June 4, 2023 Essay: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

For centuries theologians have been trying to explain how the great One God can be Three Persons at the same time, and how being truly three persons that same God can be One. The explanations have gone from the simple (the three-leaf clover of St. Patrick) to the sophisticated if abstruse (the consubstantial Son proceeding from the eternal Father, and the Spirit proceeding from the Father and Son) to the aesthetic (three separate musical notes in one divine chord). The Greeks had the word Perichoresis—“peri” as in “perimeter,” “choresis” as in choreography: The three persons of the Trinity dance around each other all day! Undignified, perhaps, but very cheerful!

It reminds me of how the poet T.S. Eliot described it in “Burnt Norton”:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

Let me share with you what the Holy Trinity means to me, how I understand this mystery. It comes to me in three revelations, three names.

The first revelation is when God says to Moses, from the midst of fire, “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The first revelation, the primordial statement of God, God’s name: Yahweh, four Hebrew consonants (tetragrammaton) so sacred the Jews don’t vocalize them. “I am, I am who am.” The first name, the first person of the Most Holy Trinity.

The second manifestation, the second name: “Emmanuel: I am WITH YOU.” The angel says to Saint Joseph in a dream, “Behold the Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23). The name ‘Emmanuel’ takes in the whole mystery of Jesus, who took on our nature and shared our flesh, who shows us the merciful face of God. “I am with you.” Not just the tremendous voice of God from the blazing fire, Jesus tells us that God visits a sick friend, helps the poor, steps out into the new, the unsettling, the unfamiliar, feels the pain of a dear friend departing, feels the joy of a returning friend. The second person.

The third name of this wonderful revelation we hear is when Jesus promises the Spirit of Truth (John 16:7, 13-14). In effect, Jesus says, “I am with you ALWAYS” (Matthew 28:20). The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Advocate, the one who showers us with gifts all through our lives, gifts like wisdom, fortitude, counsel, and understanding. Jesus tells his disciples: “I will send you the Spirit of Truth who will guide you, and remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

In the course of our lifetime the Paraclete dwells in us and we come to know the God who is, and who is with us, and who is with us always.

This is something to dance about. We who walk together ploddingly on the earth are invited to live for each other, giving more of ourselves and thereby entering more into the life of God and the glory of God. This is why today is so central to our daily lives. What goes on inside God—shrouded in mystery—is the most relevant, the most pertinent, the most convincing key to the way we should live our own lives as Christians.

Behold, I AM. Behold, I AM WITH YOU. Behold, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS. The cheerful, eternal, sublime dance we call God!

— Michael Hilbert, S.J., Associate Pastor

May 21, 2023 Essay: Do Not Cling to Me

I am the father of two beautiful sons, Michael and Matthew, ages 13 and 15. I can’t express in words how much my wife Jessica and I cherish our time with them. We’ve made wonderful memories together—the fishing trips, the summer days at the beach, the baseball games, the heartfelt conversations, and the sheer joy of watching them discover their passions and joys. Yet I know the day is coming, and soon, when I will need to let them go.

Our sons must leave home to become men in their own right. Their parting will be, in a way, a death; a moment of grief and sadness, for the “little boys” will be gone. Our relationship will change, and they will become our peers more than our children. This passage will be painful, and I can only imagine the emotion that will be triggered when I look into their boyhood rooms to see their little beds empty, their toys permanently set aside, their desks vacant. I find hope and consolation, however, in what Jesus told his disciples before he left them—“It is for your good that I go away” (John 16:7), in what he told Mary Magdalene on that first Easter morning, “Do not cling to me…I am ascending” (John 20:17.)

Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, among the most insightful spiritual writers of our time, says that the spirituality and theology of the ascension can be summarized like this: “Refuse to cling to what once was, let it go and let it bless you, so that you can recognize the new life you already have with and within you and receive its spirit.” He observes that the ascension is a symbol of a paradox of the human condition “we all reach a point in life where we can only give our presence more deeply by going away so that others can receive the full blessing of our spirits.”

Our sons will undergo their own ascension when they take the nurturing that we gave them and ascend to a richer, more mature, more abundant way of being. Their new life will come back as a blessing to us and to the world. Our little boys will leave us in the form that we have known them, but this will be necessary so that they can give us the much deeper blessing of their adulthood. Yes, it is good that they go away, for then they will become the men God created them to be!

