Archive for hope

On The Pope Interview: What Else is There to Say?

Posted in America Magazine, Pope Francis with tags , , , , , on September 20, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

pope-francis_2541160bLike the rest of the world — minus a few dozen Jesuits and their medal-deserving team of secret translators — I was absolutely blown away yesterday by the 12,000-word interview given by (and subsequently approved by! The pope reviewed the Italian text before it was sent out for publication) Pope Francis. The publication coordinated by the world’s leading Jesuit publications in several languages, including America magazine for which I have the honor to serve as a columnist, was a feat that Fr. James Martin, SJ, jokingly tweeted was perhaps Pope Francis’s very first miracle. Everything about this interview is simply amazing.

I hesitate to say anything else here for at least two reasons. The first is that, because I was more or less sequestered all day yesterday in a sound-proof recording studio in Cincinnati, OH (where I return again this morning) to record the audio version of my forthcoming book The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering, I have not had the chance (or the torture) of reviewing much of the spin and already existent commentary that flooded the media waves, newspaper pages, and blogosphere. So I’m afraid that I might simply echo what has already been said over and over again. The second is that I don’t really know where to begin. Honestly, there is simply so much there and so much on which to comment that I don’t know that I can or should do that in one blog post.

For that reason, I feel as though for the time being the words of Pope Francis should simply and powerfully speak for themselves.

I will return to these themes discussed in his interview, as I’m sure many other theologians, journalists, and “talking heads” will, at some point in the future. But now is the time to offer nothing more than a few snippets for reflection. Here are just a handful of the many, many quotable lines from the interview. Words that will no doubt inspire and challenge many. Words that I read with awe and a sense that the Holy Spirit is indeed at work in the world!

  • “Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff…I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”
  • “Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what has happened to me in recent months. Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.”
  • “My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions [as a Jesuit Provincial] led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.
  • “The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God.”
  • “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.”
  • “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”
  • “Religious men and women are prophets…They are those who have chosen a following of Jesus that imitates his life in obedience to the Father, poverty, community life and chastity.”
  • “We must walk united with our differences: there is no other way to become one. This is the way of Jesus.”
  • “Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church…The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”
  • “I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day.”
  • “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Photo: File

Something About Mary: The Assumption

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 15, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

virgin4603 MaryThe Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary is sort of an odd feast.  Which is ok.  The reason it seems so odd is that the purpose or point of the doctrine is not usually understood (just like the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is often misunderstood and commonly confused with the Virgin Birth).  So what’s the deal with the Assumption?

Basically, it’s a commemoration of the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, and her bodily entrance into heaven.  The official promulgation of the dogma reads: “Having completed the course of her earthly life, [Mary] was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Munificentissimus Deus, 1950).

The oddity comes in the interpretation of that dogmatic statement.  What does that mean?  Here is where things become tricky.  Some people will want to know about spatiality of “heaven” and “where” is it located (where is it that Mary went?).  Others will be concerned about the meaning of the resurrection and what constitutes a “glorified body.”  Theologians are generally agreed that heaven, as such, is not a place like Boston is a place or my doctor’s office is a place.  So, then, what does this dogma mean for us?  Is it just a ruse?

No.  I think that it’s important to recall that anytime there is a doctrinal statement about Mary, it’s always a reference about Christ (sometimes a more oblique reference than we might like).  Like the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary into Glory is a statement about hope.  Hope for heavenly reward and the glorification of all people, but also hope in the saving power of God.

Mary has the distinct honor of being considered the first for many things.  The Immaculate Conception signifies the power of God’s gracious forgiveness of the human condition of sin.  Often times we call it “original sin.”  This was accomplished, that dogma states, through the redemptive power of Christ Jesus.  Think of it as sort of retroactive – even before the birth of Jesus, God through the power of the Spirit “baptized” Mary.

In the case of the Assumption of Mary, we have another first.  Whereas the Immaculate Conception represents the first of human redemption, the Assumption represents the first of human glorification.  By first, I don’t mean something like “first in line.”  Rather, first as in the model or icon of the whole event.  Mary is seen as like the poster child of God’s grace and love of creation.  Why Mary?  There is no entirely satisfactory answer to that question.  But there is one big clue and it is her response of “yes” to the will of God.  I think that her openness to God and her understanding of what God is about is captured very well in today’s Gospel, where we hear proclaimed the canticle Mary says in response to her cousin’s recognition of God’s work in her.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:39-56)

This post originally appeared on on 15 August 2010.

