"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
Human Factor Is Critical In Fighting Hunger
Diplomacy Is Key To Peace And Justice
Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion
Hungarian Uprising Marks 50th Anniversary
Prison to Praise: Remember Me
Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News
Pray The News
In a letter on the occasion of World Food Day, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the importance of the human factors in efforts to fight hunger.
World Food Day is organized by the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The Pope sent a letter, dated October 16, to Jacques Diouf, Director General of the FAO, to mark the occasion. His letter follows:
"...This year's chosen theme – Investing in agriculture for food security – focuses our attention on the agricultural sector and invites us to reflect on the various factors that hinder the fight against hunger, many of them man-made. Not enough attention is given to the needs of agriculture, and this both upsets the natural order of creation and compromises respect for human dignity.
"In Christian tradition, agricultural labor takes on a deeper meaning, both because of the effort and hardship that it involves and also because it offers a privileged experience of God's presence and His love for His creatures. Christ Himself uses agricultural images to speak of the Kingdom, thereby showing a great respect for this form of labor.
"Today, we think especially of those who have had to abandon their farmlands because of conflicts, natural disasters, and because of society's neglect of the agricultural sector. The 'promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply' (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, 28).
"It is now ten years since my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, inaugurated the World Food Summit. This gives us an opportunity to look back and take stock of the inadequate attention given to the agricultural sector and the effects this has on rural communities. Solidarity is the key to identifying and eliminating the causes of poverty and underdevelopment.
"Very often, international action to combat hunger ignores the human factor, and priority is given instead to technical and socio-economic aspects. Local communities need to be involved in choices and decisions concerning land use, since farmland is being diverted increasingly to other purposes, often with damaging effects on the environment and the long-term viability of the land. If the human person is treated as the protagonist, it becomes clear that short-term economic gains must be placed within the context of better long-term planning for food security, with regard to both quantity and quality.
"The order of creation demands that priority be given to those human activities that do not cause irreversible damage to nature, but which instead are woven into the social, cultural, and religious fabric of the different communities. In this way, a sober balance is achieved between consumption and the sustainability of resources.
"The rural family needs to regain its rightful place at the heart of the social order. The moral principles and values which govern it belong to the heritage of humanity, and must take priority over legislation. They are concerned with individual conduct, relations between husband and wife and between generations, and the sense of family solidarity. Investment in the agricultural sector has to allow the family to assume its proper place and function, avoiding the damaging consequences of hedonism and materialism that can place marriage and family life at risk.
"Education and formation programs in rural areas need to be broadly based, adequately resourced, and aimed at all age groups. Special attention should be given to the most vulnerable, especially women and the young. It is important to hand on to future generations not merely the technical aspects of production, nutrition, and protection of natural resources, but the values of the rural world.
"In faithfully carrying out its mandate, the FAO makes a vital investment in agriculture, not only through adequate technical and specialized support, but also by broadening the dialogue that takes place among the national and international agencies involved in rural development. Individual initiatives should be incorporated within larger strategies aimed at combating poverty and hunger. This can be of decisive importance if the nations and communities involved are to implement consistent programs and work towards a common goal.
"Today more than ever, in the face of recurring crises and the pursuit of narrow self-interest, there has to be cooperation and solidarity between states, each of which should be attentive to the needs of its weakest citizens, who are the first to suffer from poverty. Without this solidarity, there is a risk of limiting or even impeding the work of international organizations that set out to fight hunger and malnutrition. In this way, they build up effectively the spirit of justice, harmony, and peace among peoples: 'opus iustitiae pax' (cf. Is 32:17). . ."
The new Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone met with members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on September 29. Cardinal Bertone discussed the role of the Vatican, including the Secretary of State and the role of diplomacy in building a peaceful and just world. A portion of Cardinal Bertone's address follows:
". . .Our contemporaries expect diplomats, insofar as it is incumbent upon them, to contribute to founding and preserving 'an international order, the art of establishing reasonable human relations among peoples' (Paul VI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 8, 1968).