The Ascension marks Jesus’ final departure, but it is also a threshold through which he becomes present to the church in a way that was not possible before. His parting brings the Spirit, the one who stands beside us as a helper, counselor, and comforter; the one who inspires the apostles to bring the Gospel “to the ends of the earth.” Moreover, by his ascension, Jesus becomes our advocate before the Holy One in the highest heaven; a brother who stands before God on our behalf. So much grace was born of his parting!

The ascension story ends, according to the Acts of the Apostles, with the disciples gazing into the heavens as Jesus is “taken up before their very eyes.” They are admonished, however, by the two men dressed in white, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” The women and men who knew Jesus in the flesh wanted, I’m sure, to cling to what was, to what they knew, to that which was familiar, as we all do. But the Spirit compelled them to embrace the new reality, to trust in God’s grace, to continue Jesus’ ministry, and move forward into an age of fruitfulness. As we journey through the many ascensions of our lives, let us take hope and comfort that sad partings are also doorways to unimaginable light and life.

— Brian Pinter, Pastoral Associate

May 14, 2023 Essay: Quiet Prophecy

Christian discipleship calls all of us to be prophetic, to be advocates for justice, to help give voice to the poor, and defend truth. But not all of us, by temperament or by particular vocation, are called to civil disobedience, public demonstrations, and the picket lines, as were Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Daniel Berrigan, and other such prophetic figures. All are asked to be prophetic, but for some, this means more wielding a basin and towel than wielding a placard.

There is a powerful way of being prophetic which, while seemingly quiet and personal, is never private. And its rules are the same as for those who are wielding placards and risking civil disobedience. What are those rules, rules for a Christian prophecy?

First, a prophet makes a vow of love, not of alienation. There is a critical distinction between stirring up trouble and offering prophecy out of love, a distinction between operating out of egoism and operating out of faith and hope. A prophet risks misunderstanding but never seeks it, and a prophet always seeks to have a mellow rather than an angry heart.

 Second, a prophet draws his or her cause from Jesus and not from an ideology. Ideologies can carry a lot of truth and be genuine advocates for justice. But, people can walk away from an ideology, seeing it precisely as an ideology, as political correctness, and thus justify their rejection of the truth it carries. Sincere people often walk away from Greenpeace, from Feminism, or  Liberation Theology, from Critical Race Theory, and many other ideologies which, in fact, carry a lot of truth because those truths are wrapped up inside of an ideology. Sincere people will not walk away from Jesus. A prophet must be ever vigilant as to whether he or she is drawing truth from the Gospels and not from some ideology.

 Third, a prophet is committed to non-violence. A prophet is always seeking to personally disarm rather than arm, to be, in the words of Daniel Berrigan, a powerless criminal in a time of criminal power. A prophet takes Jesus seriously when he asks us, in the face of violence, to turn the other cheek. A prophet incarnates in his or her way of living, the eschatological truth that in heaven, there will be no guns.

Fourth, a prophet articulates God’s voice for the poor and for the earth. Any preaching, teaching, or political action that is not good news for the poor, is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to “widows, orphans, and strangers” (biblical code for the most vulnerable groups in society). As an insightful axiom has it: Nobody goes to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.

Fifth, a prophet speaks out of a horizon of hope. A prophet draws his or her vision and energy not from wishful thinking nor from optimism but from hope. Christian hope is based on God’s promise, a promise that was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus; it is based on the belief that we can entrust ourselves to love, truth, and justice, even if the world kills us for it, knowing that the stone will always roll back from the tomb.

 Finally, a prophet doesn’t just speak or write about injustice, a prophet acts, and acts with courage, even at the cost of death. A prophet is a wisdom figure, a Magus or a Sophia, who will also act, no matter the cost in lost friends, lost prestige, lost freedom, and danger to his or her own life.  A prophet never seeks martyrdom but accepts it if it finds him or her.

This last counsel, I believe, is the most challenging one for “quiet” prophets. Magi and Sophias are not renowned for being on the picket lines. But there is the challenge. An authentic prophet can discern when to park the placard and bring out the basin and towel – and also when to lay aside the basin and towel and pick up the placard.

