VATICAN INSIDER IN HAWAII: THE AUGUSTINE EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (PART II)
Tune in to the interview segment for Part II of my conversation with Sue Ferandin, the vibrant and wonderfully caring executive director in Hawaii of AEF – the Augustine Educational Foundation – a foundation whose mission is to make Catholic education more affordable for families in Hawaii.
Sue and I met during my recent visit to Honolulu when Bishop Larry Silva invited me to attend the September 13 AEF donor appreciation reception. She was a speaker at this event, as was the bishop. I was enthralled by her words and her mission. I told Sue I’d love to have her as a guest on Vatican Insider to speak about AEF and her work. So here we are…..
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THREE U.S. BISHOPS, ONE AUSTRALIAN ADDRESS THE SYNOD CHALLENGES
ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. CAP of Philadelphia
Synod intervention on October 4: Comments on Instrumentum Laboris, Chapter IV, paragraphs 51-63:
I was elected to the synod’s permanent council three years ago. At the time, I was asked, along with other members, to suggest themes for this synod. My counsel then was to focus on Psalm 8. We all know the text: “When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?”
Who we are as creatures, what it means to be human, why we should imagine we have any special dignity at all – these are the chronic questions behind all our anxieties and conflicts. And the answer to all of them will not be found in ideologies or the social sciences, but only in the person of Jesus Christ, redeemer of man. Which of course means we need to understand, at the deepest level, why we need to be redeemed in the first place.
If we lack the confidence to preach Jesus Christ without hesitation or excuses to every generation, especially to the young, then the Church is just another purveyor of ethical pieties the world doesn’t need.
In this light, I read Chapter IV of the instrumentum, grafs 51-63, with keen interest. The chapter does a good job of describing the anthropological and cultural challenges facing our young people. In fact, describing today’s problems, and noting the need to accompany young people as they face those problems, are strengths of the instrumentum overall.
But I believe graf 51 is misleading when it speaks of young people as the “watchmen and seismographs of every age.” This is false flattery, and it masks a loss of adult trust in the continuing beauty and power of the beliefs we have received.
In reality, young people are too often products of the age, shaped in part by the words, the love, the confidence, and the witness of their parents and teachers, but more profoundly today by a culture that is both deeply appealing and essentially atheist.
The elders of the faith community have the task of passing the truth of the Gospel from age to age, undamaged by compromise or deformation. Yet too often my generation of leaders, in our families and in the Church, has abdicated that responsibility out of a combination of ignorance, cowardice and laziness in forming young people to carry the faith into the future. Shaping young lives is hard work in the face of a hostile culture.
The clergy sexual abuse crisis is precisely a result of the self-indulgence and confusion introduced into the Church in my lifetime, even among those tasked with teaching and leading. And minors – our young people – have paid the price for it.
Finally, what the Church holds to be true about human sexuality is not a stumbling block. It is the only real path to joy and wholeness. There is no such thing as an “LGBTQ Catholic” or a “transgender Catholic” or a “heterosexual Catholic,” as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ.
This has never been true in the life of the Church, and is not true now. It follows that “LGBTQ” and similar language should not be used in Church documents, because using it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the Church simply doesn’t categorize people that way.
Explaining why Catholic teaching about human sexuality is true, and why it’s ennobling and merciful, seems crucial to any discussion of anthropological issues. Yet it’s regrettably missing from this chapter and this document. I hope revisions by the Synod Fathers can address that.
BISHOP ROBERT BARRON. Auxiliary of Los Angeles
From his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BishopRobertBarron/
Thursday, October 4, Bishop Barron offered the following intervention at the Vatican during the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. For more Synod content from Bishop Barron, visit WordFromRome.com, where you’ll find behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, commentaries, and more.
Jesus’ encounter with two erstwhile disciples on the road to Emmaus provides a beautiful template for the Church’s work of accompaniment across the ages. The Lord walks with the couple, even as they move away from Jerusalem, which is to say, spiritually speaking, in the wrong direction. He does not commence with a word of judgment, but rather with attention and quiet encouragement. Jesus continues to listen, even as they recount, accurately enough, all the data having to do with him. But then, knowing that they lack the interpretive pattern that will make sense of the data, he upbraids them (“Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”), and then he lays out the form (“beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”). He listens with love, and he speaks with force and clarity.
Innumerable surveys and studies over the past ten years have confirmed that young people frequently cite intellectual reasons when asked what has prompted them to leave the Church or lose confidence in it. Chief among these are the convictions that religion is opposed to science or that it cannot stand up to rational scrutiny, that its beliefs are outmoded, a holdover from a primitive time, that the Bible is unreliable, that religious belief gives rise to violence, and that God is a threat to human freedom. I can verify, on the basis of twenty years of ministry in the field of online evangelization, that these concerns are crucial stumbling blocks to the acceptance of the faith among young people.
