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Every Day Catholic - December 2011

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Hanging on to Hope...When the World Is Falling Apart
By: Jim and Susan Vogt

We’re mad, frustrated and feeling powerless.

We don’t know if we’re more angry at our country (corrupt politicians, budget battles, greed), our Church (sex-abuse scandals, closed decision-making, backsliding on Vatican II), or the world (environmental degradation, wars, poverty). We could go on, but that would just stir our anger.

It’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of the many natural disasters, blatant injustices and personal tragedies in our world. Are earthquakes, tsunamis and droughts worse than in the past, or are we more aware of them due to modern communication? Injustices tear at our hearts the most since they are under human control. Terrorism, corrupt governments, oil spills and pollution are mammoth problems of human making. Personal tragedies like death, divorce or lingering illness can devastate us. We wonder: How canGod allow such suffering when we try so valiantly to do what’s right and pray so hard?

What’s a Christian to do? Wallow in grief or guilt? Rail at God? Give up? Grieving is O.K.—for a time. Even getting angry at God is human. The psalms are good examples of people pouring out their grief and anger to God. (See Psalms 22, 55, 57, 88, 94 and 102 for a start.) Don’t worry. God can handle our strong feelings.

There comes a time, however, when we have to pick ourselves up and carry on. The following actions have helped us when we’ve felt overwhelmed or powerless in the face of problems and evils in our world.

*Cultivate gratitude
Susan found a way to let go of her anger through consciously noting one thing each day for which she’s grateful. When she starts fretting about the ills of society, she calls to mind that at least our home has electricity and running water; we finally decided on which car to buy and had the money to buy it; her back pain and cold left in time to enjoy a weekend of dancing; or there’s a gentle breeze on a hot day.

*Pray in solidarity
Of course we pray, both personally and at Mass, for people affected by natural disasters and tragedies of all kinds. But this is the easy part and can sometimes sound trite. Have often have you said, “I’ll pray for you,” and then forgot to follow through?

Adding our bodies to our prayers through fasting or other sacrifices can build solidarity with the victims and reinforce our prayers. Perhaps you decide to fast from desserts for a week to be in solidarity with the families starving in the deserts of Somalia. Or you might lend your body by picking up litter in a park. Meditate as you bend.

*Take a step
Actions put feet on prayer. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed and stretched, remind yourself that you don’t have to eradicate poverty or war today—or alone. Can you take one action step in the direction of change? It might be as simple as signing a petition for a political cause about which you feel strongly, writing a letter to your congressperson or making a small donation to respond quickly to a crisis. This won’t solve the whole problem, but it gets you out of the starting gate and relieves undue guilt.

*Protect your sanity
When taking even one step feels like too much, you might be right. Sometimes we’re truly maxed out and have to trust others and God to take care of the current problem. You might be in the midst of a personal crisis, taking care of aging parents or juggling work outside the home with the demands of raising young children. Count what you’re doing as contributing to society and call it “enough.”

*Think bigger
Those of us with just the ordinary demands on our time, energy and money have the responsibility to think bigger, to consider a second or third step. We must go beyond the human temptation to throw up our hands, turn off the news and say, “It’s too big a problem. I’m only one person. I can’t make any difference.”

Consider that your strong emotion of anger or helplessness may be a call from God to act. You’ve been touched and moved. Evaluate your existing commitments and think about a bigger step you could take. Jim recently helped develop a Pledge for Just and Humane Immigration Reform. It includes a menu of actions that people in the pews can take. See

If nothing else, give a bigger donation. The key here is to take on only what you know you can and will do, and celebrate that contribution. Don’t be afraid of stretching yourself a bit.

*Make a friend
Although the Internet and the media can add to our stress by making us aware of more global problems, they can also be vehicles for connecting with others who care about the same things. Whatever problem is touching your heart, there are probably others who have organized a group that’s already working on it. All you have to do is find them. Besides, having others to work with is motivating and can refine bigger ideas. Alone we can be ineffective or misguided. Together we can be genius.