— Ronald Rolheiser OMI

On Monday, May 22nd at 7 PM, in Wallace Hall and by livestream, Fr. Rolheiser will present Quiet Prophecy – Another Kind of Protest for Social and Religious Transformation.

Scripture tells us that, as he grew, John the Baptist “grew strong in spirit.” What if you are the type of person who is “accommodating in spirit”? What if you are not the type of person who can openly protest things and openly challenge others? What are your prophetic gifts? How can your quiet gifts challenge the world and the church to be more just, loving, and faith-filled? Is there another kind of “protest” that is powerfully prophetic?

May 7, 2023 Essay: Fashioning a Truly ‘Pro-Life’ Society

After the Dobbs decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that there was not a constitutional right to an abortion, the United States Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to every member of Congress in which they articulated what our nation must do to ensure the flourishing of the human person from conception to natural death. Their letter was a powerful articulation of what it means to be authentically pro-life.

“…We hope for the day when abortion is unthinkable because society has decided to make the full flourishing of children and their families the highest goal, without anyone being excluded…Ultimately, we call for what Saint John Paul II described as ‘radical solidarity’ with mothers, babies (born and preborn) and families throughout each person’s entire lifespan.” To provide for the needs of all women and children, our bishops set forth the goals that our society must now meet. “Ensuring that no children grow up in poverty, that parents have time away from work to care for them, that families are formed and remain intact, that the healthcare necessary for healthy moms and children is affordable, that workplace policies respect pregnant and nursing mothers, that child care is affordable and high quality, but also not forced on families by financial pressures, that no children are hungry or homeless, that toxic chemicals do not cause babies to have birth defects or cancer, that immigrant families be treated in accord with their inviolable dignity—all of these goals require the cooperation of all and the exclusion of none.”

Our bishops take a strong stand in defense of immigrants and the need to include them in society’s efforts to ensure that the needs of all are met. “…We must also recognize the central role of immigrant families within our society. In a country fundamentally shaped by the contributions of immigrants…we cannot accept policies that unjustly exclude newcomers, especially when we continue to rely on—and collectively benefit from—their labors. With a strong scriptural foundation, the social doctrine of the Church clearly affirms that the ‘families of migrants have the right to the same protection as that accorded other families,’ including ‘the right to respect for their culture and to receive support and assistance towards their integration into the community to which they contribute.’ Immigrant workers in particular, whether seasonal, undocumented, or otherwise, must be treated ‘not as mere tools of production but as persons.’”

Our bishops went on to enumerate specific policy proposals that they support. They include:

  • Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – This legislation was, in fact, passed and will go into effect in June of this year. It will require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to workers for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
  • Child Tax Credit – The bishops call for the credit to be fully refundable, without a minimum income threshold, and to allow mixed-status families to be eligible for the credit. The costs of the credit should not be offset by cutting programs that serve those most in need.
  • Paid Family Leave – The bishops’ Conference continues to support a federal paid family leave policy. The United States remains the only advanced economy without nationally mandated paid parental leave.
  • Housing – Housing policy should: increase the supply of quality housing by funding production; preserve the affordable housing that does exist, including public housing; significantly expand rental assistance so it is available to all households in need; address racial disparities in home ownership.
  • Nutrition – Congress should support and strengthen programs that feed hungry families. These programs must be safeguarded from harmful cuts or changes that lessen their effectiveness or accessibility.

In supporting these and other public policies, our bishops are challenging us to create a society that is truly ‘pro-life’, that is, a society committed to the flourishing of all persons without exception. It is what our gospel demands of us.

— Fr. Mark Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor

April 30, 2023 Essay: Where Do You “Find” God in All Things?

As part of my weekly Ignatian Parents book club, sponsored by neighboring Regis High School, I have been pondering and reflecting on the Ignatian concept of “finding God in all things.” It really is an interesting part of my spiritual journeying, perhaps sparked partly by some recent health challenges. While the book we are exploring is mainly about “forgiveness” (The Jesuit Guide to Forgiveness: Ten Steps to Healing by Marina Berzins McCoy), other Ignatian concepts and themes have also come to the surface for me.

