A handful of pilgrims from the Diocese of Salina attended World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland.
Jerry Michaud and his daughters, Hannah and Monica, from Hays joined a group from Franciscan University of Steubenville while Natoma resident Regan Casey joined the group from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
This was Casey’s first trip to a World Youth Day. While she’d been to the National Catholic Youth Conference before, it in no way prepared her for the experience.
“I come from a town that has 300 people counting cats and dogs,” she said. “When you go to someplace like (WYD) and there are a million people, you are so overwhelmed, but it’s the greatest feeling because you’re all worshiping and singing and praising the same God.”
Being at Mass with 2.3 million people who kneeled, stood and worshiped in sync was … “I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Casey said.
World Youth Day was from July 25 to 31 in Krakow, Poland.
Jerry Michaud said their group attended the papal welcome July 28.
“That was a sea of humanity,” he said. “It was beautiful to be a part of it.”
Colby — “When you share your faith, you grow your faith,” Christ Stewart, co-founder of Casting Nets Ministry, proclaimed to more than 145 women at the Salina Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 31st Biennial Convention Aug. 20.
The auditorium of the Sacred Heart Catholic School was filled with Catholic women who learned about the seven pillars of effective evangelization; attended Mass with Bishop Edward Weisenburger and other priests; participated in a music ministry and listened to heartwarming stories about the gift of being a woman.
Stewart said the seven pillars of evangelization were not steps, but processes that can all be done at the same time. He and Casting Nets co-founder Tony Brandt took turns explaining the pillars.
Stewart explained that the first pillar was “prayerful.”
“Pray with purpose and intention for your loved ones to come back to the church,” he said.
Stewart shared stories about his mother and her prayer life and provided concrete ways to share prayer.
Brandt said the second pillar was “invitational.” He shared a story about how a genuine invitation to a student changed that student’s life.
“We need to change the way we ask,” he said.
“Hospitable is the third pillar,” Stewart said. “Jesus welcomed everybody. Some Catholic Churches aren’t welcoming. The invitation will mean nothing if they are not made to feel they belong.
“The welcome has to be with true joy and given sincerely,” he continued.
The fourth pillar, Brandt explained was “inspirational.”
“Our job is to breathe that life, that spirit back into (the walking deads’) life,” he said. “We need to ask who inspires us.”
Brandt said his mother, who was his inspiration, loved Mother Theresa and lived by her motto: “Unless your life is lived for others, it’s not worth living.”
“Sacramental” is the fifth pillar, according to Stewart. He encouraged the women to go to confession once a month and bring others to the sacraments.
“Usher people to God through the sacraments,” he said, by the living waters of Baptism, bringing them to the communion table and inviting them to Adoration where “you are kneeling down and giving over to God.”
The “formation” pillar involves spending time with those one needs to form in the faith.
“The time that we spend with them is so vital to their formation,” he said. “Even simple gestures of Catholicism like genuflecting and making the sign of the cross brings formation.”
“Missionful” is the seventh pillar, Stewart said.
“Jesus tells the disciples to go make disciples,” he continued. “We can’t call ourselves disciples of Christ unless we are making disciples. We must be missionaries.”
“They inspired me to evangelize like never before,” Judy Fisher of St. Joseph Church h in Bird City said of Brandt and Stewart, whose ministry is based in Wichita.
Stewart and Brandt said the conference was inspirational to them as they felt lead by the Holy Spirit and were in awe of the Mass where the church was filled with female voices singing praises.
Noelle Garcia of Dodge City provided music ministry and shared “women” stories. She shared how she reflected on the sorrowful mysteries during the long and hard labor of her last child. Garcia said her husband proclaimed afterwards that, “Every man should be in awe of women, because through her ‘Yes,’ life comes into the world.”
She compared men and women and spoke about the heart of women and how being a woman is a gift. The audience was tearful and joyful as she continued relating real-life stories.
“Sometimes fear is what keeps us from what we need to do,” she said. “But the Lord anticipates your needs.”
Tina Shrick of Colby said she loved Garcia’s “it’s a gift to be a woman” comment.
“I loved her stories and how to use your power as a woman to show mercy,” she said.
Garcia said society is telling women that they aren’t important. The conference provided a safe environment to celebrate women, she said.
