'Donnell to do his best while partnering with others interested in building an inclusive, welcoming community. "St. Columbanus has been here since 1909 and has been an anchor in in Park Manor," he said. "We're trying to figure out what more we can be doing to better the life of the neighborhood." - - - Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Roman Pilipey, EPABy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked people to pray for Catholics in China so that they may be able to live their faith with serenity and in full communion with the pope. The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians May 24. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI established the feast as a world day of prayer for the church in China because Mary is venerated under that title at the Marian shrine in Sheshan, outside Shanghai, China. At the end of his general audience talk in St. Peter's Square May 23, Pope Francis said the feast day "invites us to be united spiritually with all the Catholic faithful who live in China." He asked people pray to Our Lady so that Catholics there would be able "to live the faith with generosity and serenity" and so that they would know how to carry out "concrete gestures of fraternity, harmony and reconciliation, in full communion with the successor of Peter." "Dear disciples of the Lord in China, the universal church prays with you and for you so that even in the midst of difficulties you may continue to trust in God's will," he said. - - - Editors: Here is the prayer in English that Pope Benedict XVI released in 2008 on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html In Chinese: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/zh_tw/prayers/documents/hf_ben-xvi_20080515_prayer-sheshan.html- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler OrsburnBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The executive director of the U.S. bishops' Migration and Refugee Services gives credit to a group of moderate Republicans in Congress trying to revive interest in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals legislation, or DACA, by their efforts to bring not just one bill, but four, to the House floor. "They are surfacing the issue forcefully and making the House deal with it," said William Canny. Although he believes the bills could bring about a "path forward," he said he is not fully convinced it will happen because of the extent of anti-immigrant sentiment in Congress and the White House.A current proposal, led by Reps. JeffDenham, R- California, and Will Hurd, R-Texas, along with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is tapping into an obscure House rule called "queen of the hill" which would bring four immigration bills to the House floor for a vote and the bill with the most votes would pass. But for Congress to even consider these multiple bills, there needs to be enough signatures on a discharge petition. As of May 21, 20 Republicans and 176 Democrats have signed the petition, which needs signatures from 25 Republicans and all 193 Democrats. If the "queen of the hill" procedure gets the go-ahead, there will be debate on each of the four bills in the course of one day, followed by votes. Another technicality of this procedure is that discharged bills can only be brought to the House floor on the second and fourth Monday of each month, when the House is in session, which narrows the window for this to happen to June 25 and July 23. In the meantime, it's a waiting game, Canny told Catholic News Service. He said the U.S. bishops want Congress to help Dreamers find a path to stay in this country and become citizens "without the fear and stress" they currently live with daily. He also called it "tragic" that DACA recipients -- who have been here since childhood and have been educated here -- are currently left "to the whims of various courts." When President Trump announced last September that he was terminating DACA, he asked Congress to pass a permanent legislative solution for DACA participants. His March 5 deadline has passed and now the DACA battle is in the courts with multiple lawsuits challenging Trump's decision and seven states filing a lawsuit to try to end DACA. The four DACA bills that could come up for vote are: Securing America's Future Act, also known as Goodlatte Bill, written by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia; the DREAM Act; the Uniting and Securing America Act (USA) Act; and a fourth bill that will be chosen by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. The Goodlatte Bill would grant temporary status for DACA recipients with renewable three-year visas and would include stronger border enforcement and legal immigration restrictions. The DREAM Act primarily offers a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers. The USA Act, sponsored by Reps. Denham and Pete Aguilar, D-California, would grant permanent legal status to qualified Dreamers and border improvements. If the four bills do not come up for House vote, Securing America's Future Act could come to a floor vote in mid-June but it is said to have little chance of passing in its current form. Canny said the U.S. bishops have supported the DREAM Act and the USA Act, which have narrow immigration reform, but they are against the restrictions within the Goodlatte Bill, and of course they don't know what Ryan bill would look like. Three California bishops placed an ad in a local newspaper May 18 asking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, to allow a debate and a vote on DACA, specifically the USA Act. The ad, in the form of a letter, urged McCarthy to recognize: "The time to act is now. We