I would like to share some thoughts of truly finding God in all things—which turns out to be rather easy if you prepare yourself to just look at what is going on around you in a normal week. Because our life in NYC lately seems to have been so focused on what I will call the political and pandemic craziness, we can easily get distracted. We miss what is happening with and for us on a daily basis.

One suggestion I would like to make, in order to see where you can find God in all things for yourself, is to remove the news cycle for a week. Get rid of it from your sphere of reference (print and online, and TV). Believe it or not, that alone could be a significant reason why you get distracted and can’t find God in all (any!) things.

Next, take a walk with no destination in mind, just walk for 15 minutes aimlessly in terms of seeking a destination, but at the same time, with your eyes and ears open to what is happening around you. The last time I did this on my 15-block walk to my office, I saw a mother carrying her daughter’s purple backpack and skillfully maneuvering her daughter’s purple scooter on their way to school. The young girl, I think a kindergartener, was also wearing striped purple leggings and a purple hat. (I guess she likes purple—one of my favorite colors, too). They were talking to each other and laughing about something I couldn’t hear. But what I saw was an unmistakable love and awareness of each other on a busy Second Avenue stretch of about six blocks. It made me smile and think of our own 16-year-old twins. In that instant, I saw God working divine magic on that young girl and her mother and reminding me of our graces and gifts, too.

In general, I have come to think that finding God in all things is not as hard as it sounds because God is the source of all things and creator of all things, visible and invisible. So I would like to suggest that you can find him in familiar everyday things and in the people who are part of your everyday life. Sometimes you even find God in strangers like the mom and her daughter on the purple scooter, but you can find God just as easily in your own family, friends, and colleagues. Just look. I promise you’ll be surprised.

— Rich Miller-Murphy, Parishioner 

Rich joined St. Ignatius Loyola Church in 2010 and is currently working towards his Master of Arts in Chaplaincy at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace (formerly Hartford Seminary).


 April 23, 2023 Essay: The Long Walk   

No Newspaper. No Photographs. No Radio. No TV. No Internet. No Social Media.

There were just two disciples walking and talking. They were walking from Jerusalem back home to Emmaus, maybe a seven-mile journey. They were engaged in a lively conversation about what happened to Jesus, the Nazarene. Their hopes and dreams of Jesus liberating Israel were shattered. They felt despair and hopelessness.

Then, a stranger appears alongside them and is listening intently to their discussion. He asks what things have happened in Jerusalem. They are astounded he has not heard. They speak of Jesus as the great prophet who was Israel’s hope of Redemption. They tell him that the women at the tomb saw angels and Jesus’ body was gone. Even as the stranger breaks open scripture stories that foretold the death of Jesus, the disciples still do not see.

No Newspapers. No Photographs. No Radio. No TV. No Internet. No Social Media.

Only a lone stranger’s voice unpacking the scriptures to help the disciples to see and regain their hopes and dreams. Their hearts were burning as he talked to them on the road, yet they did not See. They were so distraught about the terrible death of Jesus in Jerusalem that they could not hear his voice. The voice of the stranger…the voice of Jesus. Whose voice do you hear in Luke’s Gospel as the trio is walking along the road? Would you have recognized the Risen Christ in your midst?

As they near their home, and the sun is setting, the disciples invite the stranger to spend the night with them. He accepts. He takes the bread and blesses it as they sit at the table. It is at that moment their eyes are opened wide. He disappears, and then they know he is the Risen Lord. All along, something was burning, or stirring, in their hearts. After Jesus vanishes from their sight, they are compelled to get on the road and walk back to Jerusalem to share their news with the other disciples about their encounter with Jesus.

 No Newspapers. No Photographs. No Radio. No TV. No Social Media.

They had to walk seven miles to Jerusalem so they could communicate to the other disciples in person that they indeed did see Jesus. In our chaotic world, where is the invitation of the Risen Lord to open your eyes and see? How do we, as God’s people, see? On this third Sunday of Easter, the presence of the Risen Lord prevails in our world, yet so does gun violence. We do not have to walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus to see the death and violence guns have unleashed in our country. More than 11,500 people have been killed since January 2023 in the United States. In only three months, families have been shattered by the violent deaths of their loved ones. Children, women, and men brutally murdered by guns, as Jesus was brutally murdered on the cross. Where are the burning hearts stirring in God’s people?