August can be a dull month when it comes to time on the farm. After harvest, much time is spent ridding the fields of the weeds that grow when no crop is planted. Growing up we worked the summer fallow in order to kill the weeds; today many farmers spray herbicide in order to accomplish the same thing. They become the greatest amount of toil in farming and it hearkens back to Genesis after the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden.
In the liturgical year of the Church after the Easter season we go through Ordinary Time and we can allow our liturgical life in the Church to become a bit mundane. The language used to define Ordinary Time is, Tempus Per Annum, or, time through the year, which is the time between Pentecost and Advent. This is the time for growth.
Similar to how we see our crops grow and begin to put on the grain that will be harvested in the fall, we should bear fruit during this time in our spiritual life as well. It is the time we spend ridding our lives of the weeds that begin to grow. We have to work the soil of our heart and prepare it to receive the seed that is the Word of God. The weeds are the bad habits or the sins that we struggle with and the seed of God grows as we seek virtue in our life.
“And to Adam he said ... cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gn 3:17-19). The result of sin is toil and death. Many of the difficulties in our life can be attributed to sin. It causes disorder in creation, much like the weeds we fight in farming. With those spiritual weeds, growth in virtue is more difficult, prayer becomes a battle, relationships with other people are filled with tension. Like the farmers fighting weeds in the fields, we till the soil of our hearts with self knowledge through a daily examen.
A daily examination of conscience is a spiritual tool that helps to rid the weeds that crop up in our spiritual life. We look at our day and see where we did well and where we failed. Did I thank God for the good in my life today? Did I give myself in love to my spouse today in words and actions? Did I give a full day’s work for a full days wage? These are just a few ways that we can begin to look at our life and seek that spiritual growth that we desire. The green that the priest wears for Mass during this time is a symbol of the growth that we should see in our life. Like a farmer who watches his crops grow in this time and waits for them to bear fruit, we see growth when we put in the effort to allow the seed of God grow in our hearts.
Don’t let the weeks between Pentecost and Advent just be ordinary, make them be days of growth. Seek out the Sacrament of Confession during this time to rid your life of those pesky weeds, and work to grow in virtue. Prepare that seed bed through daily prayer so that you may hear the word of God and bear much fruit.
Father Brian Lager is a member of the Rural Life Commission for the Diocese of Salina.
Salina — Two men began studies at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo. as new seminarians for the Diocese of Salina.
Luke Friess and Casey Zimmerman are the two newest additions to the seminarians, bringing the total number to 13.
Friess, 22 from Hoxie, is the son of Tom and Pat Friess. He is the second of five children.
His journey to the seminary began when he attended Prayer and Action as a high school student.
“The best thing I got from (Prayer and Action) was being with seminarians who were on fire for the faith, loved what they were doing and who were in love with life,” he said. “They weren’t concerned with fears of vocational discernment. (Entering the seminary) is a scary step, but they knew God would provide and it was an inspiration to me.”
The tables were turned when he led Prayer and Action this summer in Hays and Junction City.
“Being with so many youth from across the diocese and seeing them come from all different backgrounds and to see their joy was inspiring,” Friess said. “Watching them come alive for their faith was amazing.”
Friess graduated in May from Benedictine College with a degree in mathematics. For the first few years of college, his intention was to teach and coach, living his faith by example.
“I went through college and matured in my faith. I came to realize the desire to evangelize was deeper,” he said. “The priesthood was a desire in my heart that slowly presented itself to me.”
He opted to complete his degree at Benedictine because he was involved with the cross country team.
“We had a really good team coming back and had a chance to qualify for the national championships as a team my senior year,” he said, adding that the team did, indeed, qualify and attend the national competition. “It was really important to me. I wanted to finish that up.”
Zimmerman, 24, a Concordia native, is the son of Chuck and Tammy Zimmerman. He is the oldest of two children.
He said the path to the seminary was several years in the making.
“I was in pretty serious discernment since sophomore year of college,” Zimmerman said. “I knew I wanted to finish my degree no matter what.”
He used his college years to grow in faith, participating in Prayer and Action and as a Junior CYO Camp counselor. Near the end of college, he attended a retreat at Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo.
“While I was there, I realized if I was going to try to take any vocation in my life seriously, I needed to go to seminary,” Zimmerman said. “If I didn’t go (to the seminary), there would always be a nagging question ‘Am I doing what God wants me to do?’
“I knew I wouldn’t regret going to seminary in any way. I would have some level of regret if I didn’t go and explore what it means to have a deeper relationship with God.”
