Advancing the Kingdom

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Advancing the Kingdom

Advancing the Kingdom

"For the love of God"

When was the last time you heard this expression, so common just a generation ago? It seems to have dropped from our vernacular. My impression is that grace before meals is also on the decline. If so, one wonders how families, unused to such prayer, celebrate Thanksgiving, the feast we observe today. Many I expect pause a few moments – perhaps awkwardly – before the turkey is sliced or the roast is carved in order to identify generally or specifically the benefits they enjoy. Certainly this is a laudable practice – even one that should be pursued more frequently than annually. But, is it really giving thanks? Appreciation is not the same as gratitude. Appreciation is the acknowledgment of the value of something one has or receives. It involves no one other than the appreciating person. While gratitude is prompted by appreciation it goes beyond it for it is necessarily…

“The Poor Should Never Be Treated Poorly”

Pure evil. I heard these words spoken in reference to one of the murderous events that have occurred in our nation over the past month. While emotionally I resonate with the sentiment they express, intellectually I question the syntactical accuracy of these two words. How can evil be pure? I was thinking about this last week after attending a tribute dinner for the Bishop Malooly, the bishop of the Wilmington Diocese. The celebration honoring the bishop was a fund raiser for the Ministry of Caring, (www.ministryofcaring.org) an organization for which the bishop has been an ardent supporter. But the evening was also an eye-opener on how the Ministry’s founder, a Capuchin friar, has made such a difference in Wilmington over a forty-year period. Evil cannot be pure. It is an absence, an absence of good, an absence of love. Of itself it does not exist. It is made present by…

Non-fake Media

I had blood drawn this week for a routine physical exam. Though I arrived in time for my appointment I was obliged to wait a half hour in a sitting room with a dozen others. I didn’t mind the delay as I had brought reading material with me. What was irritating was that a television mounted on the wall was tuned to a loud talk show whose participants were vociferoulsy presenting their passionate and contradictory opinions as hard facts. In spite of the assault on our ears nobody was paying attention to this intrusion as everyone was occupied with his cell phone. It got me thinking about the relentless media barrage so commonplace today. In this country the media have been denigrated by both the so called left and right. What sources can be trusted? Is the 24/7 news enveloping us founded on fact, interpretation, or biased fantasy? Does the…

St. Gaspar Melchior Balthazar del Bufalo

I’ll tip my cap to those of you who recognize the name of this saint and know the name of the Congregation he founded.  (No fair consulting the Magi).* One treasured benefit of being involved with the NCCF community is meeting individuals and communities who quietly and constructively advance the Kingdom. Such introductions provide salutary perspective to the unrelenting barrage of negative news, fake or otherwise, of our Church, our nation and the world. A new member of our NCCF community are the Sisters of the Precious Blood. Eighteen years ago they and the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood (the post-nominal initials are: C.PP.S) collaborated on the creation of what has become the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. They administer this apostolate in a neighborhood of Chicago that struggles with poverty, gangs and racial divisions. According to its website (www.pbmr.org) the spirituality of PBMR calls its members…

A Provocative Bumper Sticker

Instead of taking the bus I sometimes drive to work, a change that allows me to study bumper stickers. Recently I came across this one: “American Values Are Progressive Values”. I thought about this and now wonder if the correct articulation of the bumper’s intended point shouldn’t be: “Americans Value Progress”. As understood to mean ‘a principle’ (such as the rights of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence) a value cannot change. Therefore it can be neither progressive nor regressive. It can be embraced or ignored, but not changed. Mitigating circumstances surrounding the invocation of a value may affect its application but they do not change the value itself. Progress itself is a value. The word comes from the Latin progressus, to step forward. For us Americans progress as a principal implies stepping forward to something better, as in improving our living standards. It…

Sinister Philanthropy

It may be a neologism. I have never come across it but an awareness of its significance and relevance has grown in me these past few years. Has any of you encountered the word ‘technarchy’? Monarchy is the rule of one; oligarchy the rule of a few. Plutarchy is the rule of the wealthy; hierarchy the rule of priests. Anarchy is the rule of no one. Technarchy would be the rule of technology. In a technarchical world a ‘perfection of means and confusion of goals’ (Einstein) gives rise to soulless and rootless atheism. There is no system of belief because there is no contemplation – only action. The sole purpose of life is production. The only absolute is efficiency and the only shared commonality among men is their capacity to produce and compete. There is no theology because there is no ‘theos’. No metaphysics because nothing transcends the physical. Philosophy…