What is vitally needed today, as an aspect of the accompaniment of the young, is a renewed apologetics and catechesis. I realize that in some circles within the Church, the term apologetics is suspect, since it seems to indicate something rationalistic, aggressive, condescending. I hope it is clear that arrogant proselytizing has no place in our pastoral outreach, but I hope it is equally clear that an intelligent, respectful, and culturally-sensitive explication of the faith (“giving a reason for the hope that is within us”) is certainly a desideratum. There is a consensus among pastoral people that, at least in the West, we have experienced a crisis in catechesis these last fifty years. That the faith has not been effectively communicated was verified by the most recent Religious Landscape Study, from the Pew Research Center in America. It indicated that, among the major religions, Catholicism was second to last in passing on its traditions. Why has it been the case, over the past several decades, that young people in our own Catholic secondary schools have read Shakespeare in literature class, Homer in Latin class, Einstein in physics class, but, far too often, superficial texts in religion? The army of our young who claim that religion is irrational is a bitter fruit of this failure in education.
Therefore, what would a new apologetics look like? First, it would arise from the questions that young people spontaneously ask. It would not be imposed from above but would rather emerge organically from below, a response to the yearning of the mind and the heart. Here it would take a cue from the method of St. Thomas Aquinas. The austere texts of the great theological master in point of fact emerged from the lively give-and-take of the quaestiones disputatae that stood at the heart of the educational process in the medieval university. Thomas was deeply interested in what young people were really asking. So should we.
Secondly, a new apologetics should look deep and long into the question of the relationship between religion and science. For many people today, scientific and rational are simply equivalent or co-extensive terms. And therefore, since religion is obviously not science, it must be irrational. Without for a moment denigrating the sciences, we have to show that there are non-scientific and yet eminently rational paths that conduce toward knowledge of the real. Literature, drama, philosophy, the fine arts—all close cousins of religion—not only entertain and delight; they also bear truths that are unavailable in any other way. A renewed apologetics ought to cultivate these approaches.
Thirdly, our apologetics and catechesis should walk the via pulchritudinis, as Pope Francis characterized it in Evangelii Gaudium. Especially in our post-modern cultural context, commencing with the true and the good—what to believe and how to behave—is often counter-indicated, since the ideology of self-invention is so firmly established. However, the third transcendental, the beautiful, often proves a more winsome, less threatening, path. And part of the genius of Catholicism is that we have so consistently embraced the beautiful—in song, poetry, architecture, painting, sculpture, and liturgy. All of this provides a powerful matrix for evangelization. And as Hans Urs von Balthasar argued, the most compelling beauty of all is that of the saints. I have found a good deal of evangelical traction in presenting the lives of these great friends of God, somewhat in the manner of a baseball coach who draws young adepts into the game by showing them the play of some of its greatest practitioners.
When Jesus explained himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, their hearts began to burn within them. The Church must walk with young people, listen to them with attention and love, and then be ready intelligently to give a reason for the hope that is within us. This, I trust, will set the hearts of the young on fire.
BISHOP FRANK J. CAGGIANO of Bridgeport – From his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BishopCaggiano/
My friends, yesterday I gave my intervention at the Synod2018. I would like to share it with you now:
Holy Father, my brother bishops and my sisters and brothers in the Lord, allow me to share two points that weigh on my heart as we begin this synodal journey.
Reflecting upon paragraphs 59-60, the first is the need for the Church to continue to directly address the issue of the sexual abuse of minors and youth by clerics in many regions of the world (#50). It is a both a crime and a sin that has undermined the confidence and trust that young people must have in the Church’s leaders and the Church as an institution, so that they may again trust their priests and bishops to exercise true spiritual fatherhood (#12), serve as adult figures in their lives (#79) and as authentic mentors of faith (#120, 130-132). The Instrumentum Laboris speaks insightfully of young people’s growing disaffection with civil and social institutions (#59-60) and their desire to address issues of discrimination (#48) and exploitation (#44). Building upon this, we must continue to face courageously and honestly the betrayal of young people by clerics to whom they were entrusted. This sin must never again be found in our midst. Only in this way can the youth of the world believe our synodal call to offer them reassurance, comfort, hope, and belonging.