Yet, he already accepted a job as a polymer chemist at Brewer Science in Rolla, Mo.
“I would have felt pretty bad leaving before one year of working,” he said. “They had spent time, money and effort teaching me, and then no return on their investment.”
Brewer Science is a company that sells products to microchip companies.
Zimmerman said when he was interviewing at the company, he made it clear he would likely seek advanced education.
“I’m sure they interpreted it as graduate school,” he said. “When I told them it was for seminary, not for a graduate program, they were surprised, but extremely supportive. I wasn’t sure it was something I’d see from such a science-based company, but I got so much support and encouragement.”
After two years in the workforce, he will enter the seminary. While on the outside, shifting from science to religion might seem like a big leap.
“The world has misconstrued the interplay between science and religion,” Zimmerman said. “For me, they’re not at odds at all. Science speaks to explain how things work — how the things that God created work.”
While he was in the workforce, Zimmerman also was trained and served for about a year and a half as a first responder and firefighter for the Rolla Rural Fire Protection District. Participation in the district was inspired by several of his collegiate fraternity brothers.
“I wanted to do something like that in college but didn’t have the time,” he said. “Once I started working and realized how much free time I had to go and serve others, that was the first thing that came to my mind. It allowed me to grow in many different ways — with higher stress situations — experiences I would not have gained being in a lab all day at work.”
The biggest change he anticipates is a more structured faith formation.
“I’ve done plenty of reading on theology on my own, but never taken any structured religion classes,” Zimmerman said. “I expect to be challenged in my prayer life and continue to grow.”
Classes began at Conception Seminary Aug. 22.
Both men are in the two-year pre-theology program with the awareness that the seminary is a process of continual discernment.
“I’ve been told by priests and seminarians that when you enter the seminary, you’re not immediately being ordained,” Zimmerman said. “There is a lot of time for personal growth and development. You’re put in an environment where you can continue to ask God how you can best do his will.”
“A lot of guys, myself included, get the idea you have to discern to be a priest before you go to seminary,” Friess said. “But you enter the seminary to discern the call. The important thing to understand is that going to the seminary is taking that next step.
“Coming in I don’t know I’ll become a priest, but i do know I’ll be a better man after the seminary, whatever God calls me to do.”
Junction City — Susan Thielen and her three sons are the first farm family in the Diocese of Salina to receive the SS Isidore and Maria Exemplary Award from Catholic Rural Life.
The family received the award at Rural Life Days in Junction City Aug. 14.
When a friend told Thielen they were nominating her for an award from Catholic Rural Life, national, Catholic nonprofit organization, she dismissed it.
“I honestly blew it off and though ‘Go ahead and do it if you want but there’s no chance,’ ” she said “We are not the typical farm family, but we are a family that is keeping the farm going.”
Thielen’s late husband, Joe, was a third generation farmer. He died in 2006 after a battle with cancer.
“During the last year of his life, Joe was taking a lot of chemo, so he had a lot of time to think and plan things for the farm. The feedlot was one of his dreams,” Thielen said. “He made plans and signed up for programs and got the ball rolling. At the time of his death, we literally had to pick it up and figure out what to do.”
Thielen said the cancer diagnosis allowed the family time to plan how to transition the family farm from one generation to the next.
“People need to think about and plan farm succession before it needs to happen,” she said. “It’s not an easy thing, particularly for the older generation.”
During Joe’s last years, youngest son Kevin helped to transition the farm from his father’s management into the current operation. Joey, the oldest son, was nutritionist for a feed company until his father’s death. He then came home to take charge of the cattle operation. Matt, the middle son, was working for Kansas Farm Management System when his father died and he came home to take charge of the financial records and head up the crop production of this operation.
“Joe always wanted them to try things outside of the farm for awhile so if they came back, it was something they knew they wanted to do,” Thielen said.
Joey, 43, his wife Kelly and their three children live on the family farm today. He serves on the local Parish Council at St. Joseph Parish.
Matt, 40, his wife Lori and their three children live in Dorrance and are also involved with the parish, serving on committees and helping the community.
Kevin, 37, his wife Sharon and their four children live in Wamego. He is with the Kansas Beef Council and his family is involved with their local parish.
Together, the family runs the farm, which includes wheat, milo, corn, a commercial cow-calf operation and a feedlot.
