Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Prayer and Dialogue Bring Christians Together and Make us Better Catholics

By Julia McStravog

As a lay Catholic who grew up decades after the Second Vatican Council, my early experiences of church didn’t really include dialoging with other Christians. Dialogue was something done by academics, fueled by a spirit of “peace and love” in the years following the Council. Parish life, on the other hand, was and is a flurry of activity—catechesis, faith formation, focus on marriage and family—that leaves little time and energy toward nurturing fruitful relationships with our fellow Christians. After all, most people’s experience of church is restricted to Sunday mornings when, by default, we all worship separately with our respective faith communities.

This separation is especially unhelpful when the focus of so much catechesis is inward, on building a solid foundation for understanding the ins and outs of being Catholic. As Cardinal Bergoglio said only days before being elected Pope Francis, when the Church focuses inwardly, it “becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” Also, a frequently overlooked aspect of Catholic identity is that engagement with our fellow Christians is required in order to achieve unity. Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, issued 50 years ago this November, says that divisions among Christians “openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.”

While the U.S. Bishops engage in multiple dialogues with other Christians throughout the country, lay people play an essential role in dialogue and Christian unity. Our common baptism should motivate us to engage in ecumenical collaboration. Praying with fellow Christians is often a great entry point for connection, dialogue and relationship. It’s the “dialogue of religious experience.” Creating spiritual connections through common prayer breaks beyond surface level understanding, allowing us to embrace our fellow Christians and the spiritual riches of varying traditions.

In the words of Pope Francis, “Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.” Ecumenism is most important where it is most difficult. Fractured and divided communities need the spirit of ecumenical dialogue for healing and to lay a solid foundation of friendship. The universal work of the Holy Spirit guides Christians through prayer to the unifying presence of Christ.

As we look to the future of ecumenical engagement, it will be the bonds of local communities through lay involvement that drives the direction of dialogue. Catholics must realize that dialogue and Catholic identity mutually enrich one another. Dialogue and engagement lead us to catechize ourselves and become better Catholics as we communicate our faith experience to others. And a Catholic who is well catechized understands that dialogue and the pursuit of Christian unity are essential to who we are and to answering the prayer of Jesus in John’s Gospel, “that they all may be one.”

Julia McStravog is the program and research specialist for the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 30

1. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The bishops have said domestic violence has no place in relationships, there's a way to recognize it and to help.

2. In a letter to the National Security Council, USCCB International Justice and Peace Chairman Bishop Richard E. Pates and Dr. Carolyn Woo, President of Catholic Relief Services, welcome the expanded response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

3. Did you see Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI together this past weekend?

4. Respect Life Month also begins tomorrow and you can find many resources for life issues at USCCB.org.


5. God loves you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 29



1. Respect Life Month begins Wednesday. In the Respect Life Statement, Cardinal Sean O'Malley said, "Our mission is to show each person the love of Christ. As uniquely created individuals, we each have unique gifts which we are called to use to share Christ’s love. We are continually given opportunities to do so in our interactions with the cashier at the grocery store, our spouses, children, friends and even the people we encounter in traffic. Each of these moments is valuable beyond our realization. We may never know how much a simple gesture of compassion may affect someone’s life."

2. Bishop William Callahan, OFM Conv., of the Diocese of La Crosse talks about living the vows of a consecrated life--poverty, chastity and obedience.

3. The USCCB will host a media conference Oct. 1 at 10 a.m. for the kickoff of the Year of Consecrated Life. Representatives from the three national coalitions of religious orders, will present a set of initiatives that focus on bringing together consecrated religious men and women and families, particularly young adults.Watch it live.

4. Catholic News Service reports, "Pope Francis warned against the abandonment and neglect of the elderly, calling it a 'hidden euthanasia' rooted in today's 'poisonous' culture of disposal and an economic system of greed."

5. God loves you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 26


1. Have you installed the new Catholic News Service mobile app on your iOS or Android device? Use the app today for your chance to win The Simple Wisdom of Pope Francis collection. We'll select 20 winners at random on September 29th and you could be one of them!

2. In a letter to the National Security Council, USCCB International Justice and Peace Chairman Bishop Richard E. Pates and Dr. Carolyn Woo, President of Catholic Relief Services, welcome the expanded response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

3. Father John Crossin is now on Twitter, sharing thoughts on ecumenical outreach in the Catholic Church.

4. Bishop William Callahan, OFM Conv., of the Diocese of La Crosse talks about living the vows of a consecrated life--poverty, chastity and obedience.




5. God loves you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 24


1. Speaking at the United Nations, the Vatican's Secretary of State said Climate Change is a man-made issue that demands responsibility and action.

2. Baseball's postseason is next month, but Pope Francis got in the action a little early Wednesday.

3. October is National Respect Life Month. Find out why the Church protects life in all its stages.


4. Also, National Vocational Awareness Week is November 2-8

5. God loves you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 19



1. This weekend brings Catechetical Sunday, which will focus on the theme "Teaching About God's Gift of Forgiveness."

2. Catholic News Service says bishops are returning to the U.S. "after a nine-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a stronger resolve to advocate for peace and to urge the U.S. government to take a leadership role in ushering Israelis and Palestinians toward peace."

3. Pope Francis said the economy and social order must serve the human person.

4. Are you following Marriage: Unique for a Reason and For Your Marriage on Facebook?

5. God loves you.