Yes Newspapers. Yes Photographs. Yes Radio. Yes TV. Yes Social Media.

In our world today, we are thoroughly and globally woven together by the Internet. News travels at an incredible speed disseminating the chaos—and the goodness—in a matter of seconds.

May this excerpt from the poem, Some, by Daniel Berrigan, S.J., open your eyes to our Risen Lord and give you the hope Jesus promised to God’s people by his Resurrection.

“Why do you walk? 

Because of the children, they said, and
Because of the heart, and
Because of the bread. 

the cause
is the heart’s beat
and the children born
and the risen bread.”

— Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate

April 16, 2023 Essay: How To Go “All In” For Peace: No More Velleities!

Long ago, someone I love deeply wrote these words:

“We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues because the waging of war, by its nature, is total—but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial. So a whole will and a whole heart and a whole national life bent toward war prevail over the velleities of peace.”

Velleity is the weakest form of volition, a desire that one has no energy or intention to fulfill.

My uncle, Father Daniel Berrigan, wrote those words in a book called No Bars to Manhood, published in 1970. The war being waged was different. Our country was different, smaller, whiter, and more homogeneous back then. But the words still hit home, don’t they?

We want peace, but we also want cheap gas. We want peace, but we also want to be warm in the winter. We want peace, but we also want order, predictability, and calm.

We want peace, but we do not want to suffer even the slightest discomfort or disruption along the way. And so, we get comfortable with war, as long as it is far away and not fought by our children. Who is this WE? It is me too. I am talking about myself, my own restless, unsatisfied American-ness.

What does it mean to make peace? Be a peacemaker? Is it as simple as being a shoemaker or a bread maker, you make peace instead of shoes or bread? In a word, yes. It is work; it is labor; it takes time and effort. Peacemaking is a creative undertaking; it is making something new, something that doesn’t currently exist.

Grace Lee Boggs, the great peacemaker from Detroit, talked a lot about visionary organizing. She pushed a generation to “go beyond protest organizing” toward telling stories of the future “that helps us imagine and create alternatives to the existing system,” imagining and creating a whole new culture! Boggs reminds us that “we have the power within us to create the world anew.”

I love that. I am looking out for it, where is it? I am trying to build it up within myself! But it is not mine to find or cultivate or harness! It is OUR power. It is another WE. Grace Lee Boggs says that we have the power. That is a transcendent notion: collective power in the service of a collective vision for a future that is different than today.

How? In short, we go all in! No more velleities! No more half-tries, no more vague attempts, no more vacillation. All in. All together. The work is clear: Reconnect estranged family members, reweave tattered human connections, restore frayed trust, reforge bonds between people, repair the damage done by decades (no centuries) of war. And do it all on a human scale. And bit by bit, connection by connection, person by person, we are creating new cultures—as Dorothy Day taught us—where it is easier for people to be good.

That, it seems to be, is peacemaking. I know that it takes work. I know that it takes sacrifice, that it comes at a cost, comes with discomfort. But it also comes with so much joy. I can’t do it alone, and neither can you.

— Frida Berrigan

Join us Monday, April 24th at 7 PM in Wallace Hall as Frida Berrigan presents the lecture How To Go “All In” For Peace: No More Velleities! Peacemaking is sidelined, disparaged, and mocked as naive. Or worse, it is worshiped as a saintly ideal. Even so, in a war-steeped nation, we must be “All In” as peacemakers. How? 

April 9, 2023 Essay: The Joy of Easter

Cowering at the abyss of darkness and awash in the whirlwind of conflicting emotions, Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, awoke from their restless sleep as the eerily unfamiliar fingers of dawn began to pierce the ebony stillness of early morning. The laments of the preceding day were undoubtedly a dirge ringing in their ears, finding cadence with their heartbeats as they walked along a path that they believed would lead them to the brutalized body of someone they loved. Although weighted down by sorrow, they continued forward despite what they feared, that despair would assault them when they arrived at their destination. And when they reached the tomb—oh, when they reached the tomb—there was a blinding flash of light that radiated hope at that moment and for all time. Their long and wearisome journey of faith, sparked by a vigilant ember of longing, would be set ablaze by what they discovered at an empty tomb. Joy became their lifeblood as they raced back to release the painful shackles of bondage from those who hid in darkness and fear.