"They also hope that diplomats will be peacemakers, 'loyal servants of the interests of your peoples' (John Paul II, Address at Meeting with Diplomats, Fribourg, Switzerland, June 13, 1984, n. 2; ORE, July 2, p. 9). They must be upright and logical, believe in sincere dialogue, and engage to give a new impetus to solidarity between all peoples, especially with a view to reconsidering the question of the foreign debt of the poorest countries, so that individuals and especially children will never again die of hunger or of endemic diseases, never again be the innocent victims of war or local conflict, and never again be abused for their convictions or beliefs.
"We are in need of a universal commitment for the least privileged of this earth, the poorest, people who often seek in vain a livelihood so as to provide for their family.
"Dignity, freedom, and unconditional respect for every human being in his or her fundamental rights, particularly freedom of conscience and religion, must be among our most important concerns. We cannot abstain from showing solidarity with the destiny or future of our brothers and sisters in humanity, nor can we truly be at peace before the suffering that disfigures people and that every day we have before our eyes.
"As diplomats, I know you are specially attentive to these sensitive issues everywhere in the world. I am thinking most particularly of violence in all its forms inflicted on women and on children, born and unborn. The defense of life, from conception to its natural end, and the defense of the family founded on marriage are also essential issues in social life.
"Paul VI stressed further that diplomacy 'has a more direct bearing on the real and concrete problems of social life, and first and foremost on that which, one can say, regulates them all: the problem of peace' (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 8, 1968).
"As I said in a speech on December 6, 1986: 'The Holy See's contribution to the issue of peace is particularly rich and demanding, for the key points of the Magisterium easily surpass the systemic and organic study of theologians.
"Profound ties, as the Popes have emphasized, exist between peace and the development of peoples, between peace and freedom, and between peace and human rights, between peace and international solidarity. They have given new names to peace and have offered ways of reaching a true peace.
"These ways do not exclude but link up with one another: political and diplomatic ways that are followed by implementing agreements which foresee and forestall conflicts; juridical and institutional ways that give rise to new institutions, to guarantee peace and security; psychological and pedagogical ways,' I say this as a Salesian, as a son of Don Bosco, 'that aim to form a culture of peace through a wide range of educational institutions; then we have the way of witness of the great prophets of peace; the way of conscientious objection and alternative social service, and the way of non-violence.
"The crucial areas in which one cannot but see even more clearly the difficulty in the connection between the prophetic aspect and the material needs of life – which a human ethics must also consider, especially in a context of private and organized violence that is also marked by a multiplicity of clashing opinions - are the following:
"Research into these topics by intellectuals and reflection on them by Church bodies and Christian communities will never cease.
"In all these cases, the Documents of the Holy See and especially the texts of the enlightened Magisterium of the post-war Popes are neither texts to be skimmed through nor, even worse, to be ignored.
"They are texts that should be read with attention and meditated upon, so that their ideas can be expressed in practical action and the world can recognize the power and timeliness of the Christian message in the self-giving and courage with which Christians act, furthering peace for all humankind today. . ."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
"When I was in graduate school, I was assigned to lead a support group for women with eating disorders. The subject of abortion came up because Debbie was sharing with our group about flashbacks and nightmares that she was having due to her abortion procedure. She said these images are horrible. She's crying about this whole situation, and another woman says, 'I had an abortion, too.'
"Then another young lady stood up and she started cursing and swearing. She said, 'We have a right to control our bodies.' I noticed another young lady who got up and left the room, and slammed the door behind her," relates Theresa Burke, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries.
Dr. Burke, the guest speaker at the 33rd Annual Celebration for Life (held at the Drawbridge Estates in Fort Mitchell on Sunday, September 17, 2006, and sponsored by Northern Kentucky Right to Life), continued: "If you know anything about eating disorders, it's not what you're eating, it's what's eating you. Talk therapy is how you deal with this, and you do it to explore everything in your life that's a source of conflict or grief or shame or guilt, because what we learn is that people find other ways in their behavior to express these feelings or to tell their story.
