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Last year in his encyclical Laudato Si' (LS), Pope Francis challenged every aspect of society that contributes to the threat, not only to sustainability, but to human life on the planet - the "throwaway culture," the system of production and consumption, and the system of power and domination which creates consumerism. He urged that reliance on fossil fuels needs to be progressively replaced, "without delay." Lifestyles need to change, but will it take a global catastrophe for than to happen? Erik Assadourian, in the 2010 edition of the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World, argued that consumerism is not a natural state of affairs; it is a modern creation.
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The Dark Ages is a term often used to refer to the early Middle Ages in western Europe from the sixth century through the tenth. What was "dark" about the Dark Ages? Primarily the lack of intellectual, scientific and technological innovation. In some quarters, the Dark Ages is also characterized as an era dominated by a repressive Christian faith that enchained the intellect to superstitions. However, to the extent that civilization was preserved, the Church was a major contributor, although Muslim culture rose to its greatest glory in this period.
The way God opens my heart is often amazing. St. Kateri is his latest gift to me. Certainly I had heard of St. Kateri, especially when she was made a saint. Dubbed the Lily of the Mohawks, her canonization was welcomed by North American Aboriginal peoples. Finally, they had a saint from among their own people. I had read of her story, of her resolute bravery in determining to become a Catholic, of her determination not to marry but to devote her life to Christ.
Immediately after Father Jacques Hamel, an 86-year-old priest in France, was killed while offering Mass, his throat slit by two Muslim men who pledged allegiance to ISIL, calls went out for his canonization. He was called a martyr to the faith, and the hashtag #santosubito ("saint now") trended on Twitter. But contrary arguments soon surfaced. Paul Vallely, one of Pope Francis's biographers, wrote in The New York Times that making Hamel an official martyr would be a political response and feed the idea that a war of religions is taking place.
As a boy, I longed to be a professional athlete but I had to accept the unwelcome fact that I wasn't gifted with an athlete's body. Speed, strength, coordination, instinct, vision - I got by in ordinary life with what I had been given of these, but I wasn't physically robust enough to be an athlete. It took some years to make peace with that.
The world has again been stunned by a jihadist attack, after two knife-wielding men burst into a church in a suburb of Rouen, France, killed an elderly priest, Father Jacques Hamel, during morning Mass and took hostages. Two nuns and one parishioner exited the church, followed by the attackers, one of whom was carrying a gun, and charged police shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is great). The pair were shot dead by police.
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an important conference in Winnipeg. The annual Directions in Indigenous Ministry conference is co-sponsored by the standing committee on indigenous affairs of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops and Newman Theological College. The title of the conference was Decolonizing Pastoral Ministry. This title is significant because it implies that a decolonization approach itself needs to be taken in pastoral ministry and in the life of the Church itself. About 60 of us participated, about half indigenous and half non-indigenous. People came from very different church roles, including bishops, pastors, deacons, women and men religious, elders, diocesan staff, parish lay leaders, teachers, academics, and committed individuals.
Holiness is hard. Sometimes, Christians can get carried away with the "warm fuzzies" of the Gospel message. I do not mean to belittle the messages about love and forgiveness and joy and blessings from the Bible; they are important and truthful messages. However, they are not the only themes the Holy Spirit has given through the authors of Scripture. The health-and-wealth Gospel is a tempting way to read the Bible: If you believe in God enough and are faithful to him, God will bless you. You will not get sick, and you will prosper.
A statue of St. Francis sits in my garden amidst the hostas and coral bells. He carries a Bible and a cross; his prayer beads are tied around his waist and a bird happily perches on his shoulder. St. Francis seems the epitome of humility. He stripped himself naked of his possessions and inheritance in the marketplace; he looked to God to supply all of his needs, clinging only to the prayer that expressed his union with God. He became so humble that the birds of the air found no threat in him; he became friends with all of creation by his lack of striving and his simplicity.