Last Saturday October 16th marked the 26th anniversary of the papacy of Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II. It is interesting that so many of our younger people have only known one pope in the history of the Church through their experience, that is Pope John Paul II. Twenty-six years is a long time and the Holy Father has focused on many themes during his years of service to the servants of God. Let me focus on two of those themes.
Holy Father calls us to be saints
It is clear that more of our brothers and sisters in the faith have been raised to the great dignity of sainthood than one might have expected given the history of this practice in our Church. Young men and women, senior citizens, married couples, priests, religious, all are represented among those raised to this highest of honors. The Holy Father's point is that it is not so highly unusual to live a saintly life. Far more people have done it than one might expect.
The Holy Father's point is that to know Christ risen from the dead who changes our lives, changes us by giving us the grace to be heroic as Catholic Christians. To know Christ and to be changed by him can never lead to a mediocre outcome. The level of the heroic even including martyrdom, that greatest witness to the faith, is the level at which those who really know Christ and allow Him to change them live their lives on a daily basis.
If all the followers of Christ really allowed themselves to be so transformed, our Church would have a much more powerful effect in changing our world and purifying our culture than She does at present. All of us are called to be saints, to be heroic in the way we live - no one who has met Jesus Christ really can settle for mediocrity. And thus we thank the Holy Father at the time of his anniversary for calling us to be a holier Church, one filled with an abundance of saints.
Reason leads us to natural law
Secondly, Our Holy Father has frequently written and spoken to us in a way that reflects the great blessing which is our human reason. For example, when husband and wife come together in the bond of love, body, and soul, if the Lord so chooses He creates new human life. The fruit of the union of man and woman from the moment of conception is a unique individual of the human species - this we know from biology, apart from faith. A unique individual of the human species is a human being, at that point the most weak, defenseless, and innocent among all human beings, and thus the human being who merits the greatest protection.
The Second Vatican Council called abortion an abominable crime precisely because it brings the death sentence to the most innocent, defenseless, and weak among us. So for us as Catholics, the conviction that abortion is wrong is not in the first place an article of faith. Given what we know about the newly conceived from biology, the killing of that human being could never be seen as acceptable. This is an argument of reason precisely in the sense of what our Catholic tradition has called natural law. Natural law contains convictions of reason which all people of good will, Catholic or not, are called to accept because all people, Catholic or not, have received from the Creator the gift of reason. Reason leads us to the conclusions of the natural law which are not in the first place an article of faith.
Similarly the reflection of reason on the human person leads to the conclusion that marriage means one man, one woman, one lifetime with openness to children. The very configuration of the human body of male and female as well as the common good of our society lead to this conclusion, which in the first place again is not an article of faith.
Thus when we proclaim our conviction that abortion is wrong for all people, this can never be seen as forcing an article of the Catholic faith on those who are not Catholic. Rather this proclamation of ours invites all people of good will to be true to themselves as endowed with reason. Similarly when we proclaim the meaning of marriage in the sense noted above, we are not forcing an article of the Catholic faith on those who are not Catholics - rather we are inviting them to follow the path of human reason.
Natural law is foundation of civil law
Natural law is the foundation of civil law which has its foundation in the natural law and can maintain an internal consistency only through accountability to the natural law. Civil laws which are not anchored in the truth of the natural law become unjust (such as legalization of abortion) and inconsistent. When one sees abortion as a constitutional right, one is claiming a constitutional right to reject the conclusions of human reason. The blessed gift of reason has been a focal theme of Our Holy Father and a much needed one.
In our country and in our culture, the notion of the natural law is basically rejected because our country and our culture see no place for objective truth. "You have your truths and I have mine; you have your reasoning process and I have mine."
The notion that truth and the claims of reason are privatized and individualized leads us to profound isolation and individualism. And thus we see in the current pre-election climate the division within our country which really cannot be argued because there is no agreed upon objective foundation of reason with which to argue.
Differing political camps even spin their own version of the facts from which any argument would begin, so that it is not possible to come to agreement either on the basis of objective argumentation or objective fact. Thus the quandary of many voters: "I didn't know for whom I will vote - they just keep insisting that the other one is wrong!" - That is, no solid argumentation based on facts that are not "spun" is available, period!
Discovering, speaking objective truth
The reasoning mind is meant for discovering the truth and the gift of speech is meant for speaking the objective truth. When objective truth and an objective notion of reason are abandoned, our very humanness can likewise be abandoned, thus the freedom to choose to kill the innocent, defenseless, pre-born.
Abandonment of objective truth and objective reason is the abandonment of our humanness - a focal theme of Pope John Paul II and truly necessary and precious medicine for some of our current cultural sickness. And so 26 years later we are blessed to say once again to Our Holy Father, "We love you and we promise you our faithful obedience. We pray that the Lord will sustain your spiritual and physical energy as you continue to guide the Lord's Church. You are Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth. We are so grateful for the sacrifices that you have made and continue to make as you lead us as Christ's Vicar. God grant you many happy and blessed years!"
Thank you for reading this, and God bless each one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!
World Mission Sunday Collection
Dear Friends in Christ:
October 24 is World Mission Sunday. As part of its celebration we annually have the opportunity to contribute to the special collection that supports the ministry of missionaries around the world. The day is organized by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and, as described by Pope John Paul II, is "an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration, and for all the missions of the world."
The dual charge of Christ to his Church to carry the Gospel to the ends of the world and to love one another as he has loved us are joined in the missions. So often with meager resources, and too often at great personal risk, the public witness of missionaries that every person has value ought to be able to live with dignity deserve our admiration and prayerful support.
This collection assists priests, religious, and laity to reach out in loving help to needy children and elderly, refugees and the sick, and so many more. Your financial contributions also help make available the sacraments, religious formation, and education in areas of the world where the faith is rapidly growing.
You are a generous people. While these remain uncertain times, the missionary work of the Church needs our support. Also, pray for an end of violence against all peoples, and peaceful resolution to the difficult conflicts of the day.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Reverend Monsignor Paul J. Swain
Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
Phone: 608-821-3070 Fax: 608-821-3071 E-Mail: email@example.com