"There are people out there like Debbie in tremendous agony and pain because they've suffered the loss of their child or children through abortion and they need to talk about it. They need our support and our compassion.
"There are people that the subject is so painful, like the girl who left the room. It's so painful she had to avoid the subject."
Rachel's Vineyard Ministries is a ministry of weekend retreats for healing after abortion. In 2006 it will have provided 450 weekend retreats for healing after abortion. Each retreat will have had between 12 and 25 participants.
Dr. Burke, in her book, Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, co-authored with David C. Reardon, Ph.D., Director of the Elliot Institute, exposes the grief that women experience about the abortion they had. Based on her experience with counseling hundreds of clients, she explains how these repressed feelings surface through destructive behavior, failed relationships, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and other emotional and behavioral problems.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
"As it turned out," explains Dr. Burke, "all of the members in our group were post-abortive except for two that had been sexually abused. I decided to start one of the first therapeutic support groups for healing after abortion, because abortion wounded the soul. We needed to integrate a psychological and a spiritual process because we're dealing with issues of death and reconciliation and forgiveness and shame, and ultimately these are spiritual issues.
"A critical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder requires three main categories. First, there is hyper-arousal. You start to feel palpitations, anxiety, and panic attacks. You have difficulty falling and staying asleep. A lot of irritability and outbursts of anger, and sometimes this can lead to aggressive behavior, actually even violent. Difficulty concentrating, not able to finish a book, and hyper-vigilance, which means you're always on the alert for threats of danger.
"Intrusion is another symptom. That is the re-experience or reliving of the trauma in one of many ways. This is flashbacks, nightmares that people have. Anniversary reactions, deep depression every time you hit the date of your abortion or the anticipated due date when your child would have been born. Repeat pregnancies is a symptom of trauma, and certainly repeat abortions, and risk-taking behavior and certainly suicidal impulses.
"Intrusive thoughts are another form of intrusion. A lot of nightmares involve births of babies, babies being born dead, and obsession that God's going to punish you or that something bad is going to happen to the baby.
"Constriction is where you want to get rid of anything that's making you think of that, and you do that by numbing your emotions or avoiding sights, sounds, smells, or anything associated with the trauma. This is where people then use drugs and alcohol because that's numbing.
"I thought I'm going to spend the rest of my life investigating this, researching it, writing about it. I wanted to write a book for post-abortive women. I felt so terrible for any post-abortive woman, to have her grief dismissed, to have the life of her child trivialized, because one of the beautiful things that we do in healing is reconnect with that child and honor the dignity and the memory and allow that child's life to bring us meaning because the child does have life in Christ.
"Judy Garland had an abortion at the age of 20. The reason she got married was because she wanted to have a family. She was in The Wizard of Oz when she was 17. Her mother was afraid that a pregnancy would destroy her career which was blossoming. So her mother colluded with her husband and MGM studio, and they put a lot of pressure on Judy to have an abortion. She did not want it. She cried the whole way to the clinic. She said the minute the abortion happened her marriage collapsed and was over.
"The symptoms of trauma were in Judy's life for sure. Within three months of her abortion, Judy, who was pretty healthy looking, dropped to 94 pounds. She developed terrible sleep disturbances, couldn't sleep, and started taking sleeping pills.
"She had an affair, almost immediately, with a man named Tyrone Powers. Judy engages in a complete traumatic reenactment. However, in this case she was dealing with fantasies. Judy told Tyrone she was pregnant on the exact due date of her aborted child, and she said that she begged him to divorce his wife and to marry her or she'd be forced to have an abortion. Of course he didn't leave his wife, and she re-experienced once again the emotional grief of abandonment and betrayal.
"Then she has an affair with Joe Mankowitz. On the anniversary date of her abortion she tells Joe that she's pregnant. He said he knew she wasn't pregnant. So they go to this dreary abortion clinic in Europe, and right there in the abortion clinic they say you're not pregnant, and Judy crumbled to the ground, grieving hysterically, reliving the trauma of her other loss. This is traumatic reenactment.