Reflecting upon paragraphs 34-35, the second issue involves the role that technology now plays in the development of young people. The Instrumentum Laboris rightly identified the key phenomenon that visual images play as the prime medium through which young people understand reality (#38). However, it does not fully explore, nor take advantage of the formative power that technology now exercises upon the full development of young people. For example, the document notes that music and the arts are powerful ways to open up spaces of interiority among young people that the written word may not do as effectively (#36). Young people are more apt to seek creative solutions and collaborate with a variety of relationships (#154). This shift is as much determined by physiology as it is by culture or theology. I urge the Synod to seek ways to investigate further these fundamental changes now experienced by young people so that the pastoral initiatives we embrace can be as comprehensive as possible.
Allow me to conclude by offering one concrete way towards achieving this goal. It was Saint Thomas Aquinas who taught that the human person can encounter God by three privileged paths: truth, beauty and goodness. In terms of technology’s formative influence on young people, I would respectfully suggest that it is the path of beauty that must be better explored for the sake of evangelization and catechesis. In my experience with young people, the questions that haunt them are not simply intellectual ones. They are first and foremost affective questions (i.e., “questions of the heart”), that ask about their self-worth, the reasonableness of hope, the ability to commit to another and to be loved in return. We must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel (#162). Let us offer the sacred liturgy as a celebration of the beautiful, the transcendent, with an engagement of the affective senses (#187). Let us work to capture the heart of all believers to encounter a God who does not promise a sterile but a life that is itself beautiful, rich in meaning, that invites one’s heart to dare to believe that this earthly life is worth living and worth fighting for in light of an eternal life where the restlessness of the heart will find its final rest in the salvation that alone comes from Christ Jesus the Lord.
ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY FISHER, OP, of Sydney, Australia:
A photo from his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/anthonyfisherop/
Just a couple of days in to #Synod2018, and I’ve been given a job to do. Yesterday, I was elected to the Information Commission for the Synod on Youth, as representative of Oceania. It will be our role to establish criteria and methods for disseminating news coming out of the Synod. We got to work immediately, having our first meeting yesterday afternoon. (Photo: Alessandro Gisotti)
Also from his Facebook page: This is the full text of the Intervention given by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on 4 October at the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops:
Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.
Today in the presence of the Holy Father and amidst my brother bishops, I want to say sorry to young people for all the ways we’ve failed them.
For the shameful deeds of some priests, religious and lay people, perpetrated upon you or other young people just like you, and the terrible damage that has done; and for the failure of too many bishops and others to respond appropriately when abuse was identified, and to do all in their power to keep you safe and for the damage thus done to the Church’s credibility and to your trust: I apologise.
For the times Catholic families, parishes and schools have failed to introduce you to the person of Jesus Christ, his saving word, and his plan for your life; and for the times we’ve seemed to you unwelcoming, distant or harsh, or have not demonstrated the sheer joy of being Christians; and for the times when you were searching for your sexual, ethnic or spiritual identity, and needed a moral compass, but found Church people unsympathetic or ambiguous: I apologise.
For when we’ve sold you short not encouraging you to live heroically your baptismal call to holiness and the paschal path to life through self-renunciation; or when we’ve provided too little youth ministry or other support, so you’ve found living as a young person of faith and ideals lonely in a secular, often cynical world; or when unbeautiful or unwelcoming liturgies have failed to inspire or include you, and when you’ve been denied the Church’s treasury of examination of conscience, reconciliation, adoration, pilgrimages, penances and devotions: I apologise.
For poor preaching, catechesis or spiritual direction that fails to convert, and for lack of imagination or enthusiasm for that new evangelisation to which the recent popes have called us; and for our failures to demonstrate God’s mercy, as Pope Francis has insisted we must, and to involve you in campaigns for justice and in works of mercy; and for families, dioceses and religious orders that with a contraceptive mentality have given up on generating new vocations and so have not nurtured yours: I apologise.
To any young person we have let down in these or other ways: from the bottom of my heart I apologise to you. And to the Lord I pray: Kyrie eleison.
But I say to young people also: never give up on Jesus because of our failures. Never give up on the Church that you can help make more faithful. Never give up on the world that, with Christ and the Church’s help, you can make a better place.
In Jesus Christ, the Ancient of Days is made young – for you. The Creator of this beautiful universe comes close to your life to save you. He calls you to ‘come, follow’ him and become his young disciple. He sends you out as a missionary to our world. You can be a hero, for nothing is so exciting as the adventure of the Gospel!
So: when you are lost and need direction, know that the young Jesus is the eternal Way for you! When you are confused and need sound teaching, know that the young Jesus is the eternal Truth for you! When you are searching for the vocation that will most fulfil you, know that the young Jesus is eternal Life for you!
In the presence of the Holy Father and amidst my brother bishops, I recommit myself to young people and to drawing them closer to Christ who is always there for them.