"Hidden In The Womb Of The Creator"

As our readers know the National Catholic Community Foundation has been following the peregrinations of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia these past several years.  Previously the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family the Archbishop has recently been named the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life.  Last month Pope Francis addressed this latter group and his remarks have been made available to us. Anyone concerned with the ills of our time will find solace in these papal reflections.  The utilitarianism of education, the decoupling of faith and reason, the moral deracination of our ‘culture’, the challenges of globalization, the pervasion of narcissitic solipsism, our throw away culture – all these are addressed in what his Holiness calls ‘human ecology’.  I highly recommend you spend a few minutes to be reassured of “the charm of all the visible and invisible things that are hidden in the womb of the Creator”.  …

Overcoming Polarization

Jorge Bergoglio ascended the throne of St. Peter five years ago. While this statement is accurate its imagery is incongruous. Far from being ‘above’ the rest of us this Jesuit – like the saint whose name he chose for his pontificate – immerses himself in the flock he shepherds. His would be a ministry of encounter. In a matter of months, the words ‘Francis factor’ were on the lips of Catholics and, more significantly, non-Catholics around the world. At Georgetown University five years ago, the Francis factor inspired the ‘Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life’. As its website explains (www.catholicsocialthought.georgetown.edu) its purpose has been to promote dialogue on Catholic social thought and national and global issues, build bridges across political, religious, and ideological lines, and encourage a new generation of Catholic lay leaders to see their faith as an asset in pursuing the common good. Few would dispute…

The tutelage of faith

Recently I phoned my good friend, Marcus, to wish him a pleasant birthday. Having known each other since our school days six decades ago we enjoyed reflecting on the changes, both positive and negative, we’ve witnessed since those salad years.  One disturbing area, we agreed, has been education – the current condition of which we believe forebodes a dim future for our grandchildren’s generation. In our second year at college Marcus and I – with sophomoric self-assurance – each claimed to have the correct perspective on life.  One took pride in being a realist, the other in being a romantic. (I can’t recall which was which although usually Marcus was right).  We eventually came to the same conclusion: the two perspectives are complementary. Each perceives the ineffability of Beauty from a different approach. We were able to reach this conclusion because of the liberal education we had been given, an…

Make Today Happen

Over the past years this column has featured grantees to which you, the advisors on our donor advised funds, have recommended the trustees of NCCF to make donations. It has been a worthy undertaking inasmuch as bringing your attention to people and organizations who respect and promote human dignity contributes in a modest way to the advance of the Kingdom. We should from time to time also feature our advisors, especially those with unusual backgrounds who embrace uncommon challenges. One such individual is Chris Lowney whose name many of you no doubt recognize. Chris has been an early and long time member of the NCCF community.  Years ago, he established with us his fund titled “Tomorrow’s Leaders: Educating Children in Healthier Families Fund”. This past year he opened a new fund called “Instituto Joao de Brito, East Timor Fund” to support a Jesuit school in East Timor. A convenient way…

Pulling Back the Veil between Time and Eternity

It is said that with God there are no coincidences. So, I recognize the following concurrence of events as a sign that I should forward the attached ‘post’ entitled “Pulling Back the Veil between Time and Eternity” by Monica Ashour at TOBET. The very day I came across Professor Abigail Rine Favale’s essay about evangelical gnosticism in “First Things” I received this post from Ms. Ashour in which the Professor’s article is referenced. With her permission, I attach it here. During this liturgical time of Eastertide, it is not altogether inappropriate for us to douse ourselves with a little bit of orthodoxy – especially when the message is delivered in such a personal way. Read the post.

A particular scandal

Recently, I learned that in some academic circles students are taught that ‘Christian privilege’ allows Christians to enjoy certain rights and advantages not easily accessible to non-Christians. True or not, those who propound this position find it scandalous. How does one respond to such a charge? One response is sociological and relates to the inherent danger of multiculturalism. To the extent that multiculturalism engenders diversity and tolerance, it is a good. However, in a secularizing society, it can lead to indifferentism, that insidious creed which pronounces all systems of belief equally valid (or invalid). Left unchecked, indifferentism transmogrifies into intolerance since – ironically – difference and diversification come to be perceived as threats to uniformity and are therefore not to be tolerated. It’s akin to the practice in some schools where grades have been abandoned so that no pupil is recognized as academically superior to his peers. Aspiration for excellence…