"Then she ended up marrying Vincent Minelli. When Liza Minelli was born, she had a horrific post-partum depression. She was afraid to be left alone with the baby, which is not uncommon for people that haven't done grief work and reconciled this loss. Judy slit her neck and ended up in the sanitarium of the local hospital. This is another traumatic reenactment because she's now being separated from her child. The baby is only a couple of weeks old, and she's in the psych ward.
"I want to talk about healing," continues Dr. Burke. "We journey through a process of repentance that strips away self-contempt and hatred towards one's self, and replaces it with humility, grief, and tenderness. Repentance is an internal shift in our perceived course of life.
"We begin to talk about the issues of judgment, of condemnation. People say I never want to forgive myself. I don't deserve to be forgiven. For a lot of people unforgiveness is a living memorial to their child. Why should they ever forgive themselves if that means forgetting their child? They want to remember. It's just that they're using unhealthy ways to remember and stay connected to the memory of that precious child. So at Rachel's Vineyard we teach them healthy ways to stay connected.
"Christ invites us to ask for what we need. He invites us to let Him in, to experience a very personal relationship and a dialogue with Him about the deepest things that are hurting you.
"We begin to develop a spiritual relationship with the aborted children. We name them. They actually meet their child with Christ in a meditation. Their child is whole and safe and happy. They're invited to reflect on the meaning of their child's life. As they reflect on that life, they realize how the life has led them into an encounter with the living God unlike anything they have experienced before.
"They discover the love that God has for them and certainly the love that they have for their child, which they've been denying.
"So this is the mystery of the cross, that God would use something so evil as the death of His Son to bring redemption. He can also transform the pain of abortion. I want to encourage you and let you know that God is doing a mighty work."
For additional information, visit Rachel's Vineyard Ministries at www.rachelsvineyard.org.
In October 1956, courageous Hungarian freedom fighters captured the attention of the world with their Budapest uprising against the communist government. In marking this year's 50th anniversary of this event, Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter, dated October 7, to President Solyom of Hungary. His letter follows:
"On October 23, 1956, the courageous people of Budapest struggled to express their desire for freedom, in the face of a regime that was pursuing ends contrary to the values of the Hungarian Nation. Memories are still vivid of the tragic events that, in the space of a few days, left thousands of people dead or wounded, and caused deep distress throughout the world. At that time the grief-stricken appeals of my venerable Predecessor Pope Pius XII resounded strongly; with four impassioned public interventions, he pleaded insistently that the International Community recognize Hungary's right to self-determination, within a framework of clear national identity, in order to guarantee true freedom. I gladly support the various initiatives planned to commemorate this significant event, so vital for the history of the Hungarian People and for Europe. It is for this reason that I have asked the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, until recently my Secretary of State, to be present at the celebrations in my name and to voice the sentiments that arise in my heart on this 50th Anniversary of the Budapest uprising.
"Mr. President, in asking you to receive my Legate a Latere, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, with the same honor that you would show to me, I gladly take the opportunity to call to mind the thousand-year-old agreement that governs relations between the Apostolic See and the noble people of Hungary. At the same time, I am pleased to observe, Mr. President, that despite all the oppression they have endured down the centuries, most recently from Soviet Communism, your people have always maintained the correct evaluation of the relationship between the State and citizens, beyond all ideology. According to the Christian vision that inspired the various peoples who were to form the Hungarian Nation, the human person, with his legitimate moral, ethical, and social aspirations, takes precedence over the State. The legal structure and the secular nature of the State have always been conceived with respect for natural law expressed in authentic national values which, for believers, are enriched by Revelation. The heartfelt wish that I now renew is that Hungary may build a future free from all forms of oppression and ideological conditioning.
"Mr. President, I ask you to count me among those who gratefully commemorate this most important historical event, and I pray that it will provide an occasion for timely reflection on the moral, ethical, and spiritual ideals and values that have shaped Europe, of which Hungary is a part. May your country, Mr. President, continue to promote a civilization based on respect for the human person and his supreme destiny.