What’s faith got to do with?
Jesus spent his life showing us how to deal with adversity and how to be neighbors. And what did it get him? Crucified! If we’re following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect comfort and ease, rather, we need to spend ourselves for others and learn to love better. Modern-day prophet and cofounder of the Institute for Peace and Justice, Jim McGinnis, wrote: “In the face of escalating violence, let us escalate love.”

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Imprimatur was granted for this article, “Hanging on to Hope...When the World Is Falling Apart” by Jim and Susan Vogt, from the Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 8-10-2011.

Jim and Susan Vogt have four adult children and live in Covington, Kentucky. Jim directs the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative. Susan speaks and writes on marriage, parenting and spirituality. Learn more at

Making Connections

■ What events in our world have angered you, upset you or made you feel powerless?

■ How well have you done your part as a “citizen of the world”?

■ What one action step will you take this month to work toward positive change where change is needed?

Movie Moments

By: Frank Frost

One of my favorite movies is the 2008 Pixar animation, WALL-E, and it comes to mind when I think of “hanging in there.” WALL-E is a robot left behind 700 years earlier when humans abandoned the Earth. At first it appears that he simply proceeds to do what he was designed to do—compact trash—oblivious to the total devastation that surrounds him. But what emerges is a hopeful creature, who appreciates beauty and does what he can to preserve and treasure simple things. By doing that—and falling in love—he brings about great change.

This robotic trash compactor, you see, has developed a humanlike capacity for curiosity, wonder and sensitivity, characterized in part by his whimsical friendship with the only living creature on Earth, a roach. He rescues and keeps small treasures of every sort—from toys to tools to lightbulbs. His greatest treasure is a videocassette of the musical Hello, Dolly!

The story turns around WALL-E’s discovery of a small green plant and the arrival by spaceship of EVE, a sophisticated robotic Earth probe. WALL-E is a battered little box. EVE is a graceful creature, as beautiful as WALL-E is ugly. WALL-E immediately falls in love.

In trying to win EVE’s attention, WALL-E shows her his precious living plant, of which she takes possession. She is immediately recalled to her mother ship, which houses the human race in exile. WALL-E follows her, whereupon love triumphs, the plant (and the Earth) is rescued from extinction, and humanity is saved.

WALL-E is most notably about environmentalism and corporate greed, but the lesson is equally clear that perseverance pays and, by faithfully doing what we can, we can make a difference.

Next time you watch WALL-E, ASK YOURSELF:

WALL-E is great entertainment, yet it manages to convey inspirational messages about perseverance and care of the Earth. What about WALL-E inspires you?

■ How is WALL-E, in particular, characterized as humane? How do those characteristics help him redeem his world? What special role do his “hands” play in the healing power of intimacy?

Putting Shoes on the Gospel

Kathleen McGinnis
By: Joan McKamey

When facing large-scale problems in our world, we may be tempted to throw up our hands and say, “I’m just one person. What difference can I make?” In response, Kathleen McGinnis, executive director of the Institute for Peace and Justice in St. Louis, Missouri, says, “There are many examples of one person or a small group making an enormous difference—I don’t think change happens any other way. Things change through the efforts of people individually and in connection with each other. We may not see all the change we want in our lifetimes, but we’re still called to be faithful.”

The Institute for Peace and Justice ( was founded in 1970. It evolved from a university-based program at St. Louis University to an independent nonprofit organization. Kathleen and her late husband, Jim, were involved from the start. She says, “Both Jim and I had early grounding in the need to be active in our faith. We became convinced that works of charity and service have to be coupled with works of justice. I’ve grown to appreciate the enormity of God’s love and the necessity of seeing God’s face in every person.”