Photo: Stock

A Cosmic View of Easter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 3, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

earth_sun_spaceIn an Easter reflection titled, “A Faith that Loves the Earth,” Karl Rahner highlighted some of the ways that the Resurrection is significant for the entirety of creation. Like Sts. Paul and Irenaeus before him, Rahner had a rich notion of salvation as the recapitulation of the whole world or, put another way, all of creation’s return back to God. Rahner does a number of interesting things in this meditation, including recalling what it means to be ha-adamah — created “from the earth” — as the Book of Genesis reminds us, understanding the centrality of death in the pilgrimage of life, and the importance of remembering that Easter isn’t just about humanity. Here are just a few snippets of what he has to say on these few themes.

On Being Creatures

“We are children of this earth. Birth and death, body and earth, bread and wine are our life; and the earth is our homeland…We are of the earth. We can become disloyal to it because of our stubbornness or self-aggrandizement, which would not be proper for the children of this humble, serious Mother Earth; or we can be loyal because, after all, we have to be who we are, meaning that we are united with earth’s secret pain, which we feel deep inside our own being.”

On the Significance of Christ’s Death

“He who is both the son of God and a human being has died … The one who has died is, therefore, both the son of God’s perfected nature and the child of earth’s poverty … We may say that he died, but we need to add immediately that he also descended to the dead and rose. We need to add this in order to free his death from overtones of fleeing the world, overtones that we are inclined to add. Jesus himself said that we would descend into the heart of the earth (Mt 12:40), namely to the heart of all earthly things, where everything is interconnected and one, to the seat of death and earth’s impermanence … Especially because he died, he belongs to the earth, for putting someone’s body into earth’s grave means that the person (or the soul, as we would say) who has died enters not only into relationship with God but also into that final union with the mysterious ground of being, where all space-time elements are tied together and have their point of origin … He is risen in order to reveal that by his death there remains forever implanted into earth’s narrowness and pain, within her heart, the life of freedom and blessedness.”

On the Cosmic View of Easter

“[Christ] also has to burst open the grave of our heart, to rise from the center of being where he is the power and the promise. There he is still in the process of doing this.  There it is still Holy Saturday until the last day, which will be the day of Easter for the entire cosmos. Such a resurrection happens in the freedom of our faith.  Even there it is his deed.  But it is his deed occurring as ours: as loving faith that allows us to be brought along on this unimaginable journey of all earthly reality headed toward its own glory, a journey that started with the resurrection of Christ.”

Photo: Stock

A Nobel Peace Prize Won Last Term, A Hope That It Can Be Earned This Term

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This morning I celebrated mass for the religious community in which I live. I am on the schedule as the presider every wednesday, but this particular wednesday brought me back to another early morning liturgy four years ago. While living in Washington, DC, during my Franciscan formation and theology and ministry studies, I happened — by chance — to be assigned to preach at the morning mass the morning after the last election. I remember the headlines of the newspapers, not just in the US, but internationally. Back in 2008 my German was a lot less rusty than it is today and I tried to keep up with at least one paper, in this case, Süddeutsche Zeitung. I recall the big, bold headline that morning after the election: “America — Rises from the Ashes.” The international community celebrated the hope and the promise that came with the election of Barack Obama in the United States. The world was worn and weary after eight years of the Bush administration’s policies, particularly abroad, and billions of the the world’s citizens looked to the US for what was to come.

The fervor and international enthusiasm led to President Obama’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. People were shocked, myself included. While I will readily admit that I too was enthusiastic about the possibilities that laid ahead, while realistic about the likely political battles that ensued (I did live in DC after all), I couldn’t believe that such a significant sign of typically lifelong achievement had been awarded so quickly. I was proud of our president, but more heartened by what I took this symbolic move to mean for the rest of the world.

And then reality set in. Two very painful, violent, and — at least in one case, if not in two — frivolous wars carried on. Mechanisms for injustice — Guantanamo Bay, international detention centers, etc. — remained in status quo; environmental concerns were left unaddressed in any significant way; and drone attacks broadened our violent imperialism internationally.

What had been the international signal of hope and peace, epitomized by the Nobel Prize, became something of an embarrassment, something that could not really be explained or justified.

Granted, the stakes were high and the absolute disregard for dialogue, progress, collaboration, and bipartisanship on the part of the Republicans in Congress, symbolized by Mitch McConnell’s now famous declaration that the GOP’s primary goal would be to make sure President Obama wasn’t reelected (its goal was not the American people by his own omission), certainly explains some of the roadblocks to achieving even more than the very important and valuable health-care reform, repealing of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the financial actions that prevented a reliving of the early 1930s. Nevertheless, President Obama and his administration need to take their share of responsibility for inaction, lack of serious engagement domestically and internationally in peacemaking and climate change, and the implementation of more domestic policies that would guarantee the rights of all people.