"May Mary, the Magna Domina Hungarorum, Saint Stephen, Saint Elizabeth, and the other saints from the noble land of Pannonia continue to watch over the legitimate aspirations of the Hungarian people. I assure them of my spiritual closeness, and as a sign of my constant affection, I impart to you and to your compatriots a special Apostolic Blessing."
by Louis Templeman
(Editor's note: Mr. Templeman writes from prison and is a student at Guadalupe Bible College, one of the ministries in Presentation Ministries. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
Remember the Lord's people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don't forget those who are suffering but imagine that you are with them. (Heb 13:3 Contemporary English Version)
How do you imagine you are with those who are locked up? How do you empathize with the incarcerated? Tam Li is locked up. He is tiny, has a high-pitched, sing-song voice that pierces like a dentist's drill. He spears you with the defensive, fearful, and suspicious gaze of the mentally ill. Scared and weak, he is potential prey in a locked-down world of predators.
The Church has for centuries felt the need for evangelism by word or act of mercy to those in prison or jails. not only is there a captive audience, but also they are full of people who have time to think. If they are truly thinking, maybe they will consider the claims of Christ. Many have found authentic conversion and experienced God's mercy due to Christians who do not forget but share in the suffering of the incarcerated.
Tam Li is Thai. His accent is so thick it is evident he was raised in Thailand or in a family where English was never spoken. Very few understand him. However, this does not stop him from speaking. I've seen him in a crowded day room, while the TV is blaring, start on a tear with a reluctant listener who quickly tires of this tiny, shrill incomprehensible foreigner and walks off. Li does not lose his rhythm, he simply turns to the closest other person and continues until that one leaves. Not taking a breath or having a clue, he continues talking until he captures the attention of yet another who makes the mistake of looking at this strange little man. Once I watched as he spoke to a group of five men who were ignoring him as they watched TV. One finally swore at him and called him a "gook." Tam shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and walked away. As he walked off, his posture changed. His head sunk into his shoulders. He brought his arms together as if to hug and comfort himself. And, disappeared into his room.
You have made my friends turn in horror from me. I am a prisoner who cannot escape. (Ps 88:8 C.E.V.).
Jens Colby was my first roommate. The intersection of our lives was a definite display of God's grace. Jens was upbeat, winsome, clever, too often loquacious, but, all in all, distracting in a comfortable way. Just what I needed. I was in deep shock my first year of incarceration. Jens managed to distract me and steer me away from despair. Miraculously, he brought humor into my life. He oriented me to prison routine. He kept me from being prey to cunning users and conmen. He found me a job that isolated me in the steam plant and got me away from the general population for most of the day.
His non-stop talk was irritating but looking back I see him as God's gift to me. He was God's minister to me as surely as an Angel of God. I assumed, and later had affirmed that the majority of his tales were lies. But he was a superb story teller, so his tales were usually entertaining.
The day before he transferred he told me the true nature of his crime. His ex-wife had run off. She was having an affair and left her children with him, young teens, a boy and a girl. He foolishly and evilly began having sex with his step-daughter. He indicated it was not harmful or traumatic to her, and besides, "she looked like my wife."
It is amazing the psychological contortions a man can devise to mask his sin, to deny his error, to "spin" his preying on a child. It is also a strange irony of human nature that a man who was so evil to that child could then be so good for me.
That it may please Thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorance; and to endue us with the grace of the Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to Thy Holy Word. We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord ("The Great Litany," Book of Common Prayer).
More than one inmate confided to me referring to Jens saying, "He ain't no good." Jens lived in his own little magical world. The officers allowed him to keep a stock of contraband, i.e., needles, thread, glue, cloth pieces. He openly repaired shoes and tailored shorts out of t-shirts for a price below that of shorts purchased from the canteen. He often worked for free. He enjoyed staying busy. He introduced me to the Tuesday morning Catholic service. He encouraged me to write. He was a blessing to me, in spite of his past and in spite of his flaws.
