Those of us who studied theology may remember the medieval Latin
statement: Crux pro bat omnia...The cross proves everything.
The doctrine of the cross is the great interpretive key that makes
It is no accident that Catholics and many other Christians have made
the cross the image that we look upon. In the revelation of the cross
the great truth becomes obvious: The mystery of the rejection, passion,
death and rising of Jesus is the fuel of human history. We are wounded,
and we are transformed.
For the first 1,100 years of Christianity an idea was popular that
Jesus needed to die for us. As many saw it, Jesus gave his life as
a ransom. That ransom had to be paid, and some even thought it had
to be paid to the devil. In the 11th century St. Anselm introduced
the notion that it was to the Father that Jesus made satisfaction.
By dying, Jesus returned the love God deserved from the human racethe
love that Adam and Eve and their descendants had failed to give.
I believe that human consciousness is now finally ready to accept
that Jesus' sacrifice was made to transform us, to reveal a God who
is self-giving, suffering love. As our own Franciscan scholar John
Duns Scotus taught, Jesus did not need to die. There was no debt to
be paid. Jesus died to reveal the nature of the heart of God.
By his death on the cross Jesus does not project the evil of human
history onto anyone. He becomes the forgiving victim of human history.
It is for good reason that we have dated history from Christ's entrance
onto the human stage. Something turns around with Jesus' arrival.
Something is different.
For too many of us, the message of the cross seems neither practical
nor relevant. We see it as something Jesus did to prove God's love
for us. Jesus becomes the heavenly Hercules who endured unimaginable
suffering. But that is only half the mystery. What the mystery of
the cross reveals is a different way of living, a way of transformation.
The cross is about how to fight and not become a casualty yourself.
The cross is about being the victory instead of just winning a victory.
It is not about passivity, giving up or giving in. It is a way of
winning that tries to bring your opponents along with you. It is refusing
the simplistic win-loss scenario and holding out for a possible win-win
solution. The cross is refusing to hate or needing to humiliate the
other, which only continues the pattern that the world has always
When we stand in the mystery of Jesus we can never stand in a righteous
way. We have taken on the mind of Christ. We preach Jesus but, more
important, we become Jesus. We recognize that Jesus has calling power
over us. In return, Jesus asks that we follow him on the journey of
transformation. Your job and my job is to be Jesus. And yet I admit
I don't know how to be Jesus. He has to do it in me, through me. All
I can do, all we can do, is get out of the way and let the mystery
of the cross transform us.
RICHARD ROHR, a Franciscan priest from Our Lady
of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the founder of
the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. His newest
Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in
an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony Messenger
Using Our Words
By Judith Dunlap
I sat on the porch and watched my daughter-in-law comfort her
three-year-old as he screamed and kicked his frustration. "Use your
words," she kept saying in a calm voice, her arms around him,
rubbing his back. Given the time to express his hurt and anger,
Nicholas settled down and the story came out. His playmate had punched
him, and he wanted payback. After a few minutes of listening and
some quiet soothing, Deborah was able to counsel her little one
into a more appropriate response.
My grandson's first reaction was fairly common. It seems a natural
response to strike out when we have been struck, to hit back harder,
to yell back louder. Yet, as Christians we are called to follow
Jesus, learning from the cross a lesson which rejects the proverb
"an eye for an eye" and sets a new agenda for the world. We are
asked to do to others as we would have them do to us.
My daughter-in-law set a wise path for her youngster. It is one
we can all follow and foster in our families: Take time to settle
down before responding in anger or frustration, and then "use your
Sometimes that means going to the offending party and talking things
out. It might mean finding a good listener to help counsel. Finally,
it is always a good idea to ask God's help.
As I watched Deborah comfort Nicholas, I thought of what a beautiful
image she was of God, the loving parentalways there to listen,
soothe, counsel and love.
For Family Response: During
Lent, read or tell the story of Jesus' last days. Highlight
his words from the cross, "Father, forgive them...." Ask family
members to talk about someone they need to forgive. Pray together
for forgiving hearts.
to this month's FAMILY CORNER.
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By Frank Frost
What's the hit movie Cast Away really all about? According
to the notices, it's about a man who survives a plane crash only
to be stranded alone on a barely hospitable island. He's ingenious.
He survives. He gets himself rescued.
Yet the movie opens with a shot of a very landlocked road stretching
to infinity on a vast open prairie. It pans to reveal an intersection
with another similar road. Crossroads. Is this what it's really
Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) engages life with the energy and spirit
of a winner. A Federal Express executive, he lives his life by the
clock. Time is so precious that he presents his fianc—e Kelly Frears
(Helen Hunt) with an engagement ring while dashing to the airport
at Christmas. And it's appropriate that her present to him is her
grandfather's pocket watch, with her picture inside the cover.