As a Franciscan friar, I am particularly haunted by the specter of the Nobel. Violence may be our biggest concern right now. Some will cry “abortion, abortion,” but as legal scholars and moral theologians have replied until they are hoarse and frustrated, the President of the United States has almost no ability to directly or, perhaps with a few very removed exceptions such as court appointments, event indirectly affect that law and effect the change for which anti-abortion protestors clamor. What the President does have absolute control over are executive orders that authorize drone attacks over seas, the covert engagement of elite military attacks that proceed with impunity, and other policies that directly affect domestic concerns of justice and civil rights.

At the beginning of this next term, the admitted last political office the President will pursue, I have some recommendations, perhaps more appropriately admonitions, to offer. These have everything to do with the Nobel Prize won in the last term, it is my hope that in the following four years it might be genuinely earned.

  • End the Drone Strikes — This is one of the worst scars that mar the international and moral face of the United States today. The ethical complexity of these attacks goes without enough consideration and we should end this sort of violent imperialism.
  • Seriously Address Climate Change — In the wake of Hurricane (“superstorm”) Sandy, there is no better time than the present to use the position of the President of the United States to take the lead at home and abroad in addressing the way in which our Sister Mother Earth (as St. Francis would say) is being destroyed and, in turn, is becoming increasingly in habitable for humanity and the rest of creation.
  • Move Beyond Tax-Code Solutions — Yes, the wealthy must pay their fair share, which includes changing the policies that allow the sinful loopholes that allow people who make money simply by having a lot of money to pay unjustly low rates. However, there are other ways this country needs to get its act together in terms of establishing a more equitable and egalitarian society. Can we have a new FDR-like movement? Can we shift the “anti-government at all costs” rhetoric so popular today to remember what it means to be part of a society that is not filled with individuals, but celebrates our interdependence?
  • Put the Poor First — This really follows the previous point and is as self-explanatory as possible. When you have to make a decision, don’t be concerned with what the wealthy, the corporations (which are not people, but juridic fictions), the other politicians, and the plutocrats will think or react — look at your office through the lens of the most disenfranchised, poor, and marginalized. Use your power for good and not the evil that comes with supporting those who benefit from the demise of the populous, which, by the way, is how most politicians in recent history act. Be the change that you encouraged us to believe in!
  • Education, Education, Education — By which I do not mean more standardized tests nor hedgehog policies for science and math alone. We need a citizenry that can think and, as an educator and one who moves in such circles, I can assure you that we are not, as a nation, training our young people to think today. We are training them to be mechanical reproducers of a limited pool of information. Education is both an ethical issue and a concern for national security; let’s treat it appropriately!
  • Don’t Be Afraid, You Have Nothing To Lose Now — Take strength in accomplishing and inaugurating what requires courage and conviction. You have four more years to do what you intimated that you could: so do it! Don’t let this term turn into the worthless second term of President Bush or the fiasco of sideshow politics in the second term of President Clinton. You are in a unique place, at a unique time, in a dire circumstance to make things happen — if only through authentic and inspiring encouragement and empowering of the people.

These are simply a few of the many things I would tell President Obama if, in some alternative universe, he would seek out my opinion. I am hopeful still, but then again I am a Christian and, as such, I live in Easter Hope. I believe President Obama was the right person for this office in this election, but only insofar as he is able to use these four years in ways resembling what I name here. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

Photo: Pool

Fear is Not the Answer, It is the Problem

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This morning I noticed a very troubling news headline streaming across the banner on CNN. It announced that a certain presidential candidate had said that the world was not a safe place during a requisite Memorial Day speech he delivered. On the surface the statement is somewhat true. Yes, the world is not a safe place in the sense that our frail humanity is subject to all sorts of physical and other forms of inconvenience, injury or threat. Yet, this sort of observation goes without saying and the general sense in which it is true was clearly not the context nor informative aim intended by this politician.

Instead, what we have is yet another instance of someone seeking power and control contributing to an environment of fear and insecurity. It is, in a rather literal sense, a move that is “anti-Christian,” for Jesus came to bring peace and is remembered to have told his followers “do not be afraid.” That politicians in the United States, or anywhere for that matter, draw on fear to motivate their constituents to vote for them is an exercise of the worst sort of manipulation and abuse.