have to do what we can to protect these blameless people who were brought into our country when they were only small children." In late April, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin Texas, stressed his support for USA Act, saying he hoped Congress would "find a humane legislative solution for Dreamers." He said the USA Act would provide qualifying Dreamers with protection from deportation and give them a path to citizenship while also augmenting border security at the U.S./Mexico border, increasing the number of immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals staff attorneys. A May 21 editorial in The Los Angeles Times by Denham, said: "Immigration policy is the responsibility of Congress, and this may be our last chance for a legislative fix before DACA recipients' lives are upended; if we leave DACA in the courts to languish (or be dismantled) and fail to act in Congress, then program recipients will be left in limbo or, worse, deported to a 'home' they never knew." - - -Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim - - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although it is not unusual for a pope to set aside temporarily the limit of 120 cardinals under the age of 80, Pope Francis has done so in a way that could last for more than a year. The pope announced May 20 that he would create 14 news cardinals June 29; 11 of them are under the age of 80 and would be eligible to enter a conclave to elect a new pope. In early June, Cardinal Angelo Amato will celebrate his 80th birthday, which will drop the number of electors to 114. Three weeks later, the batch of new cardinals will raise the number of potential electors to 125. Cardinal Amato is the last cardinal to turn 80 in 2018. And it will take until July 31, 2019, for another five cardinals to age out. Confirming the limit of 120 electors set by Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II wrote in "Universi Dominici Gregis," his rules for a conclave, that "the maximum number of cardinal electors must not exceed 120." That led one major news agency to report, "If a conclave has to be called before any other cardinal turns 80, the electors would have to draw lots to see which five men would be barred from the gathering." Conclaves don't happen that often and none in recent history took place when there were more than 120 eligible electors. But the idea of a lottery for entrance into the Sistine Chapel, where the voting would take place, led many people to scratch their heads. After all, "Universi Dominici Gregis" and the changes made to it by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013 both strongly state: "No cardinal elector can be excluded from active or passive voice in the election of the supreme pontiff." A pope, as the supreme legislator of the Catholic Church, can set aside the limit of 120 potential electors. But doing so does not change the no-exclusion clause. And while a year may be a long time to exceed the 120 limit, exceeding it by five cardinals is minor compared to what St. John Paul II did in February 2001. Creating 44 new cardinals -- the biggest batch ever at one consistory -- the pope raised the number of cardinal electors to 135. St. John Paul created another 30 cardinals in 2003, bringing the number of electors back up to 135 once again. But, by the time he died in 2005, only 117 were under 80, and two of those were too ill to participate in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict. The Polish pope's mega-consistories broadly expanded the international -- in other words, the catholic -- identity of the College of Cardinals. It is a process that continues. Pope Francis' latest cardinals-designate include churchmen from five countries not currently represented in the College of Cardinals. But each of those countries -- Bolivia, Pakistan, Japan, Madagascar and Iraq -- has had a cardinal in the recent past. With the addition of the new cardinals, the group of electors will represent 67 nations. The cardinals who elected Pope Francis in 2013 came from 48 countries. The number of Italians with a red biretta, the cardinal's three-cornered hat, still far exceeds those of any other nation, and Pope Francis is about to add three more to their number. The day before the consistory, 18 Italians would be eligible to enter a conclave -- 19 if you count Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Italy-born nuncio to Syria, who Pope Francis made clear was chosen to represent Syria. Still, in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, 28 were Italian. The country with the next-highest number of cardinal electors is the United States, which has 10 cardinals under the age of 80. At a Mass with the College of Cardinals in 2017, a Mass marking his 25th anniversary as a bishop, Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church is not a "gerontocracy" ruled by old men; "we aren't old men, we are grandfathers." But his choices for the June consistory do very little to lower the average age of the group of electors. Only one, Cardinal-designate Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, is still in his 50s. He is 54. Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, is 51 years old and still will be the youngest cardinal once the consistory is over. On June 28, there will be 114 electors with an average age of 71 years, 11 months and one day. After the consistory the next day, there will be 125 electors with an average age of 71 years, eight months and 20 days. The cardinals who elected 58-year-old Cardinal Karol Wojtyla -- St. John Paul II -- in 1978 had an average age of 67. - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.