Shy about publicity and receiving the award, Thielen said it’s not because she isn’t grateful — she is — but hers is only one of many hardworking farm families scattered across the great plains.
“There are so many wonderful farm families making a difference in their communities,” Thielen said. “We are no different than any other farm family.”
Receiving a national award won’t change a thing about the daily farm operation.
“It doesn’t matter how much you want to celebrate, you have to get up because the cows have to eat the next day,” she said.
Bishop Edward Weisenburger was present Aug. 14 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City to present the award to the family at Rural Life Day.
Thielens are the second family in Kansas to receive the award; about a decade ago, Tom and Sheryl Giessel near Larned received the same national award.
“The Thielen family is a shining example of what our good Catholic Kansas farmers are all about,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “They live a strong commitment to their faith, their family, their neighbors, as well as a true stewardship of the earth that God has given us. The fact that this fine family is the first to ever receive this national award in our diocese fills me with pride.”
Tom Murphy, a neighbor of the Thielen family knew Joe in college, nominated the family for the award.
“They’re good hard working farm people who are raising their family in the farm and teaching their children the importance of faith, family and community,” Murphy said. “Joe taught the young men that if you take care of these resources they will give back to you many times over and if you mistreat the earth and animals you will come up short.”
The award, which was established in 1998, is named after the husband-wife saints, Isidore and Maria.
Peg Louiselle, Director of Development for Catholic Rural Life, said Murphy’s nomination of the Thielen family was inspiring.
“Their story was compelling to us because in the midst of a tragic situation, the family and the parish rallied together to not just care for the family, but to continue on the mission of the family farm,” Louiselle said. “The responsibility for caring for the land and feeding the world is important. When the family’s faith informs those decisions, we like to edify that and hold it up as an example for everyone.”
Prayer is a bedrock of their family, Thielen said.
“It gets us through the difficult times and helps us to appreciate the good times,” she said. “I always say ‘Things are never as bad as they seem and they are never as good as they seem, so just keep praying.’ ”
She is also quick to say the award isn’t just for their family.
“We live in an amazing area with wonderful people. We don’t do this alone,” Thielen said. “It takes a lot of people to help others be successful.”
Hays — Featured speaker Curtis Martin said that 4 o’clock moment — when he chose Jesus Christ — came during his sophomore year in college.
Martin, founder and CEO of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) spoke at the 2016 men’s conference for the Salina Diocese on Saturday, Aug. 13, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays.
It was the fifth anniversary of the conference, which had a packed audience of more than 350 men from throughout the diocese, along with 25 priests and the diocese’s seminarians. The conference has gained popularity each year and therefore was moved from Russell to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church this year to allow for the crowd.
Martin focused on a couple of verses in John, Chapter 1, about the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry. In the Gospel of John — written decades later — John remembers even the time of day he met Jesus Christ: 4 o’clock. Martin asked those assembled to either recall or think about their decision to be “all in” for Jesus.
Cory Munsch from Hays, who was participating at his fourth men’s conference, said he remembers well his 4 o’clock moment.
“For me, that 4 o’clock moment automatically went to a time when I decided to start living my faith instead of just sitting on the fence and not doing anything, or being a Sunday Catholic,” Munsch said. “That 4 o’clock moment was a moment when I realized that there was more to my faith than I had been doing.”
Sam Mazzarelli from Westminster, Colo., who has been a FOCUS missionary for 10 years, told the men assembled that things change — lives change — after that 4 o’clock moment. But it’s not easy, he added.
Salina — Father Chuck Tobin, who is designated as a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis, urged more than 400 gathered at Sacred Heart Cathedral Aug. 21 to become missionaries of mercy.
“Live the corporal works of mercy. It may be something very small, but do something,” the retired priest from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo said. “Be somebody in the faith that shows the face of mercy to those around you.”
Father Tobin was in Salina Aug. 20 and 21 where he presided at Spanish Masses at the cathedral. His missionary trip to the Salina Diocese concluded with the Jubilee of Mercy Celebration, which included Confession, the rosary and Mass.
Father Tobin said the English word “mercy” doesn’t do its meaning justice.
“In Spanish or Latin, what a great word: misericordia,” he said.
The first portion, “miseria” is the root of the word misery or suffering. The second portion comes from corazón, the word heart.
“It asks you and I to open our heart to those who are suffering,” Father Tobin said.