We are all too aware of the logical dangers in life about which we should be concerned: health matters, physical dangers, climate crises, and the like. To exaggerate and hype the specter of insecurity is something that Christians should stand up and reject outright.

We are supposed to be people of hope, love and reconciliation. We are not people of fear and insecurity, frightfully worried about specters of concern fabricated for political advantage. We are Gospel people, people of “Good news,” that fear and even death do not have the last word. Quite the opposite. Life in the resurrection wins out and we should not be afraid!

In an age where the rhetoric of state and terror saturates all national political debates, we must remind ourselves of who we are and in whom we place our trust. Let us do our best to resist the temptation to become afraid, but instead serve our communities and the world as prophets of hope and light.

Fear is not the answer, it is the problem.

Photo: Stock

Scripture for 9/11: Forgive, Forgive, Forgive!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Yesterday I wrote about how sometimes words are not enough, but perhaps I should have qualified my statement, saying instead that hunan words are sometimes not enough. God’s Word is another story.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, many all across the world were asking “where is God?” and in the years that followed equally as many struggled with what the morally just response might look like. Today’s scripture provides us with a startling and powerfully appropriate set of readings that help illustrate what a response might look like to that question.

It is completely coincidental, so it might first seem, that the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 would fall on a Sunday and that these readings, which because today happens to be a Sunday in Ordinary time, appear once every three years so happen to fit today perfectly. God does answer our prayers, concerns and questions — just not always as we might want, and just not always as quickly.

The readings for today, which come to us from the book of Sirach (also known as the Wisdom of ben Sirah), Romans and the Gospel of Matthew, speak directly to our situation as survivors and mourners of a tragedy that so deeply affected our communities, nation and world ten years ago and since. The Scripture given to us today may difficult for some to hear, especially amid the noise of suffering and the drone of pain. But we must hear it nonetheless.

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults. (Sirach 27:30 – 28:7)

From the opening words, “Wrath and anger are hateful things,” to the closing, “…hate not your neighbor,” we are reminded of what it means to be called the Body of Christ and to bear the name of the one who gave His life for the life of the world. There is nothing more that needs to be said that the wisdom of the Hebrew Scriptures, of a community’s covenantal relationship with its Creator, reveals to us in the first reading.

It speaks for itself, and it speaks to us.

In what is an unusual consistency, St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans also speaks to our hearts today, continuing the theme of remembrance and response. Paul’s words are words of comfort and edification, reminding his audience that it is because of what Christ has done for us in His life, death and resurrection, that we have hope and the dead are not lost.

Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For this is why Christ died and came to life,
that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (Romans 14:7-9)

The Gospel really challenges us today. The words of Jesus ring out like the clearest bell sounding a call to action, a call to peace, a call to prayer that is so much easier to hear, with its beautiful tonal quality, than it is to live, with its demand that we move beyond ourselves to live as those created in God’s image and likeness.

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

What follows is Jesus’s very concrete illustration of what this means in practical, daily terms, as he tells the story of a King and an ungrateful servant. The servant is forgiven his debt, but goes and unjustly holds another accountable for a far more insignificant debt. The king, gracious in his forgiveness, sees what the ungrateful servant has done and punishes him severely.

Jesus warns that we are in the place of the servant, we have been forgiven so very much by God each and every day. It is now our turn to forgive others, as impossible as that might seem at times.

The message for the community of faith today is clear: forgive, forgive, forgive! We can take comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul, knowing that those we pause to remember today who have passed from this life to the next are with Christ and await us someday in hope. But we must also listen to Sirach and Jesus, as we know deep within, that who we are as human beings, and especially as Christians, will be revealed in how we respond to the call to forgive.

Photo: Pool

A Merton Prayer for a Rainy Lenten Morning

Posted in Thomas Merton, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 12, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

On this overcast, rainy morning, as we approach the end of Lent, I thought it would be nice to share this prayer by Thomas Merton.

On this gray morning, when the birds sing in the rain, I proclaim that there is a sad note to our spring. We lift up our eyes to You in heaven, O God of eternity, wishing we were poorer, more silent and more mortified. Lord, give us liberty from all things that are in this world, from the preoccupations of earth and time, that we may be called to cleanness where the saints are, the gold and silver saints before Your throne.

In other news, this evening I will be in Utica, NY, for the celebration of my youngest brother’s Confirmation. Please keep him, his fellow confirmandi and the entire Body of Christ in your prayers. Peace and good!

Photo: Stock
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