How do you imagine you are with Jens? In thought? In prayer? In brokenness? Perhaps the Holy Spirit will travail for him through your efforts. I will always pray for Jens and thank God for how he helped me orient during such a difficult time. I was a zombie. Walking wounded. He was part of God's therapy to keep me from despair.
That it may please Thee to visit the lonely; to strengthen all who suffer in mind, body, and spirit; and to comfort with Thy presence those who are failing and infirm. We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord ("The Great Litany," Book of Common Prayer)
When our room was flooded by a leak from the upstairs shower, I was placed in a room with Frank. Frank's dad was a G.I., his mother Vietnamese. Frank is a product of the Florida Department of Children and Families foster care system. DCF rescued him from an abusive home where he was beat and neglected by relatives and people who irregularly and imperfectly loved him. He was "saved" by being placed with strangers who neglected him, roomed him with violent, aggressive children, and never loved him. Frank absorbed the lessons of foster care and became aggressive, a bully who joined a gang and made a short-lived prosperous career of violence and criminal behavior. Today, Frank's mother visits him twice monthly. Those from his foster care past have forgotten him.
When he discovered my previous career as a Child Protection Investigator, he decided, so he said, to kill me. Such were his memories of foster care. Once the metal door slammed shut and we were isolated in an 8' x 12' concrete and steel room, the danger became tangibly apparent. Long story short is Christ delivered me. I managed wise, short, quiet retorts to his threats and miraculously fell quickly asleep and slept soundly through the night. It must have been Christ's peace on me that offset his anger and thirst for vengeance. Nevertheless, I sought and quickly found a room change by noon the next day.
God Giveth His beloved sleep (Ps 127:2).
Not long after that Frank was falsely accused of initiating a food strike and was briefly sent to Florida State Prison. When he returned, he told how savagely he was beat while shackled. Frank has a super bad attitude. He always competes for the last word in any argument with anyone. He is onerous to most officers. The brief turn-a-round to F.S.P. was their get-back. A few weeks later Frank vented his anger on a young black man who was whisked off to the prison hospital in Lake Butler with a concussion.
Frank is hateful and selfish and violent. He is also very popular with inmates who respect such behavior. How do you imagine you are with Frank? I suspect the writer of Hebrews has been historically interpreted by the Church in such a way to inspire prayer and action for the suffering and oppressed. When Christ hung between two criminals, He could clearly identify with them. They were not innocent. One converted. One ridiculed. We are called to prayer and our prayers increase in power when we identify with, or imagine we are with the incarcerated or other oppressed people.
That it may please Thee to have mercy upon all mankind, We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord ("The Great Litany," Book of Common Prayer).
Tam Li, once spring arrived, enjoyed lying out in the recreation yard. He'd lie on his back with his wash cloth over his face and "sunbathe." Only his arms from elbows to fingers were exposed. One day an officer decided to enforce the "no sleeping on the rec field rule." Tam is proud. He "bucked" the officer who approached him and told him to stop.
Tam stood up and argued with passion. As I watched I thought this was probably not his first run-in with the law on this issue. All I could understand from him, as I exercised about twenty yards away, was his shrill repetition of "Chapuh Thudy Twee! Chapuh Thudy Twee!" He must have found, or heard, in the Florida Statutes, Chapter 33, a regulation that allows inmates to lay down on the rec field.
The officer is not paid to discuss regulations with agitated, mentally ill inmates but to enforce what sometimes amounts to the flavor of the week. Sometimes it is pants hung too low on the buttocks. Wearing a hat inside a building, sunglasses perched on the head, no playing checkers in the day room or no hands in your pockets (even in the harsh winter wind). This month, in celebration of spring, it is no lying down on the rec field.