The missionary priest said Pope Francis is a popular figure across religious lines. Non-Catholics will tell him they like the pope because of simple actions by the pontiff such as carrying his own bags or riding the bus.
“It may be those little things but they are gestures,” Father Tobin said. “He has gone down the list of the corporal works of mercy and he lives it day by day — with his words, with his actions, also with his attitude and his gestures.”
The collection during the celebration went toward the Kansas Loan Pool Project, which is a project of Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas (CCNKS).
“Talk about a wonderful example of the Year of Mercy,” Father Tobin said.
He encouraged people to look for small attainable “baby steps” toward mercy. Father Tobin encouraged those gathered to start with their family.
“Having tremendous mercy, compassion, caring, thoughtfulness, forgiveness in the midst of your family, in the midst of your parishes, in the midsts of your neighborhood, in the midst of a nation,” he said.
Debbie Baier, a parishioner at St. Andrew in Abilene, attended the event. While this is her first experience with a Missionary of Mercy, she said the homily was thought provoking.
“I always tell my kids (in religious ed) to visit those in nursing homes or shut-ins,” she said. “There are ways to adapt the works of mercy to our circumstances.”
A member of the CCNKS board, she said the collection for the Kansas Loan Pool Project is important.
“The payday lending is a never ending cycle to take advantage of the less fortunate,” she said.
Father Tobin reflected one of Pope Francis’ first document as pope, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel).
“He has asked us as priests to be good shepherds, but he went beyond that,” Father Tobin said. “He’s talking to you in the pew — not the bishop or priest — he’s talking to you and asks you to be a visionary of mercy by your life, by your attitudes and by your actions.”
By The Register
Salina — A priest designated a “Missionary of Mercy” by Pope Francis will give the homily at the Year of Mercy Mass at 4 p.m. Aug. 21 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Father Chuck Tobin from Missouri will give the homily at the Mass. Prior to the Mass, confessions will be offered at 3 p.m. and a rosary will begin at 3:30 p.m.
“By being designated, he’s been identified as a resource preacher and teacher about the Year of Mercy,” said Father Steve Heina, director of the Office of New Evangelization. “The whole Year of Mercy and everything about these celebrations is all about hope — to communicate and to celebrate the great hope that comes to us in Jesus crucified and risen from the dead.”
Father Tobin, a retired priest from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., is one of more than 1,140 religious deacons and priests that were appointed as a Missionary of Mercy.
“I have a sense of being a witness,” Father Tobin said in an interview after his appointment. “And you know, the priests I was there with, the ‘old battered priests,’ are really good confessors, because they have lived it. Actually, all of us are called to that kind of life: to be caring, compassionate and understanding. This commission, this mandate, is really a call to all our priests to be shepherds in the confessional.”
In addition to preaching at the special Year of Mercy Mass, Father Tobin will preside at the 12:30 p.m. Spanish Mass on Aug. 21 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Pittsburg — While a Spanish language immersion program might conjure pictures of Mexico or South America, the reality of the Spanish language immersion experience seminarian Andy Hammeke and Deacon Leo Blasi are on is a different story.
The seminarians spent the summer in Pittsburg, a town of about 20,000 in southeast Kansas at Pittsburg State University, immersing themselves in the Spanish language.
From when they wake in the morning until 7 p.m. they were only allowed to communicate en Español. The strict “no English” rule is essential; they are completing two semesters of Spanish in eight weeks.
“It’s like drinking from a fire hose,” Deacon Blasi said of the experience.
The men have about five hours of class per day, then spend the afternoon and evening hours studying and preparing for the next day.
“It seems like you’re moving through things quickly and by the time you start figuring it out, you have moved onto something else,” Hammeke said. “One good thing about the program is it provides us plenty of time in the afternoon and evening to study. The fast pace forces you to keep up with studying.”
Bishop Edward Weisenburger said the diocese began sending seminarians to the program about three years ago. The program, which was developed by the Diocese of Wichita about a half a dozen years ago, also provides ongoing spiritual formation for the men.
In all, the immersion program includes eight seminarians — the two from the Salina Diocese, three from the Wichita Diocese, two from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Missouri and one from the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.
Attending college for the first time often involves moving away from home and experiencing many new freedoms.
While broadening a student’s world view is valuable, three college upperclassmen encourage college freshman to commit to living their Catholic faith, even while away at college.
|Courtney Farmer||Hunter Kee||Tracie Thibault|
Courtney Farmer is a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in theology at Benedictine College in Atchison. She is from Russell and spent the summer working at Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas in Salina.