The watch/locket plays a key role in the story. Chuck's plane goes
down somewhere in the South Pacific, and he survives to be washed
up aloneexcept for a handful of Federal Express packages that
wash up with him. He checks his watch. Time has stopped for him.
But the picture of Kelly survives to become his inspiration.
Chuck sets about the inevitable relearning experiences a high-tech
citizen must undertake to survive with only nature to count on.
Humor and ingenuity carry this Robinson Crusoe part of the story.
What becomes clear is the importance of water, food and light. When
Chuck finally manages to ignite a fire and builds it into a bonfire
in the night, he stands and shouts and beats his chest: "I have
More than four years later, when he is back home, Chuck ignites
a charcoal lighter at the click of a switch with new eyes. He finds
the overabundance of food on a buffet table revolting. And he lies
in wonder on a soft hotel bed as he slowly flicks on and off a wall
switch providing light effortlessly.
Each time he turns on the lamp it reveals his locket picture of
Kelly, whose image gave him the will to survive. But he cannot simply
re-enter life where he left off. In the intervening years Kelly
has come to terms with her own loss and now has another life.
So indeed, Cast Away turns out to be a movie about personal
crossroads, and to drive it home the filmmakers leave Chuck Noland
in the final scene at the remote intersection of country roads where
the movie began. The camera moves in close as he stares ambiguously
into the camera. Whatever the future may hold, Chuck Noland has
a new outlook on life.
Cast Away is also a movie about the importance of hope,
perseverance and, above all, perspective on the true value of time.
It's a hopeful sign that such large audiences sign onto these values.
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AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
St. Patrick (415?-493?)
Scholars and historians are uncertain about the years of birth
and death for St. Patrick. Many details of his life remain fuzzy.
Stories about chasing the snakes out of Ireland and using a shamrock
to teach the mystery of the Trinity may be more myth than history.
But one thing is certain: Patrick is a beloved saint whose name
is celebrated far beyond the Ireland he Christianized in the fifth
century. And well he should be. Here was a humble, self-educated
man who achieved remarkable things against great odds.
Growing up in what is now Great Britain, Patrick was kidnapped
and sold into slavery in Ireland as a teenager. For six years he
was forced to tend flocks, but he was free to turn to God for consolation.
Over time, he underwent a profound conversion. After escaping and
returning home, Patrick became convinced through a number of powerful
dreams and visions that he was being called by God to go back to
Ireland and walk among the very people who had enslaved him.
He returned as a priest eager to spread the gospel message among
a people who were still practicing human sacrifice and were the
major slave traders of their day. Patrick found a way to plant the
gospel in that culture, proving himself a missionary of great skill.
He believed God had chosen him to convert the Irish. Drawing on
his own struggles earlier in life, he preached in a way that had
special meaning to a people who were downtrodden and commonly dismissed
St. Patrick found God in nature, in people, in the Church he loved
and served. He is a saint for the Irishand for all peoples.
Father Colm Campbell
The first time Father Colm Campbell left his native Belfast
to visit New York City was 15 years ago. Negotiating the city by
himself, he soon felt exhausted, lonely, overwhelmed and ready to
go home. But he learned firsthand how the city could look and feel
to an immigrant.
Those experiences would come in handy some years later, when Father
Campbell completed several decades as Director of Youth Services
in his home diocese and took up new work in New York on behalf of
the Irish Bishops' Commission for Immigrants.
Since 1 992 Father Campbell has been helping newly arrived Irish
negotiate the streets he once found so daunting. As the official
chaplain to members of the Irish immigrant community, he seeks to
be a welcoming presence and an ongoing support. "My goal,"
he told Every Day Catholic, "is to tell them that the Church
cares about them and that I am here to help them integrate into
their new world or to find their way back home. I'm here to walk
that journey with them."
He uses ingenuity to reach the Irish community in a sprawling city.
He celebrates a weekly Mass with readings in Irish and Celtic music.
For the younger crowd, less likely to be churchgoing, Father Campbell,
65, leaves his business cards in Irish bars.
He is swamped with calls from young people who want to talkabout
troubled relationships, health concerns, "the ordinary ups and downs
of life." Many want an Irish priest to help them prepare for
marriage or baptize their infants.
"These young people are on their own, so any help means a lot to
them. I know what I'm doing is worthwhile and needed."
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this month's themes:
The following articles are available in full text at AmericanCatholic.org:
The following products are available from St. Anthony
Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications at AmericanCatholic.org:
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