Tam Li forgot these correctional officers, like their peacekeeping counterparts in any Sheriff's Office, are lords in the work of law enforcement. They can pick and choose which laws to focus on and decide which lawbreakers come into their dragnet, and they can write up the incident any way their intention directs them, particularly when there is no obvious and egregious criminal activity going on to distract them.
Tam is not only mentally ill. He was plain crazy to buck the flavor of the week. He "fell" over fifteen years ago. He knows the routine. You nod. You agree. you perform obeisance in posture and attitude because in this environment they are gods.
That it may please Thee to show Thy pity upon all prisoners and captives, the homeless and the hungry, and all who are desolate and oppressed. We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord ("The Great Litany," Book of Common Prayer).
I sometimes wonder if Chris B. is in prison. He is about 20 years old now. He was the first child that I, as a Department of Children and Families Family Service Counselor, placed in foster care.
He came from a weird, very weird dysfunctional family. Four adults (grandfather, grandmother, mother, uncle) lived with him in a ramshackle trailer with a patchwork add-on, like an aged shack tacked onto a single-wide with a free standing "roof" perched at an angle on iron poles covering the joint where the trailer attached to the add-on. The living room was a walk-through bedroom for Chris and uncle. The kitchen table was never clear, the sink never empty, the cupboard doors (where they existed) were rarely closed, and the roaches never few. The odor to the uninitiated was nauseating.
The TV blared perpetually in grandpa's room. Grandpa rarely left the bed. It was a family joke to rib him about the pajamas he rarely changed. Grandpa's room had its own peculiar odor, dirty clothes, dissipating flatulence mixed with the last meal consumed in his room. Dirty dishes dried and attracted vermin on every flat surface.
The family sat on and around the bed to watch TV This was the de facto living room. No doctor ever diagnosed grandpa's illness, so he never was successful in obtaining a disability check. Grandma's regular disability check was the financial anchor of the family. Mother and uncle occasionally earned enough money to support their cigarettes and drug habit, or to buy a night out for themselves.
Chris basically was a behavior problem at school. School could not fix him, so they called us. D.C.F. is a bulldozer with no reverse gear. Chris was my Frank. Chris spent his 12th birthday in lock-up in Duval County Juvenile Detention Facility. The more we kept him from his family, the worse he got. So, eventually, we moved to make his separation permanent by asking the Court to terminate parental rights and place him in foster care. We meant well, but all we did was remove a bad boy from a poor dysfunctional family and turn him into an orphan, placed among strangers. This makes fertile ground for ensuring the development of anti-social behavior in at-risk children.
I remember his grandmother crying in grief and anger, "He is in the system now. Now he's totally lost." She was right, of course. So, I would not be surprised if he is in prison somewhere. How could a Christian empathize with Chris. He is truly "state-raised," as they say. What does "state-raised" mean? Usually, it means little more than "totally lost."
That it may please Thee to preserve and provide for. . . young children and orphans, the widowed and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife. We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord ("The Great Litany," Book of Common Prayer).
Once, I heard my friend Rick arguing – more of a pleading – with Tam Li. Rick dragged him to my room hoping I could explain to Tam where he was in error. Rick told me Tam thought only he, of all people in the world, really knew "Jesus, Fader, Son and Ho-Ree Spee-Rut." I did not want Tam to get the impression he could just barge in on me at any time. Besides, Rick has gifts in personal confrontation way beyond mine. So, pointing at them with a dismissing wave of my hand, I said, "He has faith. You have faith. Prove your love by praying for one another."
Rick led Tam away. I think he was disappointed, but these interruptions have to be controlled or I would never have time for writing, or praying, or just thinking. Tam kept Rick's gaze and with his tiny index finger shaking, barely a foot from Rick's face, he lectured, "Love! Ru-see? Love! Jesus, Fader and Son and Ho-ree Spee-rut. I know d'is. I know d'is."