Hunter Kee is a senior majoring in nursing at Washburn University in Topeka. He is from Beloit and spent the summer working as a CNA in the Mitcell County Hospital in Beloit.
Tracie Thibault is a junior majoring in biology at K-State in Manhattan. She is from Salina, and spent the summer leading Prayer and Action in Hays and Junction City.
Father Fred Gatschet is the campus minister of the Comeau Catholic Campus Center at Fort Hays State University in Hays, a post he has held for 16 years.
“Parents are just scared to death. They are afraid their kids will go off to college and go off the road to debauchery,” Father Gatschet said. “They want to know how to keep their kids Catholic and alive.”
Salina — Two recent college graduates from the Salina Diocese will become FOCUS missionaries on college campus, aiding students in their spiritual journey.
Sarah Stratman of Bennington and Becca Kohl of Hays will begin their first year with Fellowship of Catholic University Students as missionaries.
FOCUS was established in 1998 as a pilot program at Benedictine College in Atchison with two staff members and 24 students. FOCUS is now on more than 125 campuses with more than 550 missionaries nationwide.
Stratman, who graduated in May from K-State with a degree in nutrition and health, will be a missionary at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The assignment at KU is full circle. A friend of hers mentioned FOCUS had a presence at KU and was impressed with the joy of the missionaries.
“She asked me if I’d ever thought about being a FOCUS missionary; that planted the seed,” Stratman said.
During her junior year of college, she attended SEEK, the FOCUS national convention. The idea was further nourished while serving as a staff member of Prayer and Action in 2015.
“(Prayer and action) really changed my life and made me see that we are all made to be saints and made for greatness,” Stratman said. “It inspired me not to live mediocrity anymore.”
During her senior year, she explored several post-graduate options but none seemed like the right fit.
“Then I went to the FOCUS interview weekend. I had never felt so much peace about anything before,” Stratman said. “I knew if they called I would without a doubt say yes.”
Kohl, who graduated in May from Fort Hays State University with a degree tourism and hospitality management, will serve as a missionary at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.
During her freshman year of college, Kohl said she was involved in leadership with a protestant group on the FHSU campus.
“They asked me about the Catholic faith and I realized I better find out the answers,” she said.
She became involved in the Comeau Catholic Campus Center at FHSU, which led her to attend the SEEK conference.
“My freshman year, I had a protestant mentor who walked with me in my faith,” Kohl said. “I thought ‘There should be a Catholic version of this!’ FOCUS is that, but so much more.”
“In Imitation of Our Master, we Christians are asked to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.” (Pope Francis)
Our Holy Father designated 2016 as a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Since biblical times, one of the hallmarks of a Jubilee Year has been the cancellation of debts that were beyond the ability of the poor to pay. Liberation from the psychological and material “prison” of indebtedness is the perfect metaphor for God’s mercy.
In keeping with this spirit of mercy, I would like to invite all Kansans to take Pope Francis’ words to heart so we may, together, confront and touch a particular form of unjust poverty afflicting tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters: payday loan indebtedness. To confront this situation, in the words of Pope Francis, means we must begin with hard facts about the industry. Touching this poverty, building on the Holy Father’s quote, means resisting the temptation to turn our eyes away from the suffering of our neighbors; shrugging it off as the result of financial irresponsibility or ignorance that has nothing to do with me.
Beginning with hard facts, we must note that abusing the poor by lending money to those in crisis at astonishingly high interest rates is a practice that was condemned or restricted by every civilization. This abusive behavior was rightly recognized as destructive and corrosive for communities and society. However, with the modern payday loan industry, what was correctly labeled reprehensible and predatory is now presented as friendly, safe and legitimate; indeed, it is presented as an altruistic financial service. The fact is nothing could be further from the truth. So what is the truth?
Nuestro Santo Padre designó 2016 como Año Jubilar de la Merced. Desde los tiempos bíblicos, una de las características de un Año Jubilar ha sido la cancelación de las deudas que estaban más allá de la capacidad de los pobres para pagar. Liberación de la psicológica y material “prisión” de la deuda es la metáfora perfecta de la misericordia de Dios.