Kathleen, a former English and social studies teacher, says, “I have a passion for teaching and for figuring out ways to communicate about tough issues. Jim and I both felt the call to make peace and justice work doable so that people won’t think it’s a calling for only a few.

“The Institute’s mission is to create resources, provide learning experiences and advocate for alternatives to violence and injustice at the individual, family, community, institutional and global levels. We offer realistic alternatives to resolving conflict through violence. These alternatives promote justice in interpersonal relationships and institutional practices.”

Inspired by Jesus who “hung out with the marginalized and dispossessed and gave priority to the poor and disenfranchised,” Kathleen sees her work as an expression of her faith. She says, “Faith enables us to see each person as a child of God, so the people become important in the midst of the issues. Faith also helps us stay at it for the long haul.

“I’ve grown to understand that God doesn’t want me to be silent about injustice, but to be bold. A big part of that comes from being a member of St. Alphonsus ‘Rock’ Church, a predominantly African-American parish. The spirituality, resilience, worship and sense of community there have been life-changing and have given me a fuller picture of God.”

So where does a person begin? Kathleen says, “The best starting point is right where you are—looking at relationships within your circle of family and friends. As you pay attention to your children, friends and people in your parish, you’ll become more aware of the needs of the broader community. Pick one issue that burns for you, that calls your heart. That issue may lead you to others, but even if it doesn’t, it will enable you to follow your own calling.”

Passing On the Faith

Finding Hope
By: Jeanne Hunt

Q. The evening news depresses me. How can I maintain a sense of hope in a world that seems so full of despair?

If we take seriously what we hear in the news, we can easily be overwhelmed by the negative. Yet it’s addictive: We come back for more, somehow needing to learn more about just how bleak the picture is.

What I recommend is that you become a good steward of the information you let into your soul. First, choose one reliable news source that you trust and a commentary that’s somewhat neutral. Look for that media source that suits your lifestyle (e.g., a newspaper vs. a Web site). Then, limit the time you connect with this source. It’s helpful to listen or read with a heart of prayer, lifting up the concerns that the news provokes.

Q.Where can I find positive news of good things happening in our world to share with my children?

Good news is all around us. Begin to train your children to see it. It’s simply a life lesson in having a positive perspective. I suggest challenging your children to find one good-news item per day. Guide them by pointing out good news that you hear on the radio on the drive to school or soccer practice.

Cut out newspaper articles that share good news and begin a collection on the refrigerator door. If you wait until the end of the nightly national news, you’ll often hear a good-news story. Finally, pray together with your child at the end of each day, thanking God for three good things that happened that day.

Q. How can my parish become more of a beacon of hope for its members and the larger community?

It’s all about action, not words. Here are a few ideas: Celebrate those who make a difference by acknowledging them on the parish Web site. Have a Super Service Saturday during which parish members do home repairs and yard work for parishioners in need. Follow this with a chili supper for everyone involved.

For Sunday liturgy, write hope-filled intercessions that are specific to your community. Start outreach projects that get parishioners involved in soup kitchens, childcare ventures and hospice care, etc. Actions like these magnify God’s light in your parish without saying a word.


Prayer for Light
By: Jeanne Hunt

(for praying alone or with others)

Preparation: Place a large lighted candle (or Advent wreath) on a prayer table. Have a basket containing votive candles nearby.

“Christ, Be Our Light” or “This Little Light of Mine”

Emmanuel, our hearts are heavy with the state of our world. We need you as savior now more than ever. Come, Lord Jesus, and turn our despair into hope, our turmoil into calm, our fears into courage. Amen.

Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Long-awaited Savior, our world needs your saving power. Give us the light to be your healing presence. Let us be beacons of truth, compassion and love. Amen.

I invite you each to come forward, take a candle from the basket and light it from the Christ candle (or Advent wreath). As you hold your little light, ask the Spirit to inspire you to action. Keep this candle as a reminder to be a light, a sign of God’s love in our world.

May the light go forth from this circle of love. And may God bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

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