As I write this, Tam is in "jail," locked up in confinement. when his roommate bagged up his belongings (and this is where an inmate is given a carte blanche opportunity to rip off the one who is now in cuffs), all of his property fit in the bottom third of his laundry bag. I've never known Tam to get a visit. I've never heard his name at mailcall. Tam Li personifies isolation. Nevertheless, his roommate felt Tam's eviction was a "come-up" for him. He did not want to sympathize with Tam Li. He was glad this part of his sentence was over.
I do not know how to suggest a Christian imagine they are with Tam Li, or Frank, or Jens. I think this Scripture verse is basically a beautiful and godly wordplay, a method to encourage us to pray, and maybe act. I sometimes think Tam is happier in his delusion than the typical bitter, profane angry inmate is in his. He may have salvation, if all god requires is an occasional good confession. He is no thief. I do not know what crime put him in prison. I am sure it was more severe than "sunbathing" in an unauthorized area.
Why he is in prison is not the issue. The issue is he is in prison. What does it mean to imagine you are with him?
In His death, Jesus identified with lawbreakers. Real criminals. And, had He not identified with these criminals, He would never have said,
I promise that today you will be with me in Paradise (Lk 23:43).
Because of Christian identification with prisoners, because prison ministers remember those behind the fences, millions have heard and embraced Christ's call to this Paradise. What did the prisoner on the cross next to Jesus ask as he was dying?
Remember Me. . .(Lk 23:42).
VATICAN CITY – During the Angelus on Sunday, October 22, World Mission Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI stressed every believer's role in mission. The Pope said:
". . .Every baptized person, as a vine united to the branch, can therefore cooperate in the mission of Jesus, which can be summarized thus: to bring to every person the good news that 'God is love' and, precisely for this reason, wants to save the world.
"The mission arises from the heart: when one stops to pray before a Crucifix with his glance fixed on that pierced side, he cannot but experience within himself the joy of knowing that he is loved and the desire to love and to make himself an instrument of mercy and reconciliation. . .
"The mission always initiates from a heart transformed by the love of God, as the countless stories of saints and martyrs witness, who in different ways have spent their life at the service of the Gospel.
"The mission, therefore, is a workshop where there is room for all: for those who commit themselves to bringing the Kingdom of God into their own family; for those who live their professional life with a Christian spirit; for those who are totally consecrated to the Lord; for those who follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in the ordained ministry to the People of God; for those who in a specific way go to announce Christ to those who still do not know Him. . ." (Source: L'Osservatore Romano English edition)
NEW YORK – At an October 27th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the subject of religious freedom, Vatican representative monsignor Celestino Migliore expressed his delegation's serious concern that "freedom of religion or belief does not exist for individuals and communities, especially among religious minorities, in many parts of the world. We are also concerned that the high level of religious intolerance in some countries is leading to an alarming degree of polarization and discrimination. We share a grave duty to work together to reverse this trend."
Msgr. Miliore stated: "Religious freedom is the right to believe, worship, propose, and witness to one's faith. It grants the opportunity and creates the occasions for people to profess freely the tenets of their faith. Furthermore, it includes the right to change one's religion and to associate freely with others in order to express one's religious convictions. Religious tolerance is simply a starting point, a basis for universal religious freedom, and there cannot be full religious tolerance without an effective recognition of religious freedom.
"We know well that, historically, tolerance has been a contentious issue among believers of different faiths. However, we have come to a turning point in history which demands more of us, including a commitment to interreligious dialogue. At the same time, my delegation is increasingly convinced of the indispensable importance of reciprocity, which, by its very nature, is apt to ensure the free exercise of religion in all societies."
The Vatican representative concluded: "In our diverse and ever-changing world, religion is more than an internal matter of thought and conscience. It has the potential to bind us together as equal and valuable members of the human family. We cannot overlook the role that religion plays in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and visiting the imprisoned. Nor should we underestimate its power, especially in the midst of conflict and division, to turn our minds to thoughts of peace, to enable enemies to speak to one another, to foster those who were estranged to join hands in friendship, and have nations seek the way to peace together. Religion is a vital force for good, for harmony, and for peace among all peoples, especially in troubled times. . ." (Source: www.vatican.va)
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com