En consonancia con el espíritu de la misericordia, me gustaría invitar a todos los ciudadanos de Kansas a tomar las palabras del Papa Francisco 'a pecho para que, juntos, confrontemos y tocemos a una forma particular de pobreza injusta que afecta a decenas de miles de nuestros hermanos y hermanas: préstamo de día de pago endeudamiento. Para hacer frente a esta situación, en palabras del Papa Francisco, significa que debemos comenzar con datos concretos acerca de la industria. Tocar esta pobreza, construyendo sobre la quota del Santo Padre, significa resistir la tentación de voltiar los ojos lejos del sufrimiento de nuestros vecinos; encogiéndose de apagado como el resultado de la irresponsabilidad financiera o la ignorancia que no tiene nada que ver conmigo.
Comenzando con hechos concretos, debemos tomar nota que abusar de los pobres al prestar dinero a las personas en crisis en asombrosamente altas tasas de interés es una práctica que fue condenado o restringido por todas las civilizaciones. Este comportamiento abusivo fue reconocido como destructivo y corrosivo para las comunidades y la sociedad. Sin embargo, con la moderna industria de préstamo de día de pago, lo que estaba correctamente etiquetada reprobable y depredador ahora se presenta como amigable, seguro y legítimo; De hecho, se presenta como un servicio financiero altruista. El hecho es que nada podría estar más lejos de la verdad. Entonces, ¿qué es la verdad?
First published March 1, 2013
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its Committee for Pro-Life Activities and Religious Liberty, has urged bishops to recommend Friday abstinence for the people of their dioceses.
The bishops’ committee sees Friday abstinence as a spiritual effort undertaken for the sake of the protection of human life, the sanctity of marriage and religious liberty. While these are more than worthwhile reasons, I would add that abstinence is likewise an ancient Church discipline that helps free us from what might otherwise own us (and our souls). It helps to make room for the joy and hope that only God can give.
For all these reasons, I am asking that the faithful of the Diocese of Salina immediately return to this ancient practice of the Church.
There are other factors at issue here, as well. Many are unaware that the Church, after the Second Vatican Council, never changed its ancient custom of observing Fridays as penitential days. Friday abstinence was never abolished. Rather, the Church allowed bishops conferences around the world to determine whether or not Friday abstinence could be substituted with a different penance.
When the U.S. bishops conference permitted Catholics to exchange the Friday abstinence for a different form of penance, it seems that the notion of a Friday penance disappeared entirely. This was never the intention of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council. I fear that we were unwise in our rush to get rid of this ancient practice, allowing ourselves to blend in with our generally non-believing culture.
While I believe a return to Friday abstinence a true benefit for the Church, I would note that this is a strongly recommended spiritual endeavor. It is not law, and scrupulosity is to be avoided. Children in public schools, residents of nursing homes and care facilities and others without control over their diet may substitute a different form of penance on Fridays, as is already allowed by the bishops’ conference legislation. Moreover, pastors may dispense their parishioners or even their entire parish for special celebrations.
Three additional points are worth noting. The first is that abstinence from certain foods for spiritual purposes is well-grounded in Scripture. In Daniel 10:2-3, we read of Daniel taking no delicacies, no meat, no wine and not anointing himself for three weeks while he was in mourning. As Jesus was crucified on a Friday, abstinence from meat on that day each week is a way of entering into the penitential spirit of the day. The fish, typically consumed in its place (but not required), is a symbol of Christ. It should be noted that those who cannot eat meat for medical or dietary reasons may continue to substitute a different penance, such as abstinence from a different but still preferred food.
Secondly, it is good for us to stand out, to be a little prophetic and not to blend in with a culture that is harming its members in so many ways. The English historian Eamon Duffy published a 2004 call for a return to Friday abstinence in the journal The Tablet. He noted that Friday abstinence was a focus of Catholic identity that transcended class and educational barriers, even uniting “good” and “bad” Catholics in a single eloquent observance. And finally, while it may be trendy to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle for health, environmental or ethical reasons, we enter into the Friday abstinence for matters of the soul. If the world thinks us odd, then we are in good company with St. Paul, who was known to call himself “a fool for Christ.” If we want to be different from the culture around us — and different for all the right reasons — then we need to do things in a different way.
The purpose of the abstinence remains primarily spiritual as a penance, a recalling of the Lord’s passion. It also can unite us spiritually to those who do not have enough food for the day. But as a public witness, it clearly adds to our Catholic identity. For that reason, it may be far more needed today than when it was observed more faithfully 50 years ago.