Saturday, May 12, 2007


As the headlines read, "Pope in Brazil, God Will Punish Drug Dealers", the stories I read are showing not situations of punishment and "slamming" of drug traffickers, but the beautiful accounts of Pope Benedict's visit to a drug rehabilitation "Farm of Hope". Here he encourages those recovering addicts to be "recover the meaning of life", being "ambassadors of hope", to renew their faith and find that preferential love of the Father. Yes he asked them to reflect on the "grave harm" being inflicted through drug-dealing and reminded them that they will have to account for their deeds. But overall it is a message of compassion and love.

The last part of this article I found really touching:

Q: What are your expectations for the Pope's visit here in particular, and to Brazil in general?

Father Stapel: The great thing is that the Pope will leave his mark here. The Pope is essentially saying: I am going to visit those who are excluded, those who are not accepted by society but are instead labeled as thieves or unwanted. The Pope is coming to visit them and in this way is giving them a heightened sense of value. This is very important. This is the way he will leave his mark here.

The Church has always been on the side of the poor, this is her vocation. There is no faith without works. If I believe in God and I don't act concretely with acts of love then my faith is just theory.

Therefore my life and the lives of those around me will not change.

In coming here the Pope is giving this sign. He is saying to these young people: You are not prodigal sons! You are loved by the heavenly Father! He loves you and needs you. You have the opportunity to evangelize and to help others; you have the chance to start a new life because, with God, there is always a second chance.

What he is saying to them is what he wrote in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est": "God is love." And that is fantastic!


This reminded me of a newsletter we received this week. We have some dear friends who work for a beautiful ministry and non-profit called Emmaus Ministries, whose mission it is to make Jesus known on the streets among men involved in sexual exploitation. They are currently based in Chicago and Houston.

What is so compassionate about this work is that the way they are ministering to the male prostitutes (who are usually drug addicts who live on the streets and grew up in broken, abusive homes) is through caring relationships with the men. They have a "House of Hospitality" where the men can come during the day for a healthy meal, clean shower and clothing, dignified conversations, and an opportunity to help around the house and further their feelings of self-worth.

Every time I read their newsletters I am brought to tears. The men have such utterly sad lives, your heart just aches for them and wishes there was a way that they could leap out of this cycle of poverty, addiction and exploitation. My prayer is that those experiences of love and dignity given by the staff and volunteers at Emmaus will help to give those men hope in Christ, just as the Pope's message in Brazil might give hope to those men trying to rehabilitate from a life of drug-addiction. Yes, they have dignity. Yes, they are so loved by the Father and by the Church. No, we must not forget them in our prayers, in our lives, and through our financial support.


A final article (I love to find all of these) describes the recent ordination of the first married Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Fr. Lowe, like most of the other married Catholic priests, was previously an Episcopalian minister for almost 30 years, before retiring and then visiting various Catholic churches and being inspired by the Catholic life. He spent over 5 years studying Catholic theology and preparing to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood.

Cardinal Mahony discusses the various Christian traditions in a wonderful analogy:

"I know it is the fond prayer and hope of all of us in Christian communities that pretty soon all of these on-ramps might some day merge into one highway. We have a lot of parallel on-ramps at the moment that have not merged.… But today at least your on-ramp has merged with our on-ramp," said the cardinal.

"But we all look forward to the day when all of those on-ramps merge in the one uniting Christian Church throughout the world and continue to give forth testimony to the person and presence of Jesus in our lives and in our hearts. So I think your ordination today to the Catholic priesthood is a wonderful sign of that hope for the future."

And here the cardinal mentions the Church's compassion, rather than relaxation of the vow of celibacy, in ordaining married men:

“This is not a precedent that implies any diminishing of the value of celibacy in priestly ministry, but an instance in which the Church acts in an exceptional way to strengthen and ennoble the gifts brought by its newest members,” said Cardinal Mahony in a prepared statement released to the press.

“This practice is not so much an example of relaxing the discipline of priestly celibacy as it is an instance of an extraordinary act of compassion on the part of the Church in regard to someone whose whole life had been spent in both preparation for, and the exercise of, pastoral ministry.”

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