Tag Archives: human rights

St. Procopius of Gaza

St. Procopius of Gaza (yes, that Gaza,  a thriving Christian center when that saint wrote) says that Christ has “as his dwelling-place, the whole world in which he lives by his activity.”  It’s not one place, or one time where he dwells, but the whole world and all time. He dwells in Gaza too.

We are all made in his image “which is partly seen and partly hidden from our eyes.” We’re called to grow in Christ’s image, the saint says, by the gifts we have been given through his Spirit. No place should be without human flourishing.

Its not a spiritual growth alone we’re called to achieve, but our growth comes from discovering God’s will as it is “revealed in the laws by which the entire creation is governed.”

So, St. Procopius, intercede for your land of Gaza today, so bereft of  basic things like food, shelter, schools, access to the world beyond. Help your people, made in God’s image, to grow according to God’s will. Help them have what’s due to them according to their human rights.

Let’s Look at the Saints

This morning, the last day of our mission here at St. Charles Borromeo, the school children were at the 8.30 Mass and participated beautifully in the liturgy. I spoke about St. Josephine Bakhita who was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a 7 year old girl in the Sudan, in Africa, around the year 1876.

She worked around the kitchen, cleaned the house and took care of the younger children of her African slave owners. Later, she was bought from them by a European family living in Africa then, and did the same things for them.

The family moved to Italy and brought Bakhita with them. One of her tasks was to take a younger child of the family to a Catholic school, where he became acquainted with the Daughters of Charity, the religious women who taught there.

When the family decided to return to Africa, Bakhita refused to go. The sisters and others made her aware that she didn’t belong to that family. She was a daughter of God who had rights of her own. In fact, Italian law forbade slavery.

Bakhita was freed and took the name Josephine. She was so impressed with the sisters that she joined their community.  She died in Italy in 1947 and was canonized a saint in 2000.

I told the children and others there at Mass that our church upholds human rights. We want all people to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Jesus came that people should be free.

Wonderful story to tell children. There should be no slaves in our world. Our church has been given a mission by Jesus: that all have rights to be free, to have a place to live, a family, food, medical care.

St. Josephine lived a holy life till she died. St. Josephine pray for us and help all those who are enslaved. Help us work for human rights.

Words Can Kill

In today’s gospel Jesus seems to almost equate anger and harsh words with murder. They’re liable to judgment, he says.

Does that exaggerate the damage words can cause? If you think about it, angry words can just about destroy someone.  Killing someone’s spirit, taking away someone’s reputation may not draw a jail sentence here on earth, but God sees the harm that’s done. Sometimes, so do we.

Murder takes away physical life; we also need to respect another kind of life that people have. “Respect” is a wonderful word. It means “to look again” in Latin, to look again at someone and see a value we may have denied or missed, to constantly reassess how we judge another. Jesus tells us to do this as we come before God’s altar to offer our gift. It’s one of the reasons behind the sign of peace we offer our neighbor at Mass. It’s a sign of respect.

As we look honestly and respectfully at others, we also have to look honestly at ourselves. Respect is a form of love, St. Paul of the Cross writes. It’s “love toward your neighbor, putting up with the faults of others, looking at all with charity and compassion, having a good opinion of everyone and a bad opinion only of yourself. A simple eye lets you see your neighbor as full of virtues and yourself full of vices, but without discouragement, peacefully, humbly.” (Letter 525)


make me an instrument of your peace,

bringing life and hope to others, not death.


The Petrine Ministry

DSC00242One of the best known statues of Peter the Apostle is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The apostle, seated on a chair, has his hand raised, not just in blessing but to make a point. He’s teaching the church.

The popes continue the teaching ministry of Peter and one way they do it is through encyclicals, letters sent to bishops and people throughout the world. On June 29, 2009, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI issued Caritas in Veritate, an encyclical on socials issues affecting our world today.

It took me a week to read through it and I can’t say I’ve grasped it all, but I’ll be back to it.

If you read this extensive, densely packaged work, remember that the word “encyclical” is close to the word “encyclopedia.” Our world isn’t simple, it’s big and complex, and the pope–certainly helped by advisors– tries to analyze it and provide a vision for living in it.

It’s a lot to digest. The letter is a long banquet table, not a quick snack for one gulp.

But that’s the challenge I like about it. Love, the gift we have from God, calls us to look at big things and be engaged in them. We tend to consider love mostly in interpersonal dimensions, but the letter speaks of a love that reaches into the mystery of God and enrolls us in work at building our earthly city.

It’s not a letter of pat answers but of many questions which arise from the reality of the world we live in now. A love based in truth calls us to think about the world as it is and creatively work for its good.

It’s about the development of the human being, the whole human being and all human beings. As Christians we’re charged to work for this development, which has now taken on new global dimensions through the advance of technology.

Politically, it calls for international structures more responsive to the situation of a global society and technological advances. The stumbling G 8 meeting just concluded in Italy is evidence of the need. Hard to believe for some, but nation states alone are not the answer.

It urges the human family to respect the rights of the natural world, which must be part of the development of an earthly city. It warns against untrammeled technological advances that don’t take into account human rights, the rights of creation, as well as the divine law. It recognizes greed and lack of oversight behind the present world financial crisis.

The pope’s encyclical is not a view from a small cloistered world.

There’s a consciousness in the encyclical that weariness and loss of hope can stop our efforts to engage our world as it is, but love refuses to be conquered. It endures. Importantly, our efforts are not simple human efforts:

“Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God’s love. Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace.” (79)