'Created, loved, redeemed by God. Priceless!'
Most of us have heard the words in the credit card ads about what is "priceless." Yet there is something truly priceless that every single person can obtain. It doesn't cost a cent.
What is this "priceless" gift available to everyone? It is God's love.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote his first encyclical on that very topic. He chose this topic because he knows our world today has forgotten that the gift of God's love is available to all of us.
Distorted view of love. The Holy Father knew, too, that the world has a distorted view of love. It has trivialized love as portrayed in movies, TV shows, and books. A twisted view of love has been used to justify violence and murder in the name of God.
"In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant," says Pope Benedict in his introduction to Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love).
"For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others."
Inaugural address. Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Vatican agency Cor Unum, clarified the message of Pope Benedict's encyclical in his address at the Overture Center in Madison on September 19. Archbishop Cordes helped draft the start of the encyclical for Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict took up the topic and expanded upon it. Archbishop Cordes said the encyclical is a kind of blueprint for the new Holy Father's pontificate, like an "inaugural address."
Deus Caritas Est reminds us that "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn. 4:16). Pope Benedict quotes these words from the First Letter of John, saying that they express "the heart of the Christian faith." God created mankind out of love. Out of love he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to take on human form.
Jesus, in turn, told us to love our neighbor. Just as God has loved us, so we, too, must love others. This love should be shown in concrete ways, Pope Benedict tells us. We must serve the poor and those in need of consolation and assistance - always keeping in mind that our charitable work is sharing the love of Christ.
Respect for all life. As Catholics, we put the love of God and neighbor into practice in many ways. One of them is our work to uphold the value and dignity of all human life. Since 1972, the U.S. Catholic bishops have sponsored a Respect Life Program. This combines education, prayer, service, and advocacy on behalf of respect for all life.
The theme of this year's program - begun on Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 1 - is "Created, loved, redeemed by God. Priceless!" The program has packets of materials available for use in parishes and schools, including posters, fliers, and pamphlets. (Go to www.usccb.org for more information.)
The Catholic Herald will be publishing articles during October to highlight this theme. Articles will focus on such topics as stem-cell research, partial-birth abortion, the importance of marriage, the death penalty, and environmental concerns.
During this month Catholics might also consider reading Deus Caritas Est and reflecting on the precious gift of God's love - and how we can and should share that love with our neighbor in respecting all human life from womb to tomb.
Mary C. Uhler
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Expectations for cathedral
To the editor:
I've been observing and listening to the speculation, comments, and questions regarding the building of a new cathedral. I've heard the bishop and comments by people at the bishop's townhall meetings. There are a lot of good ideas about what and where a new cathedral should be, but I've come up with my own list of common sense expectations:
There will be a new cathedral in downtown Madison.
The cathedral will make a strong representation of the presence of the Church in this diocese.
The cathedral will be architecturally suitable for its location in this, our state capital.
The spire of the old cathedral will be the first "building block" of the new cathedral.
The new cathedral will likely stand for at least a century and so must have a design that will transcend the likely raising and rebuilding of much of downtown Madison.
The cathedral will inspire.
The cathedral will welcome all.
People will look forward to participating in the liturgies and the "big events" such as ordinations and Holy Week services.
The cathedral will be accessible to all.
In 50 years people will look at their cathedral and say that we did the right thing.
Everyone will make a significant financial contribution to the building of the cathedral, even though it may not be their parish.
The decision to build the cathedral, its eventual design, construction, and use will pull us together as a Catholic people, and not divide us.
John Francis, Madison