Hearts pounding with excitement, faces glowing with the brilliant light of that morning, and memories flooding their souls, these three women ran like the wind to tell their companions of what their eyes had seen. The thrill of that signature moment in history could not be contained. The joy of Easter had to be shared and proclaimed in their every action and word. Shouting, singing, and dancing with merriment, they were the first to herald the news that Jesus was true to his word; he had risen from the dead.

That joy of Easter was a wellspring of hope and courage in the lives of those first disciples. What they had seen with their own eyes or through the eyes of others changed their lives forever. They fearlessly navigated the turbulent waters that ceaselessly overwhelmed the world they knew. They boldly ran into the marketplace to be messengers of hope to those who lived on the margins, whether of faith, or poverty, or indifference. Their joy filled the vacuum created by despair that, for all too many, made the world seem dark, uncaring, and forgotten by God.

What is our experience of the joy of Easter? It can be all too ephemeral if we allow it to be. We will have attended Mass and celebrated the day with families and friends gathered to enjoy the bonds of love. The real reason for the need to celebrate is often buried under the weight of the mundane. Such things as the treats the Easter Bunny brings, the traditional meals to be served, and how many jellybeans to eat overshadow the real meaning of Easter, resulting in the dissipation of joy and a return to a routine of insouciance.

There is a lesson to be learned from the first disciples of Jesus Christ. Their joy was contagious and was the foundation of the early church. We need to put on our running shoes on Easter Day and run from the church into our marketplaces, whether we identify them in our homes, our city, or that private place within us that we think is impenetrable to light. The world we know is the same one experienced by the first disciples. Our words and our actions are also capable of emulating theirs if we allow the joy of Easter to penetrate our hearts. Only then will we authentically live what we believe, that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

There are people in our communities who live on the margins of society, who shutter in fear and face each day with dread. It is the joy of Easter that will restore their hope if we follow the example of Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, if we run to where they are to be found and tell them what our eyes have seen and our hearts believe. The joy of Easter must be shared. It is the fuel that shatters the darkness and ignites the flame of hope.

May your celebration of Easter be filled with joy, and may you be tireless in your marathon of faith!

Happy Easter!

Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor

April 2, 2023 Essay: Practicing Hope

We tend to conflate hope with optimism. The hopeful person, it is said, sees the glass as half-full, looks on the bright side, and affirms that the future will be better than the present. But this is not how our ancestors in faith understood hope. Ancient theologians—monastics and spiritual writers—viewed hope as a midpoint between despair and what they called presumption, a careless laziness that believed things would work out for the best no matter what we do. Moreover, hope was not focused on the future but rather on how one lives in the present, especially in the face of bad news, tribulation, and failure. Liza Anderson, Ph.D., a scholar of early church history, reflects, “Hope was more often seen as a praxis for living in the present moment—faithfully doing the work that is put directly in front of you without falling into either presumption or despair.”

It’s difficult to imagine that Jesus was feeling optimistic as he entered Jerusalem on that fateful Palm Sunday, but his words and deeds affirm that he was hopeful. There was little cause for optimism, a positive attitude of mind that is influenced by how things appear to be trending in the world. Almost certainly, he’d heard of the warrant for his arrest, and perhaps he suspected that some among his companions might betray him. Though events spiraled downward from slander to mockery to violence, Jesus responded with patience, forgiveness, and non-violence. Among the most memorable of Jesus’ words were those spoken during his passion. They are a testament to his hope-filled heart, uttered in the most pessimistic of circumstances. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” “Peace I leave you.” “Abide in my love.” “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

When Jesus was arrested on trumped-up charges, when he was subjected to a kangaroo court, when his friends abandoned him, when his enemies spat in his face, and when he was nailed to the cross, I am sure he struggled with the very human temptation to give in to despair, to curse those who did this to him, to curse God for allowing such a fate, and to vow revenge. Jesus maintained his dignity, told mourners not to weep for him, and died with forgiveness on his lips. He engaged in the struggle to cooperate with God’s plan for peace, with God’s work of redeeming humanity from cycles of violence, and he persisted in the face of certain failure. His persistence in choosing peaceful and loving responses to the white-hot hatred he absorbed models what it means to practice hope.

Karl Rahner, the Jesuit priest/theologian, defined hope this way: “A woman sees the tiny rivulet of her life and fears that it might not mean anything, that it might die out completely. Yet she somehow still believes it will flow significantly into the great ocean, despite the immeasurably huge, dry sand-dunes it must cross to get to an ocean it cannot even see.” Our world, with its seemingly irreconcilable divisions in politics and church, with its plague of wars, with its fragile, precious environment endangered, can seem like that uncrossable desert Rahner describes. Despair lures us to give up; presumption leads us to believe the lie that we don’t need to do anything because everything will work out just fine. Hope invites us to continue this twilight struggle, though our individual stories might not unfold into positive outcomes.  Hope trusts that God’s grace is at work transforming creation into what God dreams it can be.  Hope calls for our cooperation with birthing that dream. Hope inspires us to live in the model and spirit of Jesus throughout Holy Week and every week.

— Brian Pinter, Pastoral Associate

March 26, 2023 Essay: A Better Kind of Politics

We are a wounded Church and hurting nation suffering from increasing polarization within our family of faith and hostility and division in our politics. Yet Pope Francis reminds us that “our differences should not…pit us against each other: the heart of those who truly believe urges that we open up ways of communion, always and everywhere.”

In Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis offers a vision of renewal rooted in social and political charity expressed in how we treat our neighbors, especially those “lying wounded by the roadside.” He calls for a Church that is not a fortress but a home with open doors and for conversion that puts our Gospel mission at the center of our lives and our communities. For Catholics, engagement in public life is central to that mission, never more so than in divisive times such as our own.

Such engagement is local, national, and global and involves families, communities, institutions, and popular movements. At its best, it is 1.4 billion diverse people in the world’s most multicultural institution united by a shared faith that does justice.

Catholic social thought offers a moral vocabulary for such engagement, one that offers responses to individualism, paths to strengthened community and solidarity, and ways to resist ideological division. It reminds us that we are part of a larger family of faith and widens our political lens to include those who suffer at and beyond our borders.

From the beginning, Pope Francis has had a distinct understanding of how God is calling us to live out our mission today: by looking outward, not inward, as a “poor Church for the poor” committed to the most vulnerable among us, from those who live in poverty to migrants to the unborn to the elderly, and all those “lying wounded by the roadside.” Over the last ten years, he’s advanced that vision as a pastor and as the leader of our global Church through his closeness to those in need, his words and actions, and travels like his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Drawing on Catholic social thought and Pope Francis’ mission and message, our work at the Initiative has taught us lessons about how to help move past polarization and focus together on the beliefs we share so as to better advance the common good. We seek to engage in authentic dialogue, with a special emphasis on listening and learning from others with different perspectives. We hope to be principled but not partisan and to raise up diverse voices, especially those of young people. We also encourage face-to-face relationships so as to better bridge racial, religious, ethnic, generational, and other divides. We raise up the day-to-day, on-the-ground service of Catholics living out the Gospel in our local communities and around the world.

More broadly, Synod 2021-24 stands as a hopeful path toward revived communion. It is a global listening process open to everyone and aimed at renewing our ability to live out our mission in our own particular times and places, a mission centered most of all on humble service to “those lying wounded by the roadside.” The synod offers a model for praying together, listening together, learning together, and moving forward together in order to better live our mission to love God and our neighbors.

Now more than ever, we are called to be “builders of bridges and artisans of peace” and to listen with open hearts and minds to each other, especially those who have too often been excluded.

— Kim Daniels, Director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life

Join us on Monday, March 27th at 7 PM (in Wallace Hall & livestreamed) as Professor Kim Daniels presents A Better Kind of Politics: Advancing the Common Good in Challenging Times. In this presentation, Professor Daniels examines how, when faced with a public life dominated by hostility and division, U.S. Catholics can advance the common good and peacemaking efforts by looking to Pope Francis and Catholic social thought.

If you are unable to join us in person, you